Blowtorch Bytes (12/18/14)

Dave JudayDave Juday anchors final ESPN 1000 SportsCenter… I was surprised and saddened to learn that Dave Juday will no longer be anchoring SportsCenter updates on ESPN 1000/WMVP-AM. Juday announced the news Monday morning on Facebook, thanking current and former station colleagues, while conveying how his time there had meant so much to him.

As a listener of the old “AM 1000″ (pre ESPN 1000 days), I remember when Juday was new to the station, anchoring nightly sports updates during “Sports Line,” which was originally hosted by Steve Olken and Dave Wills. In the near 20 years I’ve heard Juday on the air, he’s always come across as a class act who truly loved his job. I wish him the best as he embarks on a new chapter in his life.

You can hear Juday’s final SportsCenter update, which he posted on SoundCloud.

Alex QuigleyAlex Quigley out at WGN… Another Chicago radio veteran took to Facebook on Monday to announce that he too will soon be out of work. Quigley noted that his operations director position at WGN-AM 720 was eliminated. Quigley will continue to co-host his midday show on The Game/WGWG-LP 87.7 (FM) until the end of the year, when the low-powered station ceases operations.

The news was hard to take in, considering that the job of Jimmy de Castro, WGN’s president, likely goes unscathed, despite being the one who led in the destruction of the station. Seriously, how can de Castro have the gall to inform anyone they will be out of a job when he is the person who most of all deserves to lose his job?

Ed Sherman follows-up with Ben Finfer after epic rant... Ben Finfer, Alex Quigley’s co-host on The Game,  was profiled in a Chicago Tribune piece by Ed Sherman yesterday. It was Finfer’s epic rant against Tribune Media bosses last month that went viral last month after having just found out during the middle of his on air shift of his station’s demise — and that he likely would be out of a job. In the Sherman piece, Finfer stated that while he knew moving to the up-start station was risky, he doesn’t regret it since it did has help solidify his confidence as a daily talk show host. He hopes to find new work as a talk show host, preferably in Chicago, come 2015.

I am a huge fan of Finfer. I had always hoped that he would end up working on air with Dan McNeil, who he produced for at both The Score/WSCR-AM 670 and ESPN 1000/WMVP-AM. I hope that one of the two Chicago sports stations somehow find a spot for him.

ABC 7 News goes primetime… With WGN-TV Ch. 9’s success of expanding its newscasts into uncharted daytime hours, ABC 7/WLS-TV felt compelled to launch a bold move of their own. Beginning January 12, ABC 7 will produce a new 7 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday newscast that airs on WCIU-TV Ch. 26. It’s an interesting idea that could turn out to be a real win-win for both ABC 7 and WCIU. The primetime newscast will be anchored by Hosea Sanders and Linda Yu, while weather will be given by the newly hired Cheryl Scott.

Roe Conn keeping mostly quiet… When Roe Conn’s website was replaced last month with an “under construction, new website coming soon” message, included was a countdown to the start of December. Since then, the countdown has been at zero with nothing new on the website. Conn has also been largely quiet on social media. My guess is we won’t hear anything new concerning Conn until the start of the new year, at the earliest. By then, I would assume that his previous contract with his former station, WLS-AM 890, will be fully expired (previous reports mentioned his contract with WLS went until year’s end). While recent speculation concerning Conn has been quiet, many expect him to still resurface on WGN-AM 720 sometime in 2015. That still would seem to make the most sense.

Podcast reach versus AM/FM… Seth Stevenson wrote a great piece at Slate about the reach of AM and FM compared to podcasts. Stevenson also explains how streaming or downloading a podcast is a lot like placing a collect call.

Fox NFL theme music during golf… Fox made its PGA broadcast debut on Saturday with the Franklin Templeton Shootout. Voiced by Joe Buck, another familiar Fox component used on the broadcast was its iconic “NFL on Fox” theme music. Not much of a surprise, since Fox has been using their NFL theme music for all sporting broadcasts since 2010, but to use it on a golf broadcast should just further demonstrate the ridiculousness of it.

Ken Fang wrote more about Fox’s golf broadcast debut at Awful Announcing.

John Feinstein/CBS Sports RadioSports Business Daily reported last month that a few changes were coming to CBS Sports Radio, including the ousting of late morning host John Feinstein. While I have not listened to much of Feinstein’s show since debuting almost two years ago, I have heard plenty of his “CBS Sports Minute” commentaries, which frequently air in Chicago on The Score/WSCR-AM 670. Even after Feinstein is done with his regular show, he is expected to continue with the Sport Minute commentaries.

I wish CBS would have taken the opposite approach on Feinstein. Allow him to keep the show, which I never listen to, and can him from the “CBS Sports Minute.” Actually, I wish CBS would just discontinue all of the Sports Minute commentaries altogether. Feinstein, a well-respected sports writer known for his long-form story writing, often attempts to take a specific story or angle and crunch it into a one-minute musing. It doesn’t work. Boomer Esiason, another “CBS Sports Minute” contributor, is equally guilty.

The only contributor who pulls off the concept well is Jim Rome. He has a fresh take on a hot topic and is able to construct his words into a powerful meaning in just one minute. It’ an art. Rome does it well. Feinstein and Esiason do not.

States with the most holiday cheer… AccuRadio has compiled a list of states ranked based on the amount of hours each streams holiday music. Illinois ranked 26th, while Washington D.C. was number one. Thanks to Tate Handy for submitting.

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Ripped off: Angry ‘Eaten Alive’ viewers should have known better

Viewers of Discovery’s “Eaten Alive” Sunday night voiced their anger on Twitter after the show’s airing. They were upset that despite the name of the show, the conservationist Paul Rosolie aborted his mission before he could actually be eaten alive.

I knew about the program ahead of time, and I chose to DVR it for possibly viewing later on if I had heard that it was worth watching. With the show being two hours, I didn’t expect for the actual encounter to take place until the final 20 minutes (after having sat through the Nik Wallenda tightrope walker “pre-game” hype a month earlier while at the in-laws).

Discovery blatantly was deceptive in titling the program “Eaten Alive.” While I’m not sure when this was taped, Discovery knew Rosolie was not in fact eaten alive by the time they named the show. And while there are plenty of ways Discovery can honestly defend the decision to go with that title, no one should buy it.

And while it was a deceptive measure, I don’t feel bad for those who actually did sit through the entire two hours (the exception would be for animal rights activists or anyone from the scientific community). Anyone who is easily that sucked in by outrageous television hype really ought to know better by now how deceptive network heads are when promoting such type of shows.

On second thought, it takes a special kind of mentality to be easily suckered into such outrageous hype. I guess that explains why enough people fall for it every time.

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Jay Glazer goes after ESPN for ripping off Manziel scoop

Fox Sports NFL insider Jay Glazer has lashed out at ESPN for allegedly stealing his breaking scoop regarding Johnny Manziel.

This isn’t the first time ESPN has been accused of passing off breaking news as their own, nor is it the first time Glazer has called them out for stealing his work. And for anyone who may not understand why Glazer would be upset about it, he gave the perfect response on Twitter.

Unfortunately, ESPN can continue to get away with stunts like this. For as loud as the ESPN criticisms are (i.e. DeadSpin, Awful Announcing), the vast majority of the ESPN audience is privy to none of it.

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Top alternative options for better Christmas music

Christmas Music Alternative Choices

If you’re regularly on the computer or you have smart phone and are tech savvy enough to download and use apps, then there’s no reason to opt for traditional terrestrial radio for your Christmas music listening experience. For years, I’ve avoided Chicago’s WLIT-FM 93.9 holiday music format, primarily because of the limited selection of music they play; it’s also nice to skip the heavy commercials.

My three alternative options for Christmas music are primarily stream based and provide an extensive playlist of Christmas songs, with limited or no commercials at all.

My first preference is Live365, which provides hundreds of different streaming stations for all types of music. Their selection of holiday channels surely will not disappoint. As a matter of fact, they have so many Christmas channels that the only downside might be deciding which ones to actually listen to(!). There is some redundancy among formats, but the selection is phenomenal. You can listen for free and only deal with a few commercials, or you can sign up for the Live365 Premium for $5.95 a month and go commercial free.

AccuRadio is another solid choice for an abundance of streaming Christmas channels. Like Live365, there are several formats of holiday channels to choose from, just minus the redundancy. You can’t go wrong with AccuRadio, and like Live365, you can listen for free and deal with only a few commercials here and there.

My old college radio station, Lewis University’s WLRA-FM has switched to their “Christmas Memories” format, which is orchestrated in-conjunction with the United Way of Will County. In place of commercials are occasional PSA’s promoting the United Way and information on how to donate for those who so desire, along with the occasional holiday message from University President Brother James Gaffney. WLRA plays a wide variety of classic Christmas songs, embed with some rare old-time songs and occasional contemporary. WLRA can be streamed from the Lewis University website (see above link), in addition to TuneIn and iHeartRadio. For those around the Romeoville/Joliet area, WLRA can be heard on 88.1 FM.

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Why was Garry Meier axed from WGN altogether?

Garry MeierThe popular question right now is either “where is Garry Meier?” or “why was he fired?”

To answer the first question, he’s now “on the beach.” The answer to the second question… only a few people for sure know.  Either way, the recently demoted WGN-AM 720 afternoon drive host was sent home from the Tribune Tower for good and will no longer be doing his online WGN.FM show.

For whatever reason, Meier had a falling out with his boss, Jimmy de Castro, the president and general manager of WGN, which led to him being taken off AM 720 to begin with this past May. Some have speculated the rift could have begun when Meier refused to return Steve Dahl’s phone call, even after de Castro himself having possibly urged Meier to– about possibly doing something together at their Radio Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

The more likely scenario, in my opinion, involves Meier’s likely unwillingness to work with a partner. During a March, 2010 interview on Margaret Lakin’s Radiogirl Podcast, Meier specifically stated he had no desire to share billing with a partner, going as far to clarify that even his WGN sidekick, “Elton Jim” Turano was no more than just that, a sidekick.

In August, 2013, a lengthy Chicago Tribune piece profiling an upcoming reboot of the iconic station mentioned Castro’s desire to pair Meier with a co-host. Chicago media reporter Robert Feder echoed similar sentiments about a possible co-host for Meier in his own piece profiling the then upcoming changes at WGN.

The new co-host for Meier never happened for whatever reason. One month later, in September, Feder wrote a piece announcing that WGN afternoon traffic reporter Leslie Keiling would take a more “prominent role as a contributor to Meier’s afternoon show.” It never happened. Keiling had already been a regular voice on the show, officially or unofficially, and the amount of time she talked never changed.

The above examples are just some of the potential scenarios that may have led to a rift between Meier and de Castro. While I have been hard on de Castro in my two previous posts, the honest truth is, only a few people truly understand the circumstances which ultimately led to Meier’s departure from WGN. Based on collective soundbites over the years from Meier, his former co-host Roe Conn, as well as a few friends and acquaintances of my own, I definitely do believe Meier isn’t exactly the easiest person to work with or to necessarily please.

Whatever Meier might be like off air, his on air persona was very popular and highly successful for Tribune Media. As the highest paid talent at the station, WGN seemingly left a lot of money on the table by demoting him from terrestrial to online only. Now, with Meier’s show gone entirely (while continuing to collect that hefty paycheck until autumn of 2015) and station management refusing further explanation or a simple on-air acknowledgement of the issue, de Castro appears to simply be standing his ground…

Or perhaps, stomping his feet while holding his breath.

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Blowtorch Soundoff: Garry Meier WGN.FM show cancellation, dismantling of The Game, WGN in 2015 and beyond

With the cancellation of Garry Meier’s online WGN.FM show, in-conjunction with the announcement that The Game/WGWG-LP 87.7 (FM) is being dismantled at year’s end, I just had to rant about everything that’s happened this past week.

Length of Audio: Approximately 30 minutes

Discussion Points:

  • Reviewing the news of the week — the immediate cancellation of Garry Meier’s online show from WGN.FM, what’s up with Jonathon Brandmeier’s show and the dismantling of The Game 88.7.
  • How much it meant in May, 2013 when then Tribune Company hired Jimmy de Castro to preside over WGN-AM 720, and why there was reason to be optimistic about the station’s future. This discussion morphs into where and how things started to go wrong.
  • Garry Meier’s treatment by Jimmy de Castro since May of this year, and how ultimately, it led to Meier’s WGN departure.  It bears repeating… Garry Meier got screwed, and there is no plausible explanation that de Castro can give to the WGN audience.
  • Despite the dismantling of WGN.FM into what will likely be re-branded as “WGN Plus,” it makes no sense to cancel Garry Meier’s show. Tribune Media will pay Meier a lot of money to stay home for the next 10 or 11 months, despite his success and popularity. Meanwhile, the company is attempting to workout a deal that would allow Jonathon Brandmeier to continue doing his show, online only, even though the company has no further obligations to him (Brandmeier has been working without a contract).
  • Discussion of WGN Radio’s future and why, despite my previous blog where I called for de Castro’s firing, I will reluctantly root for him to succeed.

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Game over: WGN boss Jimmy de Castro deserves to be fired

Jimmy de Castro

The fun and games are over. Jimmy de Castro deserves to be fired.

By most of the accounts I’ve heard, I reckon that Jimmy de Castro, president and general manager of Tribune Media’s WGN-AM 720 and The Game/WGWG-LP 87.7, is one of the better people in radio to work for. I would dare guess that with what was set to transpire today, he probably went the last few nights without much sleep.

That said, I can’t help but think that he deserves to be fired. I understand that calling for someone might be rather extreme, but under these circumstances, I don’t see how he deserves to keep his job.

News that Chicago’s third all-sports station, The Game, will be dismantled at the end of the year, in-conjunction with the news that personalities Jonathan Brandmeier and Garry Meier are also out, should not have been much of a surprise. And yet, the mid-afternoon breaking news by Robert Feder certainly pulled the rug from beneath my feet, as well as staffers at the all-sports station.

With The Game’s literal lack of ratings being common knowledge, lumped with the apparent high number of people on air and behind the scenes working there, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that the station was in the red. Commonsense would suggest that The Game would naturally have a short shelf life.

On the contrary, The Game was either orchestrated or at the very least approved by de Castro, the messiah that was going to save WGN. Commonsense aside, I held belief that de Castro must know what he’s doing and that he had a long-term plan. Surely, such a start-up venture will be given an appropriate amount of time to be nurtured and grow.  Then, the Garry Meier/WGN.FM fiasco happened, the addition of more junk programing on WGN.FM happened, The Game’s rating’s needle never moved while WGN-AM’s ratings needle moved downwards.

The pedestal that de Castro was previously hoisted onto had tumbled.

I feel bad for The Game’s staffers who will be losing their jobs at the end of the year. I feel bad for someone like Ben Finer, who became aware of his station’s fate while his show was on the air.

Garry MeierFrom a personal standpoint, I’m extremely angry about the Garry Meier (pictured, right) situation. While we don’t know the full story, there should be zero doubt that his initial removal from the AM 720 airwaves and to the WGN.FM online-only stream in May was political. Management attempted to explain Meier’s re-assignment by declaring that online streaming is the future of radio and that WGN needs a radio heavyweight like Meier to help anchor such a new and bold venture.

Some bold venture that turned out to be. Not only did Meier’s WGN.FM show receive zero promotion on AM 720, the company cancelled already scheduled remotes that he was supposed to be part of and phased out his segments with WGN-TV Ch. 9’s Tom Skilling amongst other acts that suggested he had descended far below second-class there.

Asides from anger about the way Garry Meier has been screwed by Jimmy de Castro, I am just beyond bummed out. This really does suck.

How does Jimmy de Castro explain the cancellation of Meier’s online-only show while Meier will continue to be the highest paid talent through October, 2015? If Meier’s treatment wasn’t political, his online show could rightfully continue even with the dismantling of the “WGN.FM” brand. There’s no reason Meier can’t be a featured online show and podcasted on WGN’s main website, while branding it as an added supplement to everything else that’s offered on AM 720. Such a novel idea that de Castro told the Chicago Tribune’s Robert Channick that that’s what he wants to do in 2015, while offering no explanation as to why that couldn’t be implemented by continuing to air Meier’s online show (who again, will remain their highest paid talent through October, 2015).

As for Brandmeier, he has not been under contract so the company loses nothing by cutting him lose. By saving the expenses of operating Brandmeier’s show as well as The Game, that money just might offset the remaining money owed to Meier until the expiration of his contract.

Amidst today’s news, there are still some lingering questions, mixed in with some other random thoughts or rhetorical questions I have.

  • Brandmeier via social media has stated he will be on the air tomorrow. Will tomorrow be his last day or will he be allowed to continue for a while longer or up through the end of the year?
  • While The Game’s “Kaplan & Haugh” show will likely continue to operate as a television show on Comcast SportsNet, how does today’s news affect Kaplan’s overall employment with Tribune Media, who has been a long-time WGN guy?
  • As the winter holidays got closer, I was hoping that sports radio heavyweight Dan McNeil may resurface to fill-in on a few shows. While I suppose that could still happen, what would be the point?
  • I don’t have much of a problem with how Alex Quigley and Ben Finfer ripped their bosses on the air for finding out the fate of the station via Robert Feder as opposed from their actual bosses. I don’t like the idea of them or update anchor Julie DiCaro ripping Feder for reporting the news though. He got the scoop and he went with it. That’s the media business for you, as cruel as that is.
  • Speaking of Quigley, he is also the operations director at WGN and The Game. The way he has been talking on social media, you’d think he too will be out of work. Will he still be the operations director at WGN come January 2015 or will he too be completely out the door?

It bears repeating how bad I do feel for the folks at The Game. I didn’t listen to it a whole lot, so it would be inappropriate for me to fully judge it’s overall quality as a sports station. That said, I was a fan of the “Quiqs & Finfer” show, as well as the “Night Game.” There are a lot of talented voices there and I do hope they get new opportunities elsewhere soon.

I must also give high kudos to Larz at Chicagoland Radio & Media. I absolutely loved his full narration of what transpired today. I especially loved his breakdown of questionable decisions and the ramifications that have taken place since de Castro’s been at WGN. Larz concluded his report by calling into question de Castro’s long-standing reputation.

Despite the mismanagement led by de Castro, I can’t dismiss the simple fact that whether one likes or dislikes today’s WGN, that station is still primarily an all-live and all-local station. What other talk radio station in the country can claim that? Since de Castro’s been at WGN, he’s been allowed to spend a lot of money in hopes of proving that live and local talk radio still has some life yet. I still think it does. I only wish that the money was spent by someone else, with more smarts and less ego (Tom Langmyer!). It’s such a shame that such a golden opportunity was wasted by de Castro.

Feedback may be emailed to blowtorchpress [at] gmail.com.

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Blowtorch Bytes: Roe Conn’s countdown, NFC & AFC announcers…

- While WGN-AM 720 was knocked off the air this morning due to a burst water pipe, there was an excess amount of hot air on Chicago’s other iconic news/talker, WLS-AM 890. The morning show’s co-host Bruce Wolf got into an interesting exchange about race relations and education with traffic reporter Keli Walker. Unfortunately, I did not hear it but Robert Feder provided the must-read transcript on his website.

– Meanwhile, former WLS afternoon host Roe Conn is revamping his website. The under constructed site now features a countdown, that as of this writing, would strike zero on Sunday, Nov. 30. Not sure what might be so significant about that day, nor do I understand the point in having a countdown to a mere website re-launch. Will be interesting to see what is unveiled that day or if the countdown is simply arbitrary.

RoeConn.com New Website Countdown

– During Sunday’s Bears & Vikings game, a few astute folks commented on Twitter how odd it was that CBS was airing a all NFC game. The airing was somewhat out of bounds considering that CBS typically airs AFC games, while NFC games are televised by Fox. A change in the NFL television rights deal allows games to be “cross-flexed” between networks, explains Ed Sherman in the Chicago Tribune.

All in all, I didn’t think Sunday’s Bears game airing locally on CBS 2/WBBM-TV was a big deal at all. The Bears are typically on CBS once or twice a year when playing an AFC team on their home field. What I found further puzzling while scouring Twitter was the classifying, by some, on the difference between NFC announcers and AFC announcers . The AFC and the NFC are in the same league(!)… it’s not like you had a NCAA Division 2 or a CFL broadcaster calling a NFL game for the first time.

– As a fan of Barry Rozner, I’m always pleased whenever he surfaces as a co-host on The Score/WSCR-AM 670. I’ve been especially pleased of late to be hearing him more on weekend afternoons while solo. Rozner sounds good on his own, and comes across naturally while driving a show. He’s going to make it harder and harder for Mitch Rosen, the Score’s newly titled Operations Director (previously Program Director), to pass him by the next time there is an opening in it’s Monday through Friday lineup.

– According to a Los Angeles Times report, CBS may potentially be blacked out by Dish Network as early as this Thursday. As a Dish subscriber, I’ve been deprived of a handful of networks, including CNN (and on election night!). I can’t imagine how fun it would be to be a Dish customer service representative as soon as their customers are unable to watch the “Big Bang Theory” or Sunday NFL games.

– Speaking of the Los Angeles Times, their hideous website works just as poorly on mobile devices as their sister publication, the Chicago Tribune’s. Politico’s new site, revamped just last week, is another cluster on my Nexus 7 tablet.

– I was sorry to hear over the weekend that Wiegel Broadcasting’s “First Business News” will cease production at the end of the year (the news was confirmed by Robert Feder yesterday). Bill Moller, one of the show’s co-anchors is a friend and while I am saddened by this news, I hope that this may broaden his opportunity for greater television exposure in 2015. Moller will continue to serve as a guest host on CLTV’s “Politics Tonight” while holding down the fort on his Saturday 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. show on WGN-AM 720 (when not pre-empted by sports).

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Phoning it in: Cochran should be on time to his own show

A burst water pipe in the Tribune Tower resulted in both WGN-AM 720 and The Game/WGWG-LP 88.7 being off the air for a few minutes this morning. Kudos to the Chicagoland Radio & Media message board user Larry London for what he posted this morning:

I heard WGN AM was off the air for 20 minutes this morning due to a water main break. Steve Cochran never sounded better and you can fill in your own jokes about the station’s ratings being under water.

Steve Cochran & WGN Radio Under WaterWhile I am a fan of Steve Cochran, I can’t help appreciate the humor in that message. As for Cochran, I wasn’t always a fan of his, but I have enjoyed his presence on WGN since taking over the morning show in September, 2013.

What I am not a fan of is Cochran’s physical absence during his show’s 5 a.m. hour. Originally, when his show was extended from 9 to 10 a.m. earlier this year, he explained that the first hour would be more news centric, and that he would take more of a backseat role to Andrea Darlas, Orion Samuelson and the rest of the show’s crew. Perhaps, I just failed to read between the lines, but at the time, I figured he would at least be there with the occasional chime in.

Now, it’s obvious he isn’t there at all that first hour, as evidenced by his routine of calling in by cell phone near the end of the hour while still on his way to the studio. By the way, calling in by cell phone doesn’t make up for his not being there. In my opinion, it makes the situation appear worse.

Again, I am a fan Cochran’s show, so I’m not looking for reasons to pick on him. I should also clarify that this rant isn’t because I dislike the 5 a.m. hour with Darlas and Samuelson. However, with Cochran as the face of the station – or at the very least one the faces – he is the guy who shouldn’t make it appear like he’s coasting along as he pleases.

Cochran is the one, upon his return to the station last year, who told listeners that the WGN of old was back and that WGN is the people’s station. Yet, there remains a community of angry listeners who believe Cochran is in “cahoots” with a station management team that seemingly has a real disconnect with the audience. Whether fair or not, Cochran’s critics – highly visible on Facebook, the Chicagoland Radio & Media message board and in the comments section of Robert Feder’s blog – believe he had a hand in the demotion of popular afternoon host Garry Meier (I honestly have no idea whether such assessment is fair or not).

I understand that Cochran showing up for his own show on time isn’t going to suddenly drown the anger of his vocal critics. However, his first hour absence does further the allusion that Cochran can pretty much do whatever he wants since he is tight with his bosses.

The easy fix would be to simply change the name of the 5 a.m. hour to a more generic name not featuring Steve Cochran. Or officially extend Digilio’s show an extra hour while he interacts with Darlas and Samuelson until 6 a.m. Either way, the 5 a.m. hour shouldn’t be billed as the “Steve Cochran show” when the man himself isn’t actually present.

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Roe Conn on WGN seems most logical, if not obvious

Roe ConnWhile Steve Dahl was debuting his new WLS-AM 890 afternoon show yesterday, Roe Conn, the former occupant of that spot, wrote a heartfelt note to his followers on Facebook.

Thanks again to everyone for your incredibly kind words. It has been the honor of my life to a part of your lives for the past two and a hallf decades. Like all transitions, this one has its challenges, but please know, I’ve been able to read all of your comments and will answer as many as a I can.

I’m not able to answer the most dominant question, “what’s next,” quite yet. But I promise, you will be the first to know when that decision is finally made. I plan on being back in your ears soon, but in the meantime you can catch me mornings on Windy City Live on ABC7 and tomorrrow night I’ll be on Fox32’s election night coverage. Fasten your seatbelts, I have a lot to say!

Conn has been mostly quiet on the social media front since his final show at WLS, October 7. Asides from a thank you note to his fans the following day, much of his social media activity has taken place at 5 p.m. on Fridays, with references to the canarble wagon segment, an iconic mainstay of his show each Friday afternoon. While off the radio airwaves, Conn’s kept busy with his regular appearances on ABC 7/WLS-TV’s “Windy City Live.” Conn will also appear tonight on Fox 32/WFLD-TV’s special election coverage.

It should also be worth noting that since Conn’s departure from WLS, all content has been removed from his website (which hadn’t been updated since 2012). There is now a note staying that a new website is coming soon.

New Roe Conn Website Coming Soon

As for what is next for Conn, the most logical, if not obvious, spot for him to re-surface is down the dial on WGN-AM 720. However, as we all have become accustomed to, what appears to be the most logical or obvious doesn’t usually happen in radio these days.

Robert Feder wrote yesterday on his blog that his sources at WGN have said there’s been no job offer made so far. One of the many reasons Conn’s arrival at WGN would seem to be imminent is because he and WGN’s President and General Manager, Jimmy de Castro, are in fact friends. I’ll also point out that in a Aug. 20, 2013 Robert Feder post hyping de Castro’s re-launch of WGN, Conn was specifically mentioned as being on the general manager’s wish list. And for the record, also on that list was John Williams and Steve Dahl.

Having listened to enough of Conn through the years, I get the sense that he would absolutely love the more relaxed talk format at WGN, where he would presumably not be forced to keep the conversation as news and politics heavy as he was at WLS. Ironically, it was Conn’s WLS replacement, Dahl, who once complained on his own podcast how former WLS program director Drew Hayes was annoyingly adamant about keeping the non-heavyweight news and political talk to a minimum (back when Dahl regularly filled in for Conn’s co-host, Richard Roeper).

Personally, I do hope Conn lands at WGN. In my opinion, Conn is a genuine talk radio heavyweight that would be a valuable asset there. One of Feder’s readers commented on yesterday’s blog post saying “if it is happening in Chicago, Roe is the person you want to listen to and find out what is really going on.” That, I agree with 100%.

If Conn does land at WGN, the obvious question is where and at the expense of who? Below is the lineup I would schedule if it were up to me. This is NOT a prediction of what I think would happen.

  • Steve Cochran, 5 a.m. – 9 a.m.
    Cochran in studio and ready to work by 5.
  • Bill Leff & Wendy Snyder, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
    I agree with the sentiment that their style of show sounds better at this time of day as opposed to late afternoons.
  • John Williams, 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.
    Williams’ ratings have never been outstanding, but he has a tremendous amount of goodwill will with listeners and advertisers. I have wondered if his being in Minnesota has posed any hindrance on that though. To make room in the lineup, I’d schedule Williams for just the one hour, having him anchor the “Business Lunch” format. A more business themed format would also be a good opportunity to have him correspond more with Orion Samuelson, which always makes for great radio.
  • Garry Meier, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
    Meier sounded good while holding down the 1-4 p.m. slot when first hired at WGN. Move him off WGN.FM and put him back on the mainstream blowtorch. An absolute no-brainer.
  • Roe Conn, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
    His WLS audience shrunk in afternoons, but I believe that was due to excessive commercial and traffic interruptions; not helping was severely weak programming in the morning. While commercials and the length of news is still a problem at WGN, I think Conn would benefit with their looser clock,  having more freedom to talk about non-news heavy topics while being surrounded by new people (i.e. Steve Bertrand and Leslie Keiling).
  • Pete McMurray, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
    While I’m not a huge fan of McMurray, he brings a  younger and fresher voice, providing a much needed contrast to WGN’s other long-standing and iconic talent. He lands big name guests and seemingly fits in well when filling in during other dayparts. In all reality, McMurray is being underutilized in the evening. I’m sure even his bosses would agree. There simply hasn’t been enough hours in the day to yet allow him to move up. Then again, having a talented voice in the evening slot should in theory make the overall station stronger.

The removal of Bob Sirott and Marianne Murciano from WGN’s lineup, in my opinion, should have been made yesterday. While I don’t necessarily dislike their program, I think it is the least exciting and stimulating show in their daytime lineup.

Roe Conn and Garry MeierOne should-be obvious show idea missing from my above lineup is a reunited Conn and Meier. I would love nothing more than for a second run of “Roe and Garry,” but I just don’t think there is any chance of that happening. Meier has specifically stated on multiple occasions that he has zero interest in working with a partner. Also, it’s not like Meier is the type of person who easily forgives and forgets. Even if the money and opportunity for success was right, I’m not sure Meier would cave on this.

Though never declared publically, it would not shock me at all if de Castro – who likely knew Conn would be a free agent by the start of 2015 – had already broached the idea to Meier, and didn’t get the answer he wanted. Meier’s likely unwillingness to work with Conn, or any other partner, might very well be why he was banished to the garbage dump that is WGN.FM.

That said, I think both Meier and Conn are professional enough to be willing to work separate shows back-to-back of each other. If not, they could at least work their individual shows and if necessary, borrow Jonathon Brandmeier’s black curtain to make sure neither makes eye contact with the other.

While Conn going to WGN is not yet a slam dunk, it is seemingly the most likely place for him to re-surface at in 2015. That is until the radio gods once again remind us to never bet on anything that half-way resembles logic.

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