Though not rock bottom, the ‘Big 89’ WLS has fallen far from prominence

Plenty of chatter has been devoted to the pending exits of both Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity from the 40 or so Cumulus-owned news/talk stations they currently have shows broadcasting on. Locally, such a move would obviously have a significant impact on WLS-AM 890’s program schedule (Limbaugh 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.,  Hannity via tape delay 6-9 p.m.).

Further dents in the WLS program schedule is the last thing that station needs right now.

The current trainwreck at WLS was something I was meaning to bring up here, however, there was some good discussion about the station in recent days on the message board.

There’s no question that WLS had a few rough months with the sudden death of midday host Jake Hartford and the exit of morning hosts Don Wade & Roma. Not helping was the reassignment of Drew Hayes (station’s operation director) to KABC-AM in Los Angeles. However, the rough patch the station had was near the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013. We’re on the eve of August and WLS is merely treading water with hands tied behind its back.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the new morning show with Bruce Wolf and Dan Proft. At least Don Wade or even someone like Jerry Agar (early midday host in 2008 and 2009, now early midday host at NewsTalk 1010/CFRB-AM in Toronto) understood radio and had an art for creating compelling discussion, even if you didn’t agree with them. Proft doesn’t come close. Instead he preaches, except when he is awkwardly tiptoeing around Wolf.

I have not listened to enough of John Kass and Lauren Cohn, the station’s early midday hosts, to have an honest opinion. Many people on the CRM board have written that Kass personifies the old  adage “a voice for print” (not sure if that is really an adage… if not, then I’m making it up). Kass often writes compelling content in his Chicago Tribune column, but from the little I have heard, it doesn’t carry over on the air while he is host.

I’ve been a listener of Roe Conn since the late 1990s when he was paired with Garry Meier. Conn’s show has had ups and downs through the years, depending on who he’s been partnered or sidekicked with. The current arrangement with Richard Roeper is not my favorite. Not sure if Roeper is the problem or if I grew tired of the Jim Johnson (now retired) and Christina Filliagi act. I’ve also been a victim of bad luck when attempting to listen to their show. I’ll say eight out of 10 times when trying, I hear commercials. The commercial breaks are long and often. Not helping is the ridiculous “Traffic & Weather – First on the Fives,” which after more than a year, are still prominently unsponsored (!).

The commercial content and repetitive traffic problems apply to the station’s morning and early midday shows as well.

I have a hard time getting past Conn’s continued stammering while telling a story. He often comes across as one with severe ADHD while telling a story and becoming distracted, either by someone else in studio or because a new thought popped into his head. I can put that aside because Conn is highly intelligent and has a fairly realistic point of view when it comes to analyzing the relevant news of the day.

The morning and early midday shows are incredibly dull and the chemistry during the afternoon show just doesn’t click with me.

As bad as it is at WLS, it could be a lot worse. Cumulus, the number two largest radio ownership in the country (which includes WLS), could have cancelled much of the local programming many months ago and had replaced it with syndicated crap. To their credit, they’ve resisted so far.

While things there could be a lot worse, they also could be a lot better. It’s a shame that no one else there seemingly thinks so.

The cat’s meow

A lot of people had a good laugh yesterday courtesy of the’s home page gaffe featuring the cat and “Headline test here” heading. This was the second highly publicized embarrassment for the Tribune in the last week and a half.

The Sunday (7/21) Tribune’s front page featured a story that later turned out to be highly falsified (as noted in this past Sunday’s paper).

As for yesterday’s mishap, classify that as one hell of a web exclusive. Those who still only read the paper missed out on that one.

Who says the Trib isn’t committed to digital?

Art Bell ‘Sirius’ about return to radio; satellite makes sense

It was only a few short months ago I wrote that Art Bell needs to stop steering his fans on a bumpy ride. His semi-frequent vague teases (via Facebook) always led to nowhere, leaving his many fans disappointed.

That all changed today with the announcement via that the legendary overnight talk show host is launching a new radio show this September on SiriusXM,

Some of his fans will surely be disappointed that he is on satellite, which for at least $15 per month is not exactly cheap . At the end of the day however, satellite is more likely to give Bell everything he wants. He’s certainly entitled.

Bell has previously noted that the high amount of commercial content on the current “Coast to Coast AM” bothered him. On SiriusXM, commercials are limited.

Bell can be uncensored and seemingly no topic would be barred from discussion. Not sure how important that is to him, but such parameters mean Bell should have little restraints, if any. The minimal restraints, I’m guessing, is important to him. He will have a lot of freedom.

Even though Bell made a lot of money in his prime radio days, he’s going to make plenty more, further ensuring the long-term financial security of his family.

The limited commercials and the added freedom are two parameters Bell could have gotten if he had gone the podcast route. However, the guaranteed income would likely be less than what SiriusXM can offer. At the end of the day, Bell has every right to make as much money as he can.

And SiriusXM will still receive a hefty handful of new subscribers because of it.

Back on the media scene, with a new name and philosophy

So, once upon a time, I started my own media blog. With the abundant of media news, gossip and randon tidbits that seem to constantly surface, I made an attempt to stay on top of it as much as possible, getting to the point that my head spinned right off my neck. I crashed and burned and eventually stopped blogging.

My mistake.

As a full-time graphic designer and webmaster, I can’t be a full-time media blogger. I knew that originally, but I still somehow forgot that in my first attempt, and it just didn’t work.

This go-round, I’m hoping to apply a new philosophy. Take it slow and easy. No pressure. Only write when I truly have something worth writing about. That’s my hope at least.

With a new philosophy also comes a name change. Prior to launching this blog, I had a few name ideas and fielded them around with friends and family. I was always sold on “Blowtorch Press,” but almost everyone else liked “Media Blowtorch,” and that’s what I went with. Being away from this for a while, and having thought about it from a fresh mindset, I probably should have gone with what I initially liked.

And now I am. The new name of this blog is the Blowtorch Press, conveniently located at

With the new change and philosophy, I’m more comfortable with this attempt.

I’m not a media professional or insider. I’m simply an enthused media geek who has a lot to say.

And I hope it will be worth your time

Friday night video searching on YouTube

So I was searching YouTube specifically for an American Coach Limousine television commercial (don’t ask), and while I found what I was looking for, I had to do a double take after observing the two female actresses at the beginning.

They look very familiar. Looks alone, I may not have recognized them, but when combined with those mannerisms, I immediately flashed back to the old Eagleman commercial from the 1990s.

Those are the same women, right? Now, I’d really like to know for sure.

I suppose there are worse things I could be doing on this Friday night…

Hiring back Keith Olbermann, ESPN attempts to one-up Fox Sports 1 network launch

While I won’t say ESPN is necessarily losing sleep over next month’s launch of Fox Sports 1, I think it’s safe to say the network isn’t taking any chance.

ESPN’s hiring of Keith Olbermann should be a strong indicator of that. Two other aspects further clarify that ESPN may, in fact, actually be sweating (if only just a little).

1. ESPN is allowing Olbermann time of in October so that he can anchor MLB post-season coverage for TBS. This, I find the most surprising. After one month on the air (and hopefully after viewers have developed a new habit of watching), the new show and host go on hiatus so he can bring attention to another network outside the Disney/ESPN corporate family.

Why doesn’t ESPN just wait until after the MLB post-season to debut him and avoid the awkward hiatus?

2. ESPN doesn’t normally hire back former on air talents. ESPN President John Skipper in March even backed that up when saying “… this is not an easy place to get back into. There are not that many successful examples of people who have come back, in part because it’s like water filling a vacuum. When somebody leaves, somebody else fills their place.”

I do hope this works. I find Olbermann to be a fascinating on air talent, and I’m looking forward to hopefully having another television option for 10 p.m. (even though I don’t normally watch television at 10 p.m. — but just in case I ever decide to).

And when news hits of the first Olbermann blowup a few weeks or months after returning to ESPN, you can look forward to an interesting story. And a few months later, an interesting story on why he’s no longer there.

Just being realistic.

Related Reading: Jeff Bercovici wrote a piece at on how Olbermann needs to take advantage of this opportunity by not being… Olbermann. I could have read this same column last year just before he made his debut at Current TV.

Observation on the ‘Fox Box’ score bug

While watching the MLB All-Star game last night on Fox, I was reminded of something that I had not thought of since the NFC Championship Game on Fox. As minute as it is, I wonder why Fox Sports removed team logos from the “Fox Box” score bug (graphic) and replaced them with the team’s city or state abbreviation. The change was made at the start of last year’s NFL season and they also did the same for this year’s MLB broadcasts (click on each individual image to view larger size).

The change is only one tiny detail and it makes no impact on how viewers watch the game. I simply think the design of the graphic was better polished and cooler looking when it showed the team’s logos.

With the NFL season not far around the corner and the Aug. 17 launch of the Fox Sports 1 Network, it wouldn’t surprise me if Fox unveils a new set of graphics for their sports broadcasts. In the past, Fox has updated their sports graphic package, usually at the start of football, after three or four years. The current package has been in use on various Fox Sports broadcasts (i.e. the Fox Network, FX, and each individual Fox Sports regional channel) for at least three years, if not four.

ABC’s shortsighted ‘View’ demonstrates reckless disregard to science and public health

In normal circumstances, I wouldn’t think twice about who ABC hires to co-host “The View.” Unfortunately, when they hire the outspoken anti-vaxxer  Jenny McCarthy, that becomes a problem.

Despite scientific evidence proving otherwise, McCarthy continues to spew her erroneous claims that autism is caused by vaccinations. In a culture where people are prone to believing their favorite celebrities at face value when pushing a specific message or cause, McCarthy’s medical misinformation is not only a huge public disservice, but also dangerous.

Even if ABC hired her under the condition that she not speak of vaccines, it’s a horrible move because when she is spewing her nonsense elsewhere, she will still be known as a daytime television star. For some people, that will be all the validation they need to accept her as credible.

Phil Plait writes about this subject far better then I can. An astronomer, skeptic and blogger, Plait has written extensively about McCarthy’s anti-vaccine movement, while also providing the necessary proof on how the benefits of vaccinations largely outweigh any potential risk.

Plait has already written a new blog about today’s news. It’s a great read, and once again, includes a handful of links for anyone interested in learning more about the subject.

James Poniewozik wrote an exceptional column for TIME, further detailing how children who are not vaccinated are not only endangering themselves, but also their classmates and to a greater extent, the general public.

Sirott and Murciano joining WGN Radio full-time; plenty of options for how to fit them in

News broke yesterday that Chicago news veteran Bob Sirott is joining WGN-AM 720 full-time, with his wife (and former Fox 32/WFLD-TV “Fox Thing in the Morning” co-anchor) Marianne Murciano. The two are expected to host either a midday or an afternoon show, beginning in the next few weeks.

While the addition of Sirott and Murciano personally doesn’t have me that excited, I am happy that the new station management is making a bold effort to greatly improve the station (which is a far contrast from six, seven months ago following the departure of John Williams). Considering Sirott is still a full-time news anchor (at WFLD/Fox Chicago, at least for now), and based on previous talk shows they have done together, I see the possibility for a rather vanilla type of show by avoiding the more interesting and relevant political or social discussions. I hope they aren’t going to play it too safe.

With the recent departures of Carol Roth (12 – 1 p.m., Mon-Fri) and Turi Ryder (10 p.m. – 1 a.m., Mon-Thurs), the station’s schedule currently has Jonathon Brandmeier on from 6 to 10 a.m., Mike McConnell from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Garry Meier from 3 to 7 p.m. and David Kaplan and friends from 7 p.m. to midnight. To fit Sirott and Murciano into the lineup, WGN has a few options. They can shorten McConnell’s show, and schedule them to begin at either 12 or 1 p.m, and go until 3. I don’t see anything later in the day as a realistic option. I just can’t see the station removing Meier from afternoon drive at this point.

Other rumors, as hinted by Larz at, suggest McConnell could be out in the coming weeks, which would leave a large void in the schedule. If McConnell indeed does leave, it would make sense for Sirott and Murciano to occupy a portion of his current on air time, though not all five hours. The station may be planning to fill the remaining void with either Steve Cochran (who filled in last week and this week for Brandmeier) or Brian Noonan (currently hosts Sunday evenings and was recently removed from the evening sports show he co-hosted with Kaplan).

Cochran was a long time fan favorite at the station, so him returning full-time in some capacity would make a lot of sense. On the other hand, Noonan is also well liked and can be considered a rising star who rightfully deserves a daytime slot.

Ideally, what I would like to see is for WGN to fit both guys in by removing both McConnell and Brandmeier. Cochran while filling in for Brandmeier these last few days has sounded so good and natural, while Brandmeier seems out of place and out of touch with the times. A day-time lineup with Cochran in the morning, followed by Noonan in late mornings, Sirott and Murciano in the early afternoons, followed by Meier would make for a swell lineup.

Forgetting that radio is a visual medium

A Chicago radio station I frequently listen to is airing a spot (radio slang for a type of commercial) that bothers the heck out of me.

The spot was recorded by a producer who works for one of the station’s most prominent show, though the spot can air at anytime during the day or night.

In this particular spot, the producer endorses a hair care product. She mentions that as a result of her using the product, she regularly receives compliments from listeners on how great her hair looks.

I have two problems with this.

1. She doesn’t often speak on the air so it is unlikely that anyone other than a devoted listener to the show even knows of her.

2. Even if she was on the air more, radio is not a visual medium. It is highly unlikely that people walking along Michigan Ave. or around a random mall in the suburbs are going to recognize this person and tell her how great her hair looks.

In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t too big of an issue because most listeners won’t pick up on this. Excusing my radio nerdom, my full-time job involves marketing, so I also see this spot as somewhat odd from the vantage point as someone who works in marketing.