Back on WGN Radio, Steve Cochran providing an easy, relaxed listen in the morning

Steve Cochran

When long-time WGN-AM 720 host Spike O’Dell retired in December 2008, the coveted morning show was supposed to go to then afternoon host Steve Cochran. After that didn’t happen due to a few circumstances, he would be shown the door some 18 months later.  The rest of the radio hell WGN experienced through 2010, and then again at the start of 2013 is well documented. The arrival of Jimmy de Castro as the station’s new president and general manager in May came with high expectations that things will slowly be made right.

Perhaps the most monumental amends took place last Tuesday when the sound of Steve Cochran was heard once again on the AM 720 airwaves. After quitting his previous gig at WIND-AM/560 The Answer, Cochran was free to turn up on WGN where he is now filling in for the vacationing Jonathon Brandmeier.

Bummer… Cochran is only filling in?

Cochran should be the new morning host at WGN. And I say this as someone who ironically didn’t care for him much when he previously hosted afternoons. While Cochran’s high level of wittiness and the urge to be funny is sometimes distracting, he is also highly intelligent and can do a decent job at discussing the day’s most relevant news happenings. I also like his reasonable, realistic perspective on the news, especially on politics.

His interactions with news anchor Andrea Darlas (recently promoted from late afternoons/ early evenings to mornings), Orion Samuelson and Dave Eanet (or last week, Jordan Bernfield) have a tendency to result in impromptu and oft-entertaining discussions. The show has a fine blend of news talk and slight silliness. The news talk isn’t too in-depth or too serious while the silliness is not quite off the rails.  The entire listening experience is easy and relaxed — exactly what I want while driving to work.

Cochran’s level of discussion and performance is quite the contrast to Brandmeier. I usually can’t listen to Brandmeier for more than two minutes. I don’t think he is either funny or relevant. Even if I could get remotely interested in one of his topics, he kills the momentum by badgering it to death, often seeking re-clarification over some tiny tidbit that was obvious to the audience ten minutes ago.

The day after the Boston Marathon bombing, he had interviewed one of the runners who was lucky enough to have finished the race prior to the blast. The first question he asked her was how long she had been married. He later congratulated her for simply finishing the race because… you know… the marathon route sure does have a lot of hills. The day after the tornado rampage in Moore, OK, Brandmeier is playing the wicked witch theme from the “Wizard of Oz” while discussing the devastation of the town.

Thankfully, Brandmeier wasn’t on WGN the day after Sept. 11, 2001. Is it too far fetched to imagine him asking one of the rescue firefighters “so… did you still slide down the pole after learning the Trade Center was under attack?”

I doubt Cochran quit his job at WIND — a full-time radio gig in Chicago — just to be a fill-in guy at WGN. While Cochran for now continues to host a midday show at KTRS-AM 550 in St. Louis (weekdays 10am-12pm), I would bet money that he is back at WGN full-time in some capacity by the end of the year.

If I had it my way, Cochran would have replaced Brandmeier as the station’s new morning host by yesterday.

Examining the sad state of Barnes & Noble following the resignation of CEO William Lynch

The resignation of William Lynch as CEO is a big blow to Barnes & Noble. If not for the sake of his day-to-day and/or long-term presence, then at least for the sake of morale.

His appointment as CEO in 2009 and his plan to build-up the company’s digital infrastructure was rightfully acclaimed as forward thinking — the only logical phase for the company to pursue. Manufacturing a line of e-readers and tablets would provide the means for the selling of digital content for years to come. This could have allowed the company to better absorb losses coming from its brick and mortar stores and/or phase them out completely. The goal was to become a viable alternative to the likes of Amazon.

Even though the strategy looked good on paper, any long-term viable success would require that implementation goes 100% smoothly. Unfortunately, there were a few misses along the way. The limitations of the early Nook Color in 2010/2011 likely hindered potential momentum out the gate.  I also think the (fair or unfair) perception of a struggling book company making their own tablets didn’t help. At the time, any non-Apple manufactured tablet didn’t have a good rep. Budget friendly tablets didn’t really take until Google came along with their $199 seven-inch Nexus; soon followed by the Kindle Fire at the same price (the Kindle Fire came out first, but it appears that the Nexus has taken off more then the Fire).

I’m not sure if Barnes & Noble’s strategy was doomed from the start. Perhaps, some altercation to the strategy would warranted different results. At this time last year, the formation of Nook Media as a separate subsidiary with Microsoft was deemed positive. Since then, it’s hard to identify just how Microsoft has benefited from the arrangement. It’s quite puzzling that B&N never seemed to maximize the potential benefits of such an arraignment (i.e. never any real discussion of future Nook products being Windows 8 based).

Regardless why the Nook strategy bombed, I’m saddened by what appears to be a repeat of the struggle that Borders previously experienced prior to its demise in 2011. Even if the Nook strategy would have taken off, I realize B&N’s book stores would have slowly disappeared. My  hope (as naive as it may have been) was that for the sake of novelty, there would always be a few remaining stores here and there. Maybe that still happens in some capacity, though the remaining uncertainty is unsettling.

I suppose I should also mention that I am quite the hypocrite. While rooting for the success of Barnes & Noble, I am doing so while using the Kindle. Why I’m not supporting the Nook product line is a long story in itself… one that I’m sure I’ll eventually blog about.

Chicago Tribune goes in-depth on city’s thousand-plus shootings in first half of 2013

Over 1,000 shot in Chicago so far this year. Today’s Chicago Tribune profiles a sample of the stories surrounding such victims.

The trends have been positive this year, with the number of shootings and homicides running below last year’s tragic spike, but similar to other recent years. The regular weekly statistics released by Chicago police include the number of shooting incidents, not the number of victims. Even if an incident involves multiple victims, it is counted as a single shooting. But the Tribune analysis focused on the number of victims.

The circumstances behind this violence is far more complicated than a bunch of hoodlums having nothing better to do than joining a gang. As always, society will ignore the underlying problem(s).

Either that, or we just don’t know how to fix it. I’m not sure which, though I lean towards the former.

The Tribune also has a database pinpointing the victims and locations of all shootings from the first-half of this year. Or just remember the URL,

A non-soccer fan’s observations while semi-watching the World Cup

Can’t say I’ve made much attempts in my life to watch soccer, but I did pay half attention to the “extra time” World Cup quarterfinal game on ESPNU between sets at the gym this morning.

A few observations…

  • I wonder if the playing field was narrower and/or shorter, more goals might be scored and that perhaps might draw more viewers from the U.S. An indoor soccer game I watched a few years back very intense and goals were more frequent. The action was intense and dare I say exciting. The field was much narrower and shorter.
  • At one point when one of the Korean players was nearing the net, ESPN at that moment displayed a large graphic which ended up covering him and anyone else hovering around the ball.
  • Further evidence of just how important this game was to ESPN… it was on ESPNU.
  • Why do goalies wear completely different colors than the rest of their teammates? If hockey goalies can wear the same colors (just sayin’)…
  • I may have watched more World Cup then I have White Sox games this year.

Media using tragedy to engage audience, boost social media activity

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I “liked” the WLS-TV/ABC 7 Facebook page. For much of the duration, the page was great for providing Chicago area news, weather and any other tidbits of interest — exactly why I “liked” it to begin with.

Of late, I started becoming annoyed with pages like ABC 7, or any other, that have gone a bit heavy with encouraging their followers to “like” or “share” a given status…

I get that active social media management means you want as many people to “like” or “share” your page or the content on your page as much as possible. The level of annoyance crossed the line when I thought ABC 7 was using (deliberate or not) the sympathy surrounding the death of the 19 Arizona firefighters as part of their social media strategy…

I don’t want to see it. I’m not interested in seeing tragedy be used as a means to engage an audience. I understand such strategy happens all the time to a much greater extent in the real world, but with Facebook(!)… it especially strikes me as sleazy.