The Score’s Dan McNeil on leave of absence

Dan McNeil, WSCR Midday HostWith Dan McNeil absent from his WSCR-AM/670 The Score midday show all week without an explanation, listeners were left to wonder if this was a repeat of what happened in early 2012. Unfortunately, it seems to be.

The Chicago Tribune’s Ed Sherman reports that McNeil is once again dealing with depression related issues, forcing him to take a leave of absence from his midday “McNeil & Spiegel Show” on The Score. Sherman also notes that McNeil’s return to the air is anything but certain. The same issues kept McNeil off the air for six weeks in early 2012.

Filling in for McNeil this week, along side co-host Mat Spiegel, has been the Score’s evening host Laurence Holmes

I’m very saddened to hear about this. McNeil has been one of my favorite radio hosts for well over a decade — it was his “Mac, Jurko & Harry” afternoon show on WMVP-AM/ESPN 1000 in 2002-2003 that brought me back to sports talk radio after tiring of The Score. While McNeil’s dynamic straight-shooting persona makes him one of the most entertaining sports talker in Chicago, he also comes across as the fun and likeable person you’d like to sit next to at the corner tavern while watching the game.

Not too long ago (several months), McNeil wrote on the message board that he would like to go at it on air for another 10 years before throwing in the towel. Hopefully, his current situation is only a minor setback and not something that forces him to throw in the towel far too soon.

Get well soon Mac.

WGN now (finally) podcasting Garry Meier’s full show

I’m not sure when this started happening, but full-show podcasts of Garry Meier’s WGN-AM 720 afternoon show are now posted on the WGN Radio website and also via a dedicated Garry Meier RSS feed.

I swear, just a week or two ago, I was pursuing the Garry Meier section and asked myself why they aren’t podcasting his entire show, like they have done with other hosts (Jonathon Brandmeier, Mike McConnell, John Williams, Steve Cochran, etc.). Previously, they had only been podcasting select individual segments of Meier’s show, including the show opener (which I wish Meier would drop already, especially now that he does a second one  after the 6 p.m. news that is equally lame, if not worse).

Also available is a shorter podcast, highlighting the day’s “best bits.” That podcast is called the “Blabbin’ Cabin Podcast,” and is also available in the Garry Meier show section of the website and via the same RSS feed.

‘Eyewitness News’ quietly resurfaces during ABC 7 weekend newscast

ABC 7 Eyewitness News Graphics

New ABC 7 graphics with re-debut of “Eyewitness News” branding. Screenshot courtesy of

Over the weekend, WLS-TV/ABC 7 quietly re-introduced the iconic “Eyewitness News” monicker. The new branding, “ABC 7 Eyewitness News” will be used for all local newscasts on the station. The re-brand effort includes a new graphics package and slight altercations to the theme music.

While I do like the clean design of the new graphics and the use of various blues, I don’t like how the lower scrolling headlines is placed. Not only is the text overly small, but by having it attached with the main graphics plate above, I couldn’t help but feel slightly overstimulated with text. It would look much nicer if the headlines scroll was its own separate graphic pinned to the bottom of the screen like it had been before (and is normal practice elsewhere).

The “Eyewitness News” re-brand effort was initially reported on Oct. 16 by Robert Feder. I followed up the following day with my own added thoughts (my initial hunch that ABC 7 would not change its theme music was wrong).

WGN Radio adopts ‘Chicago’s Very Own’

This morning, WGN-AM 720 hosts and news anchors began using the new tagline, “Chicago’s Very Own.”  The iconic tagline, which has long been used by its television counterpart, WGN-TV Ch. 9, replaces the “Voice of Chicago,” which had been used on and off since 2005.

The change in taglines had long been expected. An Aug. 22 Chicago Tribune story detailing upcoming changes at the station confirmed that the new tagline would soon be implemented. Prior to that, there were a few other hints that the new tagline was coming.

A July 11 report by Robert Feder announcing WGN’s hiring of Bob Sirrott and Marianne Murciano included a quote by station President and General Manager Jimmy de Castro in which he identifies the station as “Chicago’s Very Own 720.” On July 22, WGN news anchors began using the “Chicago’s Very Own” tagline at the end of news reports, as originally noted that day by “RadioGeek” on the Chicagoland Radio & Media message board. That, however, was likely only a test roll-out, since anchors went back to using the “Voice of Chicago” the following day.

Previous use of the “Voice of Chicago” tagline was minimal (which was a shame), voiced at the top of the hour during the station’s legal identification. With the new tagline in place, gone is the familiar sounding four-second sounder used during the legal ID (though morning host Steve Cochran still used it with the new tagline just before the 6 a.m. newscast).

With the new sequence, the host are now saying “We are live, we are local, Chicago’s Very Own, 720 WGN Chicago,” before going to the news. The news anchors close their newscast with the tagline as well (though Judy Pielach was still using the old one during today’s “Bill and Wendy” show).

I liked the “Voice of Chicago” tagline. I thought it was perfect for a station having the luxury to brag that they are indeed live and local 24/7. While there is nothing wrong with “Chicago’s Very Own,” which has worked well for WGN-TV, the “Voice of Chicago” does a better job at signifying radio. It was simple and unique.

If one of the long-term goals is to better tie the radio and television stations together, then the sharing of a taglines makes sense (as if sharing call letters wasn’t enough), assuming the station makes an effort to use it more then they had the previous one.

With the new tagline now implemented, I think its fair to ask how far we are away from the station launching a new logo, as initially teased by Robert Feder in Aug. In addition to a new logo, one could also hope that a new and vastly improved website may be on its way to replace the clunky and half-assed one they now have.

Dahl speaks, Meier stays silent: Radio Hall of Fame spat turns into potential shame

While previously recapping the awkward situation involving Steve Dahl, Garry Meier and the National Radio Hall of Fame, I thought there might be some important pieces missing to the story. Having thought about it some more, and after reading Dahl’s open response to Chaz Ebert, the picture narrated by Dahl just doesn’t add up.

Just to recap, earlier this summer it was announced Dahl and Meier would be inducted in this year’s National Radio Hall of Fame as a duo. Last night, Robert Feder blogged that Dahl had decided not to attend the event due to a general lack of interest and also because he hadn’t heard back from Meier after first attempting to contact him previously. Feder then noted that Meier had informed the National Radio Hall of Fame that he would be attending the event.

So let me get this straight. Meier plans to attend the event, yet refuses to call back the person who he is supposed to be inducted with? That doesn’t make any sense. Either there’s more to the story or Meier has gone delusional.

Since their surprise one-show reunion on Oak St. Beach in 2006, the two have participated in a few appearances together and haven spoken well of each other. I remember a 2009 off-air meet between the two inside the WGN-AM 720 studios (while Meier was in the middle of his show) became quite the stirrer on the Chicagoland Radio and Media message board. The overall impression was that the two, at the very least, were amicable.

Dahl has a way with words and for sometimes harshly digging into people. He did so again in his response to Chaz Ebert, where he more than once subtly knocked Meier and his wife when referencing their unwillingness at reconciling with him (again, weren’t Dahl and Meier getting along, well enough at least, after their 2006 get together?).

For someone like Meier who comes across as heavenly guarded towards his off air business, it’s hard to imagine him attending such an event that is supposed to recognize the two of them as a duo if he does indeed have remaining animosity towards Dahl.

Later this afternoon, Feder tweeted the question, “Which side of the Steve & Garry debate are you on?” If you take Dahl at his word, then Meier does come across as petty. While I certainly won’t suggest that Meier has never previously come off as  petty (i.e. his opening monologue on his WGN debut show in April, 2008), I find it hard to believe that he all of a sudden went from willingly associating with Dahl to not wanting anything to do with him.

I don’t think it’s right to yet take any side in the Dahl and Meier issue without hearing from Meier. Unfortunately, he passed on the opportunity during his show this afternoon on WGN (where better place to do it?). Maybe he addresses it on Monday after thinking about it over the weekend, or perhaps, closer to the induction date.  If Meier, however, does decide to stay quiet on the issue, it will make it a lot easier for those following the “debate” to side against him.

Media Bits & Bytes (10/25/13)

– I’m not sure what to make of the now awkward situation involving Steve Dahl and Garry Meier, as narrated by Robert Feder, concerning their Nov. 9 induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame.

While it does seem strange that Meier never responded to Dahl’s initial inquiry, I think it’s safe to assume there’s more to this story then mentioned in Feder’s blog. While there’s no love loss between Feder and Meier, Feder often comes across as a huge admirer of Dahl — with last night’s blog being no exception.

I’m curious whether Dahl has mentioned any of this on his podcast. He certainly has mentioned nothing about it on Twitter. The only reason to go on-the-record with Feder is to stir up a controversy, and to possibly put pressure on Meier to come back with a response, either in private or publicly.

As if this wasn’t awkward by itself, Chaz Ebert penned an open letter (again, via Robert Feder’s blog) to the two personalities in hopes they work out any issue and attend the induction together.

While Meier will occasionally address such inner-working on the air, it’s usually done with a modest level of discomfort. It will be interesting to see if he brings it up on his WGN-AM 720 show at some point, if not this afternoon (perhaps if he is angry enough).

– Even with a Bears bye week, there’s no shortage of NFL games this Sunday in the Chicago market. WFLD-TV/Fox 32 has the 12 p.m. Cowboys/Lions and the 3:25 p.m. Redskins /Broncos, while WBBM-TV/CBS 2 has the 12 p.m. Dolphins/Patriots. The Sunday night game on WMAQ-TV/NBC 5 features the Packers/Vikings. The Monday night game on ESPN is the Seahawks/Rams. Thanks to for Fox and CBS listings.

– Former WGN-AM host John Williams, who continues hosting at WCCO-AM 830 in Minneapolis, recently added an extra hour to his day — now heard from 3 to 7 p.m. While the show does center around some local Minnesota happenings, there is enough general, non-Minnesota specific discussion that should keep your interest if you enjoyed his show on WGN. Williams’ show can be heard online via live stream, or on most mobile devices via the Tune In or apps.

– SiriusXM Radio announced they are raising subscription rates beginning in 2014. The added rates will result in subscribers paying an extra $6 a year (or $.50 each month), though it was not specified which subscribers would be impact (that lack of detail prompts me to believe it will unfortunately be all subscribers). As a current subscriber to their online-only option, I thought $15 by itself was already ridiculously high. As  a matter of fact, I’ve been meaning to try my hand at cancelling in hopes that they would in-fact lower my monthly cost in order to keep my subscription.

– Washington Post staffers held a huge going away party for Don Graham and family earlier this week. With the official handover having been completed earlier this month, the Washington Post is now owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, following 80 years of ownership by the Graham family. The party was attended by current and previous Post employees in a night filled with reminiscing and fellowship. In noting how much journalism has changed, Graham stated “every one of my 1971 heroes has left the newsroom. Now it’s time for me to go, too.”

– Meanwhile, another major newspaper acquisition was finally completed yesterday. The Boston Globe now officially belongs to Boston Red Sox owner John Henry. This particular purchase hasn’t generated the same type of buzz that came with Bezo’s purchase of the Washington Post. When the deal was first announced in August, some Globe journalists voiced fear that Henry would thumb his nose in how the paper covers the Boston sports scene, particularly the Red Sox.

– While on the discussion of newspaper ownership, the New York Times’ David Carr discusses the seemingly-new trend of tech industry entrepreneurs investing heavenly in journalism. While Carr spotlights the two mainstream examples (Bezos/Washington Post, Pierrer Omidyar/Glenn Greenwald), he also sheds light on some of the lesser prominent investments in journalism of late and how this trend may play out moving forward.

Also worth a read is New York Times interview with Omidyar pertaining to his ambitions of getting into the news business.

Local media on Lemont Citgo refinery fire

While I do like Mike Parker and appreciate his long-time standing as a Chicago journalist, last night was not one of his better nights on camera. The WBBM-TV/CBS 2 reporter was live in Lemont to report on the Citgo refinery fire for the station’s 10 p.m. newscast.

Asides from the blatant stammering and stuttering, Parker didn’t acknowledge some of the questions that an active viewer might be asking — are there any injuries or casualties, how close is the fire to being extinguished, are there any interruptions to traffic or road closures, are any nearby homes or businesses in danger?

Near the end of his report, Parker warned that anyone (assuming nearby residents?) with asthma or breathing problems should close their windows and… lock their doors.

Just an observation… I actually caught wind of the story via a blurb on the WGN-TV Ch. 9 News Facebook page just before 10 p.m. While the story on the WGN website was extremely vague with virtually no details asides from “there’s a fire,” the Lemont Patch story, for as short as it may have been, at least addressed some of the obvious questions a reader might be looking for.

CBS 2 Chicago newscast rolls out new graphics

CBS 2 News Graphic

CBS 2 News graphic — screenshot courtesy of

WBBM-TV/CBS 2 rolled-out new graphics during this morning’s newscast. Snapshots of the new graphics, which will be adapted by all CBS owned-and-operated stations, were leaked to last month (showing demo screenshots for WCBS-TV, the CBS O&O in New York). KTVT-TV, the CBS O&O in Dallas, unveiled the same graphics package last week.

The new graphics are boxier and bolder. The added boxy and bold look will probably standout better for those viewing CBS 2 newscast videos on mobile devices.

The graphics used on CBS 2 so far this morning are nearly identical to the screenshots shown on One minor difference is the CBS 2 logo in the bottom-right corner — while the channel 2 graphic in the screenshots are gold, the channel 2 graphic that WBBM adapted is white, matching the color of the iconic eyeball.

Beneath the CBS 2 logo is a rotation of the station’s Twitter handle, Facebook handle and the URL to their website, The “HD” stamp that was previously to the right of the logo is gone (thank goodness — bragging about broadcasting in HD in 2013, in my opinion, was the equivalent of a station still bragging about broadcasting in full color in 1997).

The theme music has also been modified, sounding slightly more amplified.

The new graphics are nice, clean, simple and modern. Most people at home probably won’t even notice the change, and that is ok. As long as they properly convey the information without being distracting, that is what is most important.

Media Bits & Bytes (10/18/13)

– WGN-AM 720 is attempting to renegotiate their current deal with the Cubs, reports Ed Sherman. The deal, which was agreed to shortly after the team’s back-to-back (2007, 2008) post season runs is a hefty expense for the station. With the team’s struggles lessening fan desire to listen to the games on the radio, the current contract has turned out to be a bad deal for the station.

– The NFL docket locally for this Sunday, per, has the Bears vs. the Redskins at 12 p.m. on WFLD-TV/Fox 32. WBBM-TV/CBS 2 is airing back-to-back games with the Bengals vs. the Lions at 12 p.m. and the Browns vs. the Packers at 3:15 p.m. In perhaps, one of the most anticipated games of the year, Peyton Manning returns to Indianapolis for the first time this Sunday night with the Broncos vs. the Colts at 7:20 p.m. on WMAQ-TV/NBC 5.

– As a special reminder, tomorrow night’s Blackhawks and Maple Leafs game from the United Center begins at 6 p.m., as opposed to the normal 7 p.m. start. That game will also air locally on WGN-TV Ch. 9.

– Even though the revered Chicago baseball reporter Bruce Levine is currently not employed, that hasn’t stopped him from keeping busy. Levine, who left WMVP-AM/ESPN 1000 in late September, is keeping busy via Twitter and by making a handful of appearances on both radio and television. Levine’s been on WSCR-AM/670 The Score, WGN-AM and Comcast SportsNet. It would be a no-brainer to assume he’ll turn up on the air somewhere during the November MLB general manager meetings and again in December during the MLB winter meetings.

– WLIT-FM/My FM 93.9 has already begun promoting their holiday/Christmas music, though no official start date obviously has not been announced. For those wondering, the all-holiday music will be branded as “My Holiday” as opposed to the “Holiday Lite,” since the “Lite FM” brand was dropped earlier this year.

– The future of embattled talk show host Mike McConnell may finally be settling. According to Chicagoland Radio and Media, McConnell might not not only be out for good at WGN-AM — where he had been relegated to online only since early August — but that he might be back on the Cincinatti news/talk WLW-AM 700 at the start of 2014. If this pans out as Larz suggests, it’s a good move for McConnell, who will find himself in familiar territory where he is also well liked.

Just an observation… While morning meteorologist Megan Glaros and traffic anchor Derrick Young are on vacation (no, not with each other), CBS 2 has decided to only schedule one person to fill in for the both of them. Pulling double duty on Wednesday was Ed Curan, while Mary Kay Kleist had the honors yesterday and again this morning.

Worth reading… Bloomberg’s Business Week has a lengthy, but must-read, excerpt from the book “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon,” by Brad Stone. The piece portrays very vivid details on how Bezos operates within the Amazon workplace, and gives very concrete examples to the absurdities Amazon will go in order to gain a desired result.

A ‘Savage’ kick in the balls to Mark Levin

Mark Levin and Michael Savage have long been on-air rivals. The two right wing talk show hosts used to compete in the same 5 to 8 p..m CT time slot — Levin’s show syndicated by Cumulus Media, Savage’s show syndicated by Talk Radio Network. After a bitter divorce with Talk Radio Network, Savage was hired by Cumulus in 2012 to broadcast a new show in the 8 to 11 p.m. slot, following Levin.

Even though the two rivals were now employed by the same syndicator, that hasn’t stopped the two of them from taking occasional swipes at each other. While both individuals are uniquely spirited, Levin has a better way with words, giving him the ability to be far more mean and nasty. And he certainly demonstrated that while going after Savage once again this past May.

“You little troll, you little nobody… I kicked your butt in the ratings, head to head, one end of the nation to the other. That’s why you’re late night. Got it? I’d like you to come back at six pm, against me, eastern of course, so I could do it again, snaggletooth.”

Soon after that diatribe, Savage’s name surfaced as a potential replacement for Sean Hannity’s show, syndicated by Premiere Radio, which airs on Cumulus-owned news/talk stations throughout the country. When such rumors became official last month, that had to be the most vicious low blow to Levin’s ego (I’m guessing today’s conference call with Cumulus COO John Dickey didn’t help). The move to afternoons is a huge promotion, one that Levin lost to a bitter rival who joined his syndicator just one year ago.

While I’m not particularly fond of either guy, I can appreciate Savage from an entertainment standpoint. I hesitate to find any redeeming qualities about Levin.

And I can’t help but appreciate the irony with how this worked out.