As news and information gathering changes, ABC 7 to revive iconic ‘Eyewitness News’

Channel 7 Eyewitness News

When WLS-TV/ABC 7 dropped the “Eyewitness News” monicker in 1996, the station was Chicago’s undisputed leader in local broadcast news.

Some 17 years later and still number one, ABC 7 will soon bring “Eyewitness News” back, reports Robert Feder, likely in time for November sweeps. John Idler, ABC 7’s president and general manager, tells Feder that revising the “Eyewitness News” name will be done in a contemporary sense — a “look forward to what ‘Eyewitness News’ means to viewers today.”

With all due respect to Idler, I read that as marketing fluff for “we’re changing the name of the newscast while everything else around it will pretty much stay the same.” Without a significant change to the newscast’s presentation or format, a name change with maybe a new studio set (highly unlikely) or graphics (more likely) is nothing more than a fresh coat of paint.

If I were a betting man, one intangible unlikely to change is the theme music. When “Eyewitness News” became “ABC 7 News” in 1996, the station decided to continue using the same music. Considering that ABC 7 has resisted changing it since, there’s hardly any reason to expect they’d do so now (which is perfectly fine by me).

Concerning everything else around the name change, I wouldn’t blame Idler for playing it safe. Even though ABC 7’s ratings dominance in local news has minimized in recent years, any attempt to dramatically alter the presentation or format would likely have an adverse affect. Previous attempts elsewhere have typically bombed.

In 2000, WBBM-TV/CBS 2’s effort to go retro with a more straight-and-narrow newscast featuring Carol Marin was dropped after eight months because of low viewership. CBS 2 went the opposite direction in 2010 with “Monsters and Money” in the morning, which was dropped after only seven months due to embarrassing low ratings.

I don’t mean to pick on CBS 2. Since their newscasts have typically been in or near last place for well over a decade, they’ve had reason to try something different. Lessening the burden on CBS 2 in recent years has been WFLD-TV/Fox 32. When walking past an empty Fox news truck at Monday’s Columbus Day parade, my wife said “Fox is also here. Where do you think they’re at?” My immediate response was “last place.”

In fairness to CBS 2, I am a big fan of the current newscast they’ve assembled, in both mornings and at night. There’s nothing edgy or innovative about it. They’ve done a great job at finding the right talent who also work well together on camera. Even if ratings growth is slow or sometimes stagnant, they are headed in the right direction as far as delivery goes.

Concerning the revival of “Eyewitness News,” Idler told Feder that a research study commissioned by the station showed that even though the name went away in 1996, it still resonates with the public. That to me sounds vague and doesn’t really mean anything to me. I get the sense they’re doing it more so for the sake of change. I hope whoever conducted that study wasn’t the same person or group that swayed WFLD into re-adapting the outdated “Fox 32” monicker.

While maintaining the status quo for local broadcast news may be the safe route, the way society collects and searches for news and information continues to change with the advancement of mobile technology and gadgets.

With the continued decline of print media and its failure to adapt a profitable online business model, local broadcast news should be in the driver’s seat. In the case of ABC 7, the name of the newscast isn’t going to matter in the long-run. What will make a long-term difference is that the quality of news stays superb, that it is easily available on mobile devices and that users can access it whenever they want.

Art Bell subtly talks coincidences, George Noory and that ‘other show’

Since launching “Dark Matter” on SiriusXM last month, Art Bell has kept his thoughts pertaining to his former show, “Coast to Coast AM,” and his successor George Noory to a minimal. Anything on air spoken by Bell in regards to Coast or Noory has been more or less subtle. Bell gave his peace about Noory on a few occasions via Facebook, as well as to Time magazine last month. Such words by Bell were always constructive, not intended to be personal. I think Bell was within his rights, considering he kept his mouth shut for 10 years while Noory slowly destroyed the program that Bell created.


Since late last week, Tobias McGriff was scheduled to appear on tonight’s “Dark Matter.” Sometime over the weekend, “Coast to Coast” booked McGriff for last night’s show. Bell discussed the “coincidence” at the start of his show last night (“Dark Matter” airs prior to “Coast to Coast,” with the last hour of Bell’s program coinciding with the first hour of Noory’s).  Bell made his point, as tactfully as he possibly could, as only he can. And just in case Bell’s message was too subtle, the bumper music played afterwards further makes his point loud and clear.

A few added thoughts…

I’m not a regular “Coast to Coast” listener, but it has been well documented elsewhere that Noory often seems unprepared and uninterested when interviewing guests. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate for him to book guests for his show the night after appearing on “Dark Matter?” Noory can listen to the questions asked by Bell (show prep!) and use them on his own show the following night. To the remaining “Coast” fans who are not listening to Bell’s new show, they’d probably think Noory had never sounded better.

If Bell continues with the subtle shots, I picture Noory’s eventual breaking point being somewhat similar to “The Office” where Michael Scott asks Stanley why he picks on him (from the episode “Did I Stutter?”).

‘Radiogirl’ Margaret Larkin debuts videopod with WGN’s Jordan Bernfield

I like insider radio stuff (obviously). So I enjoyed watching this video short of WGN-AM 720’s Jordan Bernfield prep for guest-hosting last night’s “David Kaplan Show.” This is also the kind of stuff that stations should be doing on their own and pushing via social media.

The above video was shot by Margaret Larkin, host of the Radiogirl Podcast. Hopefully, Margaret will be doing more of these video shorts, allowing listeners to get more familiar with the various media talent in the city.

Margaret’s most recent full-length interview podcast is with WGN newsman Steve Bertrand. Some of her other recent sitdown podcasts include Bernfield, Mark Carman (co-host, “David Kaplan Show”) and St. Louis radio veteran J.C. Corcoran (recommended listening — J.C. should be on the air in Chicago… ideally on WGN.FM).

Can’t get over the ‘Chicago’ newspaper masthead

Excuse me if this comes across as anal, but I just can’t like the Chicago Sun-Times current masthead, which debuted in June (along with a revamped design for the rest of the newspaper — which I am yet to see since I don’t touch newspapers these days).

It’s not that the masthead looks bad (it actually looks semi-nice), but it just doesn’t make sense.

Chicago Sun-Times MastheadI get that the formal name of the paper is the Chicago Sun-Times. The name that appears on the masthead would suggest that the formal name is Chicago, which it’s not.

I realize I’m over thinking this. But really, somebody at the Sun-Times should have been over thinking before this masthead was ever approved for use.

I fully understand the paper wants to emphasize the importance of their website, however, adding the .com to the logo is wrong. The Sun-Times markets its website simply as — not as or (even though both URLs do technically forward you to the URL).

I get it… the reader is supposed to understand that the paper is named the Chicago Sun-Times, and that there is a website, which the reader probably already understands is Still, that’s a lot of assumptions. Such lapse in judgement is something I would have expected in 1999 or 2000. Not in 2013.

It could have been worse. At least the masthead wasn’t written as www.Chicago

MSNBC to debut new website (someday…)

For however many years now, I’ve always lumped MSNBC and NBC News as one entity. Earlier this year, amidst continued dwindling numbers for MSNBC, NBC News President Phil Griffin said that MSNBC is not a news network. Rather than being a news channel that covers extensive breaking news, as has always been the case previously, they now wanted to be deemed as a (progressive) political channel. Comparing them to CNN or Fox News Channel would be like comparing apples to oranges.

Somewhat of a weak argument since MSNBC continued to cover breaking news this summer when warranted (i.e. the Oklahoma tornado outbreak earlier this spring being a prime example).

One of the attempts at fixing the brand confusion was to separate from All news-news was under the umbrella. No more, earlier this year became a standalone website while continues to be repackaged to soon be a standalone website for the cable channel as well as additional progressive content.

Attempt to go to and you’ll either be redirected to or you’ll see the image below — which is a prompt to remind you that a new MSNBC website is coming soon. This prompt has been in use practically all summer and now into autumn.

New MSNBC Website Preview

Does it really take that long to build a new website (even when done so correctly)?

The screen shot below is a more clear preview of what the new MSNBC will supposedly look like.

New Preview

In my opinion, Fox News, CNN and MSNBC are all “news” networks which extensively cover politics. CNN attempts to be more neutral, while Fox is undeniably conservative while MSNBC is undeniably liberal. I don’t know what’s so hard to understand about that.

UPDATE at 10 a.m. —  This morning Politico’s Dylan Byers tweeted a link to a preview of the new MSNBC website.

Mike McConnell’s status at WGN still unclear

At this point, I’m not sure how newsworthy this is, but the program schedule listed on (which includes the “over the air” schedule for shows on WGN 720 AM as well as any additional online-only shows)  no longer includes Mike McConnell’s live stream show.

Last week following a Robert Feder report (which I recapped on this  blog) that McConnell’s agent had accepted an early settlement from his remaining two-year WGN contract, McConnell the next day on his Facebook wrote that he would soon return, at least with a podcast. McConnell’s been posting an update each weekday on his Facebook since doing his last live online-show on Oct. 3.

Until Feder follows-up with a report with absolute 100% confirmation that McConnell is gone or until McConnell says something more definitive on his Facebook page, we probably won’t know for sure what his status is at WGN.

Sun-Times chief grand marshals Columbus Day Parade

While at the Chicago Columbus Day Parade today, I was surprised when I saw that Sun-Times Media chief Michael Ferro was the grand marshal. Having shared my thoughts about him being there (I’m sure much to the delight of my wife), I was pleased to see this tidbit by Jim Romenesko after I got home.

Meanwhile, here’s a photo of the WLS-TV/ABC 7 float. Even with the sub-par cell phone photo, you might be able to ABC 7 anchors Ron Magers, Alan Krashesky and Kathy Brock.

ABC 7 Columbus Day Float

Nearby in a separate ABC 7 make-shift studio was Mark Giangreco and Janet Davis, while Mike Kaplan was at street side talking to various people on and off camera.

CBS 2 News endless roundabout in the morning (hint, give the job to Marissa Bailey)

CBS 2's Kris Kutierrez and Marissa Bailey with former Chicago Bear Ray McElroy - Photo courtesy of Bailey's Twitter.

CBS 2’s Kris Kutierrez and Marissa Bailey with former Chicago Bear Ray McElroy – Photo courtesy of Bailey’s Twitter @MarissaCBS2.

What exactly is WBBM-TV/CBS 2 waiting for? Going on five months since releasing Susan Carlson and the station continues to stall in naming a permanent morning news anchor.  Since Carlson’s exit, CBS 2 has alternated between weekend morning anchor Marissa Bailey and veteran anchor Roseanne Tellez, who also anchors the 11 a.m. weekday newscast.

In his Sept. 16. piece, Robert Feder mentioned that CBS 2 has searched among some outside candidates, but that staffers within the CBS 2 newsroom would be surprised if the station named a permanent successor anytime soon. The delay in naming a replacement suggested that Carlson’s firing was attributed to saving money (I think that sounds reasonable, because in all honestly, does CBS 2 really expect that the person succeeding Carlson is going to be that much of an upgrade?).

While CBS 2 continues to twiddle their thumbs, the obvious answer is right in front of them — Marissa Bailey. Not because she’s already employed by the station and it would be an easy move (both of which would be true), but because she is a great anchor and fits in nicely within the newscast. While her delivery is good, her overall demeanor is excellent. She is an absolute natural behind the desk.

Having watched enough of the weekday mornings she does work (usually Mondays and Tuesdays), it’s more than obvious that her and co-anchor Kris Gutierrez naturally work well together. Meanwhile, the overall chemistry amongst the entire on air staff, most notably meteorologist Megan Glaros, traffic anchor Derrick Young and the off-beat and versatile reporter Vince Gerasole, is near the same level that it was when Carlson was there.

Tellez, by default, would be an acceptable choice as well, though I do understand the sentiment that with Tellez, there is a “been there, done that” type of vibe (which is a shame because such a sentiment is rather unfair considering how talented she is). I’d be willing to guess Tellez wakes up each morning regretting her 2004 decision to leave the WGN-Ch. 9 morning news fest.

Bailey should have been the obvious no-brainer for CBS 2. It’s a shame that they are still waiting this out. Talk about the classic case of over-thinking something that doesn’t need it. Bailey is right there in front of them.

Again, I ask, what are they waiting for?

Update: Mike McConnell and WGN to part ways

Mike McConnell

Photo from Mike McConnell’s Facebook.

Where there’s smoke, there’s often fire. Yesterday, I called B.S. to technical issues preventing Mike McConnell from doing his online-stream show. Last night, Robert Feder reported that McConnell’s agent has tentatively agreed to an early settlement from his remaining two-year contract.

To be fair, I had no idea what the situation involving McConnell was when calling B.S. to the technical difficulties excuse. When asking around yesterday among some inside WGN, no one claimed to know anything pertaining to McConnell. Even without comment from WGN Radio President and General Manager Jimmy de Castro, I trust Feder got his information from a very high level source.

The obvious question for the remaining McConnell fans is where he might land next. Wherever McConnell goes, he probably won’t make close to the $500,000 a year he reportedly made at WGN. His willingness to leave that kind of money on the table would suggest taking less money elsewhere is worth more in the long-run where he can presumably work at a station more designated for his brand of news/talk while also having the support of management.