It’s showtime for Larry Conners at KTRS

Larry Conners Radio Show, KTRS St. Louis

Tonight marks the long anticipated return of  Larry Conners. The revered St. Louis broadcaster is set to debut his new radio show, “Larry Conners USA,” which will air each weeknight from 9 p.m. to midnight on the St. Louis news/talk KTRS-AM 550. Conners has been off the air for just over a year following his controversial exit from KMOV-TV Ch. 4, ending a 27 year run as news anchor.

Since Conners made the KTRS announcement June 18th, I’ve been excited about how this new late evening news-centric talk show may pan out. I have never lived in St. Louis nor have I ever watched a Conners newscast, but I’ve been following him via Facebook since his KMOV exit and often find his commentaries to be interesting, whether I agree with him or not.

While I would expect some of the news and political topics on his show to be relevant to only St. Louis, I get the sense there will be plenty of national news and politics, in addition more off-the-wall topics that may not necessarily be of the norm. I’m hoping that the later hours will also allow for less commercials and more time for extended conversation.

I hope Conners brings well-reasoned and thought-provoking discussion of the day’s most relevant news issues to night time radio. Conners, who admits to being more to the right of center, describes himself as sometimes being too far to the left for conservatives and too far to the right for liberals.

One area of Conners’ show that has me slightly nervous already is tonight’s third hour, where he will have a guest that discusses UFO abductions. Will Conners provide a forum for such paranormal nonsense to go unchallenged or will he hold the guest accountable? I admit, much of my optimism for his show may be squashed if he lets this guest spew on unchallenged.

For Chicagoans still displaced following the loss of Milt Rosenberg’s “Extension 720” on WGN-AM 720, Conners’ show may be worth sampling. While I don’t expect he’ll match the level of variety of discussion and intellect Rosenberg brought to his one of a kind program, I do hope Conners provides a fresh and lively show that allows me to break away from the podcasts and various radio replays that I’ve had no choice to be content with.

For more about Larry Conners, you can visit his new website,

Garry Meier fans blocked from WGN’s Facebook page?

Garry MeierIs WGN-AM 720 unfairly quieting angry Garry Meier fans from its Facebook page or were they left with no choice? That is the question in response to Susan Vethacke, who claims to have been blocked from WGN’s Facebook in posts on the Chicagoland Radio & Media message board.

Vethacke identifies herself as the creator of the Facebook group, Bring Back Garry Meier — a group that has 1,400 likes. I composed a mini write-up of that group here on June 13. The removal of Meier from the terrestrial AM 720 to the online-stream WGN.FM has been a controversial subject for the 90 year old news/talk station.

While I previously wrote that I admired the efforts of the Bring Back Garry Meier Facebook group, my opinion have changed. It seems that no matter what WGN posts to their Facebook, the comments area are hijacked by Vetacke and other angry Meier fans. I thought it was mildly inappropriate, for example, when fans hijacked a post that was designated to congratulate the newly engaged Karen Conti, a frequent WGN guest and legal expert. When any fringe group crosses a certain line, they start to hurt their cause rather than help it. Whether hijacking a thread about one’s marital engagement is considered crossing the line is left to individual opinion.

Another point worth making is that WGN blocking Meier fans from commenting on their Facebook is not a freedom of speech issue. Freedom of speech applies to the protection of speech from the government via the First Amendment. You can’t call your boss a “jack ass” and expect not to get fired because of freedom of speech. WGN has the right to dictate comments on its Facebook, just as I have the right to dictate reader comments on this blog.

If the moving of Meier was all political, even at the potential expense of ratings and advertising revenue, then it seems even more unlikely that WGN management would reverse course, even if the move does pan out to be a mistake.

Dan McNeil gameplan: Scoring a return to middays or gaming a move to afternoons?

Dan McNeil, 670 The Score/WSCR-AMAs a long-time fan of Dan McNeil, I hope he resurfaces somewhere on the Chicago sports radio circuit sooner rather than later. There’s been zero news concerning McNeil since his final June 13 broadcast on WSCR-AM/670 The Score. As alluded by Larz at Chicagoland Radio and Media, and by McNeil himself previously on the Chicago Sports Fan message board earlier this year, the long-time sports talk host seems content with enjoying summer and recharging his batteries before making any decisions on a comeback.

While there isn’t any new news, persay, Robert Feder sums up nicely the current scenario and potential options ahead for McNeil. The easy guess, in my opinion, is that McNeil resurfaces on his Score midday show sometime before Bears season.

In all honesty, I wouldn’t be heart broken if McNeil were to change co-hosts or even stations. While I’m not anti Matt Spiegel, McNeil’s co-host on The Score since 2009, I think McNeil would benefit from the rejuvenation that he would likely get with a new co-host, especially if he were to turn up in the afternoon on the still relatively new WGWG-Lp/87.7 The Game.

I would prefer McNeil be paired with a co-host that is younger and perhaps edgier. I don’t have anyone in mind, necessary, but I haven’t been a huge fan of the McNeil and Spiegal pairing since day one. I still believe Spiegal is at his best with his former “Hit and Run” co-host and frequent Score fill-in host Barry Rozner.

While I would be very surprised if McNeil moved to The Game, I would welcome it, ensuring that there is some long-term security for him, considering we don’t know what the future of the station might be (87.7 LP goes away towards the later end of 2015). McNeil’s not moving to a jumpstart venture, such as The Game, unless it is for an afternoon drive spot, which he is on the record of badly wanting. As a long-time McNeil fan, there’s nothing like some good ol’ Danny Mac sports talk in the afternoon after a long day at the office.

UPDATED 6/30/14: Earlier today, Dan McNeil tweeted the following:

ABC taps David Muir to succeed Diane Sawyer as ‘World News’ anchor

David Muir, ABC World News

Network broadcasting evening news isn’t what it used to be. While not exactly breaking news, such an observation was more apparent this week after ABC News announced that Diane Sawyer will be stepping down as host of “World News,” and will be succeeded by current weekend “World News” host, David Muir, beginning Sept. 2.

I’m pretty sure Megyn Kelly’s move to primetime on the Fox News Channel, or the Piers Morgan primetime exit at CNN got more reaction then the Sawyer/Muir news.

I haven’t been a fan of Sawyer’s overall presentation since succeeding Charles Gibson as “World News” host — most notably because the awkward inflections that turn up so often in her voice. Muir, has the look of a star anchor man and has done a good job on the weekend ‘World News.’ While I’m not 100% confident a 40 year old Muir would have been ABC’s first choice for the job full-time, say back in 1988 or 2005, he should be a fine choice for the modern incarnation of the network evening newscast.

At first, I suspected that ABC News veteran George Stephanopoulos would not have been all too happy about not getting the “World News” gig — it has been believed for years that he had his eyes on that job. Considering how far the network evening newscast has fallen in prominence, however, being named the network’s overall “lead news anchor” may be enough to make him happy. As lead news anchor, Stephanopoulos will be ABC News’ go to for all breaking news and special events, including election nights — a role that traditionally was occupied by the host of “World News.”

Stephanopoulos, who signed a long-term extension with ABC News in April, will continue to host “Good Morning America” and “This Week.” Sawyer, meanwhile, will become a full-time investigative reporter and appear for special interviews.

On the run: Kenny Albert staying busy

Kenny AlbertSports broadcaster Kenny Albert has had one heck of a busy month. As the radio play-by-play voice of the New York Rangers, he called all six games of the Rangers/Canadiens Eastern Conference Finals, while also calling all seven games of the Blackhawks/Kings Western Conference Finals for NBC Sports.

For the better part of two weeks, Albert was traveling back and forth between New York, Chicago, Montreal and Los Angeles.

While Albert’s schedule obviously became less hectic during the Rangers/Kings Stanley Cup Finals, it doesn’t mean he’s entirely off the hook.

Less than 24 hours after the Rangers lost the series to the Kings after five games on Friday night, Albert flew from Los Angeles to St. Louis to call last night’s Nationals/Cardinals game on Fox.

While I’m sure Albert wishes the Rangers/Kings series would have gone the other way, he should be due for some kind of a break now that the Rangers season is over.
Some added bits and bytes… Below are a few miscellaneous observations while watching last night’s Nationals/Cardinals game during Fox’s “Baseball Night in America” broadcast.

Baseball Night in America– I’ve hated that Fox has been using their NFL theme music package for all other sports broadcasts (something they started doing during the 2010 MLB post-season). I was happy when I heard their classic MLB music during last night’s “Baseball Night in America” broadcast. They have continued to use their MLB music package on Fox Sports 1 MLB broadcasts as well as for MLB games on their respective Fox Sports regional channels. It’s a great sounding package and deserves use on the main Fox network. I’m glad it’s back, though they were still using the NFL music at the open of last night’s “Baseball Night in America” pregame studio show. I get that use of the NFL theme package seemingly adds prominence to the broadcast, but it just doesn’t work. It feels dirty.

– By the way, I hate the “Baseball Night in America” name. I get that Fox wants to market their Saturday primetime broadcasts as something special, but the entire “fill in the blank Night in America” name has been overdone. It started in Canada with “Hockey Night in America,” which NBC borrowed for their “Football Night in America” primetime studio show several years back. NBC borrowed the idea again for their own “Hockey Day in America” specials. And now, Fox has borrowed it for their primetime baseball broadcasts. It’s overdone.

– Thumbs up to new MLB on Fox game analyst Tom Verducci, who worked last night’s Nationals/Cardinals game with Kenny Albert. Verducci was a joy to listen to, especially when explaining, in-depth, the throwing mechanics of Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg and Cardinals starter Shelby Miller. I’ve long enjoyed Verducci on MLB Network’s “MLB Tonight” broadcasts, so I’m not shocked that he has adapted so nicely in the broadcast booth.

Question for the ‘Bring Back Garry Meier’ Facebook group: Where else can Garry go?

Garry MeierI admire the efforts of whoever is running the Bring Back Garry Meier Facebook page. The person administering the group has stated that the objective is to not rest until Meier is either back on the WGN-AM 720 airwaves or that he is released from his WGN contract and free to work elsewhere.

My sincere question for this group, and to anyone else thinking Meier could turn up elsewhere is, which which Chicago radio station would honestly hire him, let alone pay him the amount of money he’d likely want?

I’m not asking out of spite. As a fan of Meier, I believe he has been shortchanged by WGN boss Jimmy de Castro. That said, for those hoping he eventually turns up elsewhere, I don’t see that as a real possibility. The question I ask of the Meier Facebook group simply needs to be asked.

There aren’t any other talk stations that have the same relaxed and loose fit that WGN has. WLS-AM 890 and WIND-AM/560 The Answer are out, because they air more news/serious topical type of programing. The same goes for WCPT-AM 820/Chicago’s Progressive Talk. Meier’s more fun and less serious topics would not fit on any of those stations, unless one of them were willing to make a compromise in direction for a few hours.

Which FM music station would abandon its format to air a talk show for a few hours each afternoon? Most music stations don’t break format except for mornings. In 2014, I do think radio stations should be willing to play it less safe and try something different — a Garry Meier show on, for example, the Cumulus-owned WLUP-FM/97.9 The Loop would be unique. Unfortunately, corporate-owned radio stations typically don’t strive away from playing it safe. There’s always the chance Meier could be willing to do a morning show on a FM music station, but you’d still have the caveat concerning money.

The only other station that could possibly work might be the DuPage County branded right-wing talker WCKG-AM 1530. I mention WCKG as a remote possibility because the station has previously changed directions, trying new things in hopes to draw more listeners. I tend to think that if the opportunity to employ Meier was viable, they would not pass that up.  A significant drawback of WCKG might be reach. Their poor frequency throughout much of Chicago’s south and southwest suburbs might make listening to Meier a challenge (though no worse if you already can’t listen to him online). There’s still also the potential issue concerning money.

As you can see, the options for Meier turning up elsewhere most likely are slim to none minus any unforseen changes. Having said that, even though having an online-only show is still less than ideal in 2014, being on WGN.FM is probably the best case scenario for Meier and his fans.

If you have the means to listen, I’d highly recommend it. With the absence of long newscasts and excessive commercials, Meier’s “streamliner” makes for a fun listening experience.

Congrats to Sun-Times: Worse newspaper cover page I’ve ever seen

Sun-Times Cover

I’ve seen a lot of bad newspaper cover pages that were insipid, ridiculous and downright insulting.

As harmless as today’s Chicago Sun-Times cover page may be, it has officially become the worst newspaper cover page I’ve ever seen.

Only a stupid person would buy a damn newspaper because of that “Mayor vs. Donald” headline.

What a great way to begin Friday the 13th.

Blowtorch Soundoff: Cubs/WBBM, Garry Meier move to online, Robert Feder on De Castro

On this Blowtorch Soundoff, I discuss the angry reaction from some WGN-AM 720 listeners unhappy about the Chicago Cubs moving to WBBM-AM 780 next year. The Cubs opting to rid themselves of the Cubs, in-conjunction with the moving of Garry Meier off terrestrial radio has easily damaged the goodwill that WGN and new boss Jimmy de Castro worked so hard to re-build in the last year. I also give my take on media columnist Robert Feder, who I am a fan of, but can’t help but be disappointed at his lack of objectivism when it comes to reporting on de Castro and today’s WGN.

Approximate audio length: 13 minutes

Additional thoughts and observations on the Cubs moving to WBBM; possible implications for the White Sox

Today, the Chicago Cubs announced CBS Radio’s all-news station WBBM-AM 780 as its new radio flagship beginning in 2015. Now that everything is official, here are a few additional thoughts and observations, following-up from my post yesterday.

Not only did CBS Radio offer the cash money that the Cubs wanted, but this the new deal between the two entities entails a huge marketing and entertainment opportunity beyond sports. The Cub’s soon to be former radio flagship, WGN-AM 720, simply could not match what CBS was willing (or unable) to offer. While I don’t know if CBS Radio will or won’t eventually regret this  long-term agreement, I do understand why WGN decided that continuing to air Cubs games under the current deal was undesirable, if not infeasible. I don’t blame them for attempting to renegotiate or for not matching what CBS offered.

WBBM Cubs RadioBefore today’s announcement, I’ve been wondering if Cub games will also air on WBBM’s simulcast, WCFS-FM 105.9. While the official WBBM “Cubs Radio” logo shows both 780 AM and 105.9 FM, neither news releases by CBS Radio or the Cubs mention WCFS or that the games will specifically be airing on FM.

Assuming that CBS is opting to only air Cub games on 780 AM will allow otherwise displaced WBBM listeners to still receive their news, traffic and weather without any interruptions on 105.9 FM. Very easy — no apps or data necessary! This is absolutely brilliant while at the same time, somewhat of a blow to WLS-AM 890 and WGN which certainly would have benefited if the Cubs were on 780 AM and 105.9 FM.

Yesterday, I wondered how the Cubs moving to WBBM might impact the White Sox and their relationship with CBS Radio’s all-sports WSCR-AM/670 The Score. Since the new deal with the Cubs encompasses cross promotion on CBS Radio’s other Chicago outlets, it is reasonable to assume that various Cub promotions, specialty shows and anything else may eventually surface on The Score. While all that could happen and still not infringe on The Score’s coverage of the White Sox, I can imagine White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf not being too happy.

When the Sox previously were on WMVP-AM/ESPN 1000 in the 2000s, the station pulled a stunt by launching a Sunday morning all-Cubs show, “Inside the Cubs,” hosted by Tom Shaer. It was acknowledged on air during an “Ask the General Manager” show, with then ESPN 1000 General Manager Tom Snyder, that Reinsdorf specifically asked why his flagship station was devoting two hours every Sunday morning to the Cubs (Reinsdorf by that point, had other reasons to be unhappy with ESPN 1000 — the Sox moved to WSCR in 2006 and the Bulls for a short while moved to the former WCKG-FM 105.9).

The Score White Sox Radio logoAny potential unhappiness on the part of Reinsdorf towards CBS Radio and The Score, at this point, is only my own speculation. If The Score doesn’t become overly obsessed with the Cubs, and if CBS Radio and The Score shows sincere interest in renewing their deal with the White Sox prior to 2016, Reinsdorf could opt to stay put.

That said, it is glaringly obvious how excited CBS Radio appears to be over bringing the Cubs on-board. That excitement level didn’t seemingly exist on a corporate level for CBS when they brought the Sox over in 2006 (it was however, a significant add for The Score, which at that point, had yet to flagship a professional level Chicago sports franchise).  While things are much different now than they were when the Sox moved to The Score, there is no doubt that the Cubs and the Bears will be the two golden franchises, sports wise, in the Chicago cluster of CBS Radio.

As a Sox fan, I get it. The Cubs are, overall, more unique of a team. They also have far more popularity statewide.

It will be interesting to see where on the dial the White Sox might be come 2016. I believe WGN President and General Manager Jimmy de Castro when he said he’d be interested in bringing the Sox to 720 AM. I also wouldn’t be surprised if ESPN 1000 made an attempt to win them back. As I’ve previously mentioned on this site, I’m not a fan of the current Sox radio broadcasters. If a new station came on board and was willing to make a much needed upgrade within the broadcast booth, I’d be all for it.

One aspect of the Cubs radio move that humors me are how distraught some WGN listeners are (see comments on WGN’s Facebook. I won’t say that having an affinity for listening to the Cubs on WGN is silly or stupid, but allowing yourself to get upset about a baseball team no longer airing on their longtime radio station is absolutely absurd. Many of these harsh feelings likely carry over from the station’s recent unpopular decision to move afternoon host Garry Meier off 720 AM and onto the online stream WGN.FM. While WGN is facing some bad PR due to the Meier move and now the loss of the Cubs, at the end of the day, changing the dial from 720 to 780 to hear a baseball game is not a big deal. Cubs broadcasts in 2015 will sound exactly the same. Relax!

As for the White Sox, if their games do eventually surface on WGN, I swear, I’ll swerve off the road the first time I hear Dave Eanet sports update beginning with a “and now, your WGN White Sox update.”

Confirmed: Cubs leaving WGN, moving to WBBM in 2015

Cubs Radio Broadcast Booth

Online reports surfaced late last night that the Chicago Cubs have finalized a deal with CBS Radio’s WBBM-AM 780 (which also simulcasts on WCFS-FM 105.9). This will mark the final season the Cubs will air on WGN-AM 720.

WGN President and General Manager Jimmy de Castro confirmed the news to Chicago media critic Robert Feder last night. de Castro explained the reality of the situation between the Cubs and WGN and how a new deal was not economically possible.

The news has been acknowledged on air during WGN’s 5 a.m. “news hour” during the Steve Cochran show. WGN bosses de Castro and Vice President of Creative Content Todd Manley will join Cochran’s show this morning at 9:10 to discuss the issue further.

WGN is going on the offense with this news, hoping to educate listeners why the station could not come to an agreement with the Cubs to continue broadcasting games beyond this season. While I don’t fault WGN for opting out of their current deal with the team, you can expect many uneducated people will accuse the station of simply being cheap.

The Chicago Sun-Times Gordon Wittenmyer mentions the new Cubs radio deal will include WSCR AM/670 The Score, which currently broadcasts the Chicago White Sox. While I don’t expect The Score to share game broadcasts with WBBM, I expect there to be added Cubs promotion along with specialized Cubs programming (similar to “White Sox Weekly” that airs each Saturday on The Score, or WBBM’s “Bears All Access”).

The Score’s deal with the White Sox runs through the 2015 season. It will be interesting to observe if CBS Radio’s new relationship with the Cubs has any impact towards the White Sox, especially when that deal comes time for renewal.

WBBM Sound Card