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.

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

Still off air, Mike McConnell keeping busy with Facebook

Mike McConnellWhile the voice of Mike McConnell remains silenced, that hasn’t prevented the former WGN-AM 720 midday host from working. McConnell stays in touch with his fan base via Facebook by posting blog-like pieces about the hot news topics he’d likely be talking about if he were on the air.

Since leaving WGN last autumn, McConnell worked a few days in January filling in at the Charlotte news/talk station WBT-AM 1100. Meanwhile, his listeners — many of whom are fans of his former WLW-AM 700 show in Cincinnati — hope he resurfaces somewhere sooner rather than later. His Cincinnati listeners would love nothing more than for WLW to welcome him back. Current WLW host Bill Cunningham hinted about that happening moments after speaking to McConnell during an on air phone conversation back in November.

Even though I wasn’t always the biggest fan of McConnell’s WGN show, I think he’s a solid talker and does a does a great job at presenting his side to an argument. Whether I agree or disagree with his points, his Facebook posts usually make for a great read.

You can view his Facebook page and all postings, even without a Facebook account of your own.

Surprise changes at WGN: John Williams is back, Garry Meier moving online

Today was quite a newsworthy day for WGN-AM 720, the venerable Chicago news/talk radio station. As first reported by Chicago media blogger Robert Feder, a series of changes will impact its Monday through Friday lineup, starting Tuesday, May 27. The most prominent changes are the return of John Williams, who left the station in Dec. 2012, and the moving of afternoon host Garry Meier to WGN’s online-stream station, WGN.FM.

I’m super excited with the news of Williams’ return. While I’ll probably never get to listen to his show live, I look forward to listening to the podcast, either during lunch or on the way home from work.

I’m not as happy about the moving of Meier from AM 720 to online-only. While station management is attempting to portray Meier’s move as being a catalyst to jumpstart WGN.FM, it is very surprising that they opted to move their highest paid (according to Feder) and one of their highest rated personalities to a forum that may as well be “dead man’s land.”

Currently, WGN.FM houses Jonathon Brandmeier’s morning show –which simulcasts on WGN’s sister station, 87.7 The Game/WGWG-LP — a midday syndicated business show, and a weekly real estate/mortgage talk show. Talk about a real garbage dump of a station. I hope WGN does indeed show new commitment to WGN.FM, otherwise the Meier move is obviously just a convenient way to rid of him from the 720 AM until his contract expires towards the end of 2015.

While I’m bummed about the Meier move, I admit that such feelings stem from nostalgia. I probably haven’t listened to Meier for more than five minutes in about a year. Part of the reason is because I feel his act has gotten stale. Not helping are my new listening habits, which includes a lot more online-only podcasts and SiriusXM, at the expense of terrestrial stations, including WGN. After listening to such alternatives for any length of time, going back to terrestrial and dealing with excessive interruptions (long news segments, constant traffic and commercials) becomes harder to deal with.

One more note regarding the decision to move Meier to WGN.FM… is station president Jimmy de Castro really that down on him, or is that a vibe I get by reading Feder? Hmm.

Larz at Chicagoland Radio and Media nicely articulated that the way WGN has gone about moving Meier to WGN.FM is a huge slap in the face to him and his fans.

If they wanted to promote WGN.FM, why not have Garry Meier simulcasted on it for the past month, leading up to this move? Give fans of his (which are many) the chance to find how to access it and be prepared for the switchover. Instead, they yank Meier off the air, essentially flipping the bird to one of the largest portions of the station’s audience.
This may be a promotion for WGN.FM, but make no mistake about it, this is a slap in the face for Garry Meier, his team, and his fans. This cannot be spun in any other way.

Meanwhile, the current mid-morning hosts Bill Leff and Wendy Snyder move to Meier’s spot in afternoons. I’ve heard that the two of them together are laugh out loud hysterical. They had a good reputation dating back in the early to mid 1990s while at Q101. I haven’t had a chance to really sample them since they started on WGN together this past fall. While I haven’t been enamored in the small sampling of them thus far, I look forward to giving them a chance in afternoons.

Then again, even when attempting to listen to them live while driving home from work, I’ll probably still only hear a small sample of them — around WGN’s constant flow of news and commercial breaks.

CBS 2 squanders a full calendar year with morning newscast

Erin Kennedy

Erin Kennedy

Today marked yet another new beginning for the WBBM-TV/CBS 2 morning news program with the debut of Erin Kennedy as co-anchor — exactly 367 days after the (unnecessary) firing of Susan Carlson. In that time, CBS 2 has rotated midday anchor Roseanne Tellez and weekend anchor Marissa Bailey as fill-ins while searching for Carlson’s permanent successor.

In the year since, I’ve come to enjoy Bailey’s contributions to the morning show and had hoped she’d win the job permanently. Even though she was only working three days a week (in addition to anchoring her weekend morning newscasts), I thought she fit in nicely with co-anchor Kris Gutierrez, meteorologist Megan Glaros and traffic reporter Derrick Young.

Marissa Bailey

Marissa Bailey

CBS 2 has been stuck near last place, ratings wise, for as long as I can remember. While it is extremely hard for a bottom feeder to climb its way up, CBS 2 would put themselves in a better position to do so by building a brand on the merits of outstanding journalism along with familiar and likeable faces. Instead, CBS 2 insists on playing musical chairs with its on air team seemingly every other year, essentially starting from scratch. While changes sometimes are necessary (i.e. Steve Bartelstein’s brief time as morning co-anchor was a colossal failure), CBS 2 unnecessarily rocked the boat one year ago with the firing of Carlson. CBS 2 had finally had a foundation to build upon, with Carlson and Gutierrez in the morning, and Rob Johnson and Kate Sullivan at night.

After disrupting what was a outstanding morning newscast by ousting Carlson, CBS 2 spent a year re-training viewers to get used to Bailey and Tellez, only to rock the boat a second time.

I should make it clear that this isn’t about Kennedy. She may very well prove to be worthy of the job. This is about CBS 2’s management squandering a full calendar year when it is consistency they need most. They’ve essentially shot themselves in the same foot twice, in the span of one year and a couple of days.

Chicago’s baseball teams up for potential dial spinning

The Chicago Tribune’s Ed Sherman has reported that the CBS-owned WBBM-AM 780 Newsradio is now the leading candidate to acquire the radio rights to the Chicago Cubs starting in 2015.

CBS also owns WSCR-AM/670 The Score which has been the radio home for the Chicago White Sox since 2006, and still will be through the end of 2015. Sherman mentions that if WGN loses the Cubs, they’d be in position to bid for the White Sox for 2016. Not sure if that’s pure speculation or Sherman carefully hinting that WGN may indeed be open in pursuing that route.

If the White Sox moving to a new station means that a new station program director would finally upgrade the radio announce team, I’d be all for it them leaving the Score. Bring back Dave Wills from Tampa!


White Sox need a new play-by-play voice for both radio and television

Ed Sherman posted a piece this morning about the Padres releasing play-by-play announcer Andy Masur.

The White Sox should hire him ASAP. Unfortunately, they won’t.

Not the the White Sox necessarily need a new play-by-play announcer, for either radio or television, but an upgrade wouldn’t hurt. Ken “Hawk” Harrelson’s days are far behind him, and while he is still popular among some Sox fans, there are equally as many who are tired of him. I’m also tired of the tension between Harrelson and analyst Steve Stone as well as Hawk’s old baseball stories. A new play-by-play voice would make Stone far happier, as well as Sox fans (even those who still like Hawk… in due time).

Having sampled MLB.TV in the past, I have heard some of Masur’s work and he is good. I’ve also sampled enough other team broadcasters to realize that there is a lot of good baseball discussion (scouting, drafting, the business of the game) that is missing from White Sox broadcasts.

The radio side of White Sox broadcasts can also use an upgrade. Almost no one would lose sleep if Ed Farmer were to suddenly disappear (nothing personal… I hear Farmer is actually a nice guy; unfortunately, he comes across as rather dull on the radio).

Whether it’s radio or television, the White Sox would benefit with a new voice. Andy Masur would be a solid upgrade.

Back in the game: Former Score host Mike North named starter at Fox Sports Radio

Mike North

Veteran sports radio host Mike North is back, full-time, reports North will co-host the Fox Sports Radio morning show “Fox Sports Daybreak,” 5 to 8 a.m. CT each weekday. The program airs nationally via syndication, though there is no Chicago outlet for his program or for Fox Sports Radio. Anyone caring to listen to his show can listen via iHeartRadio or at

This move is North’s first prominent radio role since leaving WSCR-AM/670 The Score in the summer of 2008. Since leaving the Score, North has found ways to stay busy with various projects, including two full-time television morning show stints, one at Comcast Sports Net and the other at WBBM-TV/CBS 2, with his former Score “Monsters of the Midday” co-host Dan Jiggetts. North has also been a regular weekend/part-time host at Fox Sports Radio.

Personally, I wasn’t much of a North fan for most of his second half of his run at the Score, primarily because by then, I think he became too comfortable, and perhaps, let his success get to his head. That said, I remember enough of him from his days as a midday solo host and his “Wise Guys” afternoon days with Doug Buffone, so I do understand the appeal he used to have.

The online hatred for Mike North has been intense, and I admit, I am guilty of that some 10 years ago, when I was younger and more immature. He didn’t kill babies or steal money from the Salvation Army bucket. At worst, he’s a guy who was loud and obnoxious who sometimes came across as a braggart. Various bits such as his “bookie priest,” “Fritzy’s night on the town” and “Caucasian Man” were more head-groaners than anything close to resembling comedy.

I think much of the angst against North was that by the time he and Jiggetts split as a team, his popularity slowly began to diminish. Despite his diminishing performance, he was still perceived as a golden jewel at the station, completely untouchable due to his pull with many advertisers. While not worthy of the malicious ridicule he often received — much of it from the message board — he did plenty to set himself up as a punching bag with some of his ridiculous segments and for his blatant refusal to adapt his on-air style long-after it was obvious that his approach was no longer appealing.

I’m happy for North. Despite any of the negatives associated with him as an on-air host, that shouldn’t disqualify him from getting another job somewhere else. I hope his time away from full-time radio has given him the opportunity to learn that in order to stay relevant in this medium, you have got to be willing to change with the times — even if that means allowing a program director, who you may or may not like, to actually coach or manage you.

At the end of the day, North’s gig is with Fox Sports Radio — remove the “Fox Sports” branding from it and you are left with a Clear Channel operated cluster of syndicated shows occupied by many B or C level personalities airing on a cluster of small to medium-size market stations throughout the United States.

I don’t mean to diminish the value of North’s new role. I hope he makes the most of it and takes it 100% seriously. However, the Fox Sports Radio morning show is nowhere close to being at the same level of prominence or relevance of ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike” — or of anything else currently airing on the Score.