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.

WGN Radio debuts a new logo [Updated]

WGN Radio Logo, December 2013
After stammering onto the WGN-AM 720 website this morning, I quickly noticed a new piece of artwork at the top. Is this going to be the new logo the station uses going forward?

What happened to the unique “W” logo that WGN sported on their front-page Chicago Tribune spread early last month?

The file they have uploaded on the existing website right now is just awkward. Why the slanted edges on a gray to dark gray gradient background floating in mid-air? Leaves me wondering if this specific art file is meant to sit on top of a new design template that could soon be going live, if not in the next few days then sometime after the New Year.

The new logo reads as “WGN 720” even though the station has continued to identify itself on air as “720 WGN.” Also missing is the word “radio,” which has been included in their various logos in recent years (except for the ill-fated “News 720 WGN” used for a few months in late 2010).

The new logo is also being used on the station’s Twitter and Facebook pages, except with some color differences. The logo on the website has blue text on-top of a gradient gray background, while the logo on the station’s Twitter and Facebook pages shows white text resting on-top of a gradient blue background.

The blue logo looks somewhat better and may even look better on a new website design/template that better accommodates the blue background. As a stand-alone logo though, at first glance, it seems a bit odd. The “WGN 720” text with the single lines above and below has potential though.

New WGN 720 logo

UPDATE – 12/20/13
Within the last 12 hours, WGN uploaded another alternation of their logo to their Facebook and Twitter pages. This one combines the classy looking “W” that was unveiled in a Chicago Tribune promtional spread on Nov. 2, with the logo unveiled just days ago. The large block “W” includes the banner plate above it with the included words “WGN 720.”

This logo variation, as shown below, is what I like the best and the one I hope will turn out to be their final and completed logo. I think this version is quite unique, classy and does a great job at properly identifying the station.

New WGN Radio Logo


CNN wants its own ‘Shark Week:’ more attitude & bite, less vanilla

CNN Changes in 2014

Capital New York released an informative piece detailing how CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker hopes to reignite CNN with some significant on air changes expected in 2014.

Some highlights:

“We’re all regurgitating the same information. I want people to say, ‘You know what? That was interesting. I hadn’t thought of that,’” Zucker said. “The goal for the next six months, is that we need more shows and less newscasts.”

The 48-year-old Zucker initially faced internal resistance to his experiments beyond the realm of hard news, but he now has an irrefutable retort: The No. 1 show on CNN is now “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” a travel-adventure show featuring the bad-boy celebrity chef. Zucker said that inside CNN, his formula has finally been accepted “because people have seen the results.”

More series and films untethered to the news and produced by outside production companies will get runs in primetime: “Yes, there will be more and, yes, they will not just be on Sundays…,” he said. “I think it will expand past just the weekends, and so there’s a little piece of news for you… This is a primetime play. It’s too expensive to confine it to weekends.”

Zucker intends to place further emphasis on its digital mobile resources while also planning to re-brand “HLN” (Headline News), making it rely less on courtroom drama.

It seems like CNN wants to go the route of the Weather Channel or the History Channel — expand outside the traditional line of niche programming that initially gave them their prominence. The Weather Channel capitalizes on more weather related documentaries and specials, while breaking weather coverage involves the naming of winter storms and tracking potential tornadoes via the made for TV sounding TOR:CON Index.

In defending the need for change Zucker makes a solid point:

“… the overall cable news audience has not grown in the last 12 years, OK? So, all we’re doing is trading [audience] share. … We also want to broaden what people can expect from CNN.”

If CNN decides to index the severity of a specific breaking news event, perhaps they can borrow the color-coded terrorist threat scale previously used by U.S. Homeland Security.

Cumulus drops Geraldo from syndication: Potential opening for Mike Huckabee?

According to a report by Inside Radio, Cumulus Media is pulling the plug on Geraldo Rivera’s (semi) syndicated program. Rivera airs on a handful of Cumulus stations, including WABC-AM (New York), KABC-AM (Los Angeles) and WOKI-FM (Knoxville, TN) from 8 to 11 a.m. CT.

Come January 2014, Rivera’s show will be heard as a local program in the New York City market exclusively on WABC.

While Cumulus has not announced a replacement for Rivera’s remaining stations, I’m wondering if Cumulus moves Mike Huckabee’s syndicated program to that slot since his current 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. CT show runs head-to-head against Rush Limbaugh. With Limbaugh staying put on most of his Cumulus news/talk affiliates, how much exposure does the Huckabee currently get? He would get more exposure on Cumulus stations in the 8 to 11 a.m. CT slot.

At the moment, this story has no implication on WLS-AM 890, the Cumulus news/talk station in Chicago. Assuming Cumulus does decide to replace Rivera with another syndicated talker, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if that person ends up on WLS sometime in 2014.

Worth your time: In-depth profile on Sun-Times Media Chairman Michael Ferro

Today’s recommended reading is in-depth profile of Sun-Times Media Chairman Michael Ferro (with his cooperation) from Bryan Smith of Chicago Magazine. Highly worth the time for anyone interested in journalism and the future of journalism, specifically at it pertains to Chicago.

Though this piece is from October, I had finally just gotten around to it yesterday thanks to a Facebook friend posting the same piece on her timeline.

I get the sense Ferro is more of a one-trick pony, as it pertains to his previous success. Certainly not feeling any better about the Sun-Times’ future…

On a somewhat related note, the Chicago Newspaper Guild came out yesterday stating its intention to exhaust all legal options against the Sun-Times in attempting to block another round of layoffs expected in early 2014, reports Robert Feder.

While commenting about the Guild’s position on their own website,  executive director Craig Rosenbaum makes this highly relevant (if not also obvious) statement worth repeating here.

. . . from a practical standpoint, I really cannot see how the Sun-Times can put out a viable product with any further layoffs in its editorial department.

Ride’s over: Art Bell quits ‘Dark Matter’

Art Bell - Dark Matter

Well, here we go again…

Art Bell has quit “Dark Matter,” the SiriusXM program he’s hosted four-nights a week since its Sept. 16 launch. Bell made the announcement yesterday on Facebook, before either deactivating or deleting the account hours later.

At this point, I’d guess any hardcore Bell fan figured he’d bow out at some point, for one reason or another, but after just six weeks?

Since launching “Dark Matter” in mid-September, Bell has often acknowledged problems that some listeners have had when trying to listen to the live show via the service’s web player (via either the SiriusXM website or app). Bell closed his Oct. 31 “Spooky Matter” Halloween broadcast by proposing an idea that SiriusXM allow him to stream his show live for free via With SiriusXM refusing to agree to such an idea, Bell felt the health of the show was greatly compromised. Thursday’s Halloween show turned out to be his last.

According to, many of those having problems with the SiriusXM online stream were sampling the service during a free 30 day trial (apparently, such problems also existed for some paying subscribers). Unable to get the online stream to work consistently, many of them went away when it came time to pay for the service, reducing the number of potential listeners and callers to Bell’s program. Bell was also unhappy that SiriusXM is unavailable outside the U.S. and Canada.

I reckon Bell has a fair reason to be upset, though I have to wonder what percentage of users were having problems with the SirusXM player, and if that amount really was impacting the quality of his program.

Bell’s sudden decision to quit seems rather kneejerkish. I’ve always had the sense that Bell lives his live in a constant state of fear (think back to his infamous Y2K fear-mongering), leaving him prone to making rash decisions that often come across as overboard or extreme in hindsight. During the government shutdown, Bell insisted he would move his family back to the Philippines if the U.S. went into default, citing massive anarchy if the poor and elderly were to no longer receive their benefits.

Since launching “Dark Matter,” Bell has voiced frustration over the fact the SirusXM online stream times out after either 90 minutes or two hours of idleness — which isn’t unusual with any online streaming service (is it really that unreasonable to stop the player and hit the play button again during a commercial, people?). When Bell mentioned it the first few times, I didn’t think much of it, assuming that even Bell would understand that’s  just the way it is. But when he kept mentioning it, almost night after night, and going as far as to request that Sirius do something about it, I began to think Bell may not be in the right frame of mind when it invovles 21st century technology.

Are the SiriusXM subscribers who listen to Howard Stern voicing the same complaints at the same level of Bell fans, or was Bell simply making too much out of a non-issue?

Prior to the launch of “Dark Matter,” Bell repeatedly insisted via Facebook or in interviews that his return was not prompted by money — though Bell was and is within his rights to make as much money as possible for working. With the SiriusXM venture now a failed one, would Bell be willing to come back on his own merits, via his website, or some other online-only venture?

While Bell previously seemed to be somewhat content in retirement, it certainly sounded like he was having real fun while hosting “Dark Matter.” One could hope that after having that much fun, he is willing to explore other opportunities at a comeback, unless of course, he’s bound under a no-compete by Sirius.

Even if Bell were to attempt some type of online-only show, the stickler that he is would probably find faults with that route t00. Considering his hatred for cell phones, would Bell be interested in doing an online show where people listening in their vehicles (i.e. truck drivers) would have to listen via the cell phone? Would the older segment of Bell’s audience be able to master listening to an online-only show or figure out how to hook their phone to their car radio? How many emails from angry and confused listeners would Bell be able to handle before he calls quits on that show too?

I began my subscription to SiriusXM (online-only option) in late June (not knowing Bell was planning a return), and while I have had minimal issues when attempting to work the SiriusXM app via my phone or tablet, those problems have not resembled anything close to what others have appareling been having.

Considering how mysterious and vague Bell often comes across, my next logical thought would be that the website will eventually vanish without a trace (just like his Facebook). At this moment, his website is still up and a message has been added.

We are sorry that Dark Matter on SiriusXM has come to an abrupt end. We’ll examine our options and may be able to return in a different format and medium.

In the mean time, will still operate as long as financially possible, hoping for a workable solution to bring Art back to you, soon. Keep checking back here often.

Since this does appear to be a rash decision by Bell, the possibility exists that he could change his mind once cooler heads prevail. While I do not expect Sirius to ever allow free streaming to happen on, perhaps, a renewed pledge to fix the streaming issue or offer another alternative could prompt Bell to give it another try. I wouldn’t count on this happening, but considering Bell’s track record of changing his mind after thinking things through, it’s at least worth a mention.

I’ve enjoyed his “Dark Matter” shows, even though I’m not a believer of the paranormal. His show made for great radio theater, and no one is better than Bell. We were fortunate to have had him for the last month and a half. While I do hope he attempts another comeback, I’m not holding out hope.

Bell is within his rights to do what he wishes. However, this latest chapter only reinforces the notion that Bell is a notorious show quitter, if not a “serial retiree.”What a ride…

For further thoughts about Bell and SiriusXM, I’ll direct you to the message board, a highly popular and active community of Art Bell fans. Specifically, I’m linking to a thread discussing Bell’s departure, showing how some of his most loyal fans are reacting. It’s also worth noting that while there is an abundance of anger, the frustration and disappointment is warranted.

UPDATE: Though several hours old, here is Bell’s official statement to Much of what Bell stated was recapped in the linked story above.

ESPN 1000 continues ‘Talkin’ Baseball’ minus Bruce Levine

Sorry WMVP-AM/ESPN 1000, but your once-venerable all baseball show, “Talkin’ Baseball,” just is not the same without veteran voice Bruce Levine.

This isn’t meant to be a shot at current hosts Fred Huebner or Jesse Rogers. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t mind listening to them talk baseball if it were on a show not titled “Talkin’ Baseball.” Levine brought a higher level of perspective to the show that just can’t be replaced by either Huebner or Rogers. Without Levine, “Talkin’ Baseball” is just another weekend sports show that happens to be all baseball.

Levine left ESPN 1000 at the end of September, following the conclusion of the 2013 MLB regular season. The station opted not to re-new his contract, a decision likely inspired by cost-cutting as opposed to any dissatisfaction with his performance.

On second thought, it’s ESPN 1000 that should  be apologizing to us.

New WGN Radio logo unveiled in Chicago Tribune (updated with additional photos)

WGN Radio - New Logo

A new WGN Radio logo, appearing in the Nov. 3 Chicago Tribune advertisement wrapping around the front and back of the paper.

Came across an interesting tweet by Kristin Decker earlier tonight, a workhorse of a producer at WGN-AM 720.

The two shows referenced by Decker are the Bob Sirott and Marianne Murciano noon to 3 p.m. weekday show and the Kathy O’Malley and Judy Markey 10 a.m. to noon Saturday show.  The advertisement, appearing in the Sunday Chicago Tribune, also showcases what appears to be a new WGN logo.

WGN Radio logo idea

Logo idea for WGN Radio, unveiled by Robert Feder on Aug. 22. Designed by Mike Waterkotte, Waterkotte Inc.

A new logo for WGN was first hinted on Aug. 22 when media journalist Robert Feder posted a mockup on his Facebook page. The “W ” appearing in the Tribune ad is very similar to the “W” shown in the Aug. 22 mockup which was supposed to represent the three phases of WGN — radio, online and new media. Public reaction to the mockup was highly critical, with many people under the assumption that the three separate and uniquely designed letters were representing one single logo for the radio station.

Also of note, the Steve Cochran Show Facebook page posted a blurb and photo showing a front-cover Sunday Tribune ad for the relaunched WGN. These Tribune ads are the first of what appears to be a promotional push for the relaunched station. Earlier this week, morning host Steve Cochran told Feder that a big promotional push would begin in the new year.

On Monday, WGN began using “Chicago’s Very Own” as their new tagline. As of now, the current WGN website continues to show the existing logo with the now extinct tagline, “The Voice of Chicago.” Along with a new lineup and re-branding, I hope will soon be a new website — I’d almost hate to see the new logo and tagline inserted onto the horrendous one they’ve been using for the last year.

[UPDATED] Additional Photos Below – click links…

The WGN advertisement wraps around the front and back of the Tribune paper. The front shows a head shot of Cochran, beneath with the words “Chicago’s Very Own returns to Chicago’s Very Own.” Further below is a new WGN Radio logo.

The inner spread includes the message:

    Chicago’s Very Own 720 WGN starts a new chapter in our long history of radio innovation. With a smart new look and a lineup of talk talent that brings you Chicago like no one else can. News, weather, sports, traffic and talk that is centered around our city, our listeners, and our legacy of being Chicago’s fencepost for conversation. Each day kicks off with new morning man Steve Cochran at 5 AM. So tune in and listen to what we started.

Beneath the message is the new WGN logo again, with the words “social media since 1924.”

The rest of the inner spread shows head shots of personalities from the Monday-Friday lineup, as well as a color head shot of Kathy and Judy with mention of their Saturday morning show.

The back spread shows a combination of current and previous personalities, including Bob Collins, Spike O’Dell and Roy Leonard.

‘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.