Chuck Todd should be seated at the head of table: And other random “Meet the Press” musings

Meet the Press Set

New “Meet the Press Set” – Photo courtesy,

Six weeks and five episodes into Chuck Todd’s run as moderator of “Meet the Press,” now seems like a good time to dish out some pent-up thoughts pertaining to NBC’s venerable television franchise.

I’ve been watching “Meet the Press” semi-regularly since 2007. I regret that I had not begun watching it sooner, having missed out on much of Tim Russert’s run as moderator.

I’ve agreed with the general sentiment towards David Gregory and that the show had appeared to operate off a paint  by numbers formula. The public’s reaction to the news in late August that NBC’s Chuck Todd would take over as the show’s moderator was a mixed bag, and for a variety of reasons.

While it would be hard to find anyone from within the news media who doubt that Todd is as affluent in politics as it comes, some people hesitate that he just doesn’t have the demeanor or looks to hold down such a prominent television hosting role. The more general sentiment is that the Sunday morning talk show routine has run its course and that Todd represents more of the status quo.

The digital age and 24/7 news media has certainly lessened the overall impact of the Sunday morning talk shows.  While the Sunday talk shows continue to skew towards an older audience, shows like the “Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report,” and “Last Week Tonight,” deliver fresh and exciting content on a subject that often leaves people angry and frustrated — and they skew younger.

Prior to the anointing of Todd as the new “Meet the Press” moderator, there were suggestions that NBC News was leaning towards, or at the very least exploring, radically different means to help differentiate the show from its Sunday morning competitors.

Here’s how Politico’s Dylan Byers narrated such possibilities in his Aug. 15 report:

In fact, even Todd’s bosses needed to be persuaded. Deborah Turness, the president of NBC News, was lukewarm on him, sources at the network said. Disappointed by the program’s poor ratings under host David Gregory, she had entertained all manner of revisions: Moving the show to New York and handing it over to a more affable, nonpolitical personality like Savannah Guthrie, the co-host of the “Today” show; changing the show’s name; perhaps even canceling it and starting over. That Turness was considering such diverse and radical options right up until the end — while Gregory was left to twist in the wind, enduring an onslaught of criticism and negative press — shows just how uncertain she was about the appropriate solution.

Just last week, word came out that NBC News offered the moderator chair to the “Daily Show’s” John Stewart(!).

Also, the fact that Deborah Turness might even for a second consider cancelling the show is just batshit crazy.

I just can’t shake the feeling that giving the job to Todd was a reluctant move by NBC. I hope I’m wrong, because even though the Sunday morning talk show formula may be incapable of living up to the relevance in had prior to the digital age and 24/7 news, I still find it to be an important cog in the overall political news media. Todd alone is a vast improvement over Gregory, and I like how has so far come across on the show.

Hopefully, the recently upgraded set is a vote of confidence in Todd by the NBC News brass. However, I question the necessity of a new set. The previous “Meet the Press” set was introduced in 2010 and was yet to come across as out of date. One thing I don’t like since Todd took over is the anchor desk he shares with his roundtable. Though it’s only a small caveat, I believe being moderator of “Meet the Press” is an esteemed honor, enough so that the host should rightfully be seated at the “head” of the desk, if you will, apart from the rest. Simply sitting in the middle doesn’t separate him enough, in my opinion. Todd either feels more comfortable being seated in the middle with the roundtable guests or NBC made that cosmetic decision for him.

For now, I’ll continue to enjoy “Meet the Press” for what it’s worth. A simple re-hash of the week’s most important news and political stories along with some debate that I may or may not enjoy, pending the guests. While I happen to like Todd’s attempt at a slightly more casual and viewer friendly program, I don’t know if that will be enough to lure people away from ABC’s “This Week” or CBS’s “Face the Nation.” If he can’t, I reckon his leash will be shorter than Gregory’s (six years).

Unnecessary clutter: Programming excessive news and traffic around talk radio format

News 720 WGN Logo

Concerning radio formatting, there’s supposed to be a distinct difference between all-news and talk. I wish talk radio programmers understood that.

I have no problem with how smaller market talk stations program all-news during morning and/or afternoon drive. My problem is with talk stations that attempt to program excessive news and traffic updates around their regular talk programming. While attempting to offer the best of both worlds to listeners, such efforts often become a detriment to the overall talk format, at the expense of both the listening audience and the talk show hosts.

Listeners of Chicago’s two prominent talk stations, WGN-AM 720 and WLS-AM 890, should know full well how such detriment has affected their favorite talk shows. Both stations have made repeated attempts through the years to beef up their own news and traffic coverage in hopes of luring listeners away from the ratings and revenue all-news powerhouse WBBM-AM 780 (which simulcasts on WCFS FM 105.9 — which will soon have some real relevance for seemingly the first time ever). WGN’s traffic and weather on the seven’s severely impacted the overall quality of Spike O’Dell’s morning show and Steve Cochran’s afternoon show, while WLS’s traffic and weather on the fives was enough to hinder one of Chicago’s best talk personalities, Roe Conn.

While WLS is expected to lessen the amount of afternoon traffic updates once Steve Dahl makes his debut in November, WGN is aiming to make another lunge at WBBM. According to a Chicago Tribune piece last month, WGN is in the midst of tinkering with its overall news coverage in response to losing the Chicago Cubs to WBBM.  The hiring of longtime television anchor Anna Davlantes to report on trending stories along with the addition of “Business Lunch” to the 12 p.m. hour of Bob Sirott and Marianne Murciano’s afternoon show are two prime examples of how they are attempting to bolster it’s news presence. WGN is also aiming to expand their ability towards more original reporting. The ultimate end-game is to establish a more extensive news team that can potentially attract displaced news seekers once Cubs games pre-empt WBBM’s all-news format starting next spring.

At least such attempts are seemingly genuine, unlike the empty maneuver of re-branding the station as “News 720 WGN” back in 2010 under the volatile leadership of the late Kevin Metheny.

While I am not fully pleased with many of the past year’s programming changes made by WGN President and General Manager Jimmy de Castro, I have to give him credit for continuing to maintain a prominently all-live and all-local talk station. Even though I believe many of his programming choices (or choices that he ultimately approved of) have been absolutely mind-numbing, WGN is one of only a few unique talk stations in the country that have avoided much of the cutbacks, layoffs, syndication and brokered programming. The enhancing of its news department is one more example of WGN’s willingness to spend more money while every other station seemingly finds new ways to cut back.

However, I have to think that such attempts to win over WBBM’s audience may potentially turn into a wasted effort. While the Cubs will pre-empt WBBM’s all-news format on AM 780, its FM 105.9 simulcast will continue airing all-news uninterrupted. I reckon the vast majority of WBBM’s listeners in the Chicago metro area will have no trouble switching to 105.9 on the FM band — especially since the simulcast has been inexistence since August, 2011. Any regular WBBM listener should at the very least be vaguely aware that a FM simulcast exists. WBBM has gone out of its way to include 105.9 in its overall branding.

Asides from those outside the FM 105.9 listening range or those unable to or unwilling to listen via online, how many displaced AM 780 listeners can WGN realistically expect to gain?

According to the same Tribune report, WGN President and General Manager Jimmy de Castro said that they’re “going to put more emphasis and energy into news, particular while [WBBM is] doing baseball.” To me, that sure sounds like longer news updates at the top and bottom of the hour, which in all honesty, is just what the station does not need.

WGN’s top of the hour newscast, especially during morning and afternoon drive, are already long enough. Even with an older skewing audience, I think WGN in 2015 can still function healthily without trying to be the all-service station. Between the amount of time dedicated to news and commercials, it can make listening to their programming difficult, which is painfully obvious in the morning during Steve Cochran’s show (the saving grace for WGN’s overload of commercials is that WLS is seemingly far worse).

Interruptions in the talk format, regardless of their merit, are mere distractions. WGN can’t have it both ways.

As it is, WGN is barely juggling their talk programming around news and commercials. Any further tinkering, especially if that actually does mean more news in hopes of attracting displaced WBBM listeners, will potentially displace WGN’s existing listeners — an audience that wants to listen to long-form talk.

WGN’s talk format is what makes it so unique. WGN should be utilizing its greatest strength, which is their full cast of friendly, live and local personalities (whether you like or dislike their current assemble of personalities is a separate conversation). Diluting them with more news and traffic interruptions would be counterintuitive.

Email: blowtorchpress [at] | Twitter: @MartinHawr

Steve Dahl to WLS afternoons: Full analysis with added perspective on how Cumulus shafted Roe Conn

Since posting this entry earlier this morning, the WLS-AM website has removed Roe & Roeper from their program schedule. Earlier this morning, Conn appeared on ABC 7/WLS-TV’s “Windy City Live,” confirming that yesterday was their final show. It appears that Conn’s career at WLS radio has come to an end.

In response to the news that Steve Dahl is returning to terrestrial radio at WLS-AM 890, veteran Chicago radio executive Michael Damsky wrote on Facebook, “this is the radio story of the year. Only Robert Feder gets this scoop.”

The news broken last night by Feder was so big and surprising, that my mother-in-law texted and called me to discuss it.

Steve Dahl - New WLS Afternoon Host

Steve Dahl, the soon to be WLS afternoon host.

It’s been known that the contracts for Roe Conn and Richard Roeper, the current afternoon hosts at WLS, were expiring towards the end of this year. There wasn’t much optimism that either would be back.

While the station has not officially announced Dahl’s hiring or any surrounding details, Feder did not specify whether Conn or Roeper will continue hosting until the change takes place. The WLS website is still promoting their Friday, Oct. 31 Roe & Roeper’s Nightmare on Clark Street” event. [Update: All references to Conn and Roeper, including the “Nightmare on Clark Street” event, have been removed from the WLS website.]

The contracts for Bruce Wolf and Dan Proft, the current morning hosts at WLS, are also believed to be expiring near the end of this year. Does the Cumulus-owned station plan to reinvent the rest of the daypart or are they content at sticking with the status-quo? It’s not like mornings at WLS are setting the world on fire. Does a scenario exist in which Conn, with or without Roeper, moves to morning drive? At the moment, my initial guess would be no.

Roe Conn

Roe Conn, the iconic. and now seemingly former, WLS afternoon host.

Even though I don’t think it will happen, I think it’s worth mentioning when considering that WLS is still reeling from the loss of their iconic morning duo, Don Wade and Roma. While Conn’s afternoon ratings haven’t been good, he too is an iconic personality there, having just celebrated his 25th anniversary. Reasonable executives might understand that outside of the afternoon show, the station is an utter mess.

Despite Conn’s swelled ego in recent years, along with his rampant stammering and stuttering, he provides a highly intelligent and reasonable perspective that is also entertaining while discussing the news of the day. Unfortunately, the excessive commercial time and the horrendous traffic and weather on the fives format have made his show practically unlistenable.

Since we’re speaking of Cumulus, I suspect they have little care about station heritage or that their fingerprint smudges are largely responsible for Conn’s poor ratings performance. The notoriously cheap company will likely part ways with Conn, allowing him to resurface elsewhere, with WGN-AM 720 as the seemingly most obvious choice — which I would be more excited about if that were to happen without Roeper.

Putting the excessive commercial time and traffic and weather format aside, I haven’t been a huge fan of Roe Conn’s afternoon show since the arrival of Roeper as co-host. I don’t think he adds much as far as content to the overall show. Obviously, the loss of Garry Meier as co-host was significant, but I eventually became comfortable with the combination of Conn, Bill Leff, Jim Johnson, and to a lesser extent, Christina Filiaggi.

As for Steve Dahl, I’m not a fan. I don’t appreciate how unnecessarily vile he is when insulting someone — while the circumstances in which Dahl criticizes someone may be warranted, there is a fine line between constructive criticism and being excessively mean. His recent lashing at WGN and his choice words towards Leff and Wendy Snyder, the station’s afternoon hosts, are just recent examples.

I also don’t think that listening to Dalh talk to wife on the air or his personal musings to be of interest. As a previous paid subscriber of his podcast (which allowed me to better sample his product in hopes of finding an alternative to bad terrestrial radio), I was turned off at the excessive amount of such musings that dominate his show, drowning out some otherwise interesting content, such as discussion of a Blackhawks playoff game from the night before.

While I’m not a fan of Dahl, I of course will be listening to him on day one at WLS. And that is whole idea. Hiring Dahl will, at least at the beginning, re-energize the older radio audience, bringing in new listeners, whether they are a fan of his or not.

On the flip-side, such a hiring only reinforces just how damaged the radio industry is. Instead of grooming young radio personalities into superstars, radio companies every now and then resort to shelling out decent to big money towards such re-treads like Dahl.

A few added thoughts…

– For those criticizing Robert Feder for releasing this scoop on the first day that his blog is jettisoned behind a Chicago Tribune paywall, do you not have any idea how journalism works? The timing of specific news pieces happens all the time, whether you like it or not. I suspect that those criticizing Feder for releasing the WLS/Dahl news today are people who already have a beef against him.

– Feder is not perfect. I have previously criticized him for often making it too obvious who he’s friends or foe with in Chicago media — and how that has  shaped how he narrates certain stories (i.e. WGN’s mishandling of Garry Meier last spring) — also a common function in journalism. That said, such scoops such as Steve Dahl joining WLS is what makes him a must read if you have any care in the world for Chicago media. You just never know when Feder has an ace up his sleeve.

Media Bits & Bytes (7/7/14)

– I’m happy to hear that Jennifer Keiper is returning to WLS-AM 890, where she will anchor the afternoon news during Roe Conn and Richard Roeper’s show. Keiper is a news pro and should make for a solid addition to the station’s overall news operations.

Keiper was one of a handful of WLS on air staffers who were let go on February 29, 2008, in what turned out to be an intense cost-cutting measure by then owner Citadel. Among other WLS staffers let go that day were Christina Filiaggi, Bill Camerson, David Jennings, Nate Clay and the late Jake Hartford.

Cameron was brought back several weeks later, while Filiaggi would return later that year before being bounced for a second time in 2009. Filiaggi returned again in March, 2010 and has stayed put since.

Terence Henderson analyzes a recent survey by TVNewsCheck in regards to Chicago’s declining evening newscasts. Asides from a quick glance at the top stories once in a while, or when seeking a particular story of interest, I try to avoid the local newscasts like the plague, for much of the very reasons cited by Terrence as to why Chicago’s newscasts are such a mess.

– While NBC’s “Meet the Press” continues to plummet, I was only able to stomach about 12 seconds this past Sunday with the ridiculous sense of urgency David Gregory brought to the immigration/border control crisis.

Yes, the problem is a crisis, but it isn’t exactly breaking news, even though it came across as so. Not how I want to start my Sunday morning during what is supposed to be a nice and relaxing holiday weekend.

– For those hoping that Dan McNeil returns sooner rather than later to the Chicago airwaves, you’ll have to wait another two weeks… at least. McNeil announced on Facebook over the weekend that he’ll be spending the next two weeks fishing in Ontario, Canada.

– Cincinnati’s favorite radio import and WGN outcast has been busy of late, filling in around the clock in recent weeks on WLW-AM 700 in Cincinnati. McConnell’s workload continues for the next two weeks as he fills in for the station’s morning host, Jim Scott.

– Eddie Volkman is a moron. With his tasteless comments regarding “Jobo,” perhaps Volkman is aiming to audition as a new sidekick for Mancow!

Loss of ‘America Weekend’ leaves weekend talk radio broke and brokered

America Weekend Radio - Envision Radio Networks

The smut and garbage that has decimated weekend programming on radio stations throughout the country has claimed another life. “America Weekend,” a block of live, compelling and original talk radio programming has ceased further production following this past weekend’s shows. Syndicated by the Envision Radio Networks, the six hour block of programming each Saturday and Sunday aimed to minimize the amount of brokered real estate, financial, travel and health programming that airs on various news/talk stations nationwide.

Kipper McGee, Veteran Radio Programmer

Kipper McGee, Radio Programmer

Launched in early 2013, I was on-board as a fan from the start after it was announced that veteran broadcaster Paul Harris signed on to host the Saturday and Sunday 8 to 11 a.m. block. The remaining blocks were hosted by either Turi Ryder or Rob Carson (Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

The shows were modular, meaning stations could carry as much of it as they wanted, in and around live sports or other programming. The concept was orchestrated by veteran radio programmer Kipper McGee. Unfortunately, the sad reality after a year and a half resulted in not enough stations willing to part ways with the easy money that brokered programming provides.

“America Weekend” host Paul Harris provided further explanation on his blog:

But the one thing Kipper and I couldn’t do was change the paradigm of weekend talk radio around the country. While we grew from our original two affiliates to about 30 from Alaska to Mississippi, we kept running into a brick wall with stations that only cared about putting on programming that gave them a check that cleared, even if it hurt their ratings. I even had a top executive from one of the major radio groups tell me that, although he loved the product we were putting on the air, he’d never be able to convince his sales managers to abandon the way they’ve been doing weekends for the last decade.

For as much as I wanted the concept to work, I admit I lost some optimism not far into its beginning. It was very hard to find affiliates that carried the show, thus making it hard to listen to live. Any of the available streams that I could find via the TuneIn app were mostly small market stations — any major market station that was willing to come on-board surely would have been publicized. I usually downloaded the “America Weekend” website. Not a viable way for them to make money, I’m sure.

What bums me about the loss of “America Weekend” is the six hours of Paul Harris each weekend. Paul has stated on his website that he will now return to semi-retirement, while continuing to host his local Friday show on KTRS-AM 550 in St. Louis, in addition to any other fill-in work from time to time.

Paul Harris, Veteran Radio Host

Paul Harris, Radio Host

While I don’t consider myself the authority on news/talk radio, it is my opinion that Paul is the best radio talk show host in America. I quickly became a fan of his in July 2008 after hearing him fill in for “Don and Roma” on WLS-AM 890 in Chicago. On top of that, I will always remain indebted to him since it was Paul who planted the seed for me to adapt an active mindset open to skepticism and critical thinking. Between reading his blog regularly (as well as his vast archive) and listening to countless shows where he filled on stations across the country, he has, without over-exaggerating, literally changed my life. I highly regret not having been aware of him back when he was broadcasting five days a week.

I should note that while Paul’s blog and previous radio shows did inspire me (aka correct previous assumptions and beliefs) politically, “America Weekend” was far from being a typical political show. It was the exact opposite. It was more of a news and lifestyle talk show, occupied by an assortment of guests to discuss a variety of topics. Paul had authors, actors, artists and journalists, and you always knew you were going to walk away having learned something useful or interesting, whether the discussion related to the importance of science education, climate change, the new iPad or green technology.

I’m sorry to see “America Weekend” belly up as a result of reluctant radio managers refusing to sacrifice easy money in exchange for providing their listeners with live and compelling content. A radio host friend of mine in Chicago once told me of a conversion he had with a programmer who described the easy money that comes from such brokered programming as being like “crack cocaine.”

In the news/talk radio industry, brokered programming has become an addiction. Unfortunately, creativity was not enough to either stop the abuse or prevent a relapse.

Follow-up Content:

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.