Though not rock bottom, the ‘Big 89’ WLS has fallen far from prominence

Plenty of chatter has been devoted to the pending exits of both Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity from the 40 or so Cumulus-owned news/talk stations they currently have shows broadcasting on. Locally, such a move would obviously have a significant impact on WLS-AM 890’s program schedule (Limbaugh 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.,  Hannity via tape delay 6-9 p.m.).

Further dents in the WLS program schedule is the last thing that station needs right now.

The current trainwreck at WLS was something I was meaning to bring up here, however, there was some good discussion about the station in recent days on the message board.

There’s no question that WLS had a few rough months with the sudden death of midday host Jake Hartford and the exit of morning hosts Don Wade & Roma. Not helping was the reassignment of Drew Hayes (station’s operation director) to KABC-AM in Los Angeles. However, the rough patch the station had was near the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013. We’re on the eve of August and WLS is merely treading water with hands tied behind its back.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the new morning show with Bruce Wolf and Dan Proft. At least Don Wade or even someone like Jerry Agar (early midday host in 2008 and 2009, now early midday host at NewsTalk 1010/CFRB-AM in Toronto) understood radio and had an art for creating compelling discussion, even if you didn’t agree with them. Proft doesn’t come close. Instead he preaches, except when he is awkwardly tiptoeing around Wolf.

I have not listened to enough of John Kass and Lauren Cohn, the station’s early midday hosts, to have an honest opinion. Many people on the CRM board have written that Kass personifies the old  adage “a voice for print” (not sure if that is really an adage… if not, then I’m making it up). Kass often writes compelling content in his Chicago Tribune column, but from the little I have heard, it doesn’t carry over on the air while he is host.

I’ve been a listener of Roe Conn since the late 1990s when he was paired with Garry Meier. Conn’s show has had ups and downs through the years, depending on who he’s been partnered or sidekicked with. The current arrangement with Richard Roeper is not my favorite. Not sure if Roeper is the problem or if I grew tired of the Jim Johnson (now retired) and Christina Filliagi act. I’ve also been a victim of bad luck when attempting to listen to their show. I’ll say eight out of 10 times when trying, I hear commercials. The commercial breaks are long and often. Not helping is the ridiculous “Traffic & Weather – First on the Fives,” which after more than a year, are still prominently unsponsored (!).

The commercial content and repetitive traffic problems apply to the station’s morning and early midday shows as well.

I have a hard time getting past Conn’s continued stammering while telling a story. He often comes across as one with severe ADHD while telling a story and becoming distracted, either by someone else in studio or because a new thought popped into his head. I can put that aside because Conn is highly intelligent and has a fairly realistic point of view when it comes to analyzing the relevant news of the day.

The morning and early midday shows are incredibly dull and the chemistry during the afternoon show just doesn’t click with me.

As bad as it is at WLS, it could be a lot worse. Cumulus, the number two largest radio ownership in the country (which includes WLS), could have cancelled much of the local programming many months ago and had replaced it with syndicated crap. To their credit, they’ve resisted so far.

While things there could be a lot worse, they also could be a lot better. It’s a shame that no one else there seemingly thinks so.

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