Feder: WGN Radio under new management
With the $6.4 billion acquisition of Tribune Media by Nexstar Media Group finalized Thursday, there's a new man in charge of news/talk WGN 720-AM. Sean Compton, who had been president of strategic programming and acquisitions for Tribune Broadcasting, has been named executive vice president overseeing WGN Radio, the WGN America and Antenna TV cable networks, and all programming acquisitions for Nexstar. The move marks a return to radio for Compton, who had been the No. 2 executive at Clear Channel Radio (now iHeartMedia) before former Tribune CEO Randy Michaels hired him to become senior vice president of Tribune Broadcasting's programming and entertainment unit in 2008. It's now up to Compton to restore the underperforming WGN Radio -- the only radio property in Nexstar's portfolio -- to some semblance of its former ratings glory. Nexstar is headquartered in Dallas, but Compton will continue to be based in Chicago.
Thursday also marked the last day on the job for Larry Wert, the legendary Chicago broadcast executive who headed Tribune Broadcast Media and oversaw its 41 television stations since 2013. The sale to Nexstar closed out a four-decade run for the west suburban Riverside native, who spent 15 years as president and general manager of NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 and before that oversaw The Loop and AM 1000 in their heyday under Evergreen Media and Chancellor Broadcasting. "Forty great years in broadcasting . . . so many to thank," Wert told me. "Onward to newer and fewer responsibilities." All eyes now are on his plans for entrepreneurial ventures and other projects in development.
Nexstar's smartest move Thursday may have been the appointment of Tribune Media's chief spokesman, Gary Weitman, as executive vice president and chief communications officer. Weitman joined the former Tribune Co. as vice president of corporate communications in 2000 and rose to senior vice president of corporate relations. Weitman previously worked as senior vice president of media relations at Hill and Knowlton after more than a decade in local news at CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 and Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32. Weitman is expected to relocate to Dallas, where he'll be in charge of Nexstar's internal and external communications, media relations, employee communication and the company's intranet and its website, nexstar.tv.
"Svengoolie Meets the DC Universe"
Billed as "one of the quirkiest pop-culture mashups of all time," Chicago's beloved horror movie host "Svengoolie" will be featured in a series of DC comic books on sale throughout October. He'll appear in an eight-page story alongside Wonder Woman and others. "This is a dream come true for someone who's been a lifelong fan of DC superheroes since I first got into comics as a kid," said Rich Koz, now in his 40th year as the man behind the makeup. "I couldn't be prouder to have Svengoolie standing side by side with these iconic characters. I definitely identify with them, too; after all, I have to put on my costume before I can do my job, too!"
Newest reporter at CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 is Marissa Parra, just in from Washington, D.C., where she was a freelance producer for ABC News. A Bolivian native and graduate of the University of Maryland, Parra previously worked for WSET, the ABC affiliate in Lynchburg, Virginia, and WUSA, the CBS affiliate in Washington. "I'm excited to spend nights digging into papers and files in random places and tell you what I find," she wrote on Facebook. "And I'm equally excited to leap into the unknown and make CBS and Chicago my new home."
Mariam Sobh has signed off as evening news anchor at Entercom all-news WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM to pursue creative endeavors. "I'm really excited with the direction digital content is taking and look forward to exploring what's out there," said Sobh, who also performs standup comedy. "Over the last decade I've been honing my skills in digital media, performance, writing, producing and creating unique content. It's now or never to see where my skills and talent take me." Before joining WBBM Newsradio in 2014, Sobh worked as a reporter for Chicago Public Media WBEZ 91.5-FM and Illinois Radio Network. Until a permanent replacement is named, evenings will be anchored by a number of "familiar voices" filling in, according to Ron Gleason, director of news and programming.
But wait, there's more: It's the first-ever "K-Tel/Ronco Weekend" on MeTV FM. Starting at 7 p.m. tonight and running through midnight Sunday, the Weigel Broadcasting soft-rock oldies station at WRME 87.7-FM will highlight songs from the popular compilation albums put out by the two companies in the '70s and '80s. "K-Tel and Ronco records were eclectic . . . each one featuring an assortment of top hits along with songs that barely made the charts and, usually, a couple of totally unfamiliar artists -- across all genres," said program director Rick O'Dell. "Listeners can expect to hear quite a few songs we've never played on MeTV FM before."
Comment of the day
Bernie Cicirello: Even if Nextstar makes no changes at all, it feels like a slice of Chicago's heart and soul have been lost. Change is inevitable, so I hope the many good people employed under Tribune management will do well under the new management.
A personal note
I am posting sporadically here for a few weeks, but I'll be back on the beat full-time soon. In the meantime, be sure to catch every post by signing up for free email alerts. Just enter your email address in the box to the right under "Subscribe to Feder."