Robservations on the media beat:
It wouldn’t be New Year’s Eve in Chicago without Janet Davies and Mark Giangreco. Back for their 20th year together, the duo will host “Countdown Chicago 2021” live at 11:25 p.m. tonight on ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7. In a format adapted to the realities of the pandemic, they’ll ring in the New Year from a redecorated “Windy City Live” studio. Returning with an elaborate dance routine to open the show will be ABC 7’s Terrell Brown and Cheryl Scott. The abbreviated half-hour special will conclude with a flashback of Chicago’s grand finale New Year’s Eve fireworks. But the big question is: Will Janet and Mark keep up their annual tradition of locking lips at the stroke of midnight? Yes, according to Giangreco, who added: “It’s going to be a hot steamy passionate socially-distanced sanitized smooch.” Also on tap is “News Year’s Eve Chicago,” a taped special airing at 11:30 p.m. tonight on NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5. Matthew Rodrigues and Cortney Hall, hosts of NBC 5’s “Chicago Today,” recorded the show from the rooftop of the LondonHouse Chicago.
Look for WGN 720-AM to add more syndicated programming in the coming year. Starting Tuesday the Nexstar Media Group news/talk station will air “The Jim Bohannon Show,” syndicated by Westwood One Network, from 1 to 4 a.m. weeknights. Most recently airing in the time period has been a rerun of John Williams’s midday show. Bohannon, a Radio Hall of Famer who worked at Chicago’s former WCFL in the 1980s, replaced Larry King in the Westwood One/Mutual overnight slot in 1993. Although the Washington-based talk show marks another setback to WGN’s tradition of local programming around the clock, station bosses say their newscasts will continue to originate live from their newsroom.
Will this be the year a woman finally gets promoted to full-time weekday host on The Score? That could be the big announcement they’re teasing for next week on WSCR 670-AM, the Entercom sports/talk station. Speculation centers on Leila Rahimi, who’s been co-hosting middays with Dan Bernstein once a week — from 9 a.m. to noon every Wednesday — since she was laid off in August after a five-year run at NBC Sports Chicago. Now Rahimi could be in line to co-host with Bernstein five days a week. Stay tuned.
Jim Kirk, publisher and executive editor of Crain’s Chicago Business, has been promoted to group publisher for Crain Communications. In his new role, Kirk will oversee business and editorial operations in New York, Detroit and Cleveland, while continuing his current duties in Chicago. Before returning to Crain’s, where he previously was chief of editorial operations, the veteran Chicago journalist worked as editor in chief of the Los Angeles Times, senior vice president of strategic initiatives at the Chicago Tribune, and editor and publisher of the Sun-Times. “We knew Jim’s experience in leading three major daily newspapers would be a plus when he returned to Crain in 2018,” said KC Crain, CEO of Crain Communications. “His laser focus on digital products and audience growth were part of a successful year at Crain’s Chicago Business in this challenging year.”
Block Club Chicago, the essential digital news source for local reporting in the city, is ending the year on a high note: On Wednesday the nonprofit site reached its goal of 15,000 paid subscribers. “We couldn’t be more proud of the way Chicagoans continue to come to Block Club,” said Shamus Toomey, editor-in-chief (and co-founder with fellow DNAinfo Chicago alumni Stephanie Lulay and Jen Sabella). “It’s been a trying year for everyone, but readers stuck by us as our reporters worked to get them the latest from their neighborhoods. We hope to keep growing in 2021 with more reporters, more neighborhoods and more impact. Thanks to everyone who played a role in our growth.”
Zoraida Sambolin, who’s been missing in action as morning news anchor at NBC 5 since November, was said to be “dealing with some personal issues,” according to the station. Now comes word she’ll be away indefinitely “to focus on her health and care for a loved one.” In a recent Facebook post Sambolin wrote: “I appreciate all your concern and definitely do not want to worry you. This is not a COVID quarantine, I’m just trying to give doctors and my body the time needed to get healthy. I’m also going to be caring for a loved one who needs surgery so the break will feel longer. I miss you and look forward to seeing you soon.” Except for a brief stint at CNN, the Chicago native has been anchoring mornings at NBC 5 since 2007.
Alden Global Capital, the New York-based hedge fund that owns a 32 percent stake in Tribune Publishing, reportedly is poised to take over the company. The Wall Street Journal reports Alden could disclose an offer for the remaining stake in the parent company of the Chicago Tribune as soon as today. That would be devastating news considering Alden’s reputation for bleeding companies dry through sweeping layoffs and other cutbacks. “Alden Global Capital won’t stop until it guts the newspaper and the city will be harmed by less journalism,” tweeted Greg Pratt, incoming president of the Chicago Tribune Guild. “This news about the hedge fund wanting full control is very, very bad.” Alden initially acquired 25 percent of Tribune Publishing in a deal with former majority owner Michael Ferro in 2019.
A tip of the hat to Les Grobstein, who marked his 50th year as a radio sportscaster this week. On December 29, 1970, his first broadcast was a basketball game between Northwestern and Duke. Still going strong from midnight to 5 a.m. Monday through Friday on The Score, Grobstein has been called “Chicago’s human sports almanac” for his amazing memory. A Chicago original who attended Von Steuben High School and Columbia College, he’s been a mainstay of The Score since 1997. Earlier Grobstein spent 10 years as sports director of WLS 890-AM, where he captured for posterity the infamous tirade by Cubs manager Lee Elia in 1983.
Many people are credited with the success of WXRT 93.1-FM, the adult album alternative treasure, and The Score — now both owned by Entercom. But neither would be around without Danny Lee, the visionary entrepreneur who launched both formats and nurtured their success. Lee, who sold the stations in 1995, died December 25 at his home in Glencoe. He was 78. “Danny Lee presided over the rise of two Chicago radio stations that are known across the country,” WXRT midday personality Lin Brehmer wrote in an online tribute. “It was Danny who embraced the vision of three music fans to experiment with a progressive music format after midnight. Seth Mason, John Platt and Bob Shulman were the trio that took the experiment to the airwaves. The experiment turned into WXRT, ‘Chicago’s Fine Rock station,’ a David among radio Goliaths. . . . In 1990 Danny Lee and his general manager Seth Mason conspired to capture the attention of the Chicago sports fanatic. They acquired an AM signal and hired a collection of sportswriters, sportscasters and the owner of a hot dog stand to fashion Chicago’s best-loved sports-talk radio station.”
Wednesday’s comment of the day: Doyle Landry: Today’s content is Mr. Feder’s masterclass on the importance on relationships.