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WGN Radio Ownership Perhaps To Change To Sinclair Broadcast Group–A Stain On Professionalism

April 5, 2018

I have been listening to WGN radio for over 40 years.  It has been the benchmark which I gauge other stations–other then NPR–which has its special brand of professionalism.  I am so concerned about the future status of this institution on the radio dial due to the up-coming actions of the Trump Administration.

From the years in my bedroom in Hancock, Wisconsin where the words from Eddie Schwartz would lull me to sleep and Wally Phillips would make me laugh as I got ready for school.  From “the girlfriends’ during mid-day in my adult years, to Steve and Johnnie at night–there was never a year when WGN was not a home or car companion.

Media manipulation is a real phenomenon.  It is bad for the industry.  It is bad for democracy.  I get the fact that too many in our nation have no idea what those last three sentences mean.   That too is part of the problem we face, and why our nation is now in such a troubling place.

It was ‘Chicago ‘ Ed Schwartz who made me aware that a radio announcer could be a friend to those who listened.  Equally important Eddie was wildly successful even though he did not have what might be considered a classic sounding radio voice.  Both of those lessons were ones I took with me to my job at WDOR radio in Sturgeon Bay when I sat in the broadcast booth.

Now radio is being used as a political tool aimed for not being that invited company which my mom turned to as she ironed clothes, or I wanted on long car trips, but instead as a way to manipulate news, spin politics, and rack up wins for partisans.

WGN always stood apart from other talk stations due to how each broadcaster cast his or her own show.  Being a companion on the dial as opposed to being bombastic and crude made WGN personalities always welcome.    What may be in the offing is hard to accept.

Jeff Hoover, a longtime producer and on-air contributor for WGN-Channel 9’s top-rated morning news show, was the first employee to speak out Monday about the impending takeover of the Tribune Media station by Sinclair Broadcast Group.

In response to a video montage that went viral last weekend showing anchors at Sinclair stations delivering identical messages parroting President Donald Trump’s anti-media talking points, Hoovertweeted: “Re: Sinclair – There is NO WAY any of our on-air anchors and reporters will read their scripted messages on our show. Chicago’s Very Own, not owned.

Referring to the video of Sinclair’s media-bashing campaign, a third source said it “validated everyone’s fears about the company. It’s a very bad joke — a real embarrassment and the furthest thing from credible journalism.”

Back last spring when the $3.9 billion deal with Sinclair was first announced, the irreverent cast of “WGN Morning News” mined it for laughs. Anchorman Larry Potash called Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley live on the air and left a voice mail message asking: “What can we expect? Is the holiday party going to be a bit better this year?” The next day, weatherman Paul Konrad concluded a bit about the new owners with the deadpan: “I’m sure that it’s going to be better here for us in the future.”

No one’s joking about it anymore.

With “Chicago’s Very Own” producing more than 70 hours of local news each week, the prospect of Sinclair calling the shots has people who care about ethics and integrity in the newsroom feeling anxious and worried.

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