WGN radio, a station that has been my home on the dial since a teenager, has finally seen the light. I am pleased to learn that there has been a shake-up at Tribune Towers and the ‘pig virus’ has been flushed down the toilet. (Hopefully the sewer does not throw him back into the street.)
The station that I heard as I fell asleep at night as a teenager, traveled with during the many hours back and forth to Sturgeon Bay, and have programmed on all my radios at home and in the car, is returning to their senses. Like many I feel very attached to this station, an 86-year-old Chicago broadcasting institution, and have long cared for it. After all, WGN was there in all the major events, elections, and long nights when I was not feeling well. How could I not care for it?
How many folks around the country are as gleeful as I am over the news today? Countless numbers to be sure.
And all for one reason.
Kevin Metheny, the WGN-AM 720 program director whose abrupt moves to grow the audience grew a well of resentment among some long-time listeners, is leaving the station along with his most controversial hire, convicted former Chicago City Clerk Jim Laski.
Laski is of course, a story all to himself.
Laski served time in federal prison after pleading guilty to one of the two bribery counts against him, admitting he accepted nearly $50,000 to steer city trucking business to cronies. Some of those who might have forgiven that transgression were unable to overlook his choppy on-air style.
Of course the damage to so much of WGN still lingers. On-air talents like Kathy and Judy and Steve Cochran have been ruined, and listeners have strayed. Over the past many months I have posted many times on the sadness many feel about the blows this station has taken due to the jackasses that took over management. Never before has a power-house of a radio station been so rocked with bad decisions and arrogant and incompetent leadership.
The mess was not only what we heard on the radio, but also the ones taking place right at the head of the Tribune Company. I was pleased when Randy Michael’s , Tribune Company CEO, was fired recently. He will be less fond of breasts, I suspect, in the future.
As one who worked in radio I know the bond that can develop between listener and on-air talent. What has troubled me about the WGN moves over the past months is that the bond should not be in only one direction. The radio station must care as much about the audience, as the audience does for the broadcasters.
WGN Radio forgot that lesson.
And paid a price.
When WGN hired Greg Jarrett (a man I have said is at his best when the volume of the radio is off) from San Francisco, and midday host Mike McConnell from Cincinnati it was clear what they wanted. There was less of a Chicago feel to the station. Lacking was the inside knowledge and love of the city that morning on-air talent or mid-day hosts should bring to the air.
Today we can only hope that the end of the ‘pig virus” Kevin Metheny era will bring back sanity and good taste to a radio station that has been a broadcasting icon. Lowering standards into the gutter with trash talk is not good for ratings. It is not good for the industry. It is not good for America.
The old-fashioned ideals that I have over the relationship that radio has played, and should continue to play in our country, has not dimmed due to the insanity of Kevin Metheny and others who undermined WGN.
I am confident that the lesson has been learned, and that a brighter day will return to WGN radio.
Every WGN listener can smile today.