Hoedown lowdown: An American radio classic turns 89

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Robservations on the media beat:



  • It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event for fans of radio history and country music: The 89th anniversary of The WLS National Barn Dance will be commemorated March 23 at the site of the show’s original studio at 1230 West Washington Boulevard. The landmark weekly variety show, which ran on WLS-AM (890) from 1924 to 1960, was credited with popularizing country music nationwide. Starting at 3pm, the celebration will feature classic country music and documentary clips from Stephen Parry's acclaimed documentary The Hayloft Gang: The Story of the National Barn Dance. Parry also will moderate a panel featuring authors and historians Scott Childers, James F. Evans, Paul Tyler and David Wyle. Tickets for the event, hosted by the Museum of Broadcasting Communications, are available online for $89.



  • Was she or wasn’t she? Bill Kurtis will host The Insanity Retrial of Mary Todd Lincoln, a 90-minute special at 9pm Friday on WTTW-Channel 11. Taped last fall at Murphy Auditorium in Chicago, the special features contemporary attorneys, judges, expert witnesses and a jury restaging the 1875 trial that found the widow of Abraham Lincoln insane and committed her to Bellevue Sanatorium in Batavia, Illinois. Viewers will be able to register their verdict at wttw.com/lincolntrial. The dramatic re-enactment is a production of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission.



  • Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert is the only working journalist to make Chicago magazine's list of The Power 100 for 2013. The Pulitzer Prize winner ranks 74th among the most powerful Chicagoans in business, politics and culture. Others with connections to media on the list include Jerry Reinsdorf (5), David Axelrod (10), Rocky Wirtz (11), Joe Mansueto (14), Sam Zell (15), Mellody Hobson (41), Fred Eychaner (49), Linda Johnson Rice (60) and Michael Ferro Jr. (69). The complete list appears online and in the magazine's March issue.



  • The Chicago TV Academy finally made official what readers of this space anticipated a month ago: Veteran broadcasters Janet Davies, Mike Flannery, Mike Parker and Jim Rose have been chosen for induction in the academy’s Silver Circle. Joining them will be news director Greg Caputo, producer Jamie Ceaser and the late pioneer Norm Barry. The recognition must be especially poignant for Davies, coming just days after cancellation of 190 North, her long-running ABC 7 magazine show. All seven will be honored May 17 at the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel.



  • Coinciding with Black History Month, a 2012 documentary about a legendary black-owned comedy club in Chicago will air at 7pm Saturday and 1pm Sunday on WGN. Phunny Business: A Black Comedy recalls the rise and fall of All Jokes Aside, the swanky South Loop venue that advanced the careers of Jamie Foxx, Bernie Mac, Chris Rock, Mo'Nique, Cedric the Entertainer, Steve James, D.L. Hughley, Dave Chappelle and many others in the ’90s. The film was written, produced and directed by John Davies, the former Chicago producer (Sneak Previews, Wild Chicago).



  • Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday will be celebrated with a half-hour special, SportsNet Central: MJ 23/50, at 10:30pm Sunday on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. Hosted by Luke Stuckmeyer from the United Center, the special will feature highlights of Jordan’s career and interviews with Scottie Pippen, Toni Kukoc, Kobe Bryant, Clyde Drexler, Stacey King, Kendall Gill, Doug Collins, Greg Popovich, Sam Smith, Bill Melton, Dave Otto and Jeremy Roenick, among others. It’ll air again at 10:30pm February 20. (Not to be outdone, ESPN has posted 23 Ways to Celebrate Michael Jordan’s 50th Birthday.)



  • Jason Schaumburg, who quit last November after six months as executive editor of Pioneer Press, has returned to Shaw Media as editor of the Northwest Herald. Before joining the chain of suburban weeklies owned by Sun-Times Media, Schaumburg had been senior editor of Shaw Media and managing editor of the Northwest Herald. "Excited to be returning to Shaw Media to lead a talented group of journalists at @nwherald," he tweeted Monday.



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