When it comes to news, is WGN Radio all talk?
Mon May 7 2012
With the layoff of award-winning Chicago radio veteran Jim Gudas as midday news anchor last week, news/talk WGN-AM (720) is becoming less “news” and more “talk” than ever.
Bill White, director of programming and news at the Tribune Co.-owned station, said the move was made solely for financial reasons. Gudas will not be replaced, and his duties have been divided among others in WGN’s dwindling news department.
White added the news title to his programming role after the station chose not to replace Charlie Meyerson, who exited as news director last June. Rob Hart, a news anchor and reporter, also was not replaced when he quit last July to join Meyerson at Merlin Media all-news WIQI-FM (101.1).
The elimination of three positions in less than a year leaves WGN with just four full-time news employees — anchors Judy Pielach (who carries the additional title of “newsroom coordinator”), Steve Bertrand, Andrea Darlas and Paula Cooper. Weekends are handled by part-timers.
With no one to cover City Hall (Dave Stewart was cut in 2010), cops and firemen (Larry Schreiner’s been gone since 2005) or any other beats, WGN has to rely increasingly on reporters for the Chicago Tribune or WGN-Channel 9 whenever news breaks. The company also dropped its affiliations with ABC News and the Associated Press.
For a station that once was a radio news leader, WGN hardly seems competitive with CBS Radio all-news WBBM-AM (780), which also simulcasts on WCFS-FM (105.9), or with Chicago Public Media WBEZ-FM (91.5). The elimination of Gudas’s position is one more step in the wrong direction.
Gudas began his career as an intern and a summer replacement news writer at WGN in 1986 after graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He later worked for other stations in the market — including Newsradio 780 and former all-news WMAQ — and for Chicago-based syndication company Sound Targeting. He returned to WGN as a news anchor and reporter in 2006.
In response to an outpouring of good wishes after his dismissal, Gudas told Facebook friends: “I know something good will come of this, and like a good book, I’m ready for the next chapter.”