Irrepressible and irreplaceable: Stella’s most surprising scoop

Robservations on the media beat:

  • Stella Foster’s retirement after 43 years at the Sun-Times caught her bosses and colleagues by surprise. (Many learned of it when Crain’s Chicago Business blogger Shia Kapos posted an interview with Foster late Friday, scooping the Sun-Times on its own story.) A unique and irrepressible personality at the paper since 1969, Foster spent 34 years as assistant to legendary columnist Irv Kupcinet before inheriting the column after his death in 2003. Although the recent increase in the frequency of Stella’s Column from twice a week to five days a week may have hastened her decision to call it quits, it was, by all accounts, hers alone. “My last day at the paper is August 6, which just happens to be this sista’s birthday,” she told readers on her return from vacation Monday. There are no plans to replace her, but Sun-Times editor-in-chief Jim Kirk said the paper will be looking for new ways to cover the African-American community.

  • Remember when hosting mornings on the Loop used to be a big deal? Jim Richards, operations manager of Merlin Media classic rock WLUP-FM (97.9), coolly confirmed Wednesday that Maxwell, just in from Cleveland, will debut from 5:30 to 8:30am Monday on the Loop. (Maxwell broke the news himself on his own Facebook page Saturday). “But he’s not being advertised as the ‘new morning man,’ ” Richards said, adding that he’s “got a great track record [and is expected] to do well here, too.” Maxwell, whose real name is Benjamin Bornstein, previously hosted mornings on WNCX-FM and afternoons at WMMS-FM, both in Cleveland. “I’ll be playing a ton of music,” Maxwell wrote. “What it becomes is anybody’s guess. Stand by.” Richards denied speculation that current morning host Pete McMurray is getting forced out of the Loop. “He’s in,” Richards said.

  • Chris Bury, the Chicago-based national correspondent for ABC News and one of the best in the business, is stepping down after 30 years at the network. In an email to colleagues obtained by TVNewser, Bury, 58, wrote: “In the last few days, ABC News has shown — once again — what a great news organization it can be. For the last 30 years, I’ve been proud to do my part. Now, as I’m preparing to leave, I do want to thank so many talented colleagues for their enormous help over the years. It’s been a good run — through hurricanes, coup d’états, wars, presidential campaigns, scandals and all those quirky little stories along the way. My best to all of you down the road.” A graduate of Southern Illinois University and the University of Wisconsin, Bury was inducted in the Illinois Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame in 2004.

  • No official word yet on Sarah Kustok’s new job, but all signs Wednesday pointed to her heading for New York to join the YES Network, the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets regional sports network. Kustok, a local favorite who’s been a reporter for Comcast SportsNet Chicago since 2009 (and recently added on-air sports duties at NBC 5), wraps up her duties here August 3.

  • A suburban Pioneer Press photographer who took pictures and wrote captions for a “Question of the Week” feature has been nailed in the latest Chicago Journalism Scandal of the Week. Tamara Bell was fired for fabricating names and quotes, resulting in “dozens of false photo essays on numerous occasions.” Bell joined the company (now owned by Sun-Times Media) in 2000 after working for the Times of Northwest Indiana.

  • Manno overboard: Just weeks after Kevin Manno’s return to Chicago was hailed as a happy homecoming, he’s out of the lineup as weekend and fill-in personality at Hubbard Radio hot adult-contemporary WTMX-FM (101.9). Execs at The Mix say he’s pursuing television opportunities in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the search continues for a new host of U Mix It, the station’s 8pm-to-midnight weeknight request show. The job has been open since Erin Carman disappeared early last month. Thursday update: Program director Mary Ellen Kachinske now says: "Manno remains a part of The Mix team. He is unable to have a regular shift due to an unpredictable schedule right now and a great TV opportunity, however when he is home in Chicago he will be hosting shows."

  • What could be the most ill-timed comic strip in publishing history ran Wednesday in the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers across the country. Russell Myers’ Broom Hilda managed to combine movie theaters, action-adventure films and gunshots. See for yourself: Here is the link.



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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)