Payne reliever: WGN bosses in no rush to fill anchor vacancy

Robservations on the media beat:

  • In announcing her contract buyout from WGN-Channel 9 last week, news anchor Allison Payne made official what her colleagues at the Tribune Co.-owned station have been expecting for months: Her former seat alongside midday news anchor Steve Sanders is up for grabs. But that doesn’t mean the station is in any rush to fill it. “The Midday is doing well and we’ll take some time for our next decisions,” WGN news director Greg Caputo told me. “We’ll miss Allison, but for the time being we’ll keep things as they are.”  For most of the year, medical reporter Dina Bair has been doing double duty as Payne’s substitute. Among other insiders believed to be pitching the job are Judie Garcia and Nancy Loo.

  • Saying he’s “thrilled to be back on the air in Chicago,” Steve Cochran has joined Salem Communications news/talk WIND-AM (560) as afternoon personality. Confirming a report here Thursday, the Chicago radio veteran will be on from 5 to 7pm Monday through Friday, replacing the syndicated Michael Savage (whose status is up in the air). No start date has been announced for the show. “I will do what I do, but it will definitely be more political,” Cochran told me. “I’ve always been a nut for politics, and because that is the core of what WIND does, it gives me more room to let it rip.” Of his new bosses, he added: “They get it. They understand my equity in this town, and all they want from me are great shows everyday.”

  • The mother of All My Children is returning to bid farewell to Pine Valley. As the venerable soap opera nears the end of its 41-year run on ABC, the legendary Agnes Nixon will appear starting August 31 in the role of Pine Valley Hospital board member Agnes Eckhart (her maiden name). Nixon, who got her start in the business working for Irna Phillips, the Chicagoan who invented the soap opera on radio, went on to create All My Children and One Life to Live and write for many, many others. As noted here last April when ABC announced the demise of both soaps: Every single weekday since 1951, a daytime drama episode either written or created by Nixon has aired on one of the networks. And it all started in Chicago.

  • Daryl Hawks, the 38-year-old sports anchor who was found in a hotel room in Atlanta, died of an apparent heart attack caused by hypertension, WMAQ-Channel 5 reported on its website this week. Citing the Fulton County medical examiner’s office, the NBC-owned station concluded what had been a mystery for the last three months. On May 12, Hawks was found in Atlanta’s Omni Hotel, where he was staying while covering the Bulls in the NBA playoffs. Results of the initial autopsy were inconclusive. NBC 5 filled the vacancy last month by promoting part-timer Mike Adamle to full-time sports anchor status.

  • Margaret Ramirez shared in a Pulitzer Prize at Newsday for breaking news coverage before she joined the Chicago Tribune in 2004. Now she’s gone, taking her reporting skills and her deft touch as the paper’s obituary editor and head writer to the academic world. “Thanks for all your warmth and wisdom,” she told colleagues in an email. “I’m off to share it with the next generation.” Ramirez joins a growing list of veteran Trib staffers who’ve left voluntarily in recent months, including deputy business editor Lorna Wong, editorial board member Oscar Avila, and reporters Gerry Smith, Julie Johnsson and Andy Zajac.

  • Downsizing continues at WFLD-Channel 32 with the departure of Diane Carbonara, who’s been an investigative and special projects producer at Fox Chicago for nine years. She’s joining the FBI to do community relations and media relations.

  • Darren Davis, who once headed programming and operations for Clear Channel Radio’s seven-station cluster in Chicago, continues to move up the corporate ladder. He’s just been named senior vice president and general manager of national programming platforms. Continuing to be based in Chicago, he’ll lead Clear Channel’s programming operations center and its Premium Choice network. Davis most recently was senior vice president of national distribution.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)