Power play: Newsradio shows off clout in simulcast launch

Robservations on the media beat:

  • Sure, the move was overdue by at least a year or two. And sure, it was practically forced on them by an upstart competitor. But when CBS Radio bosses finally expanded the all-news format of top-rated WBBM-AM (780) to WCFS-FM (105.9) this week, they did so in style. Declaring it “a new era for the city,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel symbolically flipped the switch as Newsradio 780 kicked off its FM simulcast Monday. “Having an informed citizenry is essential,” he declared. “You’re serious at the craft of being journalists; covering the news and keeping the public informed about what the choices are and what we face are as a city — together.” Also on hand was Governor Pat Quinn, who said: “The news is really important in a democracy. It’s important that we have great coverage of politics and current events.  Having the FM opportunity as well as the 78 that everybody knows is real good.” As any Chicago pol knows, being No. 1 has its privileges.

  • You give us 22 minutes, we’ll make you cringe: The best that can be said of the all-news format on Merlin Media’s WWWN-FM (101.1) is that it remains a work in progress. The concept of a looser, more conversational news presentation may have merit. But as it’s being executed on FM News 101.1 — which made its official launch last Sunday — the station comes across as a blundering, amateurish, woefully unprepared mess. Then again did anyone really expect a quality product from Randy Michaels?

  • It's over and out for Allison Payne after 21 years as news anchor at WGN-Channel 9. According to Sun-Times columnist Stella Foster, management of the Tribune Co.-owned station has agreed to a "substantial buyout" of Payne's contract, paving the way for her departure next month. But it's really just a formality since Payne, 47, has been off the air all year due to a variety of ailments. Payne failed a series of trial runs last February that would have returned her to the midday newscast she anchored with Steve Sanders. "The station management has been so supportive, and I appreciate this amicable parting, because my health had become a burden to the station," she told Foster. "I hope to continue working in broadcasting in some capacity and will consider other professional opportunities."

  • Planet Paige is back in orbit: Eight weeks after she was fired over fabricating part of a Glee concert review, former Sun-Times TV critic and columnist Paige Wiser has launched her own website at paigewiser.com. (In a revealing blog post titled “The Shame Diaries,” she offers a final word on the scandal and its aftermath.) “I missed the interaction with readers,” Wiser told me Wednesday. “The website is mainly for me. I need an outlet. I’m going to a meeting for a Chicago bloggers’ network next week, and I love the idea of a real community. Writing for each other’s sites, linking back and forth. A virtual salon!”

  • Michelle Relerford, who once worked as a freelance reporter at Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32, is returning to her hometown as a reporter and fill-in news anchor at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5. She most recently was a reporter and weekend anchor at WHDH-TV in Boston. “This is a homecoming for Michelle,” Frank Whittaker, station manager and vice president of news at NBC 5, said in a statement. “She grew up on the South Side, a graduate of Whitney Young High School, and interned in our investigative unit nearly a decade ago. We are pleased to have her join our team.” Relerford, who also graduated from the University of Connecticut, starts here September 6.

  • In the six years he covered the media beat for the Chicago Tribune, Phil Rosenthal rarely made waves. His evenhandedness could be either admirable or frustrating, depending on your point of view. But now that he’s been recast as a general business columnist, Rosenthal seems to be tweeting with abandon about media people. On Sunday he went after Dean Richards, the veteran entertainment reporter at Trib-owned WGN, ripping him for the hat he was wearing (invoking a Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight scene from Caddyshack) and slamming a station promo that implied Richards was reviewing Paul McCartney’s Wrigley Field concert from a nearby rooftop. That wasn't the case. An angry Richards fired back on Facebook (“nice try at trying to smear me”), setting off an epic exchange between the two. Now that’s entertainment!

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)