Schmich wins Pulitzer: Somewhere, Brenda Starr is cheering

Robservations on the media beat:

  • One year ago in this space, a former editor of the Chicago Tribune called Mary Schmich the most powerful woman in Chicago journalism. On Monday, the Pulitzer Prize committee named her the best columnist in America. In awarding Schmich the Pulitzer for commentary, the committee cited “her wide range of down-to-earth columns that reflect the character and capture the culture of her famed city.” Schmich, 58, a native of Savannah, Georgia, and graduate of Pomona College in Claremont, California, joined the Tribune in 1985. Minus a year off at Harvard University on a Nieman Fellowship, she’s been a columnist since 1992. For 25 years, she also moonlighted as author of Brenda Starr. When the comic strip about an ambitious and sassy female reporter ended its seven-decade run, Schmich wrote of herself: “The 10-year-old girl who lay on the living room floor reading the funnies all those years ago couldn't have hoped for more.” Except maybe to win her own Pulitzer.

  • Chicago’s other connection to the 2012 Pulitzer Prizes came via John Sullivan, a senior lecturer of journalism at Northwestern University and assistant director of the Medill Watchdog project. Before joining the Medill faculty last year, Sullivan co-led the team of Philadelphia Inquirer reporters who won the Pulitzer for public service for a seven-part series on violence in the city’s schools. “The reporting effort taught me what a diverse group of talented and dedicated reporters can do when harnessed together,” Sullivan said in a statement. “It’s the same principle at Watchdog.”

  • He’s keeping the waterfalls and the buffalo, but Bill Kurtis is selling 3,600 acres of his beloved Red Buffalo Ranch near Sedan, Kansas. “Selling it is like cutting off an arm,” the veteran Chicago news anchor and documentary producer (and native of Independence, Kansas) told the Wichita Eagle. “But the story is that we are coming out of this recession, and I wanted to clear some debt.” The land for sale is on the north end of his ranch, which Kurtis began acquiring in the 1990s. It’s said to be prime hunting ground for whitetail deer, turkey, prairie chicken and quail.

  • Arbitron ratings released Monday for the winter quarter brought more good news to Hubbard Broadcasting’s dynamic duo — classic rock WDRV-FM (97.1) and hot adult-contemporary WTMX-FM (101.9). The two stations tied for first place overall among listeners between 25 and 54 (the group most coveted by advertisers) with identical 5.3 percent shares. The Drive also topped the market among adults in middays with Bob Stroud and evenings with Phil Manicki, while the Mix led the way in mornings with megastars Eric Ferguson and Kathy Hart.

  • It’s the end of the line for the Chicago Independent Ad Network. After just six months in business, the consortium of civic-minded blogs and community news websites will cease operation as of April 30. From the Beachwood Reporter to Windy Citizen, 15 local sites were aligned with the network, which launched last fall with a $50,000 startup grant from the Chicago Community Trust. In announcing the closing, business manager Mike Fourcher said in a statement: “This unfortunate outcome is the result of two basic facts: there were not enough sales to pay for continuing operations and not enough outside funding to keep the network in operation.”

  • Two of Chicago’s premier talk stations — Tribune Co. news/talk WGN-AM (720) and Midway Broadcasting urban news/talk WVON-AM (1690) — are the latest to join iHeartRadio, the customizable digital radio service owned by Clear Channel. Both will be part of the service’s free worldwide distribution through the Internet and via mobile devices and other apps. (WGN previously announced its addition to TuneIn.) Calling it a “win-win for both WVON and iHeartRadio,” Melody Spann Cooper, chairman of Midway Broadcasting, said: “We’ll reach a national audience, our listeners will have the benefit of taking the station wherever they go by using their smart phones, and iHeartRadio gets the benefit of our best-in-class urban talk format.”

  • The return of Jonathon Brandmeier’s weekly late-night variety show Friday delivered top ratings for NBC 5. Brandmeier finished first not only in overall households but among viewers between 25 and 54, according to Nielsen figures. Not bad for a low-budget experiment that had been off the air since Johnny B. made his radio comeback last December. The show also airs at various times on the NBC Chicago NonStop digital channel.



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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)