So long, Paula: NBC 5 loses ‘true team player’

Robservations on the media beat:

  • It’s game over after this weekend’s Sports Sunday for Paula Faris, who’ll wrap up six years as sports anchor/reporter at NBC 5. “Saying goodbye is never easy, but I know I’ll have a forever connection to Chicago,” she said. As first reported here in October, Faris, 36, is leaving to join ABC News in New York next month as co-anchor of World News Now, the overnight news show. (The network still has not made it official, nor has Faris confirmed it.) "I’m so humbled and extremely overwhelmed by the amount of support my family's received,” she told me. “While we're at peace about our decision, words can't express how much we are going to miss this amazing city and the relationships we've cultivated.” Frank Whittaker, station manager and vice president of news at NBC 5, praised Faris as “a true team player” and a “relentless advocate for the sports department — fighting to get everything from crews to promotion to air time. . . . We will certainly miss her.”

  • You’ve got to hand it to Randy Michaels. The guy’s done such a bang up job with the launch of FM News 101.1 here and its counterpart in New York that his Merlin Media investors are buying him another major market station to play with. For a cool $22.5 million, Merlin has agreed to acquire WKDN-FM in Philadelphia as a third outlet for its FM News format. That’s assuming the busy CEO isn’t otherwise detained: Coming up this Wednesday, Michaels has a pretrial hearing in the Middletown, Ohio, municipal courts stemming from his drunken driving charge last October.

  • One of the most ambitious radio documentary series ever produced is finally accessible online. Twenty years after Chuck Schaden debuted Radio and World War II, he has brought the landmark four-year retrospective to his Speaking of Radio website. Starting with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the series features vintage radio broadcasts week-by-week through the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945. Schaden, who retired as host of Those Were the Days in 2009, originally aired the series in weekly installments to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the war from 1991 to 1995.

  • The Chicago Reporter will provide additional investigative reporting power and prestige to NBC 5 as part of an agreement between nonprofit news organizations and NBC-owned stations in five cities. “The recent recessions have taught us many things, among them is that there is a great need for the voices of the disenfranchised to be illuminated,” Kimbriell Kelly, editor and interim publisher of the race relations newsletter funded by the Community Renewal Society, said in a statement. “The Chicago Reporter is looking forward to combining our 40 years of investigative reporting and analysis around race and poverty with the heft of the investigative staff at NBC.

  • Al Jazeera English, the Middle East-based news operation which recently began airing on Window to the World Communications public television WTTW-Channel 11, continues to boost its presence in Chicago. John Hendren, a former ABC News White House correspondent, began this week as Chicago bureau correspondent for Al Jazeera English. The bureau here is expected to open later this month.

  • Jeff Andrews, program director and afternoon personality at WNFN-FM in Nashville, Tennessee, has been named assistant program director of oldies WLS-FM (94.7). Both stations are owned by Cumulus Media. Andrews will report to Jan Jeffries, Chicago-based senior vice president of programming for Cumulus. Starting Monday, Andrews will assume some of the former duties of Michael LaCrosse, whose position as operations director was eliminated in Cumulus cutbacks last October. On Wednesday, LaCrosse was named operations manager of Clear Channel Radio’s six-station group in Spokane, Washington. Another Chicagoan, Dan Manella, was named market manager for Clear Channel in Spokane. He most recently was a senior account executive at CBS Radio sports/talk WSCR-AM (670).

  • Good news for another victim of the recent Cumulus cutbacks: Jock Hedblade, who was forced out as executive producer of Roe Conn and Richard Roeper’s afternoon show at news/talk WLS-AM (890), has landed as a segment producer for The Rosie Show, Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show produced at Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios.

  • It’s nice to see our old friend Ben Hollis still wearing that trusty pith helmet. The original host, co-creator and co-producer of WTTW’s award-winning Wild Chicago series is back on the beat with Wild Berwyn, an online video venture promoting the west suburban business community, produced by the Berwyn Development Corp. (Berwyn? Wait till Svengoolie hears about this!)


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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)