Splash this: Sun-Times signs Jenny McCarthy as columnist

Robservations on the media beat:

  • That sound you’re hearing is Mike Royko, Sydney J. Harris and Herman Kogan spinning in their graves. Late Thursday, the Sun-Times announced the hiring of actress, author and former Playboy Playmate Jenny McCarthy as its newest columnist. Ask Jenny will appear Sundays in the newspaper’s Splash section, and her blog will run Monday through Friday at splash.suntimes.com, starting next week. The column will answer reader questions about “love, sex, parenting, friendship, fitness and more,” while the blog will focus on “the daily joys, juggle and struggles of being a single mother” to McCarthy’s 10-year-old son Evan. “I’ve signed contracts over the past 20 years that were multimillion-dollar deals, but I am more excited about this one than anything I’ve done since my first deal at Singled Out,” McCarthy told Splash editor Susanna Negovan in an interview for Sunday’s edition. “Not only is [the Sun-Times] something that I grew up reading, but I just feel honored. I actually feel like it’s a privilege to do it.” One insider called the deal “Michael Ferro’s wet dream,” referring to the celebrity-obsessed chairman of Sun-Times owner Wrapports LLC. Sun-Times editor-in-chief Jim Kirk’s name did not appear in the announcement.

  • The Chicago Tribune will begin charging $14.99 a month for access to its premium online content on November 1. That’s a mighty steep paywall for those who’ve been freeloading for years. But with the Sun-Times, Daily Herald and Crain’s Chicago Business already charging for digital access, the move was inevitable. “We are committed to making the consumer and advertiser experience valuable and we will continue to tweak and improve it along the way,” Bill Adee, vice president for digital development and operations, told Tribune staffers in a memo. Seven-day print subscribers will have full online access at no extra charge. Those who subscribe to the paper for less than seven days can add digital access for 49 cents a week.

  • A who’s who of Chicago television past and present turned out at Gibson’s Thursday night to toast Walter Jacobson on the publication of Walter’s Perspective: A Memoir of Fifty Years in Chicago TV News. With broadcast executives from all over town in the room, Jacobson’s longtime anchor partner, Bill Kurtis, couldn’t resist making a pitch for the duo, whose contracts at CBS 2 are up in February. “We’re available!” Kurtis said half-jokingly, before Bill & Walter wowed the crowd with a brief Q&A.

  • Dave Newbart, assistant metro editor at the Sun-Times, has been hired as a senior editor at DNAInfo.com Chicago, the hyperlocal digital news service starting up in the coming weeks. A graduate of Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, Newbart began at the Sun-Times as assistant to columnist Michael Sneed and went on to reporting. He joins former Sun-Times reporter Mark Konkol, who broke the news on Twitter: “So stoked to welcome my pal Dave Newbart from @SunTimes to the #DNAinfo team. Dave is a Sox fan, Bears fan and a great news editor.”

  • With Bob Brenly heading back to Phoenix to rejoin the Arizona Diamondbacks as TV analyst, speculation is heating up on his successor in the Cubs broadcast booth. “We don’t rule out anybody,” Bob Vorwald, director of productions for WGN, told the Tribune. “We’ll start with a clean slate. . . . You’re bringing someone into the family talking to Cubs fans three hours a day. We don’t take that lightly.” After eight seasons opposite play-by-play announcer Len Kasper, Brenly said: “Working here in Chicago was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my professional career.” To which veteran TV critic Aaron Barnhart added: “Behind, of course, WINNING A RING.” (Brenly managed the Diamondbacks to the 2001 World Series title.)

  • Marcus Riley, entertainment content producer for NBC 5 and NBCChicago.com, is the new president of the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He succeeds Lucas Palermo, who served as president since 2010. Riley, who calls himself “your average British-born, Canadian-raised, Caribbean-cultured Chicago dude,” is the first African American to lead the Chicago TV Academy in its 54-year history.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)