Sun-Times standing up for Spielman’s scoop on Mell

Robservations on the media beat:

  • Sun-Times editors aren’t backing off a bit from City Hall reporter Fran Spielman’s front-page exclusive Friday that Dick Mell was calling its quits after 38 years in the Chicago City Council. Spielman also reported that the powerful alderman had engineered to have his daughter, State Representative Deb Mell, appointed to succeed him. But when other reporters finally caught up with Mell, he labeled the report premature. (“I’ve been retiring for the past five years,” he told the Tribune. “Sure it’s tempting. I think it’s tempting for everybody.”) Despite Mell’s non-denial denial, Sun-Times editor-in-chief Jim Kirk said he has no second thoughts about how the paper played the news. “We made every attempt to reach Dick before and after the story,” Kirk told me. “I'm comfortable with our sourcing on it.”

  • Also in the news Friday was Mell’s other daughter, Patti Blagojevich. She’s suing Randy Michaels’ Merlin Media for using the likeness of her husband, disgraced former Governor Rod Blagojevich, on billboards for FM News 101.1 last year. Shia Kapos of Crain’s Chicago Business reported the suit seeks monetary damages for the use of Blago’s image next to the words: “He Never Listens to FM News 101.1.” The billboard campaign was a failure, as was the station (which went bust after one year). Blago is currently serving a 14-year prison sentence for corruption.

  • Cumulus Media showed little regard for its audience in dropping live, local programming on news/talk WLS-AM (890) Saturday mornings in favor of crappy infomercials. Without warning (except for a brief item here), listeners who tuned in to Jake Hartford’s Awake with Jake last weekend heard a gold show and a vitamin show in its place. Donna Baker, vice president and market manager of Cumulus Media in Chicago, said the paid programming may not be permanent and that it was possible Hartford could return to the time period. Except for a two-year hiatus, he’s been a Saturday morning fixture on WLS for 15 years. Since September, Hartford also has been co-hosting from 9 to 11am Monday through Friday with Tribune columnist John Kass.

  • Another loss for WLS last week was Dave Stewart, who’d been the station’s midday news anchor since 2010. “Change is part of life they say, and if I ever find out who ‘they’ are, I'm going to smack them upside the head,” Stewart told colleagues in a memo Friday. “But seriously, the joy of doing what we do is the collaboration behind the product that actually gets on the air.” His departure was prompted by the expiration of the station’ affiliation with Metro Networks, now owned by competitor Clear Channel’s Total Traffic Network. In its place, Cumulus Media has partnered with Radiate Media, a rival service. Technically, Stewart remains an employee of Metro, with his new assignment to be determined. He previously spent 28 years as a news anchor and City Hall reporter at Tribune Co.-owned news/talk WGN-AM (720).

  • Kudos to veteran Chicago newsman Charlie Meyerson, who's joining the elite team of bloggers at Chicago Public Media WBEZ-FM (91.5). Starting Monday, his daily roundup of the news will succeed the Punching Up the News blog originated by Justin Kaufmann (and written more recently by Marcus Gilmer). It's an ideal match for WBEZ and Meyerson, who pioneered the format as senior producer and Daywatch columnist for

  • Monday night will mark a homecoming of sorts for Chuck Swirsky, the veteran sportscaster and radio play-by-play voice of the Chicago Bulls. With ESPN Radio WMVP-AM (1000) airing Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship, it’ll switch the Bulls vs. Cleveland game to WGN — making it Swirsky’s first broadcast on the Tribune Co.-owned news/talk station since 1994. Swirsky spent 13 illustrious years as WGN’s sports director.

  • Brian Phillips, who was among on-air staffers at WRXP-FM in New York before Merlin Media sold the station to CBS Radio last October, has been added to the air staff of WIQI-FM (101.1), Merlin Media’s adult contemporary station here. Starting Monday, he’ll be heard at different times throughout the day. “I’m thrilled to join this like-minded team of radio misfits at Merlin,” Phillips said in a Merlin Media press release. He most recently was head of promotion and artist development at Megaforce Records.

  • With ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live moving to 10:35pm this week, all eyes are on Chicagoan Jill Leiderman, the show’s executive producer. ABC 7’s Janet Davies will profile the 41-year-old Northwestern University graduate who previously worked for David Letterman and Jon Stewart. The stories will air on ABC 7’s 10pm news Monday and 4pm news Tuesday. Leiderman is the daughter of Chicago broadcast veteran Mike Leiderman.



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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)