Will ‘guy talk’ from Canellis score with Roe & Roeper’s fans?

Roe Conn’s first radio gig in Chicago was filling in as a $5-an-hour afternoon host on Loyola University’s WLUW-FM (88.7). A recent graduate of Denison University in Ohio, he was moonlighting from his job with Sheila King Public Relations. Conn’s sportscaster on the show was a Loyola senior named Lou Canellis.

Fast-forward 27 years and the two veteran Chicago broadcasters are back together in the very same roles.

Canellis, now top sports anchor at Fox 32, has signed as a permanent contributor to the WLS-AM (890) afternoon show hosted by Conn and Richard Roeper. Starting this week, Canellis will join Roe & Roeper for a full hour of sports talk at 5pm Monday through Friday on the Cumulus Media news/talk station. First guest: Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.

In announcing the change to his listeners Friday, Conn called the new feature “a mix of sports and entertainment — a different way of looking at the world.” The show’s signature Top 5 at 5 feature, a rundown of the day’s top five news stories, will move to 5:36pm and become “sports themed.”

“Driven by the explosion of sports stories and by the appetite our listeners have for them, we are excited to launch the 89 WLS Sports Pregame Show on Monday at 5pm,” Tracy Slutzkin, program director of WLS, said in a statement. “It’s a natural expansion of our brand of timely, exciting, talk about the biggest stories on 89 WLS. We are thrilled to have Fox 32’s Lou Canellis join Roe and Roeper every day.”

Some readers of this space were skeptical of the idea when I first reported plans by WLS earlier this month to add a daily sports segment to the 5pm hour of the show featuring a local TV sports anchor, widely presumed to be Canellis. The strategy by Cumulus Media appears to be to strengthen the show’s appeal to male demographics while tapping into additional sports advertising revenue.

A native of south suburban Oak Lawn, Canellis, 48, first gained widespread notice in the '90s as part of the Bulls broadcast team, delivering memorable courtside interviews with Michael Jordan. He also has worked for a variety of local broadcast outlets and served as a regular contributor to 190 North, the weekly magazine show on ABC 7. He was promoted to main sports anchor at Fox 32 in 2010.

"I could not be more excited about Lou joining the team,” Conn told me in an interview. “We've worked together on and off since 1986, and he is one of the most talented all-around broadcasters I have ever met. He's insightful, fearless and always plugged in to the most important stories. He has been our generation's 'go to' sports reporter from his run with the Jordan-era Bulls to the World Series Champion White Sox and now to the new-look Chicago Bears.

"Since partnering three years ago, Rich and I have tried to broaden the spectrum of AM talk radio which all too often gets caught circling the same narrow cul-de-sac of political talk. We've tried to have fun with the news or pop culture stories Chicagoans are talking about, not just contribute to the daily manufacturing of some ginned-up political controversy. A highly produced, fast-paced sports-oriented hour gives us another opportunity to talk about what everyone is talking about," Conn said.

“I'm excited about it too,” Canellis said on the air from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where he was vacationing Friday. “This will be good. A little bit of guy talk. What do guys talk about? What can we get away with on the radio that guys talk about?”


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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)