A T Dog Media Think Tank
[Editor’s Note: contains strong language. Reader discretion is advised.]
Last week, viewers flocked back to their television sets as the new fall season began, with new high-profile programs and a strong lineup of above-quality shows which has audiences buzzing.
Chicago radio wishes it were that lucky. The only attention it attracts is when someone opens their big month.
This time its pay-to-play podcaster Steve Dahl, who on Friday ripped on Tribune Media’s WGN-AM, calling it “the worst station ever now” and is guilty of “heinous broadcast crimes”. As reported by Robert Feder, Dahl unleashed a tirade after reacting to a photo on WGN midday co-host Marianne Murciano’s Facebook page, posing with general manager Jimmy DeCastro (calling him a “fucking glory hog”) and others outside WGN’s self-promoting Walk Of Fame in a ceremony honoring Cubs play-by play radio voice Pat Hughes.
He continued his rant, ripping into afternoon hosts Bill and Wendy (“the world’s worst afternoon show”), and morning host Steve Cochran (who he called a “fucking dipshit”.)
On Sunday, Cochran responded via Feder’s website, calling Dahl “bitter” and notes his station is “winning” while Dahl is “whining”.
Let me see here….two fat millionaires are fighting over what pose DeCastro made in his photo? Since when this became the Illinois Governor’s race?
Let’s take a step back here.
First of all, WGN is the “worst station”? It’s hard to compare every radio station in the U.S., but at least WGN’s radio personalities didn’t mock tsunami victims (like New York’s Hot 97 did in 2004) or hold a “Hold Your Water For A Wii” contest like Sacramento’s KDND-FM did in 2007, resulting in a death of a contestant. Calling WGN “the worst” is a little extreme. WGN may be bad, but it hasn’t killed anybody on record (Dahl still follows the local radio scene after all these years? Wow, who knew?)
But Dahl did make some solid points, such as the way DeCastro has ran WGN into the ground, and his hires seem “patronage like”, meaning his “buddies” get the jobs (how else you explain Cochran’s and John Williams’ return), while the station’s quality suffers. The way DeCastro runs WGN is no different from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration. You wonder if WGN Radio is run out of the fifth floor of City Hall instead of the Tribune Tower these days.
And if DeCastro is doing this kind of hiring, should we trust WGN when covering local politics? If Mayor Emanuel or any other politician comes to WGN and is interviewed by Cochran, Williams, Bob Sirott, or Bill and Wendy, will he/she be asked tough questions or softball ones? Will they ask why Emanuel’s administration closed fifty schools in predominantly black neighborhoods or ask him what he thinks about George Clooney’s nuptials? Emanuel is known to strong arm the media to become a press outlet for him – ask CNN.
The plot thickens as WGN Radio’s audiences continue to flee for the exits. According to Nielsen ratings released Monday, Cochran’s morning show dropped to fourth place (behind WVAZ’s Steve Harvey) and had the biggest month-to-month decline of anyone in the top ten. In the key 25-54 and 35-64 demos, Cochran isn’t even the top twenty. This makes his “response” to Dahl look stupid.
And let’s not even talk about generic sports radio station “The Game”, which earned a 0.4 rating in the recent ratings survey. Why DeCastro thinks he can brag about so much when he’s accomplished so little?
The worst part about stuff like this is it takes away from the real issues facing the radio industry, as more and more jobs are being eliminated and consolidation continues at a rapid pace. Listeners – especially younger ones – continue to flee for the exits and into the doors of Pandora, Sirius/XM, free podcasts and other alternatives where they won’t have to be bothered by this nonsense.
And when these dinosaurs attempt to use the new media platforms, they usually screw it up. For one, Dahl’s podcasts uses a greedy and outdated pay-for-play model. Some podcasts (such as Tom Merritt’s Daily Tech News Show) uses Patreon where listeners voluntarily donate to keep the show afloat – a value-for-value model.
And as yours truly said before, putting Garry Meier and Jonathan Brandmeier won’t revolutionize Internet radio. DeCastro stuck them there because he doesn’t know what to do with them.
Personally, yours truly hates writing about Dahl and Meier, given no one under the age of 45 cares about what they say or what they do. The same goes with Cochran, who happened to luck into his job, thanks to DeCastro’s patronage hiring.
It’s frightening that Chicago radio has become like Chicago politics, given Jim Laski was employed at WGN at one time and Rep. Joe Walsh continues to be at WIND-AM. This is what happens when DeCastro, WGN management, and other radio stations in town continue to buy in into a flawed concept called “The Chicago Way”.
Can’t wait for the Dahl and Cochran campaign commercials. Then you really know Chicago radio has sunk below the abyss.