The Media Notepad: B96 to reboot DreX

Also: Bible thumpers strike again – this time in Raleigh; CBS 2 news director resigns; Sun-Times has a new look. Again.

After seeing how much ABC cashed in on reboot fever with the return of Roseanne, now B96 is trying to do the same with their morning show – but it’s not Eddie & JoBo.

Instead, it’s former rival Kevin “DreX” Buchar, who is taking the reins in morning drive within the next few days. According to Robert Feder, Buchar is expected to sign on at the CHR/Top 40 station, though no start date has been set. Buchar was hired as morning personality in 2003 after WKSC unsuccessfully tried to lure Eddie & JoBo away from WBBM-FM. Buchar was dropped from WKSC in 2010, nearly two years after signing a five-year renewal deal, but his conflicts with station management obviously played a role in his departure.

As a result, B96 is parting ways with current morning show host Jamar McNeil (J Niice), who took over from Eddie & JoBo in 2009 with co-host Julian Nieh. After Nieh departed three years later, McNeil anchored the show solo, though he had “Showbiz” Shelley Manaker as a sidekick, whose tenure dates back to the Eddie & JoBo days. Manaker is also out in the shakeup.

These moves comes as both youth-oriented stations are sagging – both finished outside the top ten in Nielsen’s recent PPM report, beaten by two classic rock stations, a classic hip-hop station, and a classic hits outlet. WKSC and B96 also face competition from red hot Hot AC outlet WTMX (Mix 101.9), whose morning show is top-rated in Chicago. The lack of urban product on the pop charts right now – which was also an issue for Top 40 stations in the early 1980s – may also be to blame.

The Sun-Times unveiled a redesigned newspaper and website and new look for the 135th time in ten years on Wednesday, and it has a new font and larger block letters. Also noticeable is the removal of the “bullseye” in the Sun-Times logo, and replaced with a red star, found on Chicago’s official flag.

CEO Edwin Eisendrath said his he wants the paper to serve the hardworking men and women of the Chicago area, thus the slogan “The hardest working paper in America”. The redesign was meant to move the paper away from the disastrous Michael Ferro era, through Wrapports ownership from 2011 to 2016.

Also gone are branded USA Today stories, though some content would still appear in the paper.

Unfortunately, the new redesign looks bland and lacks color. And the paper is still smaller than it was in the past. The website also looks bland and too simple – nothing jumps out on the page. And “The hardest working paper in the America” is nothing more than a marketing slogan than anything else. So I guess we can call the Sun-Times the “James Brown Of Newspapers”?

But the biggest head-scratcher was a letter published Wednesday on the Sun-Times website, seeming to mock rival Chicago tribune for their recent woes, including the recent layoffs at the paper and cutback on sports coverage. Ask any of the hard-working people at the Tribune who were laid off recently – or those Sun-Times employees who had to suffer through the same kind of nonsense under Michael Ferro – are laughing. While it is nice to tout what you have over your rival, you don’t have to be an ass about it.

I suppose coming up next, the Sun-Times is going to drop a mixtape on the Tribune, just like Wendy’s did with McDoanld’s recently. I guess they’ll have hip-hop artists dissing the Tribune about their slow home delivery and mediocre content – something the Sun-Times was also guilty of over the years. It may be funny when fast-food chains have “beefs”, but when it comes to getting much-needed info out to people…not so much.

After nine years on the job, CBS 2 news director Jeff Kiernan is returning to where he started his career: Scripps-owned NBC affiliate WTMJ, where he was named senior director of local content. This marks the second management change at CBS-owned WBBM-TV in recent weeks; general manager Marty Wilke departed on Friday. No replacement has been named for neither position.

Arriving in 2009, Kiernan presided over a news operation never able to make it out of fourth place in the ratings during his tenure, and was best known for mishandling this incident in 2011 (sixth item), angering African-American viewers – including U.S. Representative Bobby Rush (D-1st). The incident drew comparisons to Harry Porterfield’s demotion from the station in 1985, triggering protests from Operation PUSH and Jesse Jackson.

Kierman started his career at the then-owned Journal Broadcasting station, since sold to Scripps in 2014. He was a reporter at WTMJ (AM), then switched over to the TV side, becoming news director in 1995. He joined CBS in 2003, where he served as news director for the company’s-owned stations in Minneapolis, Boston, and finally Chicago.

Even though WTMJ is in a somewhat better position in Milwaukee’s news race than CBS 2 is in Chicago’s, its glory days are long behind it. Once a dominant news station, WTMJ was beaten handily in the November 2017 sweeps, as WISN scored wins over them in every key time period – including 10 p.m., where WTMJ finished fourth – a time period they once dominated. This comes as WTMJ owner Scripps made cuts to its station groups, including eliminating positions at flagship ABC affiliate WCPO in Cincinnati.

Good luck, Mr. Kiernan…you’ll need it.

Once again, the Educational Media Foundation has taken a heritage signal and made it their own. This time, it’s Jazz outlet WSHA-FM in Raleigh, N.C. serving the Raleigh-Durham market – and one belonging to Shaw University, a historically black college.

Earlier this month, Chicago’s WLUP-FM was sold to EMF for its K-Love Christian music format, ending a 42-year run as classic rocker “The Loop”. WSHA dates back earlier – the station was launched in 1968 and was supposed to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. But beginning in the next few months, it will become another home for K-Love.

The news did not sit well with Shaw alumni.  “Once we learned of their intent to sell WSHA, a group of alumni actually offered to purchase the station. However, our efforts were blatantly ignored,” said Shaw graduate Keisha Monk, a former WVAZ-FM midday personality (then known as Keisha Keyz) who now works in Boston radio.” Our rich history is being sold for a few pieces of silver to fill budget holes left behind by past presidents.” According to the Raleigh News & Observer, she and a group of other Shaw alum tried to buy the station.

In addition to jazz, WSHA also played blues, funk, gospel, and Latin American music in addition to fare from NPR. Similar to The Loop, WSHA plans to live on as an online-only station, but it certainly won’t be the same. No date for the format change has been set, as EMF plans to wait until the FCC approves the sale instead of entering into a local marketing agreement like they did here in Chicago with WLUP. After the sale is approved, WSHA’s facilities are being transformed into a media lab.

It is sad to see a college-run station – with a wealth of music you can’t find on the dial anywhere else in the Raleigh-Durham area (as opposed to the fare you hear on the corporate-owned outlets) gets pushed off the dial, replaced by a nationally syndicated 24/7 format operated from a broom closet. WSHA goes away despite a storied history, but that doesn’t matter – ask fans of The Loop.