Latest shakeup continues overhaul of iconic station
In the ultimate Friday evening news dump – coming before the start of a long holiday weekend, Nexstar-owned WGN-AM announced huge changes to its weekday lineup.
As first reported by Robert Feder, gone was longtime radio host Roe Conn and in is Radio Hall Of Famer John Records Landecker, who’ll take over evenings from 7-10 p.m. Conn’s last show was Friday.
Also out is longtime WGN personality Nick Diglio, a 35-year veteran of the station. He was upped to evening host last spring to replace Justin Kaufmann, who has since returned to WBEZ-FM.
In place of Conn’s afternoon show, is a new program called Chicago’s Afternoon News hosted by longtime station anchor Steve Bertrand. It is positioned as a daily newsmagazine show, tackling issues such as the current coronavirus pandemic, racial unrest, and of course, the upcoming election. The new program is scheduled to run from 4 to 7 p.m. and as a result, Anna Dalavantes’ current early afternoon radio program is being extended an hour.
Coming in evenings in Landecker, a move hinted by Feder a few weeks ago and he’ll take over the 7 to 10 p.m. slot. Landecker is a longtime veteran of Chicago radio, arriving at WLS-AM in 1972 and spent nine years before departing for Toronto. He returned to Chicago in the mid-1980s as morning personality at the short-lived WAGO-FM (now WCFS/WBBM Newsradio) and later held down gigs at WLUP-FM, WJMK-FM (where he spent ten years as morning personality), WCKG-FM, and more recently, evening personality at WLS-FM. He talked about his career in a best-selling book titled Records Truly Is My Middle Name.
The changes are effective September 28.
The firing of Conn isn’t surprising given his contract with WGN-AM was expiring at the end of the year as low ratings for his show in afternoon drive were cited as one of the reasons for the change. Conn was a longtime radio host at WLS-AM and was paired with Garry Meier for several years. He shifted to WGN in January 2015 after he contract was not renewed at WLS.
This is the second major change at a Chicago radio in two days. A day earlier, iHeartMedia pulled the plug on Big 95.5 and its country format, replacing it with a Mainstream Rock format.
These recent moves at WGN Radio is a continuing makeover of the storied news/talk outlet, once home to Wally Phillips, Bob Collins, and Spike O’Dell. Earlier this year, Bob Sirott replaced Steve Cochran in morning drive and Dalvantes took over early afternoons. WGN-AM and its sister TV station were part of the $4.1 billion deal Nexstar made to acquire Tribune Media last year.
It is interesting to see if WGN’s gambit with a newsmagazine show with an awfully generic-sounding title will work as they are trying the same approach Nexstar is with NewsNation – straight down the middle with no bias, putting them head-to-head with top-rated WBBM-AM’s hard news format.