The Media Notepad: The Chicago Sun-Times drops its paywall

Also: The Drive promotes Janda Lane to middays; Nexstar closes the deal to buy The CW; NATPE files for bankruptcy; Svengoolie is hiring!

The move was expected for months, and now it’s official: The Chicago Sun-Times announced Thursday it is removing the paywall for all stories. This comes as the newspaper and Chicago Public Media’s WBEZ-FM announced a non-profit merger earlier this year.

The news was announced Thursday by the Sun-Times on Twitter:


In a letter to readers, the Sun-Times said the nation is watching its move to “rebuild local news”. The Sun-Times notes Illinois has seen more newspapers close than any other state in the country with 360 of them shuttering between May 2019 and May 2022 as print advertising has dried up and tech heavyweights Google and Facebook have profited off newspapers without seeing a dime. The closures have also left a vacuum filled recently by Dan Proft and his right-wing buddies, who are printing fake newspapers with misinformation and propaganda ahead of the mid-terms.

The owner of the Daily Herald (Paddock Publications) was used by Proft’s company called LGIS (Local Government Information Services) – to publish the fake newspapers for the last seven years. Under fire, Paddock canceled the contract last month but still has one with Gannett to publish newspapers.

The Sun-Times is the first paper in a major city to drop its paywall as they transition to a “membership model”, similar to what we see in public television (pledge periods and all.) It remains to be seen how this would impact other publications across the country, but it’s a outlier and it is unlikely other newspapers  would do likewise since most are owned by ruthless hedge funds who made a habit of cutting staff and local reporting.

The Drive is ready for your order

Hubbard Broadcasting announced Thursday it was removing the interim tag from Janda Lane as midday host of top-rated classic rocker The Drive as she gets the gig permanently and was also named program director.  She succeeds longtime host Bob Stroud, who entered semi-retirement in June. She co-hosted afternoons with Steve Seaver for four years before moving into the midday slot in July.

“I am beyond thrilled to move into middays on The Drive, and am honored to fill the space around the one and only Bob Stroud’s long-standing Ten at 10 and One 45 at 1:45 features”, said Lane in a statement. “Life is a winding road and I am so happy that the road has led me here to Chicago, to The Drive, and last and most importantly, to our awesome listeners. Thank you so much for listening!”

Lane arrived at The Drive in 2018 and served as music director at a Charleston, SC alternative station and was host at KCRW Los Angeles. This comes as The Drive finished first overall in the latest Chicago radio report with its largest margin of victory in its history. The station finished second in the key 25-54 demo.

“We are delighted to promote Janda”, said Hubbard Market Manager Jeff England. “Her extensive knowledge of Classic Rock and immense talent are the perfect combination for our loyal listeners middays on The Drive.”

In other Chicago radio news, 104.3 Jams has picked up Audacy’s new syndicated The Ed Lover Experience which is airing in four other markets where Audacy runs classic hip-hop stations: New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Las Vegas. The show debuts Monday evening in Chicago, where it runs from 8 p.m. to midnight. Lover was morning personality at WBMX until last week.

Nexstar finally closed on its acquisition of The CW on Monday, giving it 75 percent of the network while former majority owners Paramount Global (CBS) and Warner Bros. Discovery had their stakes reduced to 12.5 percent. And it didn’t waste time making changes: The Irving, Tex.-based broadcaster installed Nexstar board member Dennis Miller (not the former SNL/MNF guy) as president replacing Mark Pedowitz, who stepped down after eleven years.

Also out were president of streaming and chief branding officer Rick Haskins and finance chief Mitch Nedick, each are exiting the network at the end of this week. It is not known how many more layoffs are expected with Nexstar now in firm control.

The moves come as under Nexstar, The CW is looking to broaden the audience demo – which is basically teens and young adults as this particular audience is pivoting to streaming, meaning many on the shows on this season’s schedule may be heading into their swan songs. Already, the network has dumped scripted programming on Fridays and added a pair of low-cost Canadian dramas on Sundays.

Also unknown is how Nexstar, who now own 37 CW affiliates (rechristened as owned-and-operated stations – the most of any broadcast network) would shore up its over-the-air distribution as Nexstar owns stations in markets who are independents or My Network TV affiliates such as Chicago, whose Nexstar-owned WGN-TV could possibly reunite with the network it abandoned in 2016. The CW is currently at Weigel-owned WCIU, where it relocated in 2019 after three low-rated years at Fox’s WPWR. The My Network TV stations where Nexstar could target The CW for upgrades include WPHL Philadelphia, KRON San Francisco, and WTTA Tampa-St. Petersburg as The CW affiliates in those markets are on Paramount Global (CBS)-owned stations.

Looking for a new job? Well, Svengoolie is hiring! This one-in-a-lifetime opportunity could be yours (though it’s not a permanent position.)

The Chicago-based MeTV horror show is expanding and conducting a national talent search called Spawn Of Svengoolie, who is auditioning fans to appear in its “expanded character universe”. The show is making its first-ever trip to New York Comic-Con this week to hold in-person auditions and soon, fans can send in auditions through the Svengoolie app.

The idea was hatched last week on Svengoolie Uncrypted, a one-hour special featuring a behind-the-scenes look of the show, including his travels to horror conventions and Comic-Cons, including C2E2 here in Chicago. In the special, Doug James (who is Pan’s Labynirth) shows up in the special make an audition tape for the extended character universe. The idea for Spawn of Svengoolie came as MeTV owner Weigel was looking to grow the brand, which started on Chicago television in 1970 with Jerry G. Bishop and continued in 1979 with Rich Koz taking over the role.

This is all apart of Svengoolie’s BOOnanza, a month-long celebration of the movie horror host, which was announced in August with Uncrypted and the season premiere of Sventoonie, an “after party” for the Svengoolie ,which had its season premiere October 1 with an hour long episode featuring Toony The Tuna, the puppet voiced by Kevin Fleming from the daily Toon In With Me.

Svengoolie’s national profile has been raised this year with mentions in Variety and an interview with Koz in Broadcasting & Cable as Weigel scored a major licensing deal last February for Svengoolie and Toony The Tuna.

In a move not unexpected, the National Association of Television Program Executives – or NATPE for short, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as the pandemic has hurt its convention business. In a statement, NATPE said “like many other professional organizations, has been adversely impacted by the COVID pandemic, which prevented NATPE from holding events, which typically generate significant revenue. These cancellations forced NATPE to operate on its financial reserves, which now require it to reorganize the NATPE business structure.”

NATPE is looking to restructure “including raising funds through strategic alliances, and continue to operate NATPE as a more streamlined and reorganized operation. For almost 60 years, NATPE has been the leading global professional association for content producers, distributors, developers, streamers and buyers across all distribution platforms. NATPE is optimistic that it will emerge from the reorganization process in the same position.”

NATPE did manage to hold its annual convention just before the pandemic hit in 2020, but didn’t held a live show until June of this year –  but it was in Budapest, Hungary. 2021’s “gathering” was held virtually, and the 2022 gathering, to be held in Miami, didn’t take place at all.

In a marked departure, its annual January gathering – the first in three years, will not be held in the United States but in Nassau, Bahamas instead, further distancing it from its roots as a convention for syndicators and television executives. NATPE was formed in 1963 and one of its first conventions was held in Chicago before growing and moving on to other cities with larger convention floor space including San Francisco, Houston, New Orleans, and Las Vegas. As syndicators and stations each have consolidated over the years, NATPE has downsized and moved to Miami to attract more international buyers. 

Despite a push from several in the industry – including media mogul Byron Allen, the main NATPE convention has never been held in Los Angeles, despite being the epicenter of the television business although the organization has held a TV festival in the city. 

Over the years, T Dog Media eliminated NATPE coverage from the blog as the amount of news items coming from the gathering had dwindled to literally nothing as most new projects are now announced year-around.

Further reading:

Oh wow! Velma is now a lesbian! Who cares….(NY Times)

Power senators question Tegna-Standard General deal, as the FCC review drags on (NextTV)

Cumulus’ KGO-AM ends its long run as a news/talk format; begins airing sports gambling programming Monday (SF Gate)

The owner and proprietor of this blog lost internet service Thursday night, unable to watch Thursday Night Football. The rest of the country wasn’t so fortunate. (Awful Announcing)


1 thought on “The Media Notepad: The Chicago Sun-Times drops its paywall

    • “The owner and proprietor of this blog lost internet service Thursday night, unable to watch Thursday Night Football. The rest of the country wasn’t so fortunate. (Awful Announcing)”

      The Ghost of Don RIckles approves this solid burn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *