The Media Notepad: ABC 7 traffic reporter Roz Varon announces retirement

ABC 7’s Roz Varon from a 2018 Facebook photo.

Also: WXRT hires a new afternoon host; Judge Judy reruns renewed in syndication through 2027; Weigel’s stations get ready to cover March madness

After 35 years on the morning traffic beat, ABC 7’s (WLS-TV) traffic reporter Roz Varon is calling it a career. Her last day is April 5.

Varon was a fixture starting in 1989 as Chicago’s first traffic reporter, a role since well-established in local news. She continued in the role when the station launched Eyewitness News This Morning in 1991.

“Roz’s expertise and connection to our viewers are the reasons she has been our top traffic and transportation reporter for more than three decades,” said ABC 7 President and General Manager John Idler. “Chicagoans know they can count on Roz to avoid a jam. We applaud Roz as she puts an exclamation point on an outstanding career.”

In addition to her traffic reporting duties, Varon hosted a Peter Lisagor-winning award local things-to-do-around-town show called Weekender. She’s battled stage four breast cancer and as a survivor, used her platform to raise awareness with her Faces Of Inspiration special winning a Silver Dome Award from the Illinois Broadcasters Association.

Varon joins numerous Chicago television personalities who announced their retirement in the last two years, including co-workers Jim Rose and Alan Krashesky; Fox 32’s Mike Flannery and Corey McPherrin; WGN-TV’s Dan Roan; and meteorologist Tom Skilling, who ends his WGN-TV run after 46 years Wednesday.

Audacy’s Adult Album Alternative (Triple A) station WXRT-FM finally filled their vacant afternoon host position by hiring Andy Chanley from Los Angeles’ 88.5 The SoCal Sound, a public radio station with a similar format based at the University of California at Northridge, known as KCSN-FM and as KSBR-FM in nearby Mission Viejo and Orange County.

Chanley was also named Music Director.

“Andy Chanley is one of the most respected in the business and will be a tremendous addition to the XRT team,” said WXRT Brand Manager Laura Duncan in a statement. “His passion for music and reverence for WXRT, the on-air team, and the city of Chicago makes Andy the perfect fit.”

Chanley was born in neighboring Indiana and worked at local stations in Lafayette and Indianapolis before moving to L.A. and making stops at numerous rock stations. He had his longest stint at Classic Rock KSWD-FM from 2008 to 2017; Chanley’s voice was the last one heard on the station before its sale to the non-profit Education Media Foundation, who flipped it to Christian Music (before 2008, it was known as Hip-Hop/R&B 100.3 The Beat KKBT and 100.3 Pirate Radio KQLZ.)

Chanley signed off from KCSN Wednesday morning, thanking listeners for their patronage. During his time on the air in Southern California, Chanley fought through stage three cancer. With the move, temporary fill-in Ryan Arnold shifts back to evenings, replacing Emma Mac, who shifts back to weekends.

WXRT’s newest hire comes as the station saw ratings gains in the first book of the year as listing patterns returned to normal after WLIT’s Christmas music blitz, finishing fifth with a 5.0 rating, up 56 percent from the “Holiday” book and up 16 percent from October 2023, the last time a ratings survey wasn’t impacted by Christmas music. As expected, WLIT retained enough listeners from Christmas to stay on top of the ratings, with WXRT sister station WBBM Newsradio second and Hubbard The Drive (WDRV-FM) third, with The Score breaking into the top ten finishing in eighth place.

With ratings for Judge Judy encores continuing to post surprisingly strong numbers, CBS Media Ventures announced Wednesday it is keeping the show around for three more seasons in syndication through 2027.

Station groups signing on include CBS, Fox, Gray, and Hearst. Renewals include WCBS New York and KCBS Los Angeles, who continue to air Judy in early fringe (late afternoon) with WCBS still using it as a news lead-in. In Chicago, CBS 2 (CBS-owned WBBM-TV) dropped Judy from its afternoon schedule to add a 4 p.m. local newscast thirteen months ago.

“The Judge Judy library is a powerful force on stations across the country,” CBS Media Ventures senior VP of Domestic Sales Greg Guenther said in a statement. “It draws viewers and boosts stations’ lineups, improving its new time periods on average by +40% among total viewers.” Judge Judy ran fresh episodes between 1996 and 2021 when she and CBS had a falling out.

According to Nielsen and B&C, Judge Judy notched a 4.2 household, live-plus-same-day rating for the week of February 4 – triple the nearest competitor in the court genre, mostly dominated these days by Byron Allen’s shows. CBS also points out Judy is averaging 6.1 million viewers in reruns this season – better than some prime-time programs.

So it’s little wonder Amazon and MGM are rushing Judy Justice, Judy Sheindlin’s sequel series to market with 400 episodes in the can for fall and sold in over 70 percent of the country including the Nexstar, Mission, and Weigel station groups. Justice airs on Freevee, Amazon’s FAST network of channels, whose future seems to be in question on Wednesday. With both shows simultaneously in syndication, there is the potential for confusion between the two.

Judge Judy reruns now air on Weigel’s CW 26 (WCIU) weeknights from 4 to 6 p.m., the anchor of a court block featuring Judge Greg Mathis and Judge Marylin Milan shows featuring reruns of their old Warner Bros. shows and their newer Byron Allen-produced counterparts.

High school sports aren’t covered by the local media as much as it was years ago, but they still have a presence on Chicago television as Weigel’s CW 26 and The U (WCUU/WMEU) as the duo is getting ready for what the IHSA refers to as the “original March Madness”.

From February 29 to March 2, The U will carry the girls’ basketball tournament at the campus of Illinois State University in downstate Normal, with four semifinal games – two each from class 1A and 2 A on February 29 and two from class 3A and 4A March 1, starting at 9:30 a.m. On March 2nd, four back-to-back championship games for each class are scheduled, with the first starting at 11 a.m. Jim Blaney and Dave Bernhard handle the play-by-play with analysts Patricia Babcock-McGraw and Mark Lindo.

The boys’ tournament takes place the following weekend (March 7-9) in State Farm Arena (formerly Assembly Hall) at the University of Illinois at Champaign. The U will carry the semifinal rounds classes 1A-4A the first two days of the tournament with games starting at 9:30 a.m. On March 9, coverage switches to CW 26 for all four championship games from Class 1A to 4A with the first starting at 11 a.m. Matt Rodewald and Dave Bernhard are on the call with analysts Kenny McRenolyds and Camron Smith.

The games are produced in conjunction with the IHSA and digital broadcaster NFHS, who produces high school sporting events throughout the country.

CW 26 and The U also plan to air an IHSA March Madness Preview Special this weekend at 10:30 a.m. Saturday on CW 26 and Sunday at 5 p.m. on The U.


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