Sirott returns to morning shift; Cochran canned for second time from WGN
In a week filled with numerous Chicago media changes, here’s another one and this turns out to be the biggest one of them all.
As first reported by Robert Feder Friday morning, WGN-AM morning personality Steve Cochran was dropped from the station and replaced by a returning Bob Sirott, who’ll take over January 6.
The decision to replace Cochran with Sirott stunned many local media observers, given Cochran finished third in the all-important morning drive daypart in the last Nielsen PPM report. Cochran becomes the highest-rated host to be canned in Chicago radio in years; in 2007, Howard McGee was released from WGCI despite finishing first in adults 18-34 in morning drive and was replaced by Steve Harvey’s syndicated morning show (McGee has since returned to Chicago radio in a weekend/fill-in role at WVAZ-FM, WGCI’s sister station.)
Reports surfaced Cochran had personality conflicts with WGN boss Sean Compton, who was appointed the station’s GM shortly after Nexstar took over the legendary AM station as part of the company’s $4.1 billion takeover of Tribune Media, WGN’s former owner. Compton worked for Clear Channel Radio under Randy Michaels and made the transition with him to Tribune when Sam Zell bought the company in 2007. One major issue was Cochran not coming to work on time and starting late for his show.
Ironically, Cochran had been fired before by WGN in 2010 when he was afternoon host – by the late Kevin Methany, another former protege of Michaels. Cochran was re-hired in 2013 for morning drive after spending a few years at Salem’s WIND-AM. Cochran has also been employed at the former WPNT and WLUP-AM.
For Sirott, this marks the third time he has been employed at WGN, returning to the station after he and wife Marianne Murciano left in 2015 after a two-year run. Sirott hosted The Noon Show from 2007-10 and was previously at WLS-AM with Murciano in 2017 before they were let go as the station shifted away from general interest talk. Like Cochran, Sirott’s resume is quite long – an alum of WLS during its Musicradio era and WBBM-FM during its progressive rock era and worked for four local television stations in a variety of roles and a stint as a correspondent for CBS’ West 57th newsmagaine in the mid-1980s.
Despite his firing, Cochran is still under contract through 2020.
This move caps off several weeks of major moves in Chicago radio, with WGN dropping Bill Leff and Wendy Snyder from middays and WXRT moving Lin Brehmer’s morning show to middays. In addition, the retirement of Tom Joyner (last heard on Clubsteppin’ 95.1) is expected to set off more changes.
So is this a smart move? Given Cochran had a solid track record and WGN ranked third in mornings, replacing him with Sirott doesn’t make sense. However, his run-ins with WGN management makes them feel his antics weren’t worth it. But Sirott being hired – again – reminds me of something I wrote some time ago saying “Chicago radio has become a nursing home for broken-down talent who refuse to leave the stage.” Sadly, this is truer now Chicago radio simply sticks with the same tired wheel of safe personalities, even as we head into the next decade. Looking at how Sirott’s ratings were the last time he was at WGN or WLS, don’t look for him to even come close to matching Cochran’s numbers.
What’s more interesting here is the recently retired Joyner – who is the same age as Sirott (70) – said about the state of radio recently in Billboard: “When I came along, you didn’t have a lot of listening choices. Now you can get anything you want, anytime you want, anywhere you want — and you don’t have to wait for radio or television to do it for you. That’s why I decided to retire. Whatever happens to newspapers and magazines — I’m sorry to say it, but I think radio is next on the list. And we’ve done it to ourselves. We’re not relevant anymore. That’s across the board.”
I suppose Sirott doesn’t feel the same way because if he did, he wouldn’t have signed a deal so he can get up at 3 a.m. every day to do a morning show. WGN’s hiring of Sirott tells us there is a lot of truth to what Joyner said because quite basically, relying on the same ol’ limited list of names to keep your radio station relevant is particularly asinine at a time when radio is failing to attract the next generation of listeners.
As analyst Rich Greenfield would say, “Good Luck Radio”. And to WGN and Sirott in particular.