News/talk WGN-AM (720) is about to add another out-of-towner to its talent roster. Mike McConnell, a well-regarded and top-rated fixture at Cincinnati's news/talk WLW-AM (700) for a quarter century, will join the WGN-AM line-up effective Aug. 9. But the announcement of McConnell's pending arrival at WGN did not include any indication of where he will fit into the station's current program line-up. That part of the equation, the station said, "will be announced in the coming months."
It's possible McDonnell could be headed to the mid-afternoon slot now occupied by Steve Cochran, who was bumped there after Garry Meier was recently moved to the pivotal afternoon drive time slot. Cochran's contract, perhaps not so coincidentally, expires at the end of June. Another possibility for McConnell is the mid-morning slot now fronted by John Williams, who has been doing double duty hosting an afternoon show at Minneapolis station WCC0-AM (830) from Chicago for the past couple months in addition to his WGN gig.
News of McConnell's possible move to WGN first surfaced last week in Cincinnati, where there was speculation by longtime Cincinnati Enquirer media writer John Kiesewetter that WLW was about to lose to WGN-AM not only McConnell, but also Bill Cunningham, another longstanding talk host at the station. A WGN-AM spokeswoman said the station has no plans to announce any other talent additions at this time.
McConnell's move to WGN looks to have been masterminded in part by controversial Tribune Co. CEO Randy Michaels, who was at WLW-AM in the mid-1980's. Michaels is credited with discovering McConnell and bringing him to WLW. Apparently other WGN-AM executives have now drunk the McConnell kool-aid. "Mike McConnell is arguably the most gifted of all American broadcasters at leveraging the news and events of the day into compelling radio shows," said WGN program director Kevin Metheny. "He's (McConnell) straightforward, and his common sense approach to topics will be a great fit for WGN listeners," added WGN-AM general manager Tom Langmyer.
As for McConnell himself, the new WGN job, whatever it turns out to be, is apparently the realization of a longstanding dream to work in a major market. "I've always enjoyed Chicago and never met anyone who's lived, worked or visited there who has a bad word to say about the people or the city of Chicago," said McConnell.
The addition of McConnell to the WGN talent roster is but the latest development in an 18-month-long upheaval at WGN that has seen a near total re-think of the talent and programming line-up at the station. It's all part of Metheny's and Michaels' grand plan to shake up the station and try to attract a younger, 25-to-54-year-old demo. The moves by station management have angered many long-time listeners, but the outcries have apparently not dampened management's resolve to carry out its plan.