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Recently in Garry Meier Category

Starting today, Garry Meier becomes the new afternoon drive host from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at WGN-AM (720). Meier, who had been doing a two-hour early afternoon gig at WGN for the past year, replaces veteran WGN host Steve Cochran, who will take Meier's old slot from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The move is the latest in a seemingly unending series of programming and talent upheavals at WGN -- all part of a protracted effort by controversial WGN program director Kevin Metheny to give the station an edgier sound that would attract a younger 25 to 54-year-old demographic.

In a statement Thursday Metheny suggested Meier's promotion to afternoon drive was an attempt to raise his profile as a WGN talent. "Response to Garry's early afternoon show has been great, and we want more people to know he's on WGN Radio, said Metheny, adding "this schedule adjust gets Garry more starts in front of more listeners." It also will give Meier a potential ratings boost from the strong leads-in provided by the Chicago Cubs afternoon game broadcasts on WGN.

Meier, understandably, responded favorably to his new role. "I'm looking forward to my sophomore year at the 'G,' and I intend to enjoy it as much as I did my sophomore year in high school," said Meier.

The move of Meier to afternoon drive also appears timed to help WGN compete more readily with a revamped afternoon drive show on arch-competitor news/talk WLS-AM (890). Starting Monday, WLS afternoon drive host Roe Conn will be joined by Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper -- an effort by WLS management to give Conn someone to play off of and to give the WLS afternoon show a boost in the ratings, where it has been lagging in recent months. Coincidentally Conn and Meier, who will now compete against each other for afternoon drive listeners, were previously co-hosts at WLS-AM.

Both WGN's and WLS's afternoon drive shows haven't been doing well in the ratings. In the key 25 to 54 demo in the February Arbitron book, WGN's afternoon drive show ranked only 24th, while WLS's show with Conn was tied for 22nd place.

In yet more changes announced at WGN late Thursday, a new talk show starring convicted felon and former city clerk Jim Laski will now air weekdays from 7 to 10 p.m, when not pre-empted by WGN sports broadcasts. And Milt Rosenberg's long-running "Extension 720" will be pushed back an hour, starting now at 10 p.m and running to midnight Monday through Thursday. WGN said the later start time would allow listeners to hear him more regularly, because his show was often pre-empted by sports broadcasts. It will also relegate Rosenberg to a time slot where he is likely to attract fewer listeners. Nick Digilio's Friday night show will air one hour earlier, now running from 10 p.m to 2 a.m., and "The Steve and Johnnie Show" with Steve King and Johnnie Putman will air from midnight to 5 a.m.

It's official. As first tipped here Wednesday, WGN-AM (720) has named veteran Chicago radio talent Garry Meier as the host of the news/talk radio station's mid-afternoon show from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. He will begin his new show Friday, Apr. 3.

Meier is no stranger to tens of thousands of avid radio listeners. For 15 years he was half of one of the most successful of all radio on-air parings when he co-hosted the "Steve & Garry Show" with Steve Dahl, who is no longer on air. Meier also worked for eight years alongside Roe Conn on the "Roe & Garry Show."

In announcing Meier's hiring, WGN Vice President and General Manager Tom Langmyer described the new mid-afternoon host as "contemporary, smart, hip and fun." Most importantly, though, Meier is likely to attract a somewhat younger demo to WGN, which has a large, loyal, but somewhat older listener base.

Is an announcement imminent? News/talk WGN-AM (720) is said to be in the final stages of deciding what it is going to do about filling its mid-afternoon host slot, which has been vacant since John Williams moved to morning drive late last year. Sources indicated veteran Chicago radio broadcaster Garry Meier is still a frontrunner for the job, and he and his wife, who serves as his agent, were believed to be in the final stages of negotiations. But money was said to be a sticking point that could force WGN to go with a different scenario. If WGN does fill the mid-afternoon job shortly, the new host will face a big hurdle right away. The Chicago Cubs baseball season begins Monday, which mean WGN's mid-afternoon show will be preempted often over the next six months.

So now that Jonathon Brandmeier has signed on the dotted line to stay at WLUP-FM (97.9) for at least one relatively brief year, the question now is: what does news/talk WGN-AM (720) do to fill its vacant mid-afternoon host slot? Garry Meier has been mentioned repeatedly as one possible candidate for the job.

But now that WGN management has waited so long to fill that slot in the hopes they might somehow find a way to accommodate Brandmeier, the station finds the annual baseball season fast approaching. That could make naming a permanent replacement less urgent, because the 1 to 4 p.m. slot will be filled with ballgames on many weekdays over the next six months. So it would be hard for any newly-installed talent to gain quick traction if his or her show were repeatedly pre-empted by baseball.

Though negotiations have not always gone smoothly,WGN executives have certainly been talking to Garry Meier and his agent (who is also his wife) about a deal for the mid-afternoon gig. But they could wind up turning to an alternative talent that won't demand the big bucks a number of big names in the radio world could command not that long ago.

Executives running radio stations today, however, know the business can no longer readily support million-dollar salaries. But sources say Meier apparently isn't yet convinced he can't get a big-bucks deal out of WGN's bankrupt parent Tribune Co. If they feel they need to put a host in the mid-afternoon slot sooner rather than later, WGN executives could pass on Meier and go with another, potentially lesser name who is competent and can be had at a price WGN can live with. Stay tuned, as they say.

PX00201_7.JPGIf WGN-AM (720) was hoping to spice up the proceedings by bringing in Garry Meier this week to try out for the mid-afternoon host slot vacated by John Williams, then station management appears to have gotten what it bargained for.
Meier on Thursday made reference more than once on air to President Barack Obama and what the radio talent called the "Ovaltine Office." For those who may not immediately recall what Ovaltine is, it is a dark chocolatey drink that was a favorite beverage for growing youngsters decades ago. But Ovaltine is not talked about -- nor drunk so much, we suspect -- nowadays. Reached late Thursday afternoon after his fill-in WGN gig ended for the day, Meier said the "Ovaltine Office" term he used was not meant as a show of disrespect for the President, but rather to suggest that Obama has re-energized the Office of the President. Others, of course, might have a different interpretation.

Meanwhile, Meier told us it felt great to be back on the air, and clearly, he would be happy to accept the mid-afternoon job at WGN should it be offered to him as early as next week. But as WGN management prepares to decide who will take over on-air duties in mid-afternoon, Meier may find himself competing down to the wire for that job with WLUP-FM (720) morning drive show host Jonathon Brandmeier. Meier said he and Brandmeier are friends. As of Thursday Brandmeier had not resigned with the Loop, and that station's on-going negotiations with the morning host could be impacted by another round of staff firings at WLUP on Thursday.

X00023_7.JPGThis just in. Longtime Chicago radio personality Garry Meier will return to the airwaves for one day only on Wednesday, Feb. 25, as he sits in with John Howell on WIND-AM (560) from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. Meier will fill in for Cisco Cotto, the other half of the "John and Cisco" morning show. Meier is best known for his stints at WLUP-FM (97.9), WLS-AM (890) and WLS-FM (94.7) with Steve Dahl and his show with Roe Conn at WLS-AM. Most recently, Meier hosted a show on WCKG-FM (n 2007. John Howell and Cisco Cotto have hosted mornings on WIND since October of 2006. Recent guests on their show have included Gov. Pat Quinn and embattled Sen. Roland Burris. WIND is owned and operated by Salem Communications.

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Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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