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Daniel Zampillo, an assistant program director at Tribune Co.-owned WGN-AM (720), is leaving the station to become executive producer of sports programming at Sirius/XM satellite radio. Initially, Zampillo will focus on The NFL Talk channel and Mad Dog Radio channel. Zampillo is relocating to New York to take the new job, which he will start on Sept. 10. Zampillo had been with WGN since 2008.

Zampillo is not the first -- and no doubt won't be the last -- staffer to exit WGN as the news/talk radio station works its way through a massive revamp under program director Kevin Metheny, who is seeking to attract more of the younger 25 to 54-year-old demo that advertisers covets.

Zampillo made a veiled reference to his new job with Sirius/XM on a his Facebook page. He has posted an "Empire State of Mind" video with imagery of New York City, along with the comment "My new home . . . I will miss you Chicago, but it's time to go."

SimonBadinter_2.jpgIf there are any lingering doubts in the radio world that Program Director Kevin Metheny was brought on board to shake up and expand the somewhat older-skewing audience base at news-talk WGN-AM (720), the Chicago debut on Sunday of Frenchman Simon Badinter and his "Simon Rendezvous" show should quickly dispel them.

Badinter may be a stranger to Chicago and WGN listeners, but he is very much a known quantity -- and something of an oddity -- in Cleveland. Yes that would be Cleveland, Ohio, where rivers used to catch on fire and where Metheny was based before he abruptly turned up at WGN in December to replace Bob Shomper, who abruptly jumped to news/talk WLS-AM (890) as program director.

For the past two years Badinter, who was born and raised in Paris, France, has been doing his "Rendezvous" schtick at WTAM-AM (1100), and Badinter has had a fun time playing his worldly sophistication off against the somewhat more provincial mindset of his Cleveland listeners (no offense intended Clevelanders!) But Badinter would tell you that his radio show's real appeal has less to do with his aristocratic Frenchness than it does with the wide-ranging topics he chooses to discuss every week and the heated debates he apparently sparks with lots of listeners. Recently, for instance, he has addressed gay marriage and the cojoined themes of drugs and rock 'n roll. "My show is not really about what Simon says, it's about the passion my listeners have for the topics we debate," Badinter told us.

For his part, Metheny isn't predicting how Badinter will fare with many current WGN listeners who aren't necessarily used to interacting with an aggressively-opionated radio talent like Badinter, but Metheny is sure hoping he'll draw fresh, younger ears to the station. The curious -- young or old -- can tune in to Badinter's first three-hour WGN show at 6 p.m. on Sunday.

If this is Kevin Metheny's idea of a clever publicity stunt, it doesn't bode well for his tenure as WGN-AM (720) programming director. Recently named to that position by WGN Vice President and General Manager Tom Langmyer, Metheny took to the WGN airwaves Friday afternoon to announce that the Tribune Co. news/talk radio station is offering its currently-vacant 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. radio show to Rod and Patti Blagojevich. WGN's early afternoon host slot was recently vacated by John Williams, who is now the station's morning drive anchor.

Metheny's stunt would be a lot cuter if he had gotten to it first. Problem is, WLS-AM (890) got there first a couple days ago when it offered Gov. Blagojevich a Sunday radio show if he would resign. To our knowledge, Metheny did not explicitly state the Governor had to resign to get the WGN gig, but the WGN programming director must have assumed Blagojevich couldn't effectively do both jobs at once, even with his wife helping out on the radio.

Metheny may have felt compelled to make the job offer to Blagojevich and his wife because the WLS offer, which was widely publicized, was initiated by WLS Programming Director Bob Shomper, whom Metheny replaced at WGN. WLS, which has recently added Mancow Muller and Pat Cassidy to its lineup of on-air talent, is locked in a battle for listeners and ratings with WGN. So Metheny must have been more than a little miffed when Shomper and WLS grabbed the headlines and pulled focus from WGN.



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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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