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Recently in Mike McConnell Category

The unending re-arrangement of talent and programs continues at Tribune Co.-owned news/talk WGN-AM (720).

With the pending arrival of former Cincinnati talk show host Mike McConnell on Aug. 9, WGN-AM program director Kevin Metheny has finally revealed how he intends to divvy up a huge chunk of WGN morning and afternoon air time between McConnell and John Williams, the only weekday host left standing from the pre-Metheny era at WGN-AM.

McConnell will follow morning drive host Greg Jarrett with a show that runs from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. That means Jarrett will lose a half hour of air time to the new arrival McConnell. Williams will then host from 12:30 to 3 p.m., paving the way for afternoon drive host Garry Meier. The new program line-up with McConnell and Williams debuts Aug. 9. Jim Gudas will handle news during the McConnell show and Mary Van De Velde will do traffic reports. Steve Bertrand will report news for the Williams show and Leslie Keiling will handle traffic.

Since his arrival at WGN more than 18 months ago, WGN program director Metheny has been relentless and ruthless about shaking up what he perceived to be a tired WGN filled with talent and programming unerringly aimed at an elderly population of little or no interest to advertisers the station now covets. Metheny was notably silent Tuesday about the latest series of on-air changes, leaving WGN general manager Tom Langmyer to comment in a prepared statement. "Mike and John back-to-back make an extraordinarily strong team, and our listeners will be well-served with the best in news information and engaging conversation," said Langmyer.

But Metheny's constant shifting -- and jettisoning -- of talent has infuriated vast numbers of longtime WGN listeners, who have been just as constant in voicing their anger over the upheaval Metheny set in motion

Metheny's bosses, of course, won't mind what he has done at WGN if he is successful in improving the station's ratings in the key 25 to 54 demo. Until the Chicago Cubs are factored out of the WGN Arbitron ratings in October, it will be impossible to say with certainty whether Metheny's game plan is showing any real signs of success.

Mike-McConnell-preferred-head-shot.jpgIs it a done deal that Mike McConnell will take over the 9 am time slot now occupied by John Williams at WGN-AM (720)?

At least a couple of Chicago media pundits apparently have concluded that is indeed the slot McConnell will fill at WGN-AM, at least based on remarks the Chicago-bound radio host made to Cincinnati Enquirer media writer John Kiesewetter in a column that ran Tuesday. "McConnell debuts 9 a.m. August 9 on WGN-AM he said" is the line in Kiesewetter's column that seemed to answer the question about what role the new host will play at WGN. But McConnell's assertion wasn't in actual quotes in Kiesewetter's column, though it suggests that is what McConnell said to the writer.

In any event, McConnell's remark to the Cincinnati writer was apparently news to WGN-AM general manager Tom Langmyer who, in an e-mail to us Wednesday, had this to say about McConnell's comment and his future role at WGN-AM: "That would be odd coming from him (McConnell), because HE doesn't know what specific slot he'll be working in, because it has yet to be determined." Of course, that said, it's still entirely possible McConnell could show up in the 9 am time slot on WGN in August, which could signal the end of the road for Williams at WGN. But a WGN spokeswoman said again Wednesday that the station "will be making an announcement within the next 2 months" about what McConnell will do at the station.

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.



About the blogger

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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