Chicago Sun-Times
Lewis Lazare follows Chicago media and marketing news

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Chicagoans really care about the weather -- especially when a potentially historic blizzard is about to hit the city. Late news overnight ratings were unusually high for all late local newscasts Monday night, with the notable exception of Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32.

Top-rated ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 still bested all other stations with a whopping 11.2 rating (392,000 households), about two rating points higher than usual. But Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9's hour-long 9 p.m. newscast, which features popular meteorologist Tom Skilling in its weather reporting arsenal, was a close second with a 10.2 rating (357,000), nearly double what the station's average late news rating has been in recent weeks. The station has long considered Skilling a major draw, but no more so than now with the blizzard approaching. On Tuesday, the station's spokeswoman Diana Dionisio had even taken to reminding reporters that "we ARE weather to Chicago, after all."

Both NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 and CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 also had considerably better-than-usual ratings success Monday, scoring 8.7 (304,500) and 8.0 (280,000) ratings respectively for their late newscasts. Only WFLD seemed unable to pull in any new viewers with the blizzard on the way. The station could only manage a 2.5 rating (87,500) for the night, about what it has been drawing in recent months.

Sudberry_Howard_2.jpegThere are second acts, folks. Longtime local TV sports anchor and reporter Howard Sudberry has joined Arlington Park as senior director of marketing and communications. Sudberry begins his new job this week.

Sudberry, a lifelong racing fan and son of a trainer, joins Arlington after spending a quarter century as a three-time Emmy Award-winning sports anchor and reporter at CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2. During his tenure at Channel 2, Sudberry hosted frequent telecasts of major races from Arlington Park. Since leaving the station in 2008, Sudberry started his own sports-media consulting firm, Sudberry Media Group. He also produced and co-hosted the 2010 telecast of the Arlington Million that aired on Comcast SportsNet.

In his new role, Sudberry will plan an instrumental part in increasing Arlington Park's visibility by contributing to the track's marketing, advertising, sales and communications efforts. Said Sudberry of his new job: "I went to Arlington as a young kid as a fan, hosted television shows from Arlington for years, so it's only natural that I wind up working with the team there trying to revitalize the excitement of the sport of thoroughbred racing and the beauty of the racetrack."

Song, Susanna.jpgBuffalo Grove-native Susanna Song joins CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 as a full-time general assignment reporter effective Dec. 13. Song comes to Channel 2 from KSTP-TV in Minneapolis/St. Paul, where she has been a reporter since 2007. Prior to that she worked at WEEK-TV in Peoria for three years.

Song is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. During her time at Medill, song worked on air for the Korean Broadcasting Channel in Chicago. Song also was an intern at Channel 2 in the summer of 2003.

Assistant news director Don DuPree is leaving CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 to work as director of Roger and Chaz Ebert's upcoming movie review TV show "Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies," slated to debut Jan, 21, 2011 on PBS stations nationwide. DuPree had been at WBBM since August of 2009.

DuPree's departure marks the second high-level executive to exit WBBM in just a matter of weeks. Top marketing honcho Jim Corboy also recently departed when his position was eliminated. A WBBM spokeswoman said DuPree will be replaced.

DuPree's involvement with the Eberts' new movie review show is something of a homecoming. "Roger called and said it was time for me to come over and take control of the family farm," said DuPree.

For more than 15 years, DuPree worked as director and executive producer on a couple of iterations of Roger Ebert's original movie review show that first paired the Sun-Times movie critic with the late Gene Siskel, a longtime movie critic at the Chicago Tribune. Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper eventually became Ebert's permanent co-critic on the TV show after Siskel's death. Previous to his first stint working with Ebert on the movie review show, DuPree was an executive producer on NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5's late newscast.

DuPree arrived at WBBM last year as a key player in news director Jeff Kiernan's push to clearly differentiate Channel 2's news product from that of its competitors. Kiernan saw in DuPree's varied background some skills that he believed could help give WBBM the fresh look Kiernan was after.

But not everything worked out for the best during DuPree's stint at WBBM. DuPree was part of the team that worked on the ill-fated and highly unconventional early morning show "Monsters & Money in the Morning," that focused on sports and business topics. The show lasted all of seven months before the plug was pulled in late August. "I think it was a great try, but I'm sorry the results weren't better," said DuPree. He is leaving WBBM while the jury is still out on whether the new anchor talent at WBBM, including veterans Walter Jacobson and Bill Kurtis and newcomer Kate Sullivan, will help lift the station in the all-important Nielsen television rankings.

In the most recent September Nielsen rating book, WBBM was still in third place among the three stations with 10 p.m. newscasts.

In a first for the Writers Guild of America East, web news writer/producers at WBBM-Channel 2 have voted unanimously to be represented by the Writers Guild East. These are the first news writer/producers working exclusively on web content to join the WGAE, the union that has long represented CBS News employees writing for television and radio. "This victory for web writers demonstrates that even in the digital age writers want the strength union representation provides," said WGAE executive director Lowell Peterson. "We voted to join the Guild because we want the stability and voice on the job that a union provides," added WBBM web writer Michael Ramsey. The Writers Guild of America East represents writers in motion pictures, television, cable, digital media and broadcast news.

Mike Hegedus, one of two co-hosts who stuck it out to the end on WBBM-Channel 2's unconventional "Monsters & Money In the Morning" early morning show, brought down the curtain on the show's seven-month run Friday with an impassioned, very unconventional commentary.

Rather than mouthing the typical "thank you's" and other innocuous pleasantries, Hegedus used the show's final moments to suggest he didn't necessarily agree with the decision to pull the plug on the show. Hegedus said "Monsters & Money" was dying for all the wrong reasons.

From there Hegedus went on to mourn the decline of creativity in the TV business. His candid observations caused Hegedus to noticeably choke up at one point, but he regained his composure as he ended with a plea for the courage to be different.

Though Hegedus' remarks seemed to come down hard on WBBM management for cancelling "Monsters & Money" before it had been given sufficient time to prove its viability, the powers-that-be at the station nonetheless allowed Hegedus to speak his mind. "Monsters & Money" co-host and Sun-Times financial columnist Terry Savage was seated next to Hegedus during his brief speech, and she reached over to shake his hand and commend him as soon as he was finished.

Meanwhile, WBBM management has decided it will call its new, more traditional early morning show that debuts Monday "The CBS2 Morning News at 4:30." That will change to "The CBS2 Morning News at 5" at 5 a.m. and again at the start of the 6 a.m. hour.

Another piece of CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2's new early morning show has fallen into place. Chicago native Susan Carlson has been tapped to co-anchor the new telecast along with Steve Bartelstein, another native Chicagoan who is relocating from New York to his hometown to co-anchor the new show. Carlson is no stranger to the early morning time slot. She was the news reporter for WBBM's "Monsters & Money in the Morning" early morning show that will end on Aug. 27.

Though WBBM's new early morning show is still in development, it reportedly will have a more traditional format than did "Monsters & Money," a roundtable show with talk about finance, sports and other news of the day. The ratings for "Monsters & Money" were terrible, and WBBM management pulled the plug on the show after only seven months. The new early morning show, which will air starting at 4:30 a.m. on weekdays, launches Aug. 30.

The new early morning news show under development at WBBM-Channel 2 will feature Megan Glaros as meteorologist. The Dyer, Ind. native comes to WBBM directly from WCBS-TV in New York, where she was the station's weekend meteorologist and entertainment reporter. Glaros also may do some entertainment reporting for WBBM's early morning show.

At WCBS, Glaros also worked with Steve Bartelstein, who is returning to his native Chicago from New York to anchor WBBM's new early morning news show that will debut Aug. 30. Bartelstein resigned from WCBS in early 2009.

Sources said Glaros was interested in the WBBM early morning news weather job because she wanted to return to the Chicago area. Glaros graduated from Indiana University, where she studied journalism and atmospheric sciences.

WBBM's new early morning show replaces "Monsters & Money in the Morning," which suffered from low ratings and lasted only seven months. The "Monsters" round-table show featured talk about finance, sports and other news of the day and had four co-hosts: Sun-Times financial columnist Terry Savage, Mike Hegedus, Dan Jiggetts and Mike North.

We heard today from Steve Bartelstein, the 46-year-old TV anchor who is set to front CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2's new, yet-to-be-titled early morning newscast that will debut Aug. 30. The native Chicagoan told us "it's great to be home, and with all my family still here (in Chicago), it means a lot more dinners at mom's house." Until he resigned from CBS' flagship WCBS-TV in New York early last year, Bartelstein had worked in the New York market in recent years.

The new job at WBBM will mark his debut as a TV news man in his hometown. WBBM is now counting on Bartelstein to help make up the ground the station lost in the ratings during the seven-month run of "Monsters & Money in the Morning," a round-table show with talk about sports, finance and other news of the day. "Monsters" never clicked with audiences, and its ratings were about half of the small number WBBM was pulling with the more traditional early news show that "Monsters" replaced.

WBBM-Channel 2 's early morning show "Monsters & Money in the Morning," will end Aug. 27. The station is developing a new, as yet untitled early morning show that will debut Aug. 30. Steve Bartelstein, a Chicagoan who had been working in New York for WABC-TV and then WCBS-TV, will relocate to Chicago to front the new newscast, a WBBM station spokeswoman said. Bartelstein left WCBS in 2009, and had been looking for a new assignment since then. The rest of the early morning team that will work with Bartelstein is still to be determined.

WBBM's new early morning show will be more traditional in format than "Monsters" was, but still different enough to offer an alternative to what is currently available, station sources said. And Channel 2's new early morning show will start at 4:30 a.m., the start time that is now the new norm in the Chicago market for early newscasts.

The fate of the four "Monsters" anchors, including Sun-Times columnist Terry Savage, Mike Hegedus, Dan Jiggetts and Mike North, is unclear, but sources said it's possible one or more of them will continue to work at the station.

"Monsters" lasted just seven months. Its ratings were abysmal, about half of the already minuscule numbers WBBM was pulling in the early morning time slot before "Monsters" debuted.

WBBM general manager Bruno Cohen and news director Jeff Kiernan hoped they could give Chicagoans something different, but most viewers rejected the roundtable format with hosts discussing finance, sports and other news of the day. If nothing else, Cohen and Kiernan may have learned a valuable lesson about how far from the traditional news formats Chicagoans are willing to venture. There were also complaints from viewers that one or more of the hosts were missing from the show too often during its brief run.

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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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