Friday, March 8, 2019

History made: the WGA finally hangs out here

It's been a couple years since I first passive-aggressively complained about the Writers Guild of America East (WGA), which is the east-coast version of the Writers Guild of America West (the seemingly more trendy version, where Conan O'Brien and other Hollywood heavyweights grew beards or whatever as the WGA West went on strike and got lots of attention and forced multimillionaire talent to, *gasp*, write their own stuff). Then I followed up with a less passive-aggressive post about the WGA East, where I documented my failure to get an event in Chicago.

During those two years, I've sent detailed, aggressively whiny emails to the WGA overlords in New York, first getting no response, then eventually getting a response, then actually meeting a couple live human beings who bothered to come here, who were subjected to my venting about how New York-centric that ridiculous union is. So, after several years of having absolutely *no* events in Chicago, we finally had an event tonight. Which makes this day historic: for the first time, the WGA has actually made an effort to leave Manhattan, stop in flyover country, and organize an event, right here in Chicago.

It was a social event and celebration of contracts for The Onion and WBBM-TV. I thought some TV people would be there, but there were none, and I have no idea why. But the room was filled with Onion people. First of all, I didn't know The Onion was based here, and I didn't know it employed so many people. And someone told me their office was nearby, so it was easy to get to the bar. Since I was the minority (because I was one of only two people from WBBM Newsradio), I figured that since The Onion is a creative site and they had just had a victory, they'd be friendly and quirky and interesting, especially since we're part of the same union. So I tried to talk to people, with mixed results. I approached one group and asked them what they did, and asked if it would be okay if I took a picture to post here. No dice. They broke apart and gave me uncomfortable sideways glances. So I returned to the two non-Onion people I knew and planned another intervention.

Shereen Mo and Margaret Larkin
Shereen Mo and I, two of the only WBBM people there (symbolized by the super-bright light above our heads), during a break from my Onion-attempting socialization. The guy behind Shereen is an enthusiastic Onion union guy who[m] I didn't approach because he seemed busy circulating among his Onion compatriots.

Surely these creative types would want to meet someone new such as moi, and while I planned my next attempt at peeling the Onion, I took some pictures of the general scene.

The Onion staff in Chicago
Hipsters? I report, you decide.
The Onion staff in Chicago
I didn't sit at that empty table or anywhere else for that matter. And is a knit cap a hipster thing?

I took random pictures while the Onion groups seemed self-conscious and avoidant, though I managed to have a couple brief conversations with people who managed to segue away.

The Onion staff in Chicago
One of many Onion clusters at the event. I may have scared off one of these women when I intensely complained about union dues and bad wages, but the guy in the white hat marks a bit of foreshadowing.

I retreated once again, returning to the two people I knew, one of whom was someone I'd just gotten to know after sending him combative emails and having a one-hour conversation the previous day about various issues (thus I've calmed down, don't worry). He also happened to be one of two people I was consistently able to talk to, which made the event seem less like a high school cafeteria.

Chris Aiken Writers Guild of America East
Chris Aiken from the WGA, the person who was ready to talk whenever, creating a welcome space in the midst of a bunch of people whose tribe was theirs.

Eventually, after being one of only two people from WBBM, a third person showed up, news writer Mark Friedman. After I chatted with him a bit, I told him I was going to make another attempt to engage Onion folk in conversation, and something actually happened...I met two people who were friendly and wanted to talk, in spite of the fact that I was outside their orbit.

Joshua Patterson and Bryan Petcoff
Joshua and Bryan: glad to participate.

Joshua Patterson and Bryan Petcoff are producers at The Onion, and I had a great time talking with them. After Bryan left to tend to his dog, I talked to Joshua for a while about how great Chicago is, his hometown, Burbank, California, his interests and pursuits, including Feeltrip Records. Thus I did end up meeting someone who positively confirmed The Onion image, and talking to him about his life in Chicago reminded me of what the city was several years ago: a place to do lots of creative things and to explore while not spending a ton to live.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

New Year with Steve and Johnnie, Charlie Wheeler, Roger Badesch, Vic Vaughn, Jim DeRogatis props, dreams

Today is a day to make your dreams come true, because that's what this day officially is (or fake-officially)...Make Your Dream Come True Day!

A corporate-type representation of what we are celebrating, which reminds me of blogs that are written for businesses, not fun, such as this one.

Like some other strong souls in the media biz, I celebrated the new year working, but took time out between days to go to Steve and Johnnie's first New Year's Eve show in the new WGN Studios.

Johnnie Putman
Johnnie Putman with "The 3 C's," aka North Shore teens who perform country music, and Ronnie Rice (right). Note the time, which meant sleep deprivation between work days. And I think everyone except Johnnie are Evanston-oriented, including moi.

Steve King
Steve King after the fantastic fireworks that we saw right outside the window.

Roger Badesch
Roger Badesch editing audio while Vic Vaughn is reporting news...note the on-air light in the vast Santa-hatted newsroom.

  • And finally, a public service announcement: please watch the Lifetime documentary "Surviving R. Kelly." You don't have to like his music (as I don't) or even care about such culture, but what was allegedly happening in our backyard is quite ghastly. Also be sure to follow Jim DeRogatis on Twitter, who has done an excellent job reporting about the situation for several years (I don't know the guy, just respect him a ton for bravely speaking out when many wouldn't).

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Mike North, Ryan Burrow, INBA

Happy Elephant Appreciation Day! In some places, such as Thailand, elephants are popular and useful, and tourists like to ride them as well. Chicago doesn't have such an option, so I'll just post a decorative representation of one (since I haven't been to the zoo lately).
But I have much better and more legit pictures from the media world, because I was one of the few Chicagoans who made the trek to Springfield to attend the fall INBA (Illinois News Broadcasters Association) conference. I actually took the train, and at Union Station early in the morning, I saw former WLS Radio and current WCBS star Steve Scott (who[m] I've interviewed), who facilitated several seminars, even the auction, which benefits journalism students.

Steve Scott INBA
Those are train tickets, which my husband was bidding on, the timing of which wasn't planned btw. And I don't know why the light is so bright.

Another notable moment during the auction was when Rachel Lippmann, Reporter at
KWMU Public Radio in St. Louis, won a book in the auction and then gave it to WBBM reporter Bob Roberts (another news guy I've interviewed), who was attending his last INBA conference (after doing a ton of stuff for the INBA for like 20 years) as a board member.

Rachel Lippman Bob Roberts
A random journalist is clapping, Bob is on the right, and the lights are bright again for some reason.

The keynote speaker was John O'Connor, Political Writer for the Associated Press. Here he is (left) relaxing after his FOIA speech with Molly Jirasek, Assistant News Director at WEEK/HOI ABC-TV (who will probably work in Chicago eventually), and Bob.

John O'Connor, Molly Jirasek, Bob Roberts
I don't know what they're laughing about. Or maybe they're not, since
John seemed quite serious about doing big-time work.

  • And speaking of news reporting, I did an interview with the excellent radio news reporter Ryan Burrow, who's at WGN Radio and ABC Radio. Listen at this link.
  • But you might be thinking, "Who cares about news and news people?" Well, I have a decent response to that because I did a very interesting interview with lightning-rod sports guy Mike North. He was on The Score/WSCR for years and started doing digital with the failed Chicago Sports Webio...remember that? He actually talked about it (which he really hasn't talked about before) and much more. So skip the news and listen about the sports scene from a guy who isn't known for being reserved. I'm still thinking about it because he really talked about a lot and seemed very friendly.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

New Trib/tronc, new WGN, Esmeralda Leon, banking break

If you're planning on going to the bank on Monday, you're outta luck, because it's a banking holiday in Scotland. If you're not in Scotland but are in Chicago, or are interested in some Chicago-related media nerdiness, you're in luck, because I have some pictures.

  • First of all, I got a tour of the new Tribune/tronc digs, but I was told I couldn't take any pictures inside (I've also been to the Trib's Freedom Center, where they also print other stuff, but I couldn't take pics there either...but I swear I was really there). Suffice it to say, the new location is high-tech and beautiful. I know a lot of people were whining about the move and getting all dewy-eyed because the operation would no longer inhabit The Tower, but the new place is so open, so sleek, so cutting edge, I could easily work there, or even just hang out and gab with folks around the kitchen and other sociable areas, sipping coffee from their fancy maker and eating some snacks from their wired-in snack machine, while they wonder who I am :p Perhaps one day I will be able to take pictures of the interior, but in the meantime, this is what I got:

Chicago Tribune new entrance
A glimpse of its modernity is on the right. Believe me, I really went inside.

  • And speaking of fancy coffee machines, I saw the latest at the new WGN Radio home, which is also sleek and modern, though not at the same level as the Trib (not knocking the radio station, but it's simpler). Luckily, they seemed to not mind if I took a couple pictures.

WGN newsroom late at night. I don't know why this is vertical. But note the old typewriter.

Andrea Darlas Patti Vasquez WGN
Andrea Darlas and Patti Vasquez on the air in the brand new studios.

Bonne nuit!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

John Siuntres, Faruq Basir, Stephanie Trussell, Ricky Gieser, iced tea

Are you hot? Well have an iced tea, because today is National Iced Tea Day! There's also still time to hang out in Andersonville, where I will be volunteering for Midsommarfest...stop by the beer tent to say hello!

iced tea
I hope that green snack doesn't have some weird dye, or mold, or whatever.

  • Major congratulations goes to Faruq Basir, who is now full-time at iHeart Radio's Total Traffic Network, where he will continue to be on the air at WGCI, KISS-FM, and WLIT and continue to produce. He also is an editor at WBBM Newsradio, so he's quite busy.

Faruq Basir
Faruq Basir in charge of the newsroom late at night. 
  • And this just in: Rick Gieser's (who[m] I interviewed) son is going to be on Patti Vasquez's show on WGN (I'm assuming in the new studio) on Monday night at 11:30, so tune in to hear him talk about his passion, bees.

  • And in case you went to the WLS website and saw that Stephanie Trussell has a show on Saturdays from 1-3 pm, that would be wrong...they haven't updated the site, but she's now on the air from 3-6 pm on Saturdays. I highly recommend her interview with Larry Elder, who talks about the hardships his father faced, in addition to their strained relationship.

  • And speaking of interviews...I've just posted my latest one with John Siuntres, who's worked at several radio stations, including WSCR The Score in its early days, Hubbard Radio, WBBM...and is one of the *pioneers* of podcasting. He started his podcast, Word Balloon, in 2005, which is when podcasting was in its infancy. He's pretty much the only person I have met who was there when it all started, and his podcast has become very popular, with sponsors and thousands of listeners. The interview also includes samples of his voice and production work. I think it's a compelling interview, and I was very glad to talk to a long-time, established, successful podcaster. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Ryan Denham, Jeff Burnett, Josh Morgan, Brooke Brighton, INBA, jelly beans

Today is the last day of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association conference in East Peoria, and I've had such a great time, I want to go to the next conference in the fall. A lot of people assume it's for newbies, but I have learned so much and feel really energized and motivated to keep doing stuff and staying on track.

  • One person who totally made the conference worth the trip is Ryan Denham, Digital Content Director at WGLT Radio. He did an amazing presentation about creating compelling digital stories. Every single person who creates digital content, not just news people, could apply what he talked about. Actually, when I asked a seasoned pro why more people don't join the INBA, he said it's because they say they already know what's needed. It was clear that what Ryan was talking about is not practiced by those pros, and he really should be speaking to all kinds of content-creating groups. He also deservingly [don't know if that's a legitimate word] won a couple AP awards.

WGLT's ​Ryan Denham and News Director Charlie Schlenker
btw--WGLT is at Illinois State University in Normal. 
  • Also, what's happening right now (I'm obnoxiously typing during a conference session) is that WEEK-TV (in Peoria) producer Jeff Burnett (who's also on the air at WBWN Radio and is also one of my supportive podcast listeners) is speaking about working in small markets. There are actually people who don't care about going to Chicago, or they end up not caring once they find their niche in a smaller market. He's presenting with WREX (in Rockford) News Director Josh Morgan and WMBD-WYZZ Meteorologist Brooke Brighton (who weirdly didn't show up in the photo, but I don't have time to solve that problem).
Jeff Burnett and Josh Morgan
Now back to my offline life, though I won't be eating jelly beans despite it being National Jelly Bean Day.

A modest selection to represent today.

Friday, April 20, 2018

INBA, WILL Radio, Craig Dellimore, Joe Ward

Greetings from East Peoria, where I'm at the Illinois News Broadcasters Association spring convention! I ended up joining the organization late last year when board member Jeff Burnett (who[m] I will meet in-person for the first time) asked if I was interested in signing up. I figured, why not? And here I am! 

So far, people seem very friendly, and I didn't realize how badly I needed to get out of Chicago to be able to relax and reflect. Here are a couple of people I met who work far away from Chicago, all the way in ChampaignUrbana at WILL RadioSteve Morck, who's a host and producer (left), and Brian Moline, who's the Morning Edition host and Managing Editor. They seem really friendly and are very content with what they're doing...and busy. Seems like that public radio station is doing lots of interesting stuff and is expanding...which is rare in the radio world!

Steve Morck and Brian Moline, WILL Radio
They had no idea about my podcast...guess it doesn't play in Peoria.
All right, back to my East Peoria adventure...stay tuned.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Christopher Robling, Martin Hawrysko, Caitlin Fry, Rey Diaz, waffles

Long time no see/write! In addition to working, I spent several weeks dealing with a very badly dented car (scroll down for photo), thanks to someone who crashed into me in a parking garage. It wasn't a matter of simply calling their insurance company and taking it in to the body shop to be fixed; there were mini battles and obstacles along the way, including on the last day when I finally got my car back. There are too many details to bore you with (if you see me elsewhere, I'll describe that "ordeal" if you want).

But it became a kind of mini-hobby, in addition to one of my more official ones...volunteering at the Swedish American Museum. Why do I mention this? Because today is Våffeldagen, aka Waffle Day. I've noticed the Swedes enjoy treats and relaxation, and the holiday season provides a valid excuse to enjoy life even more. So if you're in Andersonville today, go to the museum to eat waffles! I am actually helping out a bit before I close out the night at my radio job, so I might see you there!

waffle day
Courtesy of "Institutet för språk och folkminnen," a Swedish site I barely understand
because my Swedish is still quite awful.
  • Also today (or technically, tonight), Christopher Robling will be guest-hosting the "Beyond the Beltway" show from 6-8 pm. Mr. Robling is a very understanding person because one time I bluntly told him that his political analysis was off, and he didn't hate me for it (that's the risk of often having to be silent...I'm not allowed to express myself, so I sometimes blurt stuff out to kind people like him).
  • Time now for a public service announcement: Caitlin Fry, a writer/pro communicator who was at WGN Radio before moving out West, has a great blog post about a failed company that was initially celebrated on TV and had been giving her a hard time. I remember when blogs were pretty much mocked and derided by journalists in the early days before those pros jumped on the bandwagon. Now it's more difficult to find lengthy, heartfelt blog posts due to the proliferation of social media, but Caitlin does offer such a style, as in the days of yore. (btw--I'm not naming the company because their response to her seemed frightening, and I don't want to incur their alleged wrath either).
  • Another notable blog post (I love blogs, so if you have a good one, let me know) is from radio/media fan (and digital content pro) Martin Hawrysko about the White Sox on WGN Radio. I am *very* glad they made it to 720, but the style is still...well, it hasn't changed. I'll let Martin explain.
  • And speaking of sports and the White latest pod interview is with Rey Diaz, who works on the morning and midday shows at The Score (former home of the White Sox). He's one of the most decent guys I've met in radio, especially sports radio, and he's also an interesting guy. Listen to the interview here.  
My car...a Valentine's Day crumple at Northwestern. Yay.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Steve and Johnnie, John Siuntres, Elliot Abrams (again, interview this time), shortbread

If you have flour, sugar, and butter, today is for you because it's Shortbread Day!

french shortbread cookie
This is French shortbread. I hope the Scots don't mind.

  • The year started with witnessing history: for the last time, Steve King & Johnnie Putman had their New Year's Eve show in WGN's Showcase Studio. They're not giving up their show, but WGN will be moving across the river to 303 E. Wacker Drive. So if I get the chance next (this) year, I will attend that show at the new digs and post a picture. In the meantime, here's a picture of them on the air pretty much right after the clock struck midnight in freshly-minted 2018.

Steve and Johnnie New Year's Eve on WGN Radio
Steve and Johnnie on the air. Maybe I should've made this the first picture so it would be prominent.

And here's a picture of Steve in front of a bling Christmas tree and all the branding available:

Steve King on WGN. Maybe I should've made *this* the first picture.

  • Steve said he's working on an album and other projects, and they're pretty much doing what they'd say they do "some day," because Some Day is here. Bonus for reading this far: their book A Little More Les is currently being offered at a discount.
  • As you probably know, I've posted a couple essays by AccuWeather meteorologist Elliot Abrams (heard on WBBM Newsradio and stations on the East Coast that are probably buried in snow right now). He's not only a weather geek and linguist, but is a total radio guy as well. He discussed his long career, puns, and weather, of course. Listen to the interview here.
  • Speaking of podcasting and geek(s), John Siuntres, who does traffic on WBBM Newsradio and has a lot of radio experience that includes The Drive and The Score, has a popular podcast called Word Balloon, which is about comics, movies, and other "geek" culture (though at this point, I don't know if that's considered nerdy because it's become more mainstream, but that's another subject for another day). He's been doing his podcast longer than even moi, back when podcasts barely existed. He just posted a fresh episode about Star Trek (which is probably nerdy/geeky, so maybe you should ignore my previous commentary).

Saturday, December 23, 2017

I'm back, Elliot Abrams, Neil Fiorito, Pfeffernusse and Eggnog celebrations

No, I haven't forgotten about anyone out there in information-consuming land. I've just spent a lot of time working (mostly non-radio, with some radio sprinkled in) and taking a couple of classes: Swedish (which I'll continue in 2018 at the Swedish American Museum) and "Principles of Design & Development for Digital Media" (for which I got an A, I just found out) at City Colleges. In addition to meeting work deadlines and running around Chicago between four jobs, I spent many hours doing homework, working in the computer lab, and doing lots of projects, including redoing the Metrofiction site (which I established before my radio "career") as my final project. Now that I know more about web design, I have to redo my Radiogirl site, where you can find my most recent interview with Neil Fiorito, who does traffic at WBBM.

But enough about me...what about Festivus, which is today, or, more importantly, National Pfeffernusse Day! I've consumed these over the years, plus other German treats. They really know how to bake!

Photo from (I hope they don't mind)

But even much more importantly, Christmas Eve is also National Eggnog Day! I love eggnog!

Spiked eggnog is the best.

And just in time for the holiday, meteorologist Elliot Abrams (co-founder of AccuWeather radio) kindly gave me permission to post his essay, "Christmas Day 2017" (he's a very smart guy who does more in one day than most people do in a week):

Christmas Day 2017

The Declaration of Independence was signed in the warmth of a Philadelphia summer in 1776. But as 1776 came to a close, it appeared the Revolution might be doomed. George Washington and his forces had suffered a string of losses, and with each loss, there was less and less public support. After all, if the Revolution was lost and the British won, all who participated or aided in the revolt could be tried and convicted of treason against the Crown.

And so, when Washington and his depleted forces dared to cross the icy Delaware River on Christmas Night...then cunningly circled around and attacked Trenton from the north with the winds at their backs...sleepy eyed Hessian defenders waking up on the morning after Christmas were greeted by wind-launched darts and tacks of stinging sleet in their faces and a hail of bullets from the Americans who could hardly be seen through the storm.

The stunning victory at Trenton proved to be the turnaround event that fueled the rebel fire once again. But that was far from obvious to George Washington as he and his forces recrossed the river and regrouped. The army was about to dwindle away. Enlistments were over at the stroke of midnight, New Year's Eve. Desperate, and without official authorization, Washington called on the soldiers to stay, offering them a bonus if they extended their enlistments. The soldiers did not respond at first, but then one stepped forward, then another...and then another.

They hatched a plan to attack the British once again. Meanwhile, the snow on the ground melted. The rebels crossed the Delaware again on New Year's Day. This time the British were ready, and the rebels were forced into a corner. They were stranded in muddy fields, backs to the river...with no way to escape. One bold attack by the British would wipe out the American forces and end the war.

But George Washington was a Virginia farmer, and farmers watched the weather. He had experienced winter days with blue skies and northwest winds. He had seen the temperature hold steady during the those days, then sink below freezing at night. He had a thermometer and at noon it was 39 degrees and holding. A stiff northwest had erased the 50 degree weather of the previous day. Washington ordered the troops to prepare huge bonfires after sundown and make the appearance of bustling around in the camp.

Behind the fire glow, it was dark. We in the age of light pollution are not used to the kind of dark faced every moonless night back in the 1700s. But in the darkness, Washington's troops readied their equipment, even wrapping wagon wheels in cloth to minimize the noise. The ground froze. The forces moved out, picking their way northward...away from the encamped British who were lying in wait to mount their own attack at first light.

Dawn broke to the sight of rebel soldiers marching toward Princeton through fields laced with frost. The Battle of Princeton was fierce, but lasted less than an hour. One casualty was General Hugh Mercer. Mercer County NJ is named for the fallen patriot. The British were defeated again, and pulled back to their garrisons farther northeast in New Jersey. News of the rebel victories spread like wildfire back in Europe weeks later. Soon the French would be emboldened to declare war on Britain and help the American cause. George Washington and his weary forces set up camp in Morristown NJ, with hills to offer cover, and yet close enough to their enemy to spy on their activities.

If George Washington had not been up on his weather knowledge, and had not realized it would freeze at night as he did, his forces would have been surrounded and captured the next day. The hard-fought gains at Trenton would be meaningless.

A vast and empty field marks the place where the Battle of Princeton was fought 240 years before this coming January. As I stood there in an icy wind a few Decembers ago, storm clouds were increasing. It was a raw and unforgiving wind, a wind soon to be armed with sleet and freezing rain.

Aside from the wind in the trees, it was silent in that field. Darkness was moving in. I closed my eyes for a moment, and could almost imagine the footsteps of some of our first war veterans rustling through the fallen frosted leaves so long ago. And I said a silent thank you. If they hadn't done what they did when they had to, we couldn't do what we want to in

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History made: the WGA finally hangs out here

It's been a couple years since I first passive-aggressively complained about the Writers Guild of America East (WGA), which is the east...