Readers Elaine Cioni of Crown Point and Mrs. Hampilomatis of Chicago Heights are among the quite a few people who have contacted me recently with questions and confusion about the continuing wave of change on the Chicago broadcast airwaves.
"I know The Don and Roma Radio Show hasn't been on the air for sometime because of reported health problems," Elaine explained. "Will you give readers an update about what's going on?"
Don and Roma Wade have a three decade career in Chicago radio and the husband and wife duo have earned legions of fans. (My father Chester ranks among those many fans.)
Don, 71, has been very public about his battle with brain cancer, the reason why their morning show had been on hiatus at WLS-AM 890 since September.
But sadly, earlier this month, they released a statement announcing their decision to not return to the airwaves. Cumulus Media, the station's parent company, also confirmed the couple's contract would be expiring at the end of this year.
"The daily stress of rising each day at midnight to prep for our 5 a.m. show does not help the healing process," Don and Roma said in the brief statement released via their agent Eliot Ephraim.
"So we are choosing a different path and focusing on what's really important for us right now."
Earlier this month, John Williams, a mainstay on WGN Radio, completed his run in Chicago to concentrate on doing a radio show in Minneapolis. Williams' WGN contact was also ready to expire and he told listeners that when weighing his options, he found Minneapolis to be the gig where management was assuring him a more long-term future.
WGN also announced this month it was ending the nearly four-decade weeknight radio show of Milt Rosenberg, a University of Chicago psychology professor. Rosenberg, 87, told others he had expected to be part of the sweeping change at WGN and even acknowledged he'd been working without a contract in recent months.
Garry Meier, the afternoon radio personality, joked with WGN TV meteorologist Tom Skilling that even though he (Meier) has only been with WGN for less than four years, he's now "an old-timer at the station."
Meier also kidded Skilling about the weatherman's recent 10-year contact he just signed to continue with WGN.
"You're the only one around here with job security Tom," Meier said.
"The rest of us have our contracts on those Magic Slates that can just be shaken and erased so the management can say: 'Contract? What contract?'"
Much of this uncertainly at WGN Radio, as well as unease for the television division and newspapers under the same ownership, like The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times, comes from the parent company's recent emergence from a long bankruptcy. The Tribune Company already sold the Chicago Cubs a couple of years ago for cash. Under the recent court ruling, company ownership has now been given to its creditors, who are expected to want to break up the media holdings to sell as individual properties.
Someone who does have some reason to smile at WGN Radio is Orion Samuelson, the radio station's business and agriculture reporter.
Samuelson, who turns 79 in March, has just written his autobiography, released last month. It's called "You Can't Dream Big Enough" (Bantry Bay Publishing). It sells for right around $30 (once you add in tax and shipping) from Amazon or WGNradio.com. The 416-page hardcover details highlights of his 60-year radio career, including working with late legends like Paul Harvey, Wally Phillips and others. For more information or how to purchase the book, call (312) 981-7200.