GOOD NEWS: When Chicago radio personalities get fired they wind up in one of four places: Michigan (Kevin Matthews), TV (Mancow), the ether (Garry Meier), or the Internet. The last is where you can find former WXRT-FM (93.1) jock Bobby Skafish. Earlier this year he and San Francisco-based Live365 launched an adult alternative/freeform online music service called Handcrafted Radio. Described as “rock music and its next of kin, blended lovingly and served simply,” it’s at www.hand craftedradio.com. Now, if we could only find a spot for his talented former colleague, Johnny Mars. Perhaps on a re-imagined “Big Beat” new-music showcase?
BAD NEWS: In 2006 the U.S. dropped to number 53 in the Worldwide Press Freedom Index â€“ tying with Tonga, Croatia, and Botswana. “Relations between the media and the Bush administration sharply deteriorated after the President used the pretext of ‘national security’ to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his ‘war on terrorism,'” says the group’s press release. “The zeal of federal courts which, unlike those in 33 U.S. states, refuse to recognize the media’s right not to reveal its sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism.”
They cite plenty of horrifying examples. “Freelance journalist and blogger Josh Wolf was imprisoned when he refused to hand over his video archives. Sudanese cameraman Sami al-Haj, who works for the pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera, has been held without trial since June 2002 at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo, and Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein has been held by U.S. authorities in Iraq since April this year.” Visit www.rsf.org for details.
SAD NEWS: As stated last month, we will sorely miss former Chicago DJ Allan Stagg, who died of complications from pneumonia earlier this year in Battle Creek, Michigan. Stagg, 55, was creator and host of the brilliant late-night radio how “Sanctuary” â€“ on which he seamlessly wove sound effects, movie clips, music, and his own deep, mellifluous voice to create a otherworldly atmosphere that recalled the early, underground days of free-form FM radio.
The show ran from 1997 to 2004 and at one point was on six nights a week from midnight to 5:30 a.m. “I like that time of night,” he said in a 2002 interview. “I like the intimacy of it. You don’t have to talk fast; you can slow down. People are listening to you because, frankly, they’ve got nothing else to do.
“I never realized how much stronger connection is with the audience at night than it is during the day.”
The Michigan native did time at WCKG-FM and WLS-FM before landing at WDRV-FM (94.7), which canned him in 2004 â€“ allegedly for posting a virtual tour of The Drive on a Web site he’d launched to keep in touch with his fans.
In 2005 Stagg landed a morning drive and program director gig at WRCC in Battle Creek, Michigan. The Michigan native had started his career at age 14 at Grand Rapids’ WLAV. Through the years his on-air monikers included George Jay, Lee George, George McGregor, George Stagg, and Allan Wolfe. His real name, though, was Juris J. Josts, and he left behind a wife and five young sons; a memorial educational fund has been established for them at The Allan Stagg Kids fund, c/o Marshall Community Credit Union, 839 W. Green St., Marshall, MI 49068.
ODDS ‘N’ SODS: The WBEZ-FM (91.5) radio magazine show “Eight Forty-Eight” is wrapping up a Thursday feature called “UnderCover,” in which local musicians cross genres and cover popular songs. On March 1st The Hoyle Brothers do Arthur Alexander’s “Go Home Girl,” and Bobby Conn covers something TBA on March 8th. “Eight Forty-Eight” airs weekdays from 9 to 10 a.m. and repeats Monday through Thursday from 8 to 9 p.m. Full disclosure: My radio essays sometimes air on the program . . . Wendy Snyder is out as traffic reporter and sidekick on Steve Dahl‘s WCKG-FM (105.9) radio show. According to the Sun-Times‘ Robert Feder she was given the pink slip on her first day back after a six-week leave for knee replacement surgery . . . Former WLIT-FM (93.9) morning host Melissa Foreman has signed on to CLTV’s “Homes Plus,” which she’ll co-host with WLUP-FM traffic reporter Jane Monzures. The home-buying showcase airs weekend mornings at 9 . . . Jazz fans can now see live tapings of the WFMT Radio Network jazz review program “Listen Here!” each month at the Chicago Cultural Center’s Claudia Cassidy Theater, 78 E. Washington St. The program, co-hosted by Neil Tesser and Mark Ruffin, features conversations and performances, and airs Fridays at 10 p.m. on Elgin’s WEPS-FM (88.9). For more information call (312) 744-6630 or go to www.listenhereradio.com . . . A radio version of “Upscale TV Chicago” featuring host William Kelly and producer Laura Grochocki airs Saturday nights at 8 on WCKG-FM (105.9) . . . Anyone who thinks radio sucks and further consolidation will make it worse won’t be able to put down sociologist Eric Klinenberg’s engaging new book, Fighting For Air: The Battle To Control America’s Media. Klinenberg, author of 2002’s Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy Of Disaster In Chicago, makes the underreported subject of corporate control of the media come to life and tells the stories of those trying to stop it. And make sure you buy it from an independent bookseller; see www.book sense.com to find one near you.
â€“ Cara Jepsen