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Media: June 2023 • Powering WGN AM 720

| May 31, 2023

Mary Boyle – WGN


Mary Boyle is the first female general manager in WGN Radio’s history. The rest of the industry has taken note. This past month she was once again named one of the Most Influential Women in Radio by **Radio Ink Magazine.

Her journey up the ladder, to the top job at the most iconic Chicago radio station, was nearly a straight line. Mary never worked in another market. She worked her way up the ladder from producer (for some of the biggest names in Chicago radio) to director of news and operations (at WGN), to General Manager.

She saw the path, and she took it.

“When I came to WGN in 2015,” she explains, “I told them I didn’t know how many producing years I had left in me. It’s a Groundhog Day-type job. I had already worked for Kevin Matthews and produced Steve Dahl’s show. I still liked it, but after 15 years of producing, it felt like it was time to move on. WGN lured me with the 5 AM morning business show, which was a subject matter that really interested me. There were also people here like Jimmy deCastro and Larry Wert, who I had heard so much about, and WGN is such an iconic station, it just sounded like a good idea. After working with Steve Cochran, the opportunity came up to be the director of news and operations, and Steve told me to throw my hat in the ring. That was a long interview process because I didn’t really have the track record, but they took a chance on me. I got that job not too long before the acquisition by Nexstar. Talks were already underway.”

When they took over, the new owners named her to the GM position. That was a big jump. The buck stops at the GM’s desk. But Mary always felt like she could handle it.

“I’m a no-bullshit kind of person,” she says, “and I knew there were some tough decisions to be made. I understood that business decisions wouldn’t always align with my personal feelings, but I also knew I would be able to separate that from what needs to be done. I’m a very clear message person, and I’m able to communicate very directly. My husband always says that I’m really good at delivering bad news. My producer training probably helped with that. Being a producer, especially of a very high-profile show, you have to be tough. You’ve learned to take the shrapnel. You’ve learned personality management. A lot of GMs come from the sales side. Coming from the programming side gave me an advantage. I knew what could work, and what couldn’t work. And I understood the sales side because all high-profile shows deal extensively with client integration. I had to do a lot of that before. My background meant that it wouldn’t be too difficult to absorb that part of the equation, which is obviously an important part of the job too.”

And now she runs one of the last remaining local talk radio stations that features local talent all day long. She was happy to sing their praises.

Morning personality Bob Sirott: “Bob is an ageless personality. He’s been around forever and can be around forever. He is so interested in doing a good job, works really hard at delivering every single day, and has none of the celebrity ego part of it. That’s why people have always liked him, and why they like him today.”

Midday personality John Williams: “John is maybe the best example of a traditional WGN talent. Even though he is doing the show, he’s like a listener. He always says, ‘It’s a big bus, and there’s room for all of you.’ At a time when people think no one wants to have a true conversation anymore, John believes the opposite. He can have his mind changed. If you present new information and communicate it well, he actually listens to what you have to say. He’s also a champion for the City of Chicago.”

Afternoon personality Lisa Dent: “I listened to Lisa Dent’s show when she was over at US-99 co-hosting the morning show with Ray [Stevens]. I also worked at the same company and met her in the hallways, and we got along great. We had a feeling it would work out perfectly. She’s got interesting things to say. She’s well respected. She’s our matriarch and tells us what’s going on every afternoon. She does a great job with Steve Bertrand. It was really cool how quickly WGN listeners embraced her.”

Evening personality John Records Landecker: “Our legend at night. He’s a Hall of Famer. He still attacks doing a show with the same youthful gusto he had 45 years ago.  You can just tell how much he loves radio. We’re in really good hands there.”

Although WGN is thriving station today, I wondered if she worried about the recent stories that new cars were being produced without AM radios.

“WGN Radio produces difficult-to-duplicate local news and content,” she replied. “The electric cars all have audio streaming capabilities which is one reason why WGN radio has seen continued growth in its streaming numbers.  Delivering our content via AM radio or any streaming device is irrelevant to the listener and the advertiser as long as our content remains desirable.”

For now, that content can still be heard at 720 on your AM dial (and on streaming, ask Siri and Alexa).

-Rick Kaempfer

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Category: Columns, Featured, Media, Monthly

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