Big changes on Chicago's AM dial have an impact on Milwaukee radio listeners in two different ways.
First, of course, are the actual listeners to Chicago radio. Some of Chicago's AM dial is easy to pick up here, and last week's latest shuffle on WGN-AM (720) yielded a couple calls and e-mails from Wisconsin WGN listeners wondering what was up.
But more importantly, changes in the radio business usually hit the nation's third-largest market before they hit Milwaukee, now No. 37 on Arbitron's list of radio markets.
WGN's shuffle was mostly in response to ratings -- a far tougher game for the "heritage" radio station than it was before the Chicago market adopted Arbitron's new Portable People Meter ratings system in 2008. Heritage stations have maintained a specific identity in their market for decades.
Well, the People Meters -- which provide monthly, rather than quarterly ratings -- may make it harder to maintain any heritage. The numbers are coming quicker, and the responses by programmers may come more quickly.
In Milwaukee, the "heritage" station is WTMJ-AM (620). The station divides its broadcast day between the more traditional "information station" in mornings and afternoons, the conservative Republican talk station from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays, and sports after 6 p.m.
It's the sports part to keep an eye -- or an ear -- on. Portable People Meters will start measuring Milwaukee radio listening this fall.
One of the big changes at Chicago's WGN is the axing of its evening sports/talk show, which ran from 7 to 9 p.m., when there wasn't sports game coverage. In its place is a talk show hosted by an ex-con politician, Jim Laski.
That show could be a short-term phenomenon. What's important is that WGN surrendered sports/talk to stations that do it full-time.
But the most important thing here may be the rapidity with which WGN is making changes. It's on its third morning show host in three years. It's now shaken up its entire lineup, with some parts of the day shuffled a couple times.
Milwaukee is a radio market that focuses on stability. Some drive-time hosts, both morning and afternoon (the most important time slots in radio) have been behind their microphones for decades.
The coming change in the ratings system could see some of them continue to thrive. But until the numbers start coming in, nobody knows what will happen.
On TV: Channel 6 weather guy Vince Condella shaved his mustache a year ago, but there's an active "Please Bring Back the Mustache!!" Facebook page, with nearly 300 supporters. Vince posted his own answer, a firm "no": "I had it for 33 years and was more than happy to shave it off on May 1, 2009. It's time had come. Remember folks, change is good."
- Channel 4 morning co-anchor Vince Vitrano should be back on the air by the middle of the week after taking a few days off for his young son Max's tonsil-adenoid surgery.
- Tiffany Ogle, co-host of Channel 4's "Morning Blend," has launched a blog. C'mon Tiffany, one post a week is not enough. Of course, her co-host, Molly Fay hasn't updated her blog since February.
- NBC has renewed its limited-run "The Sing-Off" for a second season
Naughty, naughty Tina: While Tina Fey's Sarah Palin bit caught a lot of attention after the latest "Saturday Night Live," she did a lot sketches in one of the better installments of NBC's "SNL" in a long time.
One funny and uncomfortable sketch featured teen pop star Justin Bieber as a student and Fey as his ickily obsessed teacher. Some viewers are saying it was a little too icky. Of course, that was the point. I thought it worked.
What about you, did you think it went too far?
Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for OnMilwaukee.com. He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.
A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.
In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at OnMilwaukee.com.
When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.