Chicago's Need for FM Talk

When you think about talk radio in Chicago, the AM frequency usually comes to mind.

It’s been said (and written) that news and talk saved AM radio. Music sounds awful on stations like Inspiration 1390 AM and would be a better fit on the FM dial. But it would behoove us to see how much better news and talk radio would sound on the “other side”.

Just a month ago, change was in the air when WCFS (105.9 FM) and WKQK (101.1 FM) switched from music to a news format. And people started wondering then about whether FM talk shows could work. While there are some talk options on FM, they tend to be publicly funded WBEZ (91.5 FM) or syndicated like The Michael Baisden Show (WSRB-106.3 FM).

We need local talk shows to help supplement the struggling parts of our news market. For one thing, radio could be a good way to promote editorials in the newspaper. The Sun-Times’ Mary Mitchell has used her op-ed pieces to branch out to 106.3 FM and appear on other TV programs. Sometimes, radio is the best way to make the print “come alive” and serve as an interactive platform for ordinary folks.

Here are some folks that I would suggest for a local FM show:

Andy Shaw (former ABC 7 Chicago political reporter)

Andy Shaw knows politics. He knows the subject so well that he works for the Better Government Association as the executive director. He would definitely provide insight for News 101.1 FM’s audience and “stir the pot” of public opinion.

Lenny McAllister (former WVON-AM host)

Yes, he departed under controversial terms. But I feel that he deserves a second chance. If Amy Jacobson could leave Channel 5 under controversial terms and find other work, the same kind of forgiveness should apply to McAllister. He does a strong voice–whether you agree with him or not. Plus, his alignment with the Tea Party could give him a niche audience where he can have some very lively banter each day.

I doubt that 105.9 FM would be willing to take such a risk right away, but he could add some variety to the station which is simulcasted with WBBM-780 AM.

Sally Duros (Independent Journalist)

She’s a fellow Huffington Post blogger who does a little bit of everything related to journalism. As a member of the Association of Women Journalists Chicago chapter, she works hard to create a voice for women. Ms. Duros has even worked in a homeless shelter for abused women. That helps shape her message and make it relevant to the local female consumer.

Geoff Pinkus ( WIND-560 AM)

The Pinkster would be good for the sports fan/manly man demographic. If he had an FM frequency, he could probably mix in fight songs of his favorite sports teams and maybe some sound effects. Hey, it’s worth the try.

Val Warner (host of “Windy City Live”)

ABC 7 Chicago’s Val Warner has the perfect radio voice and personality. Unfortunately, she doesn’t get to show that side because she’s on a show with 100 co-hosts. (I mean damn, do Roe Conn and Ji Suk Yi need to be credited as unofficial co-hosts?) I highly doubt that Val would have such a major role if the tables were turned. If you are a contributor or producer, you shouldn’t be talking as much as the co-host. When you watch the evening news, have you EVER seen the anchors allow the sports and weather reporters to sign off on their own? No! They say “For (sports and weather reporters), I’m Ron Burgundy.”

Val doesn’t fit well with Ryan because their chemistry seems forced. So, this would be a great way for her to be more comfortable.

I just don’t know if we have enough stations willing to try out an FM talk show.


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  • You are old enough to remember when 105.9 was WCKG, which was FM guy talk. Once Howard Stern left, and was replaced with guys like Rover and Garry Meier here, and similar elsewhere, that whole network of CBS talk FM stations folded, and we got FRESH. Apparently, that didn't work either. Or, we didn't need 55+ year old guy talk (Steve Dahl and Garry).

    There may be a point that a "news" station could have some commentary, without turning it into something like WLS, where the news is basically to give Don and Roe something about which to talk. However, knowing people like Michaels, he is more likely to bring back Jim Lasky than anyone of substance.

    One other thing one has to figure about FM, is while it seems to have a large number of Spanish and Urban stations, supposedly they are still different. Clear Channel may have given 1690 to WVON, but it isn't going to give them WNUA (apparently Smooth Jazz didn't work either), WGCI or V103.

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