Kristen McQueary is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. She writes about state and local politics and says she depends on local radio in Chicago. She listens to and from work, she streams radio at her home, and she listens to podcasts to catch up on what she might have missed. “I don’t even walk the dog without grabbing earbuds and strategically avoiding dead zones on our route.” So why is she upset?
McQueary writes in a Chicago Tribune piece that radio has got to be local for her to love it. “I want my cheesy, sophomoric radio stunts choreographed by Chicagoans who also can chat about the weather, an awkward date, or the inhumanity of sleet in May. I want Lin Brehmer’s ‘Lin’s Bin’ on WXRT 93.1, the very best storytelling in Chicago. I want crosstown trash talk. I want someone to admit they actually like Navy Pier. I want hosts who know it’s Vito & Nick’s Pizzeria even though everyone calls it Nick & Vito’s.”
What’s McQueary’s specific gripe? It’s the decision made by iHeartMedia’s “Big 95.5” to pipe in Bobby Bones. She’s not saying Bones and his team are not talented, quite the opposite. “They’re a ‘brand.’ They’re glitter. They’re welcome panache in a small Minnesota town or a rural Nebraska media market.” However, McQueary believes in a city as big as Chicago there needs to be a local morning show. “Chicago is the third-largest city in America — at least until Houston monster-trucks over us with its rising population figures. We should have a local lineup of morning show hosts who know Chicago, not jet past it on their way to LA. The talent is here. Interest in country music is growing. And politics permeates everything. We should have morning radio that reflects it.”
And this part of McQueary’s column is what makes the difference clear between having local hosts and a syndicated show on your station. “Last week, the city welcomed a new mayor. It was national news. Other music stations in town chatted it up on air or included it in their social media feeds. Do Bones and Co. have any idea what’s going on in Chicago? Can they name a popular dive bar or find Water Tower Place on a map or identify a member of the City Council? I’m no radio expert, but I do know an out-of-town morning team from Nashville sells listeners short.”
McQueary is a member of the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read McQueary’s column HERE.