WBEZ Cut 12 Employees and Terminated Agreement with Sound Opinions

WBEZ announced the layoffs of 12 employees and the termination of its production agreement with the weekly rock music talk show Sound Opinions, reported Robert Feder who had been covering the media beat in Chicago since 1980. The cuts came after WBEZ faced a 20% revenue decline in the wake of the COVID-19 shutdown.

Sound Opinions is hosted by Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot. The show is described on the WBEZ website as: Take two nationally respected rock critics, the latest music news, personal commentary, and exclusive interviews and performances, add a huge pile of records old and new, and the result is Sound Opinions.

On June 16, 2020, Greg Kot tweeted: “We at @soundopinions appreciate the messages of support we’ve gotten about today’s announcement. To be clear, while WBEZ will no longer produce the show, SO will continue independently and be heard on WBEZ & 150 stations in the U.S. as well as the podcast.”

Robert Feder posted the test of Chicago Public Media’s (CPC) statement on his website:

“The economic impact of COVID-19 has placed enormous pressure on the finances of many organizations, including Chicago Public Media. As a result, we are facing an overall revenue decline of 20 percent in the coming fiscal year, leaving a deficit four times larger than the deficit experienced during the 2008 financial crisis.
“Since then, we have worked proactively and collaboratively to implement a number of cost-savings measures, including a freeze on hiring for new positions, executive compensation reductions, a salary freeze, a temporary suspension of 403b company match, and a voluntary separation option, among many others.
“We also received PPP funding under the CARES Act and modest funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting from the recent emergency Congressional appropriation, both of which provided support for us in the immediate term and enabled us to avoid layoffs or furloughs for any staff members during these past few months.
“These steps, along with the generosity of members and donors, have gone a long way toward helping us lower our deficit, but they alone don’t fully address the historic challenges facing us. Therefore, we find ourselves in the unfortunate position of having to make additional reductions. 
“Today we announced layoffs of 12 members of the Chicago Public Media team. In addition, we are also ending WBEZ’s production of Sound Opinions on August 28. Going forward, Sound Opinions will continue as an independent public radio show and podcast. It will continue to air on WBEZ, as well as on nearly 150 other public radio stations, with distribution via PRX. 
“While these decisions are extremely difficult ones, we have worked hard to preserve the local journalism and programming investments that are so critical to our mission and to our community. As a result, we have not made any layoffs to our newsroom, programming or Vocalo teams. We remain committed to navigating these unprecedented challenges as responsibly as possible so that we may continue serving Chicagoans with the essential journalism and programming they need.”

WBEZ will be at Podcast Movement 2016

Podcast Movement 2016 logoPodcast Movement 2016 will take place in Chicago. It seems very fitting that three of Chicago’s own WBEZ podcasts will be at this year’s Podcast Movement. They are the most recent additions to the lineup of speakers who will be part of the event.

Podcast Movement is the premier international gathering of podcasters. It happens in a different location each year. According to the Podcast Movement website, Chicago is one of the best podcast cities in the world. They feel that much of the credit for turning the city into one of the preeminent locations for podcasting can be given to WBEZ.

WBEZ has added a number of niche and pop-culture podcasts to their family of digital shows. This American Life leads the pack of the world’s most popular podcasts, drawing nearly 3.5 listens a month. WBEZ’s podcast umbrella also includes Sound Opinions, where WBEZ’s Rock Doctors hold court on everything musical, and Filmspotting, a unique film review show.

Podcast Movement 2016 has been slowly revealing the speakers and panelists that will be at the event. They are planning on having more than 100 of them. The exact schedule of when each will speak has yet to be released. What is clear is that Podcast Movement 2016 will take place on July 6-8, 2016.

Three WBEZ podcasts, and their hosts, have been added to the list of speakers. Shannon Cason is the host of Homemade Stories. He is a powerful voice in the storytelling front, and a Moth GrandSLAM winner. In the podcast, he lays out his life for the listener, blemishes and all. Some stories are insightful and true, and others are works of fiction.

Keith Ecker and Erin Kahoa are hosts of Pleasure Town. It is a serial podcast about the people who live in PleasureTown, Oklahoma, as told by a mix of eclectic residents. The podcast is a mix of old-time radio show and dark contemporary drama.

Tricia Bobeda and Greta Johnson are the hosts of Nerdette. It is a show where they talk to people about their obsessions, from science to science fiction, great lady nerds of history, to Beyonce. Their podcast can be summed up as: “It’s not about what you love. It’s about how much you love it.”