Updated Feb 28, 2024 - Business
Scoop

Scoop: WBEZ to scale back local programming

Inside of newsroom with computers and WBEZ91.5Chicago sign.

Photo: Carrie Shepherd/Axios

Chicago's NPR station WBEZ is cutting down its locally produced, daily on-air talk programming to one hour.

Why it matters: WBEZ, one of the largest public radio stations in the country, has scaled back its on-air local daily news shows from four hours roughly a decade ago.

Driving the news: The NPR affiliate plans to shorten its two-hour flagship program, "Reset with Sasha-Ann Simons," which will broadcast from noon to 1pm on weekdays, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios. The decision is reportedly driven by plans to focus more on WBEZ's digital audience, sources say.

  • The new schedule begins Monday and a spokesperson for Chicago Public Media says no personnel changes are planned at this time.

What they're saying: The shift to one hour will allow "new features, including more listener engagement, more timely and relevant news coverage and regular segments on Chicago history, health and wellness, arts and culture, the environment and more," WBEZ said in a statement Wednesday.

Zoom out: The decision comes several months after Chicago Public Media CEO Matt Moog announced he was stepping down. He's still leading the organization while the board searches for his successor.

State of play: Local shows will now make up one hour of WBEZ 91.5's on-air schedule Monday-Friday.

  • WBEZ also produces two Friday evening music programs "Radio Z" and "Reclaimed Soul."
  • Nationally distributed shows "This American Life" and "Wait, Wait… Don't Tell Me!" are co-productions of WBEZ, PRX and NPR.

Between the lines: In the latest radio ratings, WBEZ has a 2.7 share, which ranks in 13th place locally.

Yes, but: Its 2021 astronomical ratings were during the pandemic, when listening habits changed and the country was still sorting out the 2020 election.

The big picture: The move comes as D.C. public radio station WAMU shut down its local digital site DCist and cut staff in order to focus more on audio, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

Catch up quick: "Reset" debuted in October 2019 as a two-hour, live midday show hosted by Jenn White, after the station announced it was canceling the "Morning Shift" and "Worldview" programs.

  • Simons began hosting in late 2020.
  • Chicago Public Media acquired the Sun-Times in 2022 after the daily newspaper had suffered from years of declining revenue, making it the largest nonprofit newsroom, according to the company.

Disclosure: Carrie Shepherd worked at Chicago Public Media for many years.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to add new details after WBEZ announced the change.

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