"Windy City warms to Greg Jarrett"

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Posted by Bud on December 12, 2009 at 12:44:10:

Radio Waves: Windy City warms to Greg Jarrett

Ben Fong-Torres
San Francisco Chronicle
Friday, December 11, 2009

Big Shoulders: It's only been five months since Greg Jarrett, the former afternoon co-anchor on KGO, started his new job as morning host on WGN-AM in Chicago, but he's already established himself as a force in the Windy City. He's even ruffled Oprah Winfrey's feathers.

First things first. Jarrett, a veteran reporter who was co-anchoring the news with Rosie Allen, was let go from KGO in January in a cost-cutting move by owner Citadel (which is facing bankruptcy next month). As soon as the word got out, he was contacted by WGN, a powerhouse news-talk station in Chicago. The management there included a programmer who'd spent time in San Francisco and had heard Jarrett's work. "KGO is such a major force in the industry," said Jarrett, "that it's held up as an icon."

Unlike KGO's drive-time newscasts, Jarrett's show is a mix of news and lighter fare, including chats with chefs and a Friday slot for a musical act. "We cover all the major stories, and we have the staff of Tribune (which owns the station as well as the newspaper) to call on. But I also have the opportunity to have more fun."

In his short time in the Windy City, Jarrett has taken the morning show to its highest overall ratings since 2003, he said.

A couple of local media columnists, he said, have reported otherwise, using ratings from 6 to 10 a.m. (Jarrett and company are on from 5 to 9.) "They keep calling me an outsider. They've had four guys in this job since radio was invented, and they've never had a guy from out of town. I do think there's a bit of angst among these old-timers, these columnists, that a new guy is coming in and not failing."

Jarrett said that about 98 percent of his e-mails are positive: " 'Welcome ... we think you need to say this word a bit differently...' And two or three will be, 'Go back to San Francisco.' "

The latter might have included Chicago's most famous citizen, Oprah. The talk show host got the city to shut down several blocks of North Michigan Avenue, in the heart of the Magnificent Mile (and in front of the Tribune building) for two days in September so that she could do her season opening show there. Jarrett was not impressed.

"We spent a couple of days saying they were shutting down the main drag, at the height of the season, for her. So on her air, she made mention of 'the haters' and pointed to our studios." His needling, he said, "was just a bit, a teasing thing ... but she may have taken it seriously."

Earlier this month, Winfrey announced plans to abandon her show. "The mayor blamed us for her leaving," said Jarrett. As Mayor Richard M. Daley said, "You keep kicking people, and people will leave. Simple as that."

Jarrett does not appear to be leaving soon. He raved about KGO and its boss, Mickey Luckoff, for his support after he and others were let go. "I would've given anything to have been able to have something like this happen in San Francisco," Jarrett said. "Since that was not available, this did turn out to be one of the best things for my career to ever happen. ... It's amazing."

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