This book about the toy biz will be a TV series. Here's the author in 1998.

Monday, September 26, 2016
"I went in with this naive notion that what I was going to find … was sort of this fun-filled Santa's workshop."

Toy Wars cover
(Click or tap for audio)
Author's book inscription
Reporter G. Wayne Miller's inside story about the 1980s and '90s battles between the toy companies Mattel and Hasbro, Toy Wars: The Epic Struggle Between G.I. Joe, Barbie, and the Companies That Make Them, is in the works as a drama series from Amazon, starring and co-written by Josh Gad ("Frozen," "Angry Birds," Broadway's "Book of Mormon").

… Which makes timely my 1998 interview with Miller—a session he called "absolutely great" and one that he'd remember "for years."

As he then described his five-year mission, "I went in with this naive notion that what I was going to find inside Hasbro or any giant toy company was sort of this fun-filled Santa's workshop. And, in fact, what I found was a very brutally competitive business."

Let's set the WABAC Machine for a time before iPads, iPhones and iPads took center stage in kids' imaginations to hear a firsthand account of the real-life drama that shaped generations of childhoods.

Footnote: Almost seven years before this interview, I had a personal interaction with Kenner Products, eventually subsumed into the Hasbro empire. It was the subject of my first column for Oak Park's Wednesday Journal newspaper, newly resurrected on this blog.

Bobby Rush, congressman and Black Panther Party veteran, in 1994

Sunday, September 25, 2016
U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.)
(Click or tap to hear audio)
Then flirting with a campaign for mayor of Chicago, here's U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush in an interview with me, aired Sept. 25, 1994.

On his role in 1968 as co-founder of the Black Panther Party's Illinois chapter: "The focus of the civil rights movement became police oppression. … Some viewed the police department like an occupying army as it relates to the black community."

And on police behavior in 1994: "I would send a message to police officers: We honor you, we respect you … but we will not tolerate police brutality."

All still sadly relevant today.

Meyerson, recommended

Friday, September 23, 2016
A career devoted to creating content that keeps and builds an audience -- from award-winning radio news that kept music-loving audiences from punching the button ... to what became Tribune Co.'s highest-clickthrough-rated editorial email product, Daywatch ... to creation of the innovative and award-winning "Tinder for radio news" app, Rivet: Content strategist, podcast and radio engagement expert, email and social media pioneer -- linking great work with growing audiences online, on-air, in print. (Updated, September 2016.)

A sampling of recommendations. Many more posted to LinkedIn:


Sarah Rand, partner engagement and communications consultant, American Institutes for Research: "Charlie was great to work with on our podcast. He helped with the podcast at every step of the way from conceptualization to editing. Our team constantly kept Charlie's mantra in mind as we created the piece: Don't be boring! And the podcast turned out great!"

Stephen Anzaldi, internal communications manager, Northwestern University: "When I brought him in to share lessons with my colleagues in the Northwestern University news office, he took it to the next level. Charlie is incredibly effective in clarifying, helping to cut through the noise that has become online communication. Our email news alert is more crisp and sharp as a result. ... I'm tempted to go back to j-school to sit in on more of his lessons."

Dan Haley, publisher, Wednesday Journal Inc."Several years ago our weekly community newspapers were trying to figure out how to drive traffic to the updated news coverage we were posting to our then new website. We had breaking news on the site but people were still perceiving us as a weekly news product. Charlie ... directly laid out the solution. We had to build an e-mail list of our readers so that we could push out our news updates to them. That solution is probably the most central element of our success digitally. Now, multiple times a week, we send e-mail updates to many thousands of our readers. Today that seems obvious. Eight or 10 years ago it was a fantastic insight from Charlie. He is clear-eyed, problem-solving, direct-talking."

Linda Lenz, then-publisher, Catalyst Chicago: "Charlie examined the audience data for our weekly news e-blast and our Feedburner feed, finding patterns that prompted us to make changes -- mainly in layout and headlines. Almost immediately, our Feedburner 'reach' rose 50%, and our e-blast click-throughs are trending up. Charlie presented his critique in a manner that made them easy for all of us to swallow. It was time very well spent."

Sophia Madana, then-digital/social media specialist, VanderCook College of Music: "I attended a lecture Charlie presented on email marketing. ... After implementing his tips, the open rate of my email campaign is nearing 20 percent and the click-through rate has increased significantly. I happily recommend Mr. Meyerson as a consultant to any company or organization looking to amp up its digital presence without feeling too overwhelmed."

Molly McDonough, managing editor, ABA Journal: "Charlie was a positive, energizing force for me and my co-workers. I appreciated the time he spent learning about our operation, then pointing out ways he thought we could improve, and most importantly, showing us how. I especially liked that he rolled up his sleeves and spent one-on-one time with staff answering questions, editing and coaching. His observations and suggestions led us to make immediate changes that proved good for us and our readers."

Kathleen O'Hara, vice president marketing, Direct Energy: "Charlie ... provided a detailed assessment of our social media strategy. He provided the overview with sensitivity and honesty to help us move to the next level."

Bob Rowley, director of media relations, Northwestern University: "Charlie ... presented a fascinating and informative lecture and Q&A for my media relations team at Northwestern University on maximizing our audience and sharpening our Web content. He's a pro, a wise man and a great colleague. He knows the Web and the news business and would bring great insight and value to any non-profit organization, public institution or private enterprise."

Former students and interns

Scott Kitun, CEO at Technori, management consultant, and Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism graduate"Of all of the many instructors at Medill, ... Charlie ... provided me with the most value, post-graduation! I still rely on Charlie for guidance and mentorship years after having him as my instructor. His vision and understanding of the ever-changing media landscape is invaluable, as is his professional experience."

Adam Langer, acclaimed novelist, critic and Forward culture editor. "One of the great pleasures of my college years was the time I spent at an intern at WXRT-FM. What, in part, made it such a wonderful and fulfilling experience was the presence of Charlie Meyerson. Always professional, informative, dedicated, and exceedingly well-prepared, Charlie helped me to learn the crafts of editing and writing, particularly under tight deadlines. He was both an excellent teacher and a terrific colleague."

Lauren Victory, reporter, WBBM-TV (CBS), Chicago. "
Charlie Meyerson mentored me since my beginning days as a journalist. When I was in my junior year at Northwestern University, ... Charlie focused on both the old and new of our industry -- delving into ethics and the digital future .... Years after my internship, he remains a sounding board for me and a connection to several important journalists in the Chicago area."

Giacomo Luca, reporter, KFVS-TV, Cape Girardeau, Mo. "Professor, mentor, news director, friend; If you're looking for the best of these it's Charlie Meyerson. He is one of the most influential teachers in my life and I wouldn't be where I'm at today without him. His News Reporting class was spot-on what it is like to work in a daily newsroom. He brings passion, years of experience and independent attention. He helped instill the skills I needed to go on to become a professional journalist."

Kim Strickland, author, blogger and airline pilot. "I interned under Charlie at WXRT Radio in Chicago during the summer of 1984. ... He made me feel comfortable at 'XRT, like part of the team, even though I was just a kid, and he found a way to critique my writing in such a supportive and instructive way, I still carry what he taught with me to this day.... On days when I just don't feel like sitting in the chair, I hear Charlie's words in my ear, “Have fun and do well.” Do well. And so I try. Because I do not want to let this man down."


Lou Carlozo, investment staff writer, U.S. News & World Report: "Charlie is, plain and simple, a visionary of news and radio content. He was the first person I ever met to grasp what 'search engine optimization' meant, in the mid-2000s. He was years ahead of his time. The same reporters who groaned at his wise counsel regarding SEO were scrambling to catch up years later. Charlie is wise, smart as a whip, and hands down one of the best news and radio pros I've ever worked with. I'm grateful for all he taught me, as it allowed me to go to AOL and achieve fabulous results in a short time. He also has a way of promoting loyalty and team play like few others I've met. He's the best, period.”

Boris Geisler, UX & UI design, innovation and production consultant -- and architect of the Rivet Radio app: "Charlie is phenomenal! He combines a level of comprehension, professionalism, and joy that I've not seen in a newsman and story-teller. His attention to detail and sense of righteousness is what makes him a top-notch leader and strategist. He led Rivet Radio to journalistic excellence and a long list of awards. Plus, if it wasn't for Charlie, I wouldn't have the primary news source I enjoy every day! If you're up to something big, hire Charlie! He knows!"

Alison Scholly, former chief operating officer, Chicago Public Media: "Charlie Meyerson is ... creative, well spoken, pays attention to detail, challenges conventional wisdom and has an affable relationship with all colleagues, whether they work in the news department or not. I worked with Charlie for many years at Chicago Tribune Interactive, and his leadership was frequently sought out by others because he was insightful, witty, respectful of others and worked tirelessly to collect and share audience insights with his team. I would hire Charlie into many leadership positions, but especially into roles that require consistent high effort, thoughtful decision-making, strong relationship-building skills and the ability to glean audience insights and take well-reasoned risks."

Walter Sabo, former CEO, Merlin Media; and former vice president, ABC Radio Networks"Charlie is a great professional ... extremely collaborative and smart. He knows Chicago and understands the needs of the listener and the media community. I would work with him any time, anywhere."

Read more recommendations.

Secrets of 'The Straight Dope'

Thursday, September 22, 2016
From 20 years ago, at the dawn of the online era:

My interview with the reclusive Cecil Adams' editor, confidant and mail clerk on the "Straight Dope" column, Ed Zotti—in which I first learned what the "H" stands for in "Jesus H. Christ."

When Howard the Duck ran for president

Thursday, September 15, 2016
Howard the Duck campaign button
Marvel Comics character Howard the Duck's political career looks like Ronald Reagan's in reverse: He ran for president first and then had a mediocre movie career.

In August 1976, as a college radio DJ and news reporter, I got Howard's co-creator, Steve Gerber, on the line to talk about the character's origins and his campaign for the White House.

We also discussed the comics business in general—including Gerber's work on the then-young comic book The Defendersand his sense of urgency that comics grow up with their readers.

Gerber's comments on the political landscape that year may ring familiar in 2016:

"If it comes down to a choice between a turkey, a loon and a duck, what do you do?"*

To University of Illinois alumni of a certain age, my morning radio show on WPGU-FM may be remembered best for a Howard the Duck campaign button giveaway and for my frequent signoff: "Howard the Duck loves you."

Here's how that began: Unedited, 40-year-old never-broadcast raw audio of my interview with Steve Gerber, who died in 2008. (Disclaimer: As you endure my obsequious interview style, please remember this is offered for historical and archival purposes only. I was just a college student.)

Enjoy this? Lots more comics-related exclusives on this blog, right here.

* Note: This is not an endorsement of wasting your vote on a write-in—for Howard or anyone else.

Publicists: Don't do this

Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Campbell, Chung, Flores, Kyles, Meyerson
(Photo: Matt Marton)
The Publicity Club of Chicago today gathered a panel of journalists representing national media organizations. The goal: To help publicists understand how best to work with newsrooms.

Once again, as it has a few times in recent years, the club took me up on my standing offer, "Will Moderate for Food."

So I got to ask the questions of Bloomberg News Chicago bureau chief Elizabeth Campbell, Wall Street Journal Chicago bureau chief Joanna Chung, CNN correspondent Rosa Flores and Ebony editor-in-chief Kyra Kyles.

Among the tips Kyles offered: Don't deliver pitches under unrelated posts to a journalist's Facebook page.

Listen to this, and it'll be just like you're there—minus the salad, bruschetta, chicken, ravioli, fruit and chocolate cake laid out at Maggiano's Little Italy restaurant. (Little of which I had, because—ironically for a guy who pledges to moderate for food—I don't eat much before moderating.)

Enjoy this? More advice here and here for publicists seeking the attention of journalists and others. And subscribe to this blog here, so you don't miss a thing.

Radio's great power: Live, local content

Tuesday, September 13, 2016
My nana's Phlco radio
(Click to hear "Media Creatures.")
In September 1998—as a "newsman without portfolio," the month after my release by WNUA-FM and a couple of months before signing on with the Chicago Tribune—I joined Kathy Voltmer and Rick Kogan to fill in for their then-cohost Richard Roeper on their WMVP-AM 1000 radio show, "Media Creatures."

"Speaking as a person—which is all I really am now, since I don't have a job," I weighed in on the challenges I foresaw for radio, even before the rise of the iPod and smartphones:

"The great power of radio and its best defense against the onslaught of other media—whether it's internet-based radio, digital radio, satellite radio, even these hundred-CD jukebox players that people have in their homes and offices—is live, local content."

The issues we discussed then remain relevant, as you'll hear in this excerpt.

HEAR ALSO: Over the years, Rick's been kind enough to invite me to join him on a number of occasions. Like this one, almost 15 years later.