Robert Feder expose' on WXRT PD Norm Winer

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Posted by WR N on March 01, 2011 at 13:32:47:

For the busiest man in Chicago radio, there’s never enough time

Norm Winer has been program director of WXRT-FM (93.1) pretty much since that Marconi fellow invented the wireless. Or maybe it just seems that way.

But it is true that the guy’s been calling the shots at “Chicago’s Finest Rock” since the late ’70s — before some of the station’s listeners were born. The fact that he has survived from the time ’XRT was locally owned by Danny Lee’s Diamond Broadcasting to its present day under the yoke of CBS Radio says a lot about his talent as a programmer and his skills at managing up.

Given his legendary stature in the business, it’s always a special occasion whenever Norm has something to say. Like just the other day, when ’XRT issued a press release declaring this Wednesday Chicago Day, dedicating a day of programming – from 9am to 9pm — “as homage to the city we love.”

In addition to a wide range of music by Chicago artists past and present, ’XRT listeners will hear from such local notables as Mayor Richard Daley, Jerry Reinsdorf, Robert Falls, Dan Hampton, Little Steve Van Zandt, Joe Shanahan, Patti Smith, Tony Fitzpatrick, Michael McDermott, Tim Tuten and Ramsey Lewis, among others.

“The passion, the loyalty, and the commitment by the people who live here help make this the greatest city in the world,” Norm said in the press release. “On Chicago Day, we will try to express in words and music what this city means to each of us.”

Heartfelt though his words may be, they seemed to have a familiar ring. That’s because if I’m not mistaken, they’re the same words he’s been using since Chicago Day began in 2007. (Here’s a link to the identical quote in 2008.) Of course, there’s no crime in quoting yourself in your own press release. But it might be nice to freshen up a phrase or two every three or four years.

Then again, maybe Norm is just too damn busy to bother with such nonsense. He’s always had a reputation for being a busy man. Make that a very busy man. I still remember the time I tried calling him years ago and heard this voice-mail message on his phone:

Hi, it’s Norm Winer. We’re currently going through a transition in the programming department with some personnel changes, and it’s become more difficult than ever to try to reach me. My voice mail seems to be filling up on a daily basis, so you might not even be able to leave me a message. So my suggestion is if you’re not calling regarding a matter of absolute urgency, why not call back in a couple of weeks? I’m not receiving phone calls regarding job applications, music calls, unsolicited research, unsolicited programming. I am really talking to people with whom I’m in the midst of projects only. Again, it’s difficult for me to find time to return calls considering how much work we’re doing internally. So please be understanding. Don’t take it personally. I hope to talk to you soon. Thanks.

The last time I saw Norm was at dinner in November when Chicago radio icon and ’XRT midday personality Terri Hemmert was being inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame. During our brief exchange, he couldn’t have been warmer or friendlier to me.

But when it came time for the current and former ’XRT employees there to assemble for a group photo around Terri, Norm was the only one who couldn’t be bothered to break away for a moment and join his colleagues. It seems he was too busy talking to Smashing Pumpkins founder Billy Corgan.

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