Wednesday, January 3, 2018


Jacqui Helbert
2018 starts with good news for freedom of the press and Jacqui Helbert, a WUTC, Chattanooga, reporter who was fired for her reporting on Tennessee’s “bathroom bill.”

After being dismissed, Helbert filed suit against the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC), the licensee of WUTC. We first reported on the situation in April [link]. 

In the suit Helbert alleged that legislators mentioned in the WUTC report were embarrassed.  According to information made public at the time the legislators threatened to pull State funding from the university unless Heilbert was fired. Heilbert was fired on March 21, 2017.

On December 21, 2017, UTC announced that a settlement had been reached with Helbert. She received $50,000 but did not receive an apology from UTC. UTC also denied any liability but did issue a statement backing WUTC’s editorial independence.

Helbert told the Chattanooga Times Free Press [link] she had no hard feelings toward UTC or WUTC:

“I am satisfied with the settlement and look forward to the next chapter of my life. I harbor no ill will toward WUTC, UTC, or anyone associated with them.”

Editorial cartoon
However, she cautioned folks who work for university public media outlets to remain vigilant to ensure freedom of the press:

I hope that WUTC will continue to address and clarify the editorial independence of WUTC and its staff. That way, the ability of reporters, especially those who work for University-owned media stations, to report accurate news is unencumbered by popular opinion and marketing.”

According to her social media pages, Helbert now lives in Johnson City, Tennessee where she is a self-described “Independent radio producer, retired roller derby girl, writer, renaissance laydee.”


Dick Orkin
Like many in the media biz I was saddened to read about the death of the legendary audio producer Dick Orkin. He passed away on Sunday (12/18/17) at his home in LA’s San Fernando Valley. He was 84.

Orkin was perhaps best known for his nationally syndicated radio serial The Adventures of Chickenman, a parody of the Batman television series that was popular in the 1960s. You can hear an episode in this YouTube video:

Orkin as Chickenman
Orkin created Chickenman in 1967 while he was production director at WCFL in Chicago. WCFL and WLS were in intense competitors fighting for the Top 40 crown. Almost instantly Chickenman was the talk of the city and boosted WCFL’s ratings because it massively increased tune-in.

Chickenman worked because people liked its storyline, which evolved from episode to episode.  The three minute modules featured inviting dialogue and many puns.

Orkin took The Adventures of Chickenman national and it aired on more than 1,600 stations worldwide. In addition to charging stations for the series, Orkin required stations to air embedded commercials, an innovative move the made lots of money.

In 1973 Orkin moved to Los Angeles where he founded the Radio Ranch, a recording studio and voiceover factory. Orkin and partner Bert Berdis created radio campaigns for many of the nation’s biggest advertisers. Their ads used to same techniques – a storyline, relatable banter with a punch line at the end – that Orkin had perfected with Chickenman.

One of Orkin’s best advertising campaigns was the Mr. Shirley series for Dayton’s. Each commercial was another episode in the life of a department store promo person. You can hear samples via this link on SouthCloud here.

I met Dick Orkin only one time. In the early 1980s I was (ironically) President of a regional Advertising Federation. Orkin came and spoke to our group, something he did often in those days. I remember laughing until my sides hurt.

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