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Musical Chairs for Tribune Movie, Theater Critics

UPDATE: a fuller commentary here, including clarification on the Siskel-Kehr-Wilmington chronology. The Tribune's memo is below.

It's official: The Chicago Tribune's lead movie critic, Michael Wilmington, has permanently been replaced by lead theater critic Michael Phillips. Phillips, in turn, has been replaced by his previous number two, Chris Jones, who probably should have gotten the job a few years ago to begin with. These and other changes were announced earlier today, in a Tribune memo obtained by The Beachwood Reporter.

Wilmington and Phillips have already been writing on their new beats, but the switch had been described as more of an experiment to shake things up than something permanent. Not anymore.

Both Wilmington and Phillips were hired to replace bigfeet at the paper--Gene Siskel and Richard Christiansen, respectively. Neither has managed to ascend anywhere near the heights of their predecessors, and if becoming a name-brand is the criteria for success, both hires must be deemed failures.

Moving them--and other critics--around isn't likely to produce stronger voices, just the same voices on different articles. But so goes the Tribune. Here is the memo, from Jim Warren, the deputy managing editor in charge of the paper's features sections.

From: Warren, James C.
Sent: Tuesday, April 11, 2006 11:25 AM
Subject: Personnel Matters

I am pleased to make the following announcements on new beats in the entertainment group, which I believe will strengthen and streamline our coverage in many areas:

Chris Jones becomes theater critic, the paper's leading voice on local and national stage productions.

Michael Phillips becomes movie critic, the paper's leading voice on film.

Michael Wilmington continues as movie critic, but with new responsibilities covering the growing world of movies on DVD. He will also increase the number of his Sunday movie analysis pieces.

Mo Ryan, who has been on temporary assignment covering TV, becomes television reporter, continuing her popular and innovative Watcher print and online feature as well as continuing to report on, review and comment about TV shows and trends for online and daily and Sunday sections.

Maureen Hart officially becomes a section editor for Movies and will coordinate movie coverage across features sections.

Sid Smith, who has selflessly taken on a temporary assignment reviewing television, returns to his job writing features and trend stories on many entertainment topics, and will focus many of those efforts on theater. He'll also continue to cover dance.

Allison Benedikt will take on a temporary assignment reviewing and writing about television for daily and Sunday sections.

Jessica Reaves will have an enhanced role in reviewing movies, while continuing her stellar Books/Magazine work.


Looking for the daily media column?

Catch up with The [Sunday] Papers and our special edition The [Monday & Tuesday] Papers in our free, extremely easy-to-use media column archive.

Both columns are even more chock full of the folly and frailties of the local press than usual, particularly illustrating the astonishing failure of reporters to actually interview the major players in the two biggest stories of the last few days--the controversial naming of an alderman's wife to the Illinois Supreme Court and the "massive fraud" alleged by federal prosecutors at City Hall.

If you can believe it, Chicago's vaunted (though mythical) tough-as-nails reporters do not appear to have attempted to interview either the judge nor the mayor!

The Papers will return tomorrow with more media madness, as well as new postings elsewhere throughout The Beachwood Reporter.


Posted on April 11, 2006

MUSIC - Britney's IUD.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - Climate Deniers' 4 Top Scare Tactics.
SPORTS - The McEnroes In Antarctica.

BOOKS - Foxconned.


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