Ron Magers, anchorman of Chicago’s top-rated newscasts at 5 and 10 p.m. and one of the city’s most respected newsmen for more than three decades, is planning to retire this year, sources said.
Insiders at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 said Magers, 71, could step down as soon as this summer, if all goes as planned. The move is believed to be entirely voluntary by Magers, who’s widely regarded as the best in the business and still at the top of his game.
Reached late Thursday, Magers declined to discuss his plans. “Rob, I’ve known you a long time, and you know I don’t talk about my contract,” he said.
A mainstay of Chicago TV news since 1981, Magers spent the first 16 years at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 before he joined ABC 7 in 1998.
His departure from NBC 5 in May 1997 made national headlines when he and anchor partner Carol Marin quit their jobs to protest the hiring of talk show host Jerry Springer as a commentator on the station’s 10 p.m. newscast. With three years left on a multimillion-dollar contract, Magers walked away on principle, demonstrating a level of integrity seldom seen in the news business.
For the past 18 years at ABC 7 he has maintained the station’s No. 1 ratings despite intense competition lately from NBC 5, particularly for viewers in the prized 25-to-54 demographic.
It’s not known who would replace Magers alongside Cheryl Burton at 5 p.m. and Kathy Brock at 10 p.m. The most obvious inside candidate is Alan Krashesky, a 34-year veteran of ABC 7, while other contenders could include Ravi Baichwal, Terrell Brown or Rob Elgas.
Also reported to be cutting back or retiring sometime in the coming months is chief meteorologist Jerry Taft, 72, now in his 32nd year at ABC 7 (and his 39th in the market). Cheryl Scott already has been designated internally as Taft’s successor.