It’s official: WGN News rises and shines at top of the morning

WGN Morning News

Chicago’s most entertaining morning news show is now its most popular one, too.

Results of the latest Nielsen sweep show WGN-Channel 9 winning every hour from 5 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday with an average of 105,275 households.

WGN Morning News has led the advertiser-coveted 25-to-54 age demographic for six years, but February marked the first time the Tribune Broadcasting station surpassed ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 in total morning viewership as well.

Larry Potash and Robin Baumgarten

It’s an epic milestone for WGN and for morning news anchors Larry Potash, who’s been the linchpin of the show since 1995 (a year after it started), and Robin Baumgarten, who teamed with him in 2004. Together they preside over an immensely talented cast of characters, backed by a staff of writers and producers who are given wide latitude to be creative, while delivering a thoroughly credible news product.

Paul Rennie, who’s been president and general manager of WGN since last summer, explained why it all works: “Our morning team has extraordinary chemistry. I’ve seen a lot of programs over the years, but Larry and Robin are honest, almost brutally so, as well as unique and funny. They are backed by solid journalism. All of that together is why Chicagoans in droves are turning to ‘Chicago’s Very Own’ WGN Morning News.”

Like any great ensemble, each member stands out as a distinct personality and gets the opportunity to shine. When any one of them is cranky, the others seem eager to dispense with the usual false conviviality and bonhomie of TV news.

Just last week meteorologist Paul Konrad went off on a tirade against viewers who criticized his snow forecast. (“If you don’t like it, go watch the boobs over on some other channel,” he said. “But get off my ass, because I’m sick of it. . . . A-holes.”) The same day sports anchor Pat Tomasulo served up a scathing critique of our celebrity culture’s obsession with Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez.

The show’s humor runs the gamut from Potash’s studied deadpan to producer Jeff Hoover’s over-the-top vaudeville shtick. In other words, something for everyone.

Other key players include news anchors Lourdes Duarte, Dan Ponce and Cortney Hall, meteorologist Demetrius Ivory, entertainment reporter Dean Richards, contributing reporters Ana Belaval and Marcus LeShock, traffic reporter Erin Ivory and announcer Mike Toomey.

Duarte and Demetrius Ivory will be leaving April 4 when they shift to WGN’s 4 p.m. weekday newscast (alongside Ben Bradley and Jarrett Payton). Their successors have not yet been named.