Robservations: Tom Skilling weeps at ‘life-changing’ eclipse

Tom Skilling (August 21, 2017)

Robservations on the media beat:

Television’s wall-to-wall coverage of the solar eclipse Monday combined a celebration and science lesson in a way viewers haven’t seen since the U.S. space program’s moon landings a generation ago. But in watching Tom Skilling weep at the sight of the celestial spectacle, you’d have to go back 80 years to the broadcast of the Hindenburg disaster to recall an outpouring of as much unabashed emotion by a reporter covering an event. Unlike Chicago radio newsman Herb Morrison’s plaintive wail at an unfolding catastrophe (“Oh, the humanity!”), there was the superstar meteorologist for Tribune Broadcasting WGN-Channel 9 crying tears of overwhelming joy at witnessing the solar phenomenon (“Path of Totality!”). Reporting from a beach in Carbondale, Illinois, Skilling said: “We’ve been told people start sobbing. For some, it’s just a life-changing event. We might start doing that too.” Then he did. And it was perfect. “For fans and even colleagues, it wasn’t just that we’d seen the eclipse,” wrote Jack M. Silverstein in a Chicago magazine blog post. “It was that we’d seen Skilling see the eclipse.” Continue reading

Tronc reassigns Jim Kirk after L.A. Times shakeup

Los Angeles Times

Former Chicago Sun-Times editor Jim Kirk has been named interim executive editor of the Los Angeles Times following a top-level shakeup at the newspaper by Chicago-based parent company tronc.

The surprise move comes just 10 days after Kirk resigned as publisher and editor-in-chief of the Sun-Times to become senior vice president of strategic initiatives for troncX, the digital content and commerce division of tronc. Continue reading

WGN anchor Mark Suppelsa to retire

Mark Suppelsa

Mark Suppelsa, widely regarded as one of Chicago television’s best news anchors for nearly 25 years, is calling it quits at the top of his game.

Suppelsa, 55, announced Thursday that he plans to retire at the end of the year from WGN-Channel 9, where he anchors the Tribune Broadcasting station’s 5, 9 and 10 p.m. weekday newscasts alongside Micah Materre. Continue reading

Kathy Hart tells fans: ‘I fully intend to be back on the air’

Kathy Hart

Kathy Hart broke her self-imposed silence after nearly four months Thursday to thank those who have supported her during her absence from Chicago radio’s top-rated morning show and to tell them: “Please stay tuned as I fully intend to be back on the air!”

Whether that means she will return to “The Eric & Kathy Show” on Hubbard Radio hot adult-contemporary WTMX FM 101.9 remains an open question. Hart’s contract is up in December, and Hubbard lawyers are in talks with Hart’s agent, Steve Mandell, on resolving the matter. Continue reading

Robservations: NBC 5 ‘can’t wait’ for Rob Stafford’s return

Rob Stafford and Allison Rosati

Robservations on the media beat:

After six months away battling a rare blood disease, veteran Chicago news anchor Rob Stafford is ready to return to WMAQ-Channel 5. He’ll be back on the 10 p.m. newscast August 28, according to the NBC-owned station, and will resume anchoring at 5 and 6 p.m. “after a couple of weeks.” Stafford, 58, underwent a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy for amyloidosis, a blood disorder that affected his kidneys. On Wednesday, Stafford posted a photo on Facebook reunited with anchor partner Allison Rosati. “We can’t wait to get Rob back,” said Frank Whittaker, station manager and vice president of news at NBC 5. “We’ve missed him, and our viewers have missed him. We’re so happy he’s doing better, and are looking forward to his return.” Continue reading

Robservations: Missing from radiothon, Kathy Hart changes agents again

Eric & Kathy’s Kids

Robservations on the media beat:

Kathy Hart

“Eric & Kathy’s Kids,” the 18th annual radiothon to benefit Lurie Children’s Hospital, is under way all this week — with one thing missing: Kathy Hart. It’s the latest weirdness associated with Hart’s ongoing absence from the top-rated morning show she co-hosts with Eric Ferguson on Hubbard Media hot adult-contemporary WTMX FM 101.9. (Don’t even ask about the “Eric & Kathy Charity Golf Outing” or the “Eric & Kathy Food Truck Festival.”) Talks between Hubbard and Hart to resolve the situation once and for all apparently were reset by another change of agents. Attorney Steve Mandell confirmed that he now represents Hart, who earlier severed ties with Todd Musburger (who was her agent for many years) and later with Lisa Miller. Mandell declined further comment. Hart has been out of The Mix since late April. Continue reading

Jim Kirk leaves Sun-Times to join tronc

Jim Kirk

Jim Kirk, the veteran journalist and media executive who led the Chicago Sun-Times through five of its most tumultuous and challenging years, resigned Friday as publisher and editor-in-chief to join Chicago Tribune parent company tronc.

Kirk, 52, was named senior vice president of strategic initiatives for troncX, the digital content and commerce division of tronc. He will report to Tim Knight, president of troncX and former CEO of Wrapports LLC, previous owner of the Sun-Times. Continue reading

Fox 32 losing anchor Jeff Herndon

Jeff Herndon

Citing family reasons, Jeff Herndon is stepping down at the end of the month as 5 and 9 p.m. weekday news anchor at Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32.

“We wanted Jeff to remain part of our team, but right now family is Jeff’s top priority,” Matt Piacente, news director of Fox 32, told staffers in an email Thursday. “So Jeff is going back home to Kansas. I personally wish Jeff all the best as a colleague, and as a friend.” Continue reading

Eisendrath sees Sun-Times as ‘punchier paper than it was’

Edwin Eisendrath

To hear Edwin Eisendrath tell it, he’s probably spent more time in the Sun-Times newsroom than all of the newspaper’s previous owners combined.

In the four weeks since the group he headed took over the paper, the former Chicago alderman has been getting a crash course on the challenges of the media business — with particular interest in the editorial side of the equation. Continue reading