Served with relish: Turkeys of the Year

With a deep bow to the immortal Roy Leonard, whose Turkey of the Year Awards were a Thanksgiving Day tradition on WGN AM 720 for decades, here’s a hearty flip of the bird to this year’s Chicago media recipients:

  • Sun-Times owner Michael Ferro Jr.’s one regret after the universally condemned decision to eliminate his newspaper’s entire photography staff: That he didn’t do it sooner. “We took a year and a half too long to do it,” he told Chicago magazine. “I can tell you 100 percent before we bought this we had that cutlass ready.”
  • Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz pulled off an outrageous power play when he pressured Comcast SportsNet to fire popular reporter Susannah Collins. Her offense? Four years earlier, Collins appeared in “Sports Nutz,” a scripted, satirical video series that surfaced on YouTube. Granted the show was a little racy, but Collins never hid her involvement with it. Nor was it relevant to her employment. “In my opinion and those of others, [the videos] are incredibly offensive to a number of audiences, going well beyond professional athletes,” wrote Wirtz, demanding that CSN “remove [Collins] from our broadcast immediately.” Her spineless bosses eagerly complied.
  • Only months after arriving from Orlando, Fox 32 general manager Dennis Welsh delivered a patronizing lecture to viewers about the evils of nepotism. “All of this political inbreeding strikes us as one more symptom of what has Illinois and Chicago at the tipping point,” this carpetbagger declared. He did so while seated on a throne.
  • Tribune Co. spokesman Gary Weitman disputed my report in September that CEO Peter Liguori had ordered $100 million in budget cuts, calling it “grossly inaccurate.” Two months later the company announced a sweeping reorganization (including nearly 700 layoffs) — and Liguori hired a new chief communications officer.
  • Odd duck Garry Meier made a point to thank 17 “people that mattered” in his Radio Hall of Fame acceptance speech. Notably missing from the list was his former partner and fellow inductee, Steve Dahl — and his other collaborators over the years, Roe Conn and Jim Turano. Meier’s mindset: “The Steve & Garry years developed organically,” he said. “The planets aligned, the dots connected and a 14½-year run happened.”
  • The nauseating greed of Cumulus Media was never more evident than when WLS AM 890 chose to run commercials throughout a two-hour memorial tribute to Don Wade, who’d been the station’s morning star for more than 25 years. Apparently the millions he made for the company during his lifetime weren’t enough.
  • Back when lunatics were still running WGN AM 720, they tapped a radio novice named Carol Roth to host the noon show. Clearly in over her head, Roth let the word “bullshit” get on the air within the first 20 minutes of her first show. No explanation, no apology, no nothing. Six painful months later, she was gone. No bullshit.
  • Former alderman and city clerk Jim Laski, the jailbird-turned-radio-host, used the final minutes of his last time-brokered show to blast the management of WCPT AM 820 for expecting him to pay his bills. “I’d like to thank you a little bit, but I don’t think I should,” he told one station exec on the air. “You didn’t really kick ass trying to sell ads.” To another he said: “You can try out for Scrooge.”
  • The local outpost of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences chose Jerry Springer to host the Chicago Emmy Awards. “We’re thrilled to have a professional of Jerry Springer’s caliber emcee the event,” chapter president Marcus Riley said. One member of the group’s board of governors resigned in protest. Unfazed as usual, Springer joked: “I open the envelope. What’s the difference? Whoever I say wins.”