For more than 16 years, the Chicago television news legend was a star attraction with Conn and his various co-hosts, often providing the best half-hour of conversation in all of radio. But with the latest turn of events, Magers says he’s through with radio and plans to focus on his duties as 5 and 10 p.m. news anchor at top-rated ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7.
“I still love television news and hope to do it for a few more years,” said Magers, 70, who joined ABC 7 in 1998 after 16 years at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5.
Starting November 3, broadcast icon and Radio Hall of Famer Steve Dahl will replace Conn and Roeper from 2 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday on WLS. While Dahl hinted that he would have liked Magers to continue as a contributor on his new show, the anchorman made it clear he’s not interested.
Magers shared a few other thoughts Tuesday about radio, television and his future:
Q. Ron, you were a daily fixture on Roe Conn’s show for more than 16 years — and often the highlight of the four hours. Are you sorry to see it end?
A. If I was ever the highlight it was because Roe and Roeper know how to be hosts who get the most from their guests. They were always unselfish in their efforts to put the best product on the air.
I love TV work, but radio kept me engaged with the flow of news and with the audience in a different and very fun way. As I perused the newspapers and Internet every morning it was with the idea of not only what will we be doing on the TV side but also what are the talking points that might spark an interesting discussion with Roe and Roeper. Both of them are very bright, and the back and forth with them was the real highlight of my day.
Q. How did WLS Radio notify you that it was over?
A. Roe and Roeper knew it had been coming for some time. If you are less than six months to the expiration of your contract, and your boss hasn’t expressed an interest in renewal, it’s probably not going to happen. So far, I’ve received one phone call from radio management saying Roe and Roeper were done and they wouldn’t need me on the air. My deal had always been I worked only when at least one of them was hosting. I asked how they’d like to handle the termination and I’m awaiting the answer.
Q. Is it true Steve Dahl asked you to stay on?
A. Some time ago I exchanged text messages with Steve because I’d heard rumors he was talking to WLS . . . so I asked. He said something like: “If that were true, hypothetically, who gets custody of Ron Magers?” I told him I’d been thinking about cutting back on my schedule and dropping radio and now might be a good time.
Steve and Roe and I have known each other a long while, and I’m disappointed that somewhere in the process Steve didn’t call Roe and tell him that his bosses were shopping his job and Steve was talking to them. I know that might have been a difficult call for Steve to make, but it would have been a classy move and I think, based on their long relationship, that Steve owed that to Roe.
Q. Are you done with radio or could you turn up elsewhere?
A. At this stage of my career I’m looking to take things off my plate, not get second helpings. I still love television news and hope to do it for a few more years.
Q. Now that you have a little extra time each day, any new projects in the works?
A. I’m still involved in thoroughbred breeding and racing and that business has grown in recent years. It demands more of my time and attention and will get it.