Robservations: Van Dyke trial coverage wins praise — and viewers

Jason Van Dyke with attorney Dan Herbert (Photo: WGN)

Robservations on the media beat:

Chicago television stations went wall-to-wall all afternoon Friday with coverage of the verdict in the trial of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke and its aftermath. By 2 p.m. viewers in more than 481,192 households tuned in to see Van Dyke convicted of second-degree murder in the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014. Leading the way, according to Nielsen figures, was Tribune Broadcasting WGN-Channel 9, whose CLTV cable news outlet had aired the trial in its entirety. WGN led among viewers between 25 and 54 throughout the day Friday and at 9 p.m. that night. (ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 tied with WGN for first place among all viewers during the 2 p.m. hour.) Just before the verdict was announced, Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan made a point of thanking the news media for its “professional coverage” of the three-week trial. “We need transparency,” he said.

ABC 7 Chicago

Digital reporters at WLS-Channel 7 and ABC-owned stations in three other cities are covered for the first time under a contract negotiated by Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The new three-year deal sets minimum salaries, holiday pay and overtime provisions for digital journalists at ABC 7 and the company’s stations in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. “SAG-AFTRA sees the ABC Digital Reporters Agreement as a landmark achievement in our ongoing efforts to establish meaningful standards and working conditions for journalists as our industry continues to expand into the digital space,” Mary Cavallaro, chief broadcast officer of SAG-AFTRA, said in a statement.

Better Government Association

Judy Woodruff, anchor and managing editor of “PBS NewsHour,” and her husband, Bloomberg columnist Albert Hunt, will headline the 95th anniversary luncheon of Chicago’s Better Government Association October 16 at the Hilton Chicago. They’ll be interviewed by former BGA president and CEO Andy Shaw. Also at the event, Christie Hefner, former Playboy Enterprises chairman and CEO, will be honored with the Daniel L. Goodwin Watchdog Award. (Here is the link for tickets.) The luncheon already has raised a record $2 million for the nonprofit investigative reporting and civic watchdog group.

Kris Long

Former Chicago news anchor Kris Long has lost his job as an anchor in Palm Springs, California, in the wake of a controversial Facebook post defending Brett Kavanaugh. Long had been off CBS affiliate KPSP since September 17 when he wrote that Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegation against the Supreme Court nominee “stinks of political maneuvering,” adding: “You are beyond dreaming if you think 17 year old boys are not going to misbehave from time to time as they begin to attempt relationships with the opposite sex. That is just the way we animals are made!” Long resigned on Friday, saying: “I want to thank those who have offered support and apologize again for any I may have offended. I hope to return to the news business in the future.” From 1987 to 1993 Long was a news anchor at Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32.

Don Sandburg

Don Sandburg, the former WGN producer and writer who played Sandy the Tramp on “Bozo’s Circus” from 1961 to 1969 and was credited with creating “The Grand Prize Game,” died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease Saturday in Springfield, Oregon. He was 87. “Behind the scenes, Don Sandburg was the creative force that steered [‘Bozo’s Circus’] into one of the most enduring and loved children’s shows ever produced,” recalled WGN producer Jeff Hoover. Sandburg later was a producer for “The Banana Splits” and a writer for “New Zoo Revue” and the “Star Trek” animated series. He began his career in Cincinnati, where he worked with Bob Bell (Chicago’s original Bozo) and Wally Phillips before all three were hired at WGN.

Comment of the day: Mark Quinn: Thank God; I thought the powers-that-be at the Trib were going to change the name to Rodan or Gigantor. On a more serious note, how much was spent in consulting fees to come up with the abominable “tronc” in the first place and then to change it back to “Tribune Publishing”? No wonder the average person, who is not a resident of the “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine” world of big business and its fellow travelers in the consulting business, has become a bit jaded and cynical.