Robservations: Jim Williams takes command of fiery night for CBS 2

Jim Williams and Jeremy Ross (CBS 2 Chicago, May 30, 2020)

A special Sunday edition of Robservations on the media beat:

Coming off one of the worst weeks ever for WBBM-Channel 2 (including the most brutal round of layoffs in 12 years), the CBS-owned station redeemed itself Saturday night with its marathon coverage of protests, looting and fires in Chicago’s Loop. Credit veteran news anchor Jim Williams, who led more than three hours of nonstop coverage solo with solid professionalism and a wealth of insight. That’s what comes with a lifetime in Chicago and decades of experience as a local journalist and former City Hall press secretary. As chaos unfolded steps outside CBS 2’s studios at Washington Boulevard and Dearborn Street, news director Jeff Harris flooded the zone with crews. Notable moments included reporter Jeremy Ross’s eyewitness account of looting and arson at a Michigan Avenue sports store, and reporter Charlie De Mar’s heartbreaking interview with the owner of Central Camera, who watched his 121-year-old family business burn to the ground. Reporter Jermont Terry, who joined CBS 2 just last fall, provided some of the night’s most thoughtful observations.

Megan Mawicke

Megan Mawicke posted a gracious message on Instagram following her sudden exit as sports anchor at CBS 2. The Kenilworth native was among staffers cut in last week’s layoffs. “Twenty years on TV in Chicago . . . a pretty good run for a female sports anchor/reporter in one city! Thank you, Chicago, for the outpouring of positive messages over the last 24 hours. Thank you for watching and always being so supportive of my work! I am so grateful to CBS Chicago for allowing me to cover a Cubs and White Sox World Series, Cubs White House visit, three Blackhawks Stanley Cup Championships, Bears Super Bowl, Bulls Eastern Conference Finals, many NCAA Final Fours, NFL Draft, College Bowl games, the Ryder Cup, co-host the Chicago Marathon and so much more. My favorite though . . . human interest stories about inspirational athletes! I am so excited for my next chapter!”

Mike Puccinelli

Also bidding farewell was Mike Puccinelli, one of the reporters laid off from CBS 2. “I wanted to just take a moment and tell everyone what a pleasure and honor it has been to report in my hometown for the past 16 years,” he wrote on Facebook. “It was the realization of a dream that was seeded in August of 1977, when my mom, after helping me on my paper route, sat me down to talk about the death of a flamboyant singer named Elvis. Since making it home to Chicago in 2004, I’ve been able to interview and meet people from all walks of life. I firmly believe each and every one of those encounters enriched me immeasurably. I’ve worked with some of the best of the best in the news business in what I firmly believe is the best news market in America. That has and will always be one of the great honors of my life. So to the viewers, colleagues, friends and loved ones, thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Carlos Ballesteros

Carlos Ballesteros, a reporter for the Sun-Times, has been hired by Injustice Watch, the Chicago-based nonprofit investigative journalism organization, starting June 8. “Carlos’s talent and his passion for covering underserved Chicago communities are two big reasons why we wanted him here,” said Adeshina Emmanuel, editor of Injustice Watch. “I’m excited to see how he deepens our coverage of the justice system.” Ballesteros, whose position at the Sun-Times was underwritten for two years by Report for America, covered housing, business, and politics on the South and West sides. He previously was a reporter for Newsweek.

Brandis Friedman

Twelve journalism students from six colleges and universities in Illinois participated last month in a virtual town hall on how WTTW-Channel 11 has been reporting on the coronavirus pandemic. “Chicago Tonight” anchor Brandis Friedman and correspondent Paris Schutz hosted “WTTW News: Covering COVID-19,” now posted online. (Here is the link.) “The magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges and opportunities for journalists unlike any we have faced,” said Hugo Balta, news director for the Window to the World Communications public TV station. “This virtual town hall provides an opportunity for us to share what we have learned with the next generation of journalists, and hear from them to get their developing perspectives.”

Saturday’s comment of the day: Alan Halfen: You’re insulting our intelligence by giving us any news about Joe Walsh.