Robservations on the media beat:
Four full-time employees and at least one part-timer were terminated Wednesday in cutbacks at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7, according to insiders at Chicago’s top-rated station. The layoffs followed similar actions in recent weeks by four other local TV stations in response to revenue declines attributed to COVID-19. John Idler, president and general manager of ABC 7, did not respond to requests for comment. But sources said none of the positions affected were in news. Most were believed to be among staffers from “Windy City Live” who’ve been on furlough since April. The daily talk show has scaled back production significantly since the pandemic shutdown. Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of ABC Owned Television Stations.
Tribune Publishing will permanently close the offices of the west suburban Aurora Beacon-News, effective August 28, affecting more than a dozen reporters and editors of the Beacon-News, Elgin Courier-News and Naperville Sun. “Their managers will work with them to determine the best location for them to be assigned,” the company said in an email to employees. A Tribune Publishing spokesman also confirmed the closing of newsrooms at the New York Daily News, the Orlando Sentinel, The Morning Call in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and two newspapers in Maryland — the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, and the Carroll County Times in Westminster. Meanwhile, the fate of the Chicago Tribune at One Prudential Plaza remains uncertain while the company is negotiating to break its lease. “Given the current state of the pandemic, we do not anticipate returning to Prudential Plaza for an undetermined amount of time, but certainly not until some point in 2021 at the earliest,” the email said. “As we near the end of 2020, we will evaluate the pandemic health status, assess our options, and we will inform you of decisions as they are made.” With hedge fund Alden Global Capital calling the shots, the notion of a virtual newsroom for the once-renowned “World’s Greatest Newspaper” isn’t so far-fetched.
David Jackson, the esteemed Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who resigned last month after 29 years at the Chicago Tribune, has joined the Better Government Association as senior investigator. “The BGA’s fearless investigative reporting holds powerful officials accountable from City Hall to Springfield,” Jackson said. “This work is needed now more than ever, and I am humbled to join the team.” He’s the first journalist hired by the nonprofit government watchdog organization under the newly established Fund for Illinois Investigative Reporting. “David Jackson is a unique talent whose incisive, compassionate and authoritative reporting consistently leads to reform,” said BGA president David Greising. “David is the prototype for the talented, accomplished journalists we have in mind in creating the new BGA Fund for Investigative Journalism.”
Chicago’s Museum of Broadcast Communications is seeking to double the size of its board of directors in order to boost fundraising and expand the scope of its mission. New members will be asked to serve a 27-month term starting in September, with an option to renew for an additional two years. Nominees with interest in broadcasting, journalism, history, law, finances, fundraising, education and marketing/public relations are invited to apply, according to board chairperson David Plier. “When a nonprofit’s board reflects the diversity of the community it serves, the organization will be better suited to serve that community and attract a diverse staff to implement its programs,” Plier added. “The MBC is committed to building an inclusive organization that will contextualize and challenge dominant narratives within the world of broadcasting.”
Mary Hartline, a pioneering superstar in the early days of Chicago television, died Wednesday at her home in Hillsboro, Illinois. She was 92. In a 1997 Chicago Tribune profile Michael Kilian called Hartline “the golden girl of what they called the ‘Golden Age’ of Chicago television, star of the ABC network’s Chicago-based ‘Super Circus’ and her own ‘Mary Hartline Show.’ Though her metier was children’s programming and her talent modest, she was one of the very first and most successful sex symbols to be seen on the home screen, an icon of the early 1950s without peer or even imitator in the country.” Hartline, who went by Mary Hartline Donahue after she married fourth husband Woolworth Donahue, also hosted a local morning show, “Princess Mary’s Magic Castle.” For more on her remarkable life and career see broadcast historian Rich Samuels’s authoritative website. (Here is the link.)
Wednesday’s comment of the day: Steve Walt: [Leila] Rahimi would have been a great add to the new morning show on WMVP. Instead they went all retro and picked a couple of retreads and The Score scooped her up.