‘Beacon of journalism’ Carol Marin says she’s bowing out of TV news

Carol Marin

Carol Marin, one of Chicago’s most honored and respected journalists of all time, is bringing down the curtain on her legendary TV news career after 48 years.

Marin, 71, surprised colleagues today by announcing that she will step down as political editor at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 and correspondent for “Chicago Tonight” at Window to the World Communications WTTW-Channel 11 after she covers the presidential election November 3.

“It’s time to get off the stage,” she told me. “Everybody needs to know the time for the last performance. I’ve had a great run, but I want to walk off the news stage when I feel great about it still, when I’ve got great relationships still, and when I feel the work is solid. I always wanted to be the one to decide the time, and I’m grateful to be able to do that.

“I’m not calling it a retirement, but it is a changing of chapters.”

For generations of Chicago area viewers, it may feel more like the end of an era. TV news certainly will be poorer without Marin’s authoritative presence on important stories and the dedication to excellence she personifies.

Don Moseley

Marin said she will continue to serve as co-director of the Center for Journalism Integrity and Excellence at DePaul University, which she co-founded in 2016. Don Moseley, co-director of the center and Marin’s longtime producer and reporting collaborator, also will be leaving as an investigative producer at NBC 5.

Since joining the DePaul faculty in 2003, Marin and Moseley have mentored hundreds of young journalists.

Via longtime agent Todd Musburger, Marin obtained an early release from her contract at NBC 5. Her first stint there as news anchor and reporter ran from 1978 to 1997. She rejoined the station as a special investigative reporter in 2004 and was promoted to political editor in 2006.

“Carol’s journalistic standards have set the bar high for our newsroom,” said David Doebler, president and general manager of NBC 5. “She is our moral compass, a beacon of journalism for all of us. She’s been a great friend to all. We wish Carol and Don the best in the future.”

At WTTW, Marin has been a contributor to “Chicago Tonight” since 2006. Earlier this year she chose not to renew her contract with the public television station, where she has been appearing two nights a week.

Marin said she and Moseley also plan to work on two book projects, including one on organized crime in Chicago, a subject they’ve covered for decades. She called the other book “a work in progress based on our reporting.”

Carol Marin (1970)

Born on Chicago’s South Side, Marin moved with her family to Rolling Meadows when she was 7. She attended elementary and junior high schools in Rolling Meadows and graduated from Palatine High School and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For two years she taught English at what is now Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville.

In 1972 Marin was hired as a talk show host and reporter at WBIR, the NBC affiliate in Knoxville, Tennessee, and later moved to WSMV (formerly WSM), the NBC affiliate in Nashville, as a news anchor and reporter. In 1978 she came home to Chicago to join NBC 5 as a news anchor and investigative reporter.

Marin made national headlines in 1997 when she and longtime co-anchor Ron Magers resigned to protest the hiring of talk show host Jerry Springer as a commentator on the 10 p.m. newscast.

Ron Magers and Carol Marin (1989)

Two months later Marin landed at CBS where she worked as a “CBS Evening News” and “60 Minutes” correspondent and as a WBBM-Channel 2 news anchor and reporter.

In 2000 she was named solo anchor of CBS 2’s 10 p.m. newscast, fronting a no-frills format that emphasized serious journalism and long-form reporting. Citing low ratings, CBS bosses pulled the plug after nine months.

On September 11, 2001, Marin was in New York working on a piece for “60 Minutes” when she saw the World Trade Center attack on television. She rushed to the scene and found herself just blocks away when the first tower began falling. As she turned to run, a firefighter scooped her up and shielded her from the deadly cloud of smoke and debris rushing toward them.

Her navy blue suit covered in soot, Marin made her way back to the CBS Broadcast Center and told her harrowing story to Dan Rather and the world. (On Friday — 19 years after the attack — Marin was reunited on the air with the New York police officer who helped lead her to safety.)

Marin also worked as a political columnist for the Chicago Tribune and the Sun-Times.

As the winner of every major award in broadcast journalism, Marin has received three George Foster Peabody Awards, two duPont-Columbia Awards, a George Polk Award, two national Emmy Awards and at least 15 regional Emmy Awards. She also has been inducted in the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and the Silver Circle of the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Carol Marin

And she’s made every list ever published here of the most powerful women in Chicago journalism.

Calling Marin “truly a legend in Chicago journalism,” Frank Whittaker, station manager and vice president of news at NBC 5, told staffers in an email: “Carol Marin and Don Moseley are the gold standard for doing things the right way. For journalism at its finest. For asking the tough questions and expecting accountability from those who are given the public’s trust. That includes their fellow journalists. They’ve made us better too.

“Carol and Don have accomplished so much. Carol as a longtime anchor of our newscasts here at NBC 5, Don with decades of producing exclusive stories for Carol to tell. But while Carol anchored the news for all those years, her true passion has been as a reporter. She’s reported on politicians, mobsters, and mobster politicians. She’s been on the scene for many of our city’s and country’s major news stories. We were just reminded on Friday of Carol’s first-hand account of being at the World Trade Center on 9/11. She has done it all with class, grace and most of all, integrity.

“Twenty-three years ago, Carol and Don walked out of our newsroom on a matter of principle. One of the finest moments of my time here at NBC 5 was bringing them back through the doors of our newsroom, a triumphant victory for journalism. In recent years, Carol and Mary Ann [Ahern] have become synonymous with the best political coverage in Chicago. Thelma and Louise. Just ask the politicians. Just ask the viewers.

“Carol and Don have earned our admiration and respect. They have earned their retirement too. And so as they transition to the next chapters of their lives, please join me in thanking them for all they have done for us. We will miss them both.

“And, of course, we’ll still keep the doors open . . .”

Here is the text of Marin and Moseley’s email to NBC 5 colleagues:

To our NBC 5 friends and family;

It is time to say — not goodbye — but so long. We will be leaving NBC 5 in November. This is not an easy decision but something we have been thinking about for the past six months. It is hard to leave something you love, but now is the right time.

We arrived at NBC in the Merchandise Mart in 1978 and 1980 respectively. Our first story as a reporter/producer team was September 1980. “Big Jim” Thompson was pressing the flesh in a Labor Day parade; the presidential campaign was just beginning; and Jane Byrne was mayor for just over a year.

Through the years we have covered every inch of Chicago and much of the suburbs and state. Our reporting has taken us across most of the country and to places around the globe that the amazing world of journalism allowed us to see. The most wonderful part of it all is the chance to work with so many stunning colleagues. To all of you — past and present — thank you! The friendships we made mean the world to us.

As to our future, we will continue to teach soon-to-graduate journalists at DePaul University. Our students give us reason to be wildly optimistic about the future of our business. Yes, we leave NBC 5 at a time when journalism is under attack, but we leave proud, so proud, of the work this newsroom has done for decades and continues to do. Our last week will be the week of November 3rd election. (How could we leave before a presidential election?)

To borrow from The Beatles, it has been a long and windind . . . and wonderful road. Thanks to all who shared this journey — treasured colleagues and faithful viewers, and most especially, those who trusted us with their stories.

It is not to say that when the next big blockbuster breaks, we won’t miss the adrenaline rush of being a part of the action. We will. There is nothing like “breaking a big one” as the late, great Paul Hogan used to say. Or being part of this extraordinary team of friends, not just colleagues. We will always be your loyal fans, eager to loudly — and proudly — cheer you on.

All the best . . . always,

Carol and Don

Here is the text of Marin’s email to WTTW colleagues:

Dear WTTW/Chicago Tonight colleagues & friends,

One of the best things I have done in my life is join “Chicago Tonight.” When I arrived in 2004, you took me in as if I had always been a member of the WTTW family! Here I have been in the company of the most generous and accomplished professionals in the business. Those of you who are in front of the camera and those of you behind it combine to produce journalism that is both memorable and meaningful. And fun, you’ve always made fun a part of the mix.

I’ve thought a lot about this. And as counter-intuitive as it sounds, sometimes the best time to leave a place is when you still thoroughly love it.

I will miss every one of you.

This is not a retirement announcement, it’s a changing of the chapter. I remain on the faculty of the DePaul College of Communication where new young journalists are preparing to join you someday. You’ve met many of them who have helped produce some of the stories I’ve done. They are always awestruck coming into the studio. But you always welcome them with open arms and put them at ease. I’m so grateful for your kindness to them. And to me.

I’m not leaving immediately. I’ll be back in the studio today. And we’ll talk. But I wanted to be the first to tell you. Thus the email in the wee hours of the morning.

Thank you so much for absolutely everything.

Your friend and fan forever, Carol

Carol Marin (September 11, 2001)

Friday’s comment of the day: Carol Felsenthal: The silver lining is that interim CEO Steve Edwards remains in charge [at Chicago Public Media]. I’ve known him for many years and he’s a first-rate journalist and person.