Robservations: Report says ex-CBS 2 boss tried in vain to ‘change the culture’

CBS 2 Chicago

Robservations on the media beat:

Marty Wilke

In 2018 Marty Wilke stunned the Chicago media community when she abruptly resigned after six years as president and general manager of CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2. Except for a brief statement expressing gratitude “for having the opportunity to run my hometown CBS station,” Wilke declined to elaborate on her decision to walk away. “It struck some as odd that a 53-year-old woman would retire at the peak of her career,” according to the Los Angeles Times. “She was a battle-tested manager who had previously run the iconic WGN station in Chicago during a turbulent time — the corporate bankruptcy of its parent, then known as Tribune.” On Sunday an L.A. Times investigation revealed that Wilke had been forced out by CBS Television Stations President Peter Dunn after the two repeatedly clashed. (Here is the link.) Once she left CBS 2, nearly all of the senior female executives Wilke had championed were also driven out, she told the L.A. Times. After obtaining a waiver from her nondisclosure agreement, Wilke met with investigators looking into allegations of misconduct, including racism and misogyny, at the company’s highest levels. “My goal is to change the culture for the benefit of so many good people still at the company,” Wilke was quoted as telling them. But now she wonders whether it was worth it. “What was that whole investigation about? Was it just for show?” Wilke asked. “The culture starts and stops with Peter Dunn.” Dunn declined to comment.

In response to the L.A. Times investigation, the National Association of Black Journalists Monday called for the “immediate termination” of Peter Dunn, president of CBS Television Stations, and David Friend, senior vice president of news for CBS Stations and vice president of news at WCBS in New York. “It’s a shame that 45 years after NABJ was founded by 44 brave Black journalists, we are still having to contend with racism,” said Roland S. Martin, vice president-digital for the group. Dorothy Tucker, president of NABJ and a reporter for CBS 2 in Chicago, was not involved in the matter because NABJ board policy prohibits anyone from taking part in discussions about their own company.

Late Monday CBS suspended Dunn and Friend.

Block Club Chicago

Kudos to Block Club Chicago on the publication Monday of Coronavirus in Chicago: A Year of Loss. Coinciding with the one-year anniversary of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Chicago, the special edition profiles 27 families who lost a loved one to the pandemic. (Here is the link.) “We wanted to put a face to the thousands of people who have died from COVID-19 and help Chicagoans understand what we have all lost: Larry Griffin’s smile, Darnell Jones’ dance moves, Rafaela Castillo’s generosity to neighbors,” said breaking news editor Kelly Bauer, who led the project. “We’re so thankful for the family and friends who trusted us to tell their loved ones’ stories.” In addition to writing more than 4,000 stories about coronavirus since March 2020, Block Club Chicago was the first newsroom in the city to launch a free, daily coronavirus newsletter.

Alpha Media

Alpha Media, parent company of eight FM and three AM radio stations in the Chicago suburban area — and more than 200 stations nationwide — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday. The company, based in Portland, Oregon, said it expects to recapitalize $267 million in debt. “As we proceed with our financial restructuring to improve our capital structure and manage through the ongoing downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the agreement we reached today will leave Alpha Media well positioned for a market recovery as a stronger and even more competitive company,” said Bob Proffitt, chairman and CEO of Alpha Media.

Monday’s comment of the day: John K. Wilson: You have to admire the chutzpah of cable executives. Their idea for three hours of neutral news programming has failed miserably in the ratings. So they’re going to expand it to five hours with the same branding concept. Yeah, that’s the ticket.