Robservations on the media beat:
A new six-part documentary series produced by NBC News Studios reexamines the case of John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer who buried the bodies of dozens of his victims in the crawl space of his Norwood Park Township home. “John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise” will premiere March 25 on Peacock, the premium video streaming service of NBCUniversal. (Here is the trailer.) Executive consultant is Chicago journalist Alison True, a former editor of the Chicago Reader, who has spent 10 years challenging the thoroughness of the official Gacy investigation and writing a book about it. “I’m not obsessed with Gacy or serial murder, I’m obsessed with who gets to say what happened to people (in this case law enforcement), and how important it is to find and listen and hear what other people say, especially when they contradict an official story,” True wrote on Facebook. Gacy, convicted in 1980 of murdering 33 young men and boys, was executed in 1994.
Hugo Balta, who was forced out last week after one year as news director of WTTW-Channel 11 and executive producer of “Chicago Tonight,” has a new platform. Starting March 1, he’ll alternate with Lance Williams and Nadine Naber writing weekly commentaries on race, immigration and social justice for The Chicago Reporter. (The organization’s website is currently offline.) Window to the World Communications, parent company of WTTW, said Balta’s dismissal was the “result of his undisclosed conflicts of interest related to his operational and editorial roles at other media outlets, which violated the terms of his employment. In addition, he repeatedly violated the WTTW News Standards he committed to uphold and which govern the newsroom he headed.” Balta blamed what he called a wrongful termination on “vicious personal attacks” by Phil Ponce, one of three “Chicago Tonight” anchors who raised concerns with top management. He also cited “antiquated practices of objectivity.” In an interview Sunday with Laura Washington, Ponce told the Sun-Times: “I bear no animosity to him. What concerns me — and what concerns Paris [Schutz] and what concerns Brandis [Friedman] — is the violation of the news standards and the political posts. . . . If we become partisan and political, or people think we are, I mean, at that point, we’ve lost our credibility and relevance.”
Matt Pollock, senior digital editor at Chicago magazine, has resigned to become an editor at the Lansing State Journal in his native Michigan. Saying it was “an honor to learn from some of the best folks” at Chicago magazine (where he started as an editorial intern in 2013), the University of Michigan graduate tweeted: “Ecstatic to no longer be a homesick Michigander.” Susanna Homan, editor-in-chief and publisher of Chicago, confirmed plans to replace Pollock.
The COVID Report, a free weekly newsletter focusing on the pandemic response and vaccine rollout in the Chicago area, is now being offered by WBEZ 91.5-FM, the Chicago Public Media news/talk station. (Here is the link to subscribe.) Calling it “service journalism at its core,” WBEZ managing editor Tracy Brown said: “We hope to give Chicagoans easy-to-use information through email, digital and interactive tools that help them understand what’s happening with the vaccine, while at the same time presenting deeper, insightful reporting from our journalists about the many disparities the pandemic and vaccine access have laid bare.”
Chicago-based Moody Radio has just launched a 24/7 digital radio station devoted to Southern gospel music. SouthernGospelRadio.org features such artists as Brian Free and Assurance, Gaither Vocal Band, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, Greater Vision, Karen Peck & New River, Kingdom Heirs, The Perrys and more. “The biblical themes and messages that are rooted in gospel music align with who we are as a Christian radio network,” said Doug Hastings, vice president of Moody Radio.
Saturday’s comment of the day: Bill Zwecker: Can’t wait to see what Janet [Davies] does in her next professional chapter. She was and is THE best at what she does. Sorry to see her departure from ABC 7.