Robservations: NewsNation relaunches tonight — but will anybody notice?

Joe Donlon

Robservations on the media beat:

Six months to the day after WGN America launched a primetime newscast from Chicago, Nexstar Media Group is rebranding the cable network and rolling out three new shows. Entertainment programming still occupies daytime hours, but the whole network is being renamed NewsNation, effective today. Weeknights will now feature “NewsNation Early Edition” with Nichole Berlie at 5 p.m., “The Donlon Report,” a mix of news and interviews anchored by Joe Donlon at 6 p.m., a reduced two-hour version of “NewsNation Prime” anchored by Marni Hughes and Rob Nelson at 7 p.m., and “Banfield,” a one-on-one interview show hosted by Ashleigh Banfield at 9 p.m. According to Nielsen figures, NewsNation attracted an average of 55,000 viewers from coast to coast in February — down more than 30 percent from its opening month and down more than 75 percent from WGN America’s ratings one year ago. NewsNation launched September 1 with a promise to be “100 percent absent of bias,” in the words of Nexstar chairman and CEO Perry Sook. The company did not disclose until February that it had retained former Fox News senior executive Bill Shine as a consultant. Shine also served as White House communications director for former President Donald Trump.

Studs Terkel

May 13 has just been set as the date of the 26th annual Studs Terkel Community Media Awards. Postponed last year due to the pandemic, the presentation will take place online for the first time. Nominations are being accepted through March 31. (Here is the link.) “After a year of producing online events, we’re looking forward to exploring the possibilities of a virtual Terkel Awards,” said coordinator Mareva Lindo. “It’s a challenge, but an exciting one.” Named for the late Chicago author and broadcaster, the awards recognize excellence in coverage of Chicago’s diverse communities and demonstrate authentic storytelling in the spirit of Terkel’s gift for elevating people’s voices above power. They’re presented by Public Narrative, the nonprofit community media organization.

Illinois News Broadcasters Association

Speaking of awards, look for the Illinois News Broadcasters Association to launch The INBA Crystal Mic Awards recognizing excellence in Illinois broadcast news. Categories will include station, newscast, digital presentation, reporter and weather operation of the year (encompassing work completed from January 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021). Awards will be presented in September. The new honors take the place of the annual Illinois Associated Press Awards, which have been discontinued.

Colin McMahon

Despite growing revulsion surrounding the impending takeover of Tribune Publishing by hedge-fund vultures Alden Global Capital, editors of the Chicago Tribune are doing their best to keep staff morale above sea level. In an internal email outlining some newsroom reassignments Friday, editor-in-chief Colin McMahon wrote: “All this is aimed at finding ways to better support you in your work and organize us more directly around our engagement and subscription goals. We are determined to increase our sense of urgency to keep up with audience behavior. We are committed to making hard, smart, data-driven decisions about what we do and how we do it. We believe these moves are another step in that process. But not the last step.”

Carol Marin (Illustration: Kathryn Rathke)

The esteemed Carol Marin, who stepped down in November after 48 years in the TV news business, looks back on threats she received from the El Rukn street gang, her confrontation with Jerry Springer and her close call on 9/11 in the March issue of Chicago magazine. (Here is the link.) On the lighter side, Marin recalls in the interview with Mike Thomas: “I was on an elevator in the Merchandise Mart early in my career, and a guy said, ‘Are you … ?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I am.’ And he said, ‘Wait till I tell my wife. She thought you were attractive. You look awful.’ I said, ‘Sorry, what you see is what you get.’ That takes you right back down to ground level.”

Friday’s comment of the day: Arthur Holland: What a lot of these posters don’t want to admit is that the word “thug” is always used by the media to describe a Black person. Whites are never described as thugs. Bill Laimbeer was described as hard nosed and dirty, brute, intimidating, but never a thug like the rest of his teammates who were all Black. Dan Roan may not hate anyone, but he must understand the power of words. Lastly, Whites do not have the right to tell Black people or any people what should and shouldn’t be offensive to them. Dan was right to apologize. Let him learn from this and let’s move on. There’s no need for him to resign or be fired.