Robservations: ABC 7’s fractured family retains ratings crown for now

ABC 7 Chicago’s Cheryl Scott, Alan Krashesky, Cheryl Burton and Mark Giangreco

Robservations on the media beat:

With sports anchor Mark Giangreco on his way out because of an on-air comment about news anchor Cheryl Burton, it’s anyone’s guess whether the implosion at WLS-Channel 7 and firestorm on social media will affect the ABC-owned station’s standing as Chicago’s top-rated news source. For now the “Eyewitness News” people are relieved they came through the February sweep intact. Despite year-over-year declines in late news across the market, ABC 7 remained No. 1 in total households and among viewers between 25 and 54 (the key demographic for advertisers) at 4, 5, 6, and 10 p.m., according to Nielsen figures. Giangreco was benched for the entire monthlong rating period and beyond, but the reason for his absence and the role Burton played behind the scenes were not revealed until last week. ABC 7 has been first at 10 p.m. since 1986.

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey’s blockbuster interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on CBS Sunday night is being hailed as a two-hour master class in how it should be done, with Winfrey’s extraordinary gifts at drawing people out on full display. “There’s the queen of England. And then, there’s the queen of the television interview,” wrote David Zurawik of The Baltimore Sun. “Oprah Winfrey showed Sunday night why she still wears the crown and seems nowhere near ready to surrender it.” Some critics compared it to Winfrey’s headline-making conversation with Michael Jackson in 1993 — the most watched TV interview in history up to that time. Others marveled that there were no leaks from the interview, which was taped last month in Southern California. That penchant for secrecy is a holdover from Winfrey’s 27 years in Chicago when Harpo Productions was sealed tighter than Fort Knox and employees were subject to the most constrictive confidentiality agreements in the business.

NewsNation

Readers of this column won’t learn anything new, but the New York Times recaps the turmoil at NewsNation, the Chicago-based cable news startup from Nexstar Media Group. (Here is the link.) Citing “abysmal ratings and disaffected staff,” the story reports on the resignations of news director Sandy Pudar and managing editor Richard Maginn, and quotes six unnamed employees who say the network — launched in September on a promise of impartiality – “has increasingly become a venue for right-wing views” under Nexstar executive Sean Compton and consultant Bill Shine. Both have ties to conservative media and former President Donald Trump.

95.1 FM Chicago

The music station known as 95.1 FM Chicago is ceasing over-the-air broadcasting at the end of March and switching to full-time audio streaming via digital app. Operated by Chicago-based Integrated Brand Marketing, the station features a mix of R&B, gospel, smooth jazz and house music. Khris Henderson-Hutchinson, the midday host known as “First Lady,” continues as program director. Emanating from an FM translator atop Willis Tower, the station had been branded as Clubstepping 95.1 until it was taken over in 2019 to Tracey V. Bell, president of Integrated Brand Marketing.

Araceli Gómez-Aldana

Araceli Gómez-Aldana, morning producer at Chicago Public Media WBEZ 91.5-FM, has been promoted to weekend news anchor and local host of NPR’s “Weekend Edition.” “I’m grateful for the opportunity,” she tweeted. “I feel blessed to work alongside professionals I have admired for years. Especially at a station that understands the value of serving its communities.” Born in Guadalajara, México, and raised in Whiting, Indiana, Gómez-Aldana graduated from Indiana University and joined WBEZ from Side Effects Public Media, a digital news site covering public health.

Friday’s comment of the day: Victor Drescher: Remember when ABC 7 billed itself as “Happy Talk”? Well those days appear to be long gone . . .