Robservations: Is Doomsday looming for Chicago Tribune?

Chicago Tribune

Robservations on the media beat:

Barring a last-minute miracle, Friday could signal the beginning of the end of the Chicago Tribune as we know it. That’s when the board of directors of Chicago-based Tribune Publishing will vote on a takeover by Alden Global Capital, the New York-based hedge fund known for decimating local journalism. Herculean efforts to attract an alternate buyer have failed, leaving Alden in the driver’s seat. The only remaining hope for a different outcome may rest with Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, owner of the Los Angeles Times and the second biggest shareholder in Tribune Publishing. “Alden ownership would be a disaster for Chicago, democracy and society at large,” Chicago Tribune Guild president Gregory Pratt wrote in an open letter to Soon-Shiong. “We’re not asking you to buy the company, though that would be great. But we are asking you to use your power to stop Alden from consolidating its own.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot came under fire Wednesday for saying she would grant interviews about her two-year anniversary on the job only to “journalists of color.” She said it was intended to spotlight the “overwhelming whiteness and maleness” of the City Hall press corps and editorial board rooms, noting: “It is impossible for this glaring lack of diversity not to be reflected in the daily coverage of government, politics and city life every single day.” Some journalists argued the move was discriminatory and that politicians shouldn’t decide which reporters will cover them. Others called it a stunt meant to distract from other issues. The National Association of Hispanic Journalists said it “does not condone restricting press access based on a journalist’s race/ethnicity. Any action that threatens the cornerstone of our democracy and First Amendment rights is unacceptable.” The National Association of Black Journalists said: “Although we cannot support the tactic, we applaud the mayor’s sensitivity to the lack of diversity among the people who cover city government.”

Mark Schanowski

Mark Schanowski, the veteran Chicago sportscaster, has been hired as a per diem sports anchor/reporter at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7, starting May 29. The station’s sports department has been short-handed since late January, leading up to the ouster of top sports anchor Mark Giangreco in March. The move is a homecoming for Schanowski, who first joined ABC 7 in 1990 and spent eight years there before lengthy runs at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 and NBC Sports Chicago. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, he began his career as sports director at WICD, the ABC affiliate in Champaign, and sports reporter at WISN, the ABC affiliate in Milwaukee.

Yasmeen Hassan

Yasmeen Hassan, a reporter and “live desk” news anchor for WBBM-Channel 2’s morning newscast, has left the CBS-owned station for parts unknown. Her last day on the air was April 30. “It’s been an honor and a privilege to tell your stories but for now it’s time to work on my own,” Hassan wrote on social media. “Leaving Chicago wasn’t an easy decision but like for so many people, this last year has made me think about life outside of work. I don’t know what that looks like just yet except for less makeup, more sleep and one less headshot in the CBS hallway.” Hassan joined CBS 2 as morning traffic reporter in 2019 from KOVR, the CBS-owned station in Sacramento, California. No word on whether she’ll be replaced.

Rachel Pierson

Rachel Pierson has been promoted to full-time anchor/reporter at WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM, the Audacy all-news combo. “After spending the last two years on the streets, in the studio and reporting from home, I’m excited to take this next step in my career,” she tweeted. For now, she’ll continue to anchor Sunday mornings and report Monday through Thursday. The Naperville native and graduate of Neuqua Valley High School and North Central College joined WBBM Newsradio as a part-timer in 2019. Pierson previously worked as morning news anchor at WICS, the CBS affiliate in Springfield, and as a reporter and programming director of Naperville Community Television.

Tracy Davis

Tracy Davis, assistant news director at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5, has been named vice president of news at WVIT, the NBC-owned station in West Hartford, Connecticut. The move reunites her with Diane Hannes, president and general manager of WVIT, who previously was vice president of creative services at NBC 5. Davis, a native of Elkhart, Indiana, and graduate of Franklin College, joined NBC 5 in 2017 from WDJT, the Weigel Broadcasting CBS affiliate in Milwaukee, where she was news director. No replacement has been named at NBC 5.

Cassandra West

Cassandra West, a former section editor for the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times, has been named an assistant managing editor for news features at Crain’s Chicago Business. West most recently was a contributing editor at Crain’s and headed its monthly Forum series. “Under Cassandra’s guidance, the Forum has grown to become one of Crain’s signature features,” publisher and executive editor Jim Kirk said in a statement. “Her thoughtful leadership of our writers and designers as well as her in-depth engagement with the complex subjects at the heart of the series have elevated what was already a standout editorial offering. In her new role, we look forward to bringing Cassandra’s insights into all aspects of Crain’s news and feature offerings, from our daily online report to our weekly print publication to our podcast.”

Marie Dillon

Longtime Chicago journalist Marie Dillon is stepping down as director of policy at the Better Government Association, the nonprofit watchdog group and investigative journalism organization. Dillon joined the BGA in 2019 after nearly 20 years at the Chicago Tribune, where she rose from metro desk editor to deputy editorial page editor. She previously worked for the Sun-Sentinel of South Florida, Miami Herald, Palm Beach Post and Dayton Daily News. The BGA has posted a job opening for her position.

Fred Weintraub

Chicago’s Museum of Broadcast Communications just added two new members to its board of directors. They are Fred Weintraub, executive producer at Weigel Broadcasting and co-host of “The Hannah & Fred Show” (with Hannah Stanley) on news/talk WCGO 1590-AM; and Hannah Rosenthal, former president and CEO of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation and a former U.S. State Department special envoy. “These two talented people join a strong group whose diverse backgrounds help support the museum’s mission and its future,” said board chairman David Plier. The museum, which has been closed during the pandemic, is set to reopen in July.

Mary Mitchell

Mary Mitchell, the Chicago Sun-Times columnist and director of culture and community engagement, has been inducted into the prestigious Lincoln League of Journalists by the Illinois Associated Press Media Editors. The honor is bestowed on professionals whose careers have advanced the cause of newspaper journalism in Illinois. Mitchell, a 2011 inductee in the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame, first joined the Sun-Times as a reporter in 1991.

Wednesday’s comment of the day: Rich Rehner: What an outstanding career by an outstanding talent [Greg Brown]. Not many can claim over 50 years of dedication in any profession, let alone one as competitive as radio, a feat almost unheard of. Congrats, Greg. It was a pleasure listening to you for decades. Enjoy a safe and healthy retirement. God bless you and Lorraine on your next chapter in life and thank you.