Looking back on a ditzy year in Chicago media

Cheryl Burton and Mark Giangreco

A few of the stories that made headlines on the Chicago media beat in 2021:

An offhand remark by Mark Giangreco at the end of a sports segment on WLS-Channel 7 (“Cheryl can play the ditzy, combative interior decorator,” were his precise words) sounded disrespectful to news anchor Cheryl Burton, who set off enough alarms that what might have been a newsroom squabble turned into a serious corporate matter for the ABC-owned station. It triggered a process that led to a payout on Giangreco’s contract and an early, bitter exit after 27 years as ABC 7’s top sports anchor — and one of Chicago TV’s all-time greatest. The year will end with WMAQ-Channel 5 shrewdly reuniting Giangreco and Janet Davies (another outcast from ABC 7) as contributors to the NBC-owned station’s New Year’s Eve special. Despite all the uproar, ABC 7 still leads in the late-news ratings, with Burton more powerful than ever. Continue reading

Court upholds former producer’s lawsuit against Eric Ferguson

Eric Ferguson

A former assistant producer’s lawsuit against Chicago radio personality Eric Ferguson over allegations of an “unwelcome sexual relationship” during their employment at WTMX 101.9-FM can proceed, according to a court ruling Wednesday.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Kubasiak denied a motion by Ferguson’s attorneys to dismiss the suit filed last May by Cynthia DeNicolo, who worked with Ferguson at the Hubbard Radio hot adult-contemporary station for 20 years before her job was eliminated in 2020. Continue reading

Robservations: ABC 7 shuts down State Street; Clare Lane leaving WBBM Newsradio; Celeste LeCompte joins WBEZ as chief audience officer

Cheryl Scott and Terrell Brown (Photo: Viet Phan with New Pixel Films)

Robservations on the media beat:

If competitors want to take advantage of WLS-Channel 7 for banishing Chicago’s king and queen of New Year’s Eve, that’s show biz. (“Love this!” tweeted former Chicago Tribune critic Steve Johnson. “Bring back local news wars. WLS-Ch. 7 needs to hire away Stefan Holt.”) But there’s still one big reason I wouldn’t count out the ABC-owned station’s “Countdown Chicago: 2022” next week: For the fourth consecutive New Year’s Eve, morning news anchor Terrell Brown and meteorologist Cheryl Scott will open with a glossy, show-stopping dance number — this one set to a music mix of the ’90s. To film the elaborate production just outside their 190 North State Street studios, ABC 7 closed down State Street overnight and hired lighting, camera operators and a drone operator and brought in props and costumes and who knows what else. Hosted by Val Warner and Ryan Chiaverini with Hosea Sanders, ABC 7’s 30th annual blowout starts at 11:25 p.m. December 31. Continue reading

ABC 7 appoints Doug Whitmire, Nneka Nwosu Faison assistant news directors

Doug Whitmire and Nneka Nwosu Faison

In an unexpected move, WLS-Channel 7 has chosen to go inside and outside the newsroom to replace the No. 2 news executive at the top-rated ABC-owned station.

On Tuesday ABC 7 announced the appointment of two assistant news directors to fill the vacancy left by Sarah Dunlap Burke, who resigned in August to become vice president and news director of WCBS, the CBS-owned station in New York.

Sharing the title of assistant news director will be Doug Whitmire, executive producer of ABC 7’s 10 p.m. newscast, and Nneka Nwosu Faison, an executive producer of programming at WCVB, the Hearst-owned ABC affiliate in Boston. Continue reading

WBBM Newsradio promotes Cisco Cotto to morning drive, Rob Hart to middays

Cisco Cotto

Making smooth transitions may be one reason WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM has managed to stay at or near the top of the ratings for most of its 53 years as an all-news station.

Whether it’s gliding seamlessly from traffic to weather reports or replacing top-line talent without missing a beat, the Audacy combo makes everything it does appear straightforward and uncomplicated.

On Monday WBBM Newsradio promoted midday news anchor Cisco Cotto to morning drive anchor and anchor/reporter Rob Hart to succeed Cotto as midday anchor, effective January 3. Neither move was much of a surprise. Continue reading

They’re back! Janet Davies, Mark Giangreco to join NBC 5’s New Year’s Eve show

Janet Davies, Matthew Rodrigues, Cortney Hall and Mark Giangreco (Photo: NBC Chicago)

Janet Davies and Mark Giangreco, who rang in the New Year together for two decades on WLS-Channel 7 before they were ousted from the ABC-owned station, will turn up for this year’s countdown show on NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5.

Davies and Giangreco will reunite as they join Matthew Rodrigues and Cortney Hall, hosts of NBC 5’s “Chicago Today,” on “A Very Chicago New Year,” starting at 11:08 p.m. December 31. It also will stream on NBCChicago.com and through NBC Chicago’s free apps on Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV.

“We’re thrilled to bring this very Chicago ensemble together to start the New Year and provide viewers with an expanded show this year,” said Kevin Cross, president of NBC Universal Local Chicago. Continue reading

WBBM Newsradio morning star Pat Cassidy retiring after ‘charmed career on top’

Pat Cassidy

For more than 50 years, by the dawn’s early light, generations of Chicago area listeners have started their day to the mellifluous voice of Pat Cassidy on the radio. Now, somehow, they’ll have to manage without him.

Cassidy, 71, told colleagues Friday he’s retiring at the end of the year as morning drive news anchor at WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM, the Audacy all-news powerhouse.

“I will miss all of you, our loyal listeners, and the energy of a breaking news story,” he wrote in an internal email. “I will not miss waking up at 2:30 for 51 years or seeing the hideous picture on my work ID each morning at the front desk. I’m a very lucky guy who is ending a long, charmed career on top.” Continue reading

Retiring Daily Herald editor John Lampinen reflects on splendid career: ‘I just wanted to do good work’

John Lampinen

It’s been the privilege of my career to work for John Lampinen. I’ve never known a more thoughtful, dedicated and down-to-earth professional or a finer gentleman.

December 31 marks his retirement after 48 years at the Daily Herald, including the last two decades as editor. Over that time he has influenced and inspired countless journalists in the Chicago area and beyond.

Lampinen, 70, was born in Waukegan and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Except for a brief time in Minnesota, he worked for the Daily Herald since he began as a reporter in 1973. He moved up the ranks at Paddock Publications before being named executive editor in 1998 and editor in 2001.

On the eve of his retirement, Lampinen reflected on his amazing run at the Daily Herald, the challenges and opportunities facing our profession and whether he still may have a future with his beloved Chicago White Sox: Continue reading

CBS 2 taps Jim Williams, Marie Saavedra to co-anchor new 4 p.m. weekday newscast

Jim Williams

Jim Williams, the veteran Chicago journalist and weekend news anchor at WBBM-Channel 2, will team with reporter Marie Saavedra on a new 4 p.m. Monday-through-Friday newscast about to be launched by the CBS-owned station.

Starting January 24, Williams and Saavedra will co-anchor the one-hour newscast with meteorologist Mary Kay Kleist and sports anchor Marshall Harris. Continue reading