The education of Greg Jarrett: Chicago's lost cause

August 2, 2010

Greg Jarrett

Friday's early morning conversation with Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson on WGN-AM (720) was going along uneventfully (even if you could practically hear producer Jim Wiser pulling the strings in the background, as he usually does). The subject, of course, was the front-page news that Bill & Walter would be reuniting as co-anchors of the 6 p.m. newscast at CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2.

But then, with one astonishingly stupid question ad libbed at the end, Greg Jarrett again proved why he's unfit to host mornings on the Tribune Co.-owned news/talk station:

"Bill, are you going to be living in Chicago again?" Jarrett asked. "I mean, you're going to be on TV every night at 6."

Living in Chicago again? Are you kidding me? It's not clear where Jarrett thought Kurtis has been living for the last quarter-century. (In New York? On his ranch in Kansas? On the moon, perhaps?) But it is clear that Jarrett didn't have a clue that Kurtis and his longtime partner, Donna LaPietra, have been one of Chicago's most prominent and influential couples in media, social and civic circles since Harold Washington was mayor. (Hear it for yourself: Here is the link to the audio.)

Gentleman that he is, Kurtis resisted the temptation to laugh out loud at Jarrett --  or blow off his question as utterly ridiculous. Instead, without missing a beat, Kurtis replied:

"Well, I'm living here now. I've been here for the last 25 years, I think, since I got back from New York. So I'm deeply, deeply involved. Walter and I used to live pretty close to each other in Lincoln Park. I have the production company, Kurtis Productions, here. And we've been going for 20 years. So I'm very much . . . you know, I know the newsmakers -- most of them -- here in Chicago. So I feel part of it."

It's been more than a year now since Jarrett got off the bus from San Francisco and stepped right into the WGN morning job -- arguably the most venerated and important radio position in Chicago -- without one day's prior experience in the market. From the moment he signed on here, he's shown a penchant for parading his ignorance of local personalities and places. Nevertheless, his bosses repeatedly have defended their decision to hire him, even as they recently announced plans to cut his show back by 30 minutes. At least that's a step in the right direction.

Somewhere, you just know, Wally Phillips and Bob Collins are weeping.

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