Friday was a good day for convicted felons at Tribune Co: One turned up as a commentator on its television stations, and another landed a midday fill-in gig on its flagship radio station. Both acts showed the depths to which a once-great company has sunk under its current regime of cynicism and contempt for the audience.
On the TV side, the infamous Larry Mendte made his surprise debut on WGN-Channel 9's 5 p.m. newscast with a commentary about Tiger Woods. Not since Jerry Springer stepped into a similar role 13 years ago has there been such horrendous miscasting on the local news. (The Springer fiasco, you'll recall, cost WMAQ-Channel 5 the services of its two esteemed principal news anchors, Ron Magers and Carol Marin, and nearly wrecked the NBC-owned station.)
Mendte, 53, will always be remembered here as "Scary Larry," the showboater who anchored and reported for WBBM-Channel 2 from 1991 to 1996. Suffice it to say that he represented the worst of the tabloid news era at the CBS-owned station, inspiring Chicago Tribune media critic James Warren to keep tabs on him in a weekly feature called "Mendte Watch." "I apologize for not being boring," Mendte told me years later. "I know you like that."