With a tip of the hat to legendary broadcaster and all-around great guy Roy Leonard, whose Turkey of the Year Awards were a Thanksgiving Day tradition for decades, we hereby bestow our Chicago media Turkeys to a cornucopia of worthy recipients:
Warner Saunders, just three months shy of his farewell from NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5, hijacked the annual meeting of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists to deliver an angry rant against the evening's invited guest of honor, a retired newspaper columnist. As that other great anchorman, Ron Burgundy, would say: "Stay classy, Warner."
Kevin "Pig Virus" Metheny, the man who tormented Howard Stern at WNBC-AM in New York 25 years ago, is working his special brand of magic now at Tribune Co.-owned news/talk WGN-AM (720). He's not only alienated longtime listeners with his horrendous programming decisions, but he's turned most of the staff against him with a barrage of insulting, threatening and nit-picking memos. "Truthfulness," according to Metheny, is merely "optional."
David Hernandez, the convicted felon who bankrolled Mike North's Chicago Sports Webio, allegedly did it with funds from a Ponzi scheme that prosecutors say bilked nearly 300 investors out of $12 million. He's also the target of a civil lawsuit by the Securities and Exchange Commission. And did I mention that his degree from John Marshall Law School was fake, too?
Michael Barrett, a Westmont insurance executive, faces up to five years in prison if convicted of secretly taking nude videos of ESPN reporter Erin Andrews and trying to peddle them to the gossip site TMZ, which turned him down. He allegedly altered peepholes in hotel room doors and inserted tiny camera devices to film Andrews. Too sleazy for TMZ?‚ Now that's really saying something!
Rod Blagojevich, the indicted, impeached, disgraced former governor and ongoing laughingstock, became a weekend talk show host on Citadel Broadcasting news/talk WLS-AM (890), where he raves on about corrupt, hypocritical and self-serving politicians in Illinois. Eric Zorn says he tunes in to get his "weekly dose of bilious, self-righteous invective." I wonder if there's a radio station in prison.
Mayor Richard Daley has never been shy about lashing out at the Fourth Estate. But in the past year, his attacks have become increasingly reckless and bizarre. Last week he even blamed the local media for Oprah Winfrey's decision to quit her talk show in 2011. ("You keep kicking people, and people will leave," he sputtered.) A few days later, he tried to claim he was only joking. Yeah, that mayor. What a kidder.
Randy Miller, a WGN fill-in host from Kansas City, thought it would be funny to send listeners to Mexico last spring at the height of the swine flu panic there. One problem: No one had authorized the giveaway. Under pressure from Tribune Co. lawyers, who feared FCC sanctions for fraudulent contests, WGN quickly threw together a "decorate your own swine flu mask" contest, with a trip to Cancun as the prize. Hands down, it was the worst radio promotion of the year.
Chicago's Olympic press corps, as individuals, were all fine reporters. But collectively, they blew it. For all of them to be caught so totally flat-footed by Chicago's humiliating fourth place finish in Copenhagen suggests they were either taken in by the hype or believed the process was on the up-and-up all along. Haven't they learned anything from Cook County politics? Happy Thanksgiving! See you back here Monday.