Chicago television news icon Walter Jacobson, whose feisty commentaries were a staple of WBBM-Channel 2's 10 p.m. newscast for 20 years, is bringing them back to the CBS-owned station. He debuted Thursday with a piece about negative campaign commercials by candidates in last Tuesday's Democratic gubernatorial primary. (Here's the link.)
"I sure am glad to be back to give it a try," said‚ Jacobson, who'll deliver his trademark "Perspective" pieces every Tuesday and Thursday night on a trial basis for the next month or so. He's‚ expected to tape his commentaries earlier in the evening for airing on the 10 p.m. news. Each will run about 75 seconds, which is roughly half the length of his old ones.
Skippy's reemergence comes days after Channel 2 replaced its traditional morning newscast with "Monsters and Money in the Morning," a news-deficient two-hour talk show, and opted out of extended coverage of the Illinois primary. The moves are part of a strategy by Channel 2 general manager Bruno Cohen and news director Jeff Kiernan to differentiate the station from its competitors while dealing with dwindling revenues and resources. Channel 2's 10 p.m. newscast has been running second in overall household ratings lately (behind ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7), thanks largely to diminished lead-ins for WMAQ-Channel 5 from NBC's lame duck "Jay Leno Show."
Jacobson, 72, made headlines in November when he and longtime anchor partner Bill Kurtis returned to Channel 2 for one night only to substitute for solo anchor Rob Johnson. The stunt brought a ton of favorable publicity to the station and delivered substantially higher ratings than usual. At the time, management insisted there were no plans to redeploy the duo, who first teamed up in 1973.
On that night's newscast, Jacobson reprised his commentary segment while dressed in his customary shirtsleeves and suspenders. Proving ornery as ever, he took Rich Daley to task for doing "dumb things" and predicted the mayor's departure from City Hall sooner rather than later. The piece drew a strong rebuke the next day from Daley, who told reporters: "Listen, I'm still here and he's been out of Channel 2 for a long time. Like anything else, he needs publicity and Channel 2 needs help. I don't know if he's helping them."
Jacobson, who jumped to Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 in 1993, retired in 2006. For a while served as a weekly commentator and news analyst for "Eight Forty-Eight" on Chicago Public Radio WBEZ-FM (91.5). He recently completed his memoirs, titled Walter's Perspective, to be published later this year by Southern Illinois University Press.