WBEZ | Tracy Townsend http://www.wbez.org/tags/tracy-townsend Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en When real news lost its ‘last, best hope’ in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/feder/2010/02/when-real-news-lost-its-last-best-hope-in-chicago/14547 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><img width="370" height="278" alt="" src="/sites/default/files/archives/blogs//caroloncbs2.jpg" title="caroloncbs2" class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-14587" /></p><blockquote><em>&quot;This Channel 2 experiment serves as a referendum on straightforward, no-nonsense news, a genre that fell out of favor with the ad salesmen who run most TV stations, the consultants who advise them and the ratings-hungry news directors who do their bidding. If it works, as in all TV, it will be imitated. If it fails, our last, best hope for a return to real news will have been squandered, maybe forever.&quot;</em></blockquote><p>Those prescient words were written 10 years ago this week by <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/columnists/chi-philrosenthal,0,3209586,bio.columnist">Phil Rosenthal,</a> then the television critic of the Sun-Times. The experiment to which he referred was what many of us purists wanted to believe would fulfill our vision of a &quot;dream newscast&quot; at WBBM-Channel 2, the CBS-owned station that seemed to be in a permanent ratings slump. </p><p>Just down the hall from the site of the first Kennedy-Nixon debate in 1960 at the old CBS cavern on McClurg Court, history of another kind was made 40 years later when <a href="http://www.nbcchicago.com/station/about-us/Carol_Marin.html">Carol Marin</a> solo-anchored a 35-minute report at 10 p.m. unlike anything we'd ever seen before.<!--break--> </p><p>It was a newscast devoid of all frills and hype. No celebrity puffery or promotional partnerships or water-skiing squirrels. Stories were reported in depth, followed by Marin's probing questioning. Commentary came from a stable of knowledgeable voices, led by the wise and revered John Callaway. On any given night, sports and weather got only the time they deserved --&nbsp; and not one second more. Above all, viewers were treated with intelligence and respect. </p><p>Launched amid high hopes and great fanfare on Feb. 7, 2000, the experiment lasted all of nine months. Despite repeated assurances of&sbquo;&nbsp;patience and time to develop an audience for such a radically different format, Marin's bosses flew the coop in fairly short order, and their successors pulled the plug before the start of the November sweeps. </p><p>Some said the effort failed because viewers missed all the bells and whistles they'd grown accustomed to seeing on local newscasts. Others&sbquo;&nbsp;blamed Marin's serious demeanor on camera, mistaking it for a lack of warmth. In an editorial titled &quot;Cod Liver Oil at 10 O'Clock,&quot; the Tribune condemned the newscast as &quot;dull&quot; and &quot;a bore,&quot; calling Marin &quot;somber to a fault.&quot; </p><p>In the end, the New York Times speculated that the failure &quot;could be taken as reaffirmation that a serious format cannot succeed -- that people need to be drawn in through celebrity gossip and miracle diets introduced by bubbly anchormen and anchorwomen.&quot; But I prefer to think that it really wasn't a failure at all. It simply wasn't given enough time to succeed. </p><p>Today --&nbsp; three general managers, three news directors and 10 years later --&nbsp; Channel 2 is back to a single anchor format at 10 p.m. But that (and last week's <a s-perspective="" ëœwalter="" href="http://www.wbez.org/feder/2010/02/walters-perspective-returns-to-channel-2-tonight/14009">return of commentary,</a> at least temporarily, in the form of Walter Jacobson's &quot;Perspective&quot;) may be about the only similarities to the noble experiment of 2000. </p><p>By my count, there have been 10 changes in Channel 2's 10 p.m. anchor lineup in the past decade. Here's a trip down memory lane:</p><ul> <li><strong>Carol Marin</strong> (2000)</li> <li><strong>David Kerley</strong> and <strong>Linda MacLennan</strong> (2000 to 2001)</li> <li><strong>David Kerley </strong>and <strong>Tracy Townsend</strong> (2001 to 2002)</li> <li><strong>Antonio Mora</strong> and <strong>Tracy Townsend</strong> (2002)</li> <li><strong>Antonio Mora</strong> and <strong>Linda MacLennan</strong> (2002 to 2003)</li> <li><strong>Antonio Mora</strong> and <strong>Tracy Townsend</strong> (2003)</li> <li><strong>Antonio Mora</strong> and <strong>Diann Burns</strong> (2003 to 2007)</li> <li><strong>Rob Johnson</strong> and <strong>Diann Burns</strong> (2007 to 2008)</li> <li><strong>Rob Johnson</strong> and <strong>Anne State</strong> (2008 to 2009)</li> <li><strong>Rob Johnson</strong> (2009 to present)</li> </ul></p> Wed, 10 Feb 2010 00:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/feder/2010/02/when-real-news-lost-its-last-best-hope-in-chicago/14547