Feder's Chicago media flashback: September 1988 | WBEZ
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Feder's Chicago media flashback: September 1988

An assortment of news items (updated and annotated) from my Chicago Sun-Times columns of 22 years ago this week:

Harpo Studios

  • "Oprah Winfrey, who recently acquired ownership of her nationally syndicated talk show, has purchased an 88,000-square-foot studio complex and production facility on the Near West Side. The former Fred Niles Studio at 1058 W. Washington will be renamed Harpo Studios for Winfrey's Harpo Inc. production company. "I intend to make Harpo Studios the major production center in the Midwest, with state-of-the-art facilities for television, commercial and film and production,' Winfrey said." [It never became the production magnet Oprah envisioned, but Harpo Studios revitalized the area and continues to draw thousands to her show, which ends its run next year.]
  • "U.S. Attorney Anton R. Valukas has publicly blasted WBBM-Channel 2 and reporter Giselle Fernandez for their handling of an alleged drug kingpin's surrender. Valukas cited Fernandez's 'failure to tell authorities immediately' about the whereabouts of John Cappas, who spent several hours with Fernandez on Labor Day before he turned himself in to federal authorities. "It was a horrible waste of federal resources,' Valukas said of the widespread efforts to arrest Cappas, who had fled to a Fox Lake retreat for the holiday weekend." [Fernandez held a variety of network and syndicated TV jobs after her 18-month stint at Channel 2 ended in 1989. In 2006, she appeared on "Dancing With the Stars." Cappas was released from federal prison in 2004.]
  • "When Joan Esposito leaves for the Kennedy Space Center in Florida today, she will be one of 4,000 media personnel on hand to cover Thursday's schedule launch of the space shuttle Discovery. But if the WLS-Channel 7 anchor has her way, she soon will be returning to Cape Canaveral as a shuttle passenger rather than a mere observer. She's one of 40 finalists in NASA's Journalist in Space program." [The original Journalist in Space program never got back on track after the Challenger explosion. Esposito, who jumped to WMAQ-Channel 5 in 1989 and spent 10 years there, became co-founder of a media training and consulting firm.]
  • "Two former WBBM-Channel 2 news staffers --  health reporter Kathryn Pratt and producer John Eisendrath --  have signed on as writers for "TV 101,' a CBS drama series to debut Nov. 29. Pratt also is creator and executive producer of "Body by Jake,' a syndicated health-and-fitness show." [Retitled "WIOU," the series based loosely on newsroom characters Pratt and Eisendrath encountered at Channel 2 (including Harris Yulin as a Bill Kurtis type) finally debuted in October 1990. Bowing to low ratings, CBS aired only 13 of the 18 episodes that were produced.]
  • "Emmis Broadcasting officially took control of WKQX-FM (101.1) at midnight Friday, with no changes planned in the station's pop-adult format or on-air staff. The Indianapolis-based company bought Q-101 and four other NBC-owned radio stations in a package deal for $122 million." [Emmis wound up making a lot of changes to Q101's format and staff. Today the financially troubled company is eager to find a buyer for the station and its other Chicago property, WLUP-FM (97.9).]
  • "Although his current five-year contract does not expire until the end of the year, Walter Jacobson is on the verge of completing a renewal with WBBM-Channel 2. General manager Johnathan Rodgers reports he's close to signing the anchor/commentator to a new deal." [Jacobson left Channel 2 in 1993 for a 13-year run at WFLD-Channel 32. Earlier this year, he returned to the CBS-owned station, where he now co-anchors the 6 p.m. newscast with Bill Kurtis and delivers commentary Tuesdays and Thursdays on the 10 p.m. news. Rodgers, who later headed the CBS Television Stations division, is president and CEO of TV One.]
  • "Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed, who will join WFLD-Channel 32's 7 p.m. newscast as a twice-weekly contributor on Oct. 10, plans to serve up a video version of her print fare. "I'm still working on how to make "Hmmm," "Psst" and "Arrgh" translate to television,' she said." [Sneed, who later held TV gigs at Channel 2 and Channel 5, is still writing for the Sun-Times.]

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