Thirty years ago today, Mike Parker joined the staff of WBBM-Channel 2. It was an era when the CBS-owned station was No. 1 in the ratings and when "The Ten O'Clock News" was must-viewing in the market. While almost everything else has changed since then, Parker remains a model of straightforward, intelligent reporting.
With all the gloom and doom pervading the news business, it's nice to know Chicago still has room for a few solid, reliable professionals like him. Countless general managers, news directors and anchors have come and gone since he started, but Parker continues to command the respect of his bosses and the admiration of peers.‚ "He's very special -- a crafty writer with great 'pipes' and a talent for relating to people," said Bruno Cohen, president and general manager of Channel 2. "Chicago is lucky to have him."
At 66, the Rock Island, Ill., native says he still feels right at home here. The only time he ventured out since starting at Channel 2 was in 1986 for what he calls his "brief foray onto New York City's mean streets" as a reporter for ABC-owned WABC-TV. But he quickly came back and stayed for good:
"It may seem strange, but I still love doing the work I do," he said. "I learn new things every day, meet fascinating people, get to work with the language, and make little 'movies.' What a life. I'm also kept young and challenged by my family -- my dear wife, Marian, and my amazing 16-year-old daughter, Claire."
The last time I profiled Parker a decade ago, he acknowledged a lingering desire to anchor, which he did creditably for years on weekends before shifting to reporting full-time. While those ambitions may have waned, he's no less enthusiastic about working today and, if fate allows, far into the future:
"I'm not done with the news business -- not by a long shot. CBS 2 is enjoying some new viewer attention, and I'm delighted to be reporting nightly for our 10 p.m. broadcast. At 66, I feel like I'm at the top of my game, that I've finally figured this stuff out. I think I'll hang out with you guys for a while."
Elsewhere on the media beat:
- Scott Jones, proprietor of the television news website FTVLive.com, created a firestorm Thursday with an exclusive report that NBC has decided to cancel "The Jay Leno Show." Citing unnamed sources, he said the move could come after the Winter Olympics. (Leno's low ratings at 9 p.m. have shrunk audiences for local newscasts at 10 p.m. on most NBC stations, including WMAQ-Channel 5 here). Almost instantly, Jones' story was picked up by CBS, Fox Business, AP and the New York Times -- along with denials from NBC. By midday, the show biz website tmz.com was reporting that Leno would be moving back to 10:35 p.m., bumping Conan O'Brien to 11:05 p.m. NBC didn't deny that one.
- It's been six months since Mike Barz was fired as anchor of "Good Day Chicago" on WFLD-Channel 32. But he's still not completely gone from the Fox-owned station's website. One click on the site's "Chicago Dating" link brings up an array of videos featuring Barz touting "a great way to find a date in Chicago," including tips on "mixing up your sex routine" and making a "cocktail connection." Barz continues to battle his dismissal over allegations of inappropriate behavior toward a female co-worker.
- Steve Carver, once considered a rising star among Tribune Co. executives, has returned to CBS Radio -- this time as senior vice president and market manager in Cleveland. Carver had been vice president and general manager of Tribune news/talk WGN-AM (720) from 1998 to 2003, after five years in the same capacity at CBS all-news WBBM-AM (780). He most recently headed Tribune's Hartford Courant in Connecticut and WATL-TV in Atlanta.
- Chuck Hillier, the Chicago radio veteran who ran Emmis Communications' WKQX-FM (101.1) for 13 years in its heyday, has joined Standard Media Group as vice president and general manager of "Martini in the Morning," a 24/7 Internet radio station featuring "cool adult standards." "There is an ever-growing hunger for a high-quality program solution to the undeniable and certain sameness found on both sides of the dial," Hillier said in a statement.
- And this tweet Thursday from the recently liberated Rich Samuels: "Wish WLS had paired Roe Conn with a Trotskyite. Extracting [Cisco] Cotto from WIND is nothing but a deck chair rearrangement."