For more than 30 years, Ed Curran has been one of Chicago's most versatile, talented and likeable broadcasters. The guy can do it all. So why is WBBM-Channel 2 about to yank him off the air?
In one of those strange corporate maneuvers that make no sense to anyone outside of television, Curran is expected to be relieved of his duties as meteorologist, technology reporter and all-around utility player at the CBS-owned station -- but still be paid for the remaining 14 months of his contract.
Although no official announcement has been made, Friday could be Curran's last day on the air, sources said. After that, he'll join the ranks of Bob Sirott, Steve Dahl and other high-profile Chicago broadcast personalities who are getting big bucks to stay home and do absolutely nothing.
Curran is one of an unknown number of employees at CBS-owned stations being paid out of a corporate fund earmarked to write off contracts during the first quarter of 2010. The arrangement allows stations to enhance their bottom lines immediately by eliminating hefty salaries from their budgets. In most cases, employees are given the option of signing longer contracts for significantly less money or opting for payouts that keep them off the air for the remainder of their existing deals.
It's hardly a formula that promotes excellence in broadcasting. In fact, you could argue that it's exactly the opposite. By sidelining Curran, Channel 2 is losing more than just another interchangeable weather guesser. A lot more.
A lifelong Chicagoan and graduate of Columbia College, Curran has proved himself to be unusually adaptable to the twisting fates of the broadcast business. Before Channel 2 replaced its traditional morning newscast last month with the roundtable talk show "Monsters and Money in the Morning," Curran was the last man standing -- co-anchoring the show, forecasting the weather and, if I'm not mistaken, sweeping up the floors, too.
How's this for a resume? From his start in the late '70s as a radio news anchor and sidekick to Bob Wall, Chicago's top-rated FM morning personality on WGCI-FM (107.5), Curran segued to talk radio as host and program director of WIND-AM (560) in its final years as a mainstream station that mattered. From there, he shared more than a decade-long run with Al Lerner as half of "The Al and/or Ed Show" on WGN-AM (720) and later on WLS-AM (890). After that, Curran reinvented himself yet again, earning a meteorology degree and signing on as a weatherman at WGN-Channel 9, then at WMAQ-Channel 5 and, since 2002, at Channel 2.
Along the way, he carved a niche for himself as an authority on cutting-edge technology, creating and hosting "Technogadgets" programs for United and American Airlines, and serving as technology correspondent for CNN.
Knowing Ed, I have a feeling he won't be idle long. Can't wait to see what he does next.