Mayor Daley’s decision not to seek re-election sent shockwaves through Chicago’s political and media worlds. But it couldn’t have come at a better time for Ken Davis.
On Thursday the former talk show host and program director of Chicago Public Media WBEZ-FM (91.5) will be launching “Chicago Newsroom,” a weekly roundtable featuring a panel of local journalists and newsmakers. Produced by Chicago Access Network, it will air at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays on CAN-TV Channel 19 in the city and will stream online, starting midday Thursdays. (Here is the link.) “If Mayor Daley ever wanted to do anything for me, this would be it,” Davis joked of his good fortune in having such a momentous news story to kick off his new show. “If you think about it, everybody who’s in the media should be grateful. Can you imagine what this will mean to the sales department of Channel 7? Suddenly all the wallets in Chicago are going to open up, and all that money’s going to go pouring into TV [political advertising]. People are going to start watching the 10 o’clock news again. It’s Daley’s stimulus package!” Until he stepped down in 2004, Davis spent 11 years in the Daley administration, including seven years as director of the city’s Municipal Television system. Although he rarely had direct contact with the mayor, Davis said he came to appreciate Daley for being “a genuine geek” — a term of affection he also applies to himself:
“I always had such incredible admiration for Daley’s ability to change the physical face of the city. I think he genuinely enjoyed bringing forth these infrastructure projects to replace sewer lines and water lines and streetlights. Everybody talks about Millennium Park and the planters, but the real thing was the number of libraries he built, police stations he built, fire stations he built. He loved that stuff and knew it inside and out. He was a genuine geek. Because I’m one myself, I kind of appreciated that about him. I say all of this not as a blind-eyed fan of the mayor. I’m just saying that was one of the remarkable things about him that might end up being overlooked.”
Davis’ guests for the first installment of “Chicago Newsroom” will be columnists Eric Zorn of the Tribune and Ben Joravsky of the Reader along with Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union. If the prospect of another week-in-review show sounds familiar, that’s because word of a similar program just‚ popped up here last week. ‚ Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 is said to be planning a Friday night show to be hosted by news anchor Bob Sirott with a panel of local journalists discussing the week’s top stories. Window to the World Communications WTTW-Channel 11, of course, already has a 32-year head start in the genre with Joel Weisman’s “Chicago Tonight: The Week in Review.” Davis is quick to point out that his show will feature newsmakers as well as reporters in a format that’s likely to be less rigid than the others. All similarities aside, he’s just hoping to find an audience for his modest effort. “I don’t in any way think it’s competition for Joel Weisman or Bob Sirott,” he said. “But the megaphone effect that online has given to community access television is a great equalizer.”