Robservations on the media beat:
- A week ago Jim O’Donnell and his bosses were insisting that I had read too much into their decision to drop O’Donnell’s controversial sports media column at the Chicago Sun-Times.‚ No big deal — just a reassignment to the Bulls beat “to beef up our coverage,” sports editor Chris De Luca told me. But on Tuesday, O’Donnell was terminated after more than 13 years on the newspaper’s sports staff. He was among a group of editorial department layoffs that also included Ben Rubenstein, managing editor of the Centerstage Chicago entertainment website, and Delia O’Hara, a features reporter. The cutbacks came nine days after parent company Sun-Times Media confirmed the elimination of three editorial positions at its Pioneer Press suburban weekly group. Asked to comment Tuesday night, O’Donnell said:
“Whatever is going on right now, for the past 13 1/2 years, I have had the extreme honor‚ of working alongside some of the most dedicated, passionate professionals in American‚ journalism at the Chicago Sun-Times. If anyone had told me long ago that I would one‚ day be associated with the newspaper of Kup and Royko and Ebert and Deeb, I’m not‚ sure I would have believed it. It is, and remains, an extraordinary privilege. Since the day non pareil Bill Adee brought me in, I hope I, in whatever way, have helped to extend those legacies. As I’ve said before, one of my most fervent wishes is that the Sun-Times survives and thrives.”
- Speaking of layoffs, it turns out at least 10 staffers were cut at WTTW-Channel 11 in the massacre June 4 at Window to the World Communications — with as many as 20 more positions to be eliminated through early retirement buyouts and additional firings. It’s all because Daniel Schmidt, president and CEO of WTTW, discovered a $3 million hole in his budget. But not to worry, said Schmidt, “the key to the plan is to reduce costs without jeopardizing the quality of our content.” Uh huh. Among employees forced out were Randy Chandler, Amy Christenson, Andy Fontana, Marc Glick, Susan Godfrey, Andrea Guthmann, Kari Hurley, Andre Jones, Shaunese Teamer and Tom Wuellner.
- Believe me, I love Ellen DeGeneres as much as the next guy, but I’ve got to call out WMAQ-Channel 5 for allowing the comedian (whose syndicated talk show airs on Channel 5) to walk onto the set and commandeer the NBC-owned station’s 5 p.m. newscast Monday. News anchors Dick Johnson and Marion Brooks awkwardly played along as DeGeneres monopolized half the show. “We’ve completely lost control of our broadcast facility,” said weatherman Brant Miller. It was enough to make you cringe. (See for yourself: Here is the link.)
- It’s a week of celebration for veteran Chicago broadcaster Bruce DuMont, founder and president of the Museum of Broadcast Communications. Earlier this week, construction resumed on DuMont’s museum, thanks to a $6 million capital grant from the state of Illinois. And on Monday, DuMont will be saluted on the 30th anniversary of his nationally syndicated “Beyond the Beltway” political talk show. The event in his honor will be at Harry Caray’s Restaurant — just down the block from the site of the museum on Kinzie Street. The show, which debuted as “Inside Politics” on Chicago Public Media WBEZ-FM (91.5) in 1980, now airs on stations across the country — including Citadel Broadcasting news/talk WLS-AM (890) — and on Sirius XM Satellite Radio. (Here is the link for ticket information.)
- Coinciding with his 42nd birthday Tuesday, former Chicago news anchor Kevin Roy launched an elaborate website in hopes of landing a new job. (Here is the link.) Roy, you’ll recall, was fired last April after 12 years at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 when he failed to show up for the Sunday morning newscast he anchored with Stacey Baca. He attributed the lapse to “physical exhaustion.” On his new blog, Roy writes of “rising from the ashes, picking myself up and dusting myself off,” adding:
“Why do so many out of work TV anchors and reporters have websites anyway? It’s not because they can’t stand being out of touch with the general public and have a burning desire to work everyday for the rest of their lives. Let’s face it — I need a job! (So do the rest of ‘em, but hire me first, please.)”