The End of an Era at WMAQ-TV...
note: A new era at WMAQ-TV began on February 11th,
2004 with the return to WMAQ-TV of Carol
Marin and her producer Don Mosely. You can also see Carol
twice a week on the Chicago
Tonight show on WTTW. And if you click
here, you can watch Carol and Ron co-anchor the first WMAQ-TV
news broadcast from the NBC Tower.
Marin and Ron Magers on May 1st, 1997---two hours before their final appearance
as WMAQ-TV's principal news anchor team.
The ad WMAQ-TV placed in Chicago's major metropolitan newspapers on May 17th,
1997. The ad introduced Channel Five's new anchor teams, along with a statement
the station called "NBC5's Committment to Chicago".
The ad came after fifteen days after reporter and news anchor Carol Marin announced
she would be leaving Channel Five following the 10 pm news broadcast of May
1st---and one day after her long-time co-anchor Ron Magers announced he would
depart WMAQ-TV following the 10 pm broadcast of May 21st.
The proximate cause of the departures of Marin and Magers was the decision of
WMAQ-TV management to offer talk-show host Jerry Springer a commentary slot on
the 10 pm news broadcast beginning May 5th. But more significant were their concerns
of long standing over the direction management was steering the Channel Five news
|In late April,
Marin and Magers publicly protested the hiring of Springer within the context
of their wider concerns regarding the evolution of broadcast journalism at WMAQ-TV.
When it became clear that management would not back down from the Springer decision,
both negotiated early releases from their contracts.
Carol Marin's last broadcast was set for May 1st. Ron Magers was to have stayed
until mid-summer, presumably to give management a chance to assemble new anchor
But the Springer gambit quickly turned into a public relations nightmare and,
at least in the short term, a ratings disaster. Springer, in fact, resigned after
delivering only two commentaries. Following more than a week of unprecedented
public outcry and negative press (nationally, as well as locally), WMAQ-TV management
(aided by John Rohrbeck, head of NBC's Television Stations Division and a "damage
control" public relations unit flown in from New York) decided to allow Magers
to leave the station following the 10 pm broadcast of May 21st---thus avoiding
a future potential flash-point if Magers were to leave, say, in July.
On May 16th, WMAQ-TV President Lyle Banks told Chicago newspapers that the hiring
of Springer had been a "mistake."
The text of the ad WMAQ-TV placed in the dailies on May 17th read as follows:
to May 1st, 1997...
Committment to Chicago
Chicago is a great news town with a long history of providing hard-hitting news---and
NBC5 has been a part of that heritage for many decades.
We know that you look to us as a source for local news---you've put your trust
in us to provide clarity and relevance to each day's events. And we value that
In the proud tradition of NBC5, our news team---Warner saunders, Allison Rosati,
Joan Esposito and Mark Suppelsa---will go the extra mile to give you the best
news coverage in Chicago.
NBC5's committment to you:
And we won't give
you anything less.
- To Provide you
with the fairest, most accurate and balanced news covererage possible.
- To be our source
for hard news and investigative reporting.
- To be an integral
part of the Chicago community.
- To do everything
we do with quality and professionalism.
Lyle Banks, President and General Manager
Joel Cheatwood, Vice President, News
|Few WMAQ-TV staffers
were surprised the afternoon of May 1st when Carol Marin posted a note saying
she would depart the station following that night's 10 pm news broadcast. For
weeks they had witnessed her struggle to preserve the integrity of Channel 5's
news operation. (And they knew that her battle had implications far beyond the
walls of Chicago's NBC Tower.) But all were stunned. The prospect of this shop
without Carol was unthinkable.
The WMAQ-TV newsroom, 5/1/97, at 7:30 pm
Many WMAQ-TV employees
remained in the newsroom long after their shifts had ended. They were shortly
joined by a number of Carol's former colleagues who rushed to the NBC Tower as
soon as they learned of Carol's decision to leave the station.
For a time, reporters and camera crews from competing shops freely ranged through
the WMAQ-TV newsroom. The managers whose actions led to Carol's departure were
nowhere to be seen.
Magers in the WMAQ-TV newsroom, 5/1/97 at 7:45 pm
Ron Magers, who had publicly suported Carol in her struggle, ordered two crates
of pizzas and several cases of pop for those who kept the newsroom vigil.
more on Carol and Ron, check out...
more on the WMAQ-TV of earlier eras check out...
or suggestions? click
here to send them to Rich Samuels
Rich Samuels (e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org)