The End of an Era at WMAQ-TV...

Curator's 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.

Right: Carol Marin and Ron Magers on May 1st, 1997---two hours before their final appearance as WMAQ-TV's principal news anchor team.
Marin and Magers, 5/1/97

May 17th, 1997...

Right: 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 operation.
5/16/97 ad

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 teams.

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:

NBC5's Committment to Chicago

Dear Chicagoans:

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 trust.

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:
  • 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.
And we won't give you anything less.

Lyle Banks, President and General Manager

Joel Cheatwood, Vice President, News

Back to May 1st, 1997...

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.

Right: The WMAQ-TV newsroom, 5/1/97, at 7:30 pm
The WMAQ-TV newsroom

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.

Ron Magers Left: Ron Magers in the WMAQ-TV newsroom, 5/1/97 at 7:45 pm

Co-anchor 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.

For more on Carol and Ron, check out...

For more on the WMAQ-TV of earlier eras check out...

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Chicago Television for Kids |
Radio Hall of Fame |The NBC News Night Report: 23 February, 1967
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