After lo these many years, Kurtis gets his day
Robservations on the media beat:
- Today is Bill Kurtis Day in Chicago. Please comport yourselves accordingly.
- Unless an underwriter can be secured in the next few days, Roger Ebert said he and his wife, Chaz, will be pulling the plug on Ebert Presents at the Movies. He acknowledged publicly for the first time that he’s been paying almost the full cost of production since the weekly movie review show debuted last January on WTTW-Channel 11 and public television stations nationwide. “We can’t afford to finance it any longer,” he wrote on his blog Sunday night. Ebert said the show, hosted by Christy Lemire and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky (with Chaz serving as executive producer), has been a “great success” in the ratings.
- Former Chicago news anchor Byron Harlan, one of more than a dozen on-air veterans who were purged from the payroll at Fox Chicago, has just “unretired” from television. After more than a year in his new career as a west suburban-based financial adviser, Harlan has signed on as a weekend news anchor and reporter at KUSI-TV in his native San Diego. (Another former Chicagoan, John Coleman, is the station’s chief meteorologist.) Harlan said he plans to pursue a “dual career path” in broadcast news and financial services. “It feels as if I'm living a dream," he told me. "I really have been working intensely to develop these two careers, and for it to be happening here is almost unbelievable. I'm convinced that your life really will go where your mind takes you." The former correspondent for CBS News’ NewsPath service spent 13 years as a weekend news anchor at Fox Chicago before his contract was not renewed in March 2010. Since then, Harlan co-hosted Talkin’ Money, a weekly radio talk show.
- Watch the 10 o’clock news and win a laptop? Well, sort of. Viewers who register on WBBM-Channel 2’s website are eligible to win one of five Asus Zenbook laptop computers to be given away this week. One winner will be announced each night during the 10pm newscast. Bruno Cohen, president and general manager of CBS 2, said the giveaway is not designed to boost ratings for the newscast. “It’s part of a sweepstakes promoting Asus laptops,” Cohen told me. “They bought commercial time in our late news to announce the winners.” A similar contest is running this week on KPIX-TV, the CBS station in San Francisco. At least it’s not as blatant as what the NBC affiliate in Milwaukee is doing: WTMJ-TV is giving away an iPad a day to viewers who register by "liking" the station on Facebook. Winners are announced on the air by the weatherman.
- Thanks to veteran Chicago journalist and broadcast historian Rich Samuels for pointing out that this Friday marks the 90th anniversary of the initial broadcast of KYW, Chicago's first radio station. For the first few months, the station’s programming consisted only of the evening performances of the Chicago Opera Association, broadcast live from the stage of the Auditorium Theater. Owned by Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, KYW remained a Chicago station until December 1934 when its license was transferred to Philadelphia.
- Greta Johnsen, who’s pursuing a master’s degree at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, has been hired as weekend host at Chicago Public Media WBEZ-FM (91.5). She’ll be on from 7am to noon Saturdays and Sundays. Johnsen, a graduate of Saint Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, most recently was operations manager and Morning Edition host at KUAC-FM, the National Public Radio affiliate in her home town of Fairbanks, Alaska. “Public radio often feels like the only connection to the outside world in a place like Fairbanks, so it was valuable to work at KUAC,” she said in a press release. “I've always been impressed with WBEZ and its programming, especially This American Life.”
- Andy Rooney’s death at age 92 Friday came just one month after he retired as a 60 Minutes commentator and on what would have been the 95th birthday of his closest friend and CBS colleague, Walter Cronkite. (At Cronkite’s funeral in 2009, Rooney was too overwrought to deliver his eulogy.) In addition to his career as a writer and broadcaster, Rooney’s legacy includes two children who followed him in the business: A son, Brian Rooney, who was a reporter for CBS 2 here in the mid-1980s, is a correspondent for KCET-TV in Los Angeles and a free-lance correspondent for ABC’s Nightline. A daughter, Emily Rooney, is a host and producer at WGBH-TV and WGBH-FM in Boston.