Bye bye, Bruno: CBS 2 could do with new leadership
Not everyone is sorry to see Bruno Cohen leave Chicago after four years as president and general manager of CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2. Just ask the Museum of Broadcast Communications, which is still waiting for a $100,000 check from him.
On Friday, CBS Television Stations boss Peter Dunn sent Cohen west to run KPIX-TV and KBCW-TV in San Francisco and KSTW-TV in Seattle. Replacing him at CBS 2 here, effective October 1, will be Marty Wilke, the highly regarded vice president and general manager of Tribune Co.-owned flagship WGN-Channel 9.
(Historical footnote: It’s been almost 25 years since the general manager of a Chicago television station changed channels overnight. In January 1988, Al DeVaney jumped from Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 to Newsweb Corp. WPWR-Channel 50.)
Cohen deserves credit for cleaning up the mess left by his profligate predecessor, Joe Ahern, and cutting his way to profitability through downsizing staff and reducing salaries. But he seemed to run out of creative ideas after his two big ones — Monsters and Money in the Morning and the reunion of Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson — turned out to be busts.
For a guy who’d spent much of his career in programming (he was senior vice president of programming at CNBC and a programming development executive at Buena Vista Productions), Cohen added nothing to Chicago’s broadcasting legacy. Local production? Forget it. Digital subchannels? Don't ask. Even the station’s first new marketing campaign in years, “Original Reporting,” wasn’t original. The slogan was lifted from CBS News.
If Cohen is remembered here at all, it may be for his candid admission that many of the decisions under his watch — including the hiring of New York imports Kate Sullivan, Megan Glaros and Steve Bartelstein (who lasted all of 10 months) — were dictated by his bosses. “New York has always called the shots,” he told me in an interview last year. “CBS has owned this place since the transmitter went on. All the general managers here work at the pleasure of CBS.”
At the Museum of Broadcast Communications, he’s recalled even less fondly: “Bruno Cohen personally reneged on a signed CBS $100,000 pledge of support for the Museum of Broadcast Communications,” Bruce DuMont, founder and CEO of the museum, said in an unsolicited email Friday. “His failure to keep a CBS corporate pledge is disgraceful and it has caused the museum great harm.”
Cohen did not respond to a request for comment about DuMont’s allegation.
But in a statement released earlier by CBS, Cohen said he looked forward to returning to the Bay Area and to KPIX, where he once worked as executive news producer and news director. “I’m excited about this new assignment and honored by Peter’s and CBS’s confidence in me,” he said. "The staff at WBBM is doing an exceptional job. I’ll miss them and the city of Chicago,” adding: “Marty is a terrific executive and I have no doubt that CBS 2 will continue to grow under her leadership.”