A respected Chicago broadcast veteran resigned from the local television academy Thursday in protest over the selection of Jerry Springer as host of this year's Chicago Emmy Awards.
The Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences announced Thursday that Springer would emcee the 55th annual awards ceremony Nov. 3 at Alhambra Palace on West Randolph.
Springer hosted his syndicated talk show for 17 years from Chicago's NBC Tower before relocating to Connecticut in 2009. His controversial but short-lived stint as a news commentator for NBC 5 in 1997 prompted the resignations of top anchors Carol Marin and Ron Magers and the defection of thousands of viewers.
Marcus Riley, president of the Chicago chapter and multimedia content producer at NBC 5, said in statement: “The Emmy Awards is the most highly visible event for the TV Academy every year, and we’re thrilled to have a professional of Jerry Springer’s caliber emcee the event. We’re in the midst of planning a memorable ceremony worthy of all the nominees on their big night.”
But not everyone is thrilled with the selection of Springer to front the industry's annual salute to excellence.
Lissa Druss Christman resigned in protest after six years as a member of the academy's board of governors. Now a senior consultant for Serafin & Associates Inc. public relations, Christman is a former sports producer for CBS 2 and Comcast SportsNet Chicago, and a nine-time Chicago Emmy Award winner herself.
In her resignation letter to the board, Christman wrote: "I have enjoyed my many years on the board and believe NATAS Chicago plays an important role in our television community, but I do not agree with the choice of Jerry Springer to host this year's Emmy awards. An Emmy award is one of the highest honors in television journalism, particularly because the winners are selected by other journalists.
"I am proud of the nine Emmys I won during my 21-year television career; integrity is important to me, as I know it is to you. Jerry Springer's brief appearance on WMAQ-TV's 10 p.m. newscast in 1997 challenged the integrity of local journalism here in Chicago. While I respect the decision of my fellow board members, I cannot support it."
So what does Springer make of all this?
"If they didn’t want me there, they wouldn’t have invited me," he told the Chicago Tribune. "This is a day to honor those people who have excelled in the industry in the region. I don’t want to do anything to detract from honoring them. It’s not going to be my show; it’s their show, and I will treat it respectfully."