Ron Magers delivered a pitch-perfect farewell and a larger than usual audience to close out the May rating sweep on a winning note for WLS-Channel 7.
The veteran anchorman’s final 10 p.m. newscast Wednesday easily won its time period for the ABC-owned station, with a 10.0 rating (347,520 households) and 18 percent share — up 28 percent from its average for the month. Magers retired after 35 years in Chicago television news, including the last 18 at top-rated ABC 7.
Nielsen numbers released Thursday showed ABC 7 winning the monthlong sweep at 10 p.m. with a 7.8 rating (271,065 households), followed by NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 with a 7.0 rating (262,164 households), Tribune Media WGN-Channel 9 with a 2.8 rating (97,305 households), and CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 with a 2.7 rating (93,830 households).
NBC 5 narrowed the gap with ABC 7 in overall households, and maintained its lead among viewers between 25 and 54. In the adult demo at 10 p.m., NBC had a 3.6 rating, followed by ABC 7 with a 2.7, WGN with a 1.2, and CBS 2 with a 1.0.
Among 9 p.m. newscasts, WGN had a 4.2 rating (145,958 households) and Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 had a 2.0 rating (69,504 households).
Culminating a week of tributes and special reports in his honor, Magers bowed out alone at a darkened anchor desk. "I've had the great good fortune of doing something I loved for the last 51 years," Magers told viewers. "Even when I hated it, I loved it." Quoting a possibly apocryphal line from Dr. Seuss, he added: “Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.” Afterward colleagues and family joined him on set for hugs and applause.
Succeeding Magers Thursday alongside co-anchor Kathy Brock at 6 and 10 p.m. and co-anchor Cheryl Burton at 5 p.m. was Alan Krashesky, a 34-year veteran of ABC 7.
For the last word on Magers’s retirement, there's this from Jim Warren, chief media correspondent for Poynter.org and former Chicago Tribune media critic:
Sign of the times in local TV
The local homages have been ample for Ron Magers, who last night signed off at WLS-TV, the ABC-owned station, after 35 years as a Chicago TV anchor. His exit dominated Wednesday's Chicago Sun-Times front page. Unmentioned were dramatic economic changes that have made even genial de facto teleprompter readers like Magers high six-figure or seven-figure luxuries stations can't afford. WLS once printed money, especially in the years after it created a morning show hosted by a woman named Oprah Winfrey. Chicagoans tuned to Channel 7 for her and didn't switch. Now everybody's ratings are heading south, and a younger generation doesn't care for the numbing low-brow repetition of much TV news. So stations are hiring younger, far cheaper de facto teleprompter readers. Magers, 71, says he's a lucky guy. Yup. The man, moment and money were perfectly aligned.