Walter Jacobson at 80: ‘I feel great’

Walter Jacobson

On the eve of a milestone birthday, legendary Chicago anchorman and commentator Walter Jacobson sounds happier than ever that he’s still in the game.

“I feel great,” said Jacobson, who turns 80 on Friday. “I feel perfectly wonderfully physically. I go through my same old Walter mishegas about what I’m doing. But I love what I’m doing. I’m exercising my brain every day, following this craziness in Washington. I’m free to write about it. So I’m feeling great!”

Jacobson’s amazing run in Chicago television news — including his iconic partnership with Bill Kurtis at CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 — made him one of the city’s most recognizable stars. These days he does his work mainly off camera, delivering weekly radio commentaries for Tribune Broadcasting news/talk WGN AM 720. He also makes commercial endorsements.

It’s been a challenging year for the beloved newsman affectionately known as Skippy, who bounced back quickly from surgery for lung cancer and radiation treatment for prostate cancer. The prognosis for both is excellent.

“The tumor on the lung was huge, but they said one of the reasons I’m doing so well at my age is because I’m so healthy,” he said. “I work out five days a week. I always have and I haven’t stopped. And I eat good foods. I’m very careful.”

Jacobson also just got good news from Southern Illinois University Press, which plans to release a new paperback edition this fall of his highly acclaimed 2012 autobiography Walter’s Perspective: A Memoir of Fifty Years in Chicago TV News. The hardcover version is still in print.

Earlier this week, he celebrated his 80th at a quiet dinner with his wife, Susie, and four close friends. In addition to making a few media rounds, he plans to spend this weekend doing what he enjoys most — watching people at neighborhood street festivals. This time it’ll be the annual Fiesta del Sol in the heart of the Pilsen neighborhood.

Says Skippy: “I just love the tacos.”