Robservations: Tom Skilling weeps at ‘life-changing’ eclipse

Tom Skilling (August 21, 2017)

Robservations on the media beat:

Television’s wall-to-wall coverage of the solar eclipse Monday combined a celebration and science lesson in a way viewers haven’t seen since the U.S. space program’s moon landings a generation ago. But in watching Tom Skilling weep at the sight of the celestial spectacle, you’d have to go back 80 years to the broadcast of the Hindenburg disaster to recall an outpouring of as much unabashed emotion by a reporter covering an event. Unlike Chicago radio newsman Herb Morrison’s plaintive wail at an unfolding catastrophe (“Oh, the humanity!”), there was the superstar meteorologist for Tribune Broadcasting WGN-Channel 9 crying tears of overwhelming joy at witnessing the solar phenomenon (“Path of Totality!”). Reporting from a beach in Carbondale, Illinois, Skilling said: “We’ve been told people start sobbing. For some, it’s just a life-changing event. We might start doing that too.” Then he did. And it was perfect. “For fans and even colleagues, it wasn’t just that we’d seen the eclipse,” wrote Jack M. Silverstein in a Chicago magazine blog post. “It was that we’d seen Skilling see the eclipse.”

Edwin Eisendrath

Edwin Eisendrath took his crusade to rejuvenate the Sun-Times to the City Club of Chicago Monday with an appeal to subscribe and a pledge to honor the trust of its readers. Backed by an investor group including a coalition of organized labor, Eisendrath acquired the newspaper last month with plans to secure its digital future as a multichannel operation. “Since the paper was saved, the outpouring of really relief and gratitude has been overwhelming and from everywhere in the city — including, I have to say, from that Gothic tower over there on Michigan Avenue,” he told the gathering of civic leaders. “The truth is Chicago cares deeply about the Sun-Times, and we feel that everywhere. So it is with enormous humility the new ownership group accepted this responsibility along with the keys to a great newspaper.”

Tim Knight

The leadership shakeup Monday that sent former Sun-Times publisher and editor Jim Kirk to step in as interim executive editor of the Los Angeles Times rocked management here too. Tronc, Chicago-based parent company of the L.A. Times and the Chicago Tribune, also cut the positions of Tim Ryan, president of publishing, Joseph Schiltz, chief marketing officer, and Ken DePaola, senior vice president of sales. When the dust settled, Tim Knight, who heads the digital content and commerce division of tronc, has assumed responsibility for all of the company’s local market operations other than the L.A. Times.

Michael “DJ Mike P” Pryor

“The Jam,” the new 6-to-8 a.m. weekday show that debuted July 31 on Weigel Broadcasting WCIU-Channel 26 with an original theme song by Che “Rhymefest” Smith, has another musical claim to fame: It’s the only morning program on Chicago TV with an in-studio disc jockey. Michael “DJ Mike P” Pryor, a native of the South Side and a graduate of Urban Prep Charter Academy in Englewood, plays the jams for hosts Jordan Cornette, Felicia Lawrence and Danielle Robay. “My approach to spinning for ‘The Jam’ is to take a bit of the old, throw in the new and create a groove somewhere in between where everyone can feel energized about their day,” Pryor said in a statement. “I’m excited to be the man providing the soundtrack to Chicago’s morning.”

Robb Ellis

Robb Ellis debuted over the weekend as a per diem meteorologist at CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2. He’ll fill in on the air and handle other weather duties occasionally, according to CBS 2 news director Jeff Kiernan. Ellis, former chief meteorologist at WIS, the NBC affiliate in his native Columbia, South Carolina, previously worked at WISH, the CW affiliate in Indianapolis. He received his meteorology degree from North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

Beth Schenker

It’s such a mechaye to welcome “The Big Schmear,” a new podcast about Jewish food. On the second and fourth Monday of each month, host and producer Beth Schenker explores the culture and history of Jewish eating — from restaurants to recipes. “For me, Jewish food is about my Jewish identity: it connects me with my past through the memories of holiday meals shared with family and friends and at the same time Jewish food links me to the future as I develop my own family food traditions and explore new developments in Jewish food worldwide,” she said. Schenker is assistant dean at Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago. She’s married to Steve Robinson, former general manager of classical music WFMT FM 98.7.