Robservations: NBC Chicago launched record-setting run for Hugh Downs

Hugh Downs

Robservations on the media beat:

The great Hugh Downs, whose more than five decades in television earned him a Guinness-certified record for most hours on network TV, started it all in Chicago. As a radio announcer at NBC Chicago in the 1940s, Downs moved to TV on "Kukla, Fran and Ollie,” the seminal children’s show created by puppeteer Burr Tillstrom. “On rare occasions I would be seen also, but usually it was voiceover stuff, announcing the program,” Downs recalled in a 1997 interview. “The show had no real rehearsal. They would discuss a situation and they would then just ad lib the whole thing and do it somehow tailored to time. That was an art that may be lost now in our business.” During the years he worked at NBC’s Merchandise Mart studios, Downs lived in north suburban Wilmette, according to broadcast historian Rich Samuels. It was at NBC Chicago that Downs met Dave Garroway, whom he eventually would follow as host of NBC’s “Today.” His amazing list of credits also included Sid Caesar's "Caesar's Hour,” “The Tonight Show” with Jack Paar, the game show “Concentration,” and more than 20 years on ABC's “20/20.” Downs died Wednesday at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 99.

Russell Dorsey

Just hired as Chicago Cubs beat writer for the Sun-Times is Russell Dorsey, a reporter for, where he covered the Cubs, White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers. Dorsey, who grew up in the south suburbs and graduated from Illiana Christian High School and Oral Roberts University, began as an intern at the Daily Herald. At the Sun-Times he succeeds Gordon Wittenmyer, who jumped to NBC Sports Chicago earlier this year. "Russ's experience on the Cubs beat, love of baseball and passion for journalism makes him the ideal person to fill Gordon's big shoes," said executive editor Chris Fusco. "Besides his writing and reporting, we look forward to him representing the Sun-Times on television and radio and helping build our growing readership."

Phil Manicki

It's been two months since Phil Manicki was cut after 21 years at classic rock WDRV 97.1-FM. The popular evening personality was one of 12 employees released in companywide layoffs at Hubbard Radio Chicago. Tonight Manicki will be back on the air when he fills in for Dave Plier from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Nexstar Media Group news/talk WGN 720-AM. His guests will include former radio colleague Steve Downes and rockers Dennis DeYoung and Jim Peterik. Plier, in turn, is filling in today for Bob Sirott from 5 to 9 a.m. on WGN.

Shirley Descorbeth

Shirley Descorbeth, a reporter for Weigel Broadcasting's CBS affiliate in Milwaukee, has been hired as a zone producer for "News Nation," the Nexstar Media Group newscast coming to WGN America. Descorbeth, who grew up in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood and earned two degrees from the University of Illinois, previously worked for KWWL, the NBC affiliate in Waterloo, Iowa. Earlier she was a digital marketing specialist for the Sun-Times. She began as a news writing intern at Nexstar's WGN-Channel 9 and promotions intern at iHeartMedia urban contemporary WGCI 107.5-FM.

William Kelly

William Kelly, the former Chicago radio talk show host who has collected 138,000 signatures on an online petition alleging Illinois residents have been harmed by "COVID-19 restrictions on their lives and civil liberties," just took it a step further: He and three others filed a lawsuit this week in Cook County Circuit Court against Governor J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot seeking to overturn their orders and compensate business owners and individuals who've lost jobs or income. (Here is the link.)

Thursday’s comment of the day: Bernie Petchenik: What a great station WGN used to be. Listened day and night. Now turned off. They are all about saving the dollar than quality entertainment. What a world this has become. Shame on the owners.