Paul Davis 1938-2021

Paul Davis

Paul Davis, a onetime Downstate Illinois news anchor who became an influential TV news executive and a widely admired statesman for his profession, led WGN-Channel 9 into the modern era of broadcast journalism during 13 years as news director of "Chicago's Very Own."

In a career that spanned six decades, he served as president of two of the nation's largest professional organizations — the Radio Television Digital News Association and the Society of Professional Journalists.

Davis died of cancer Sunday at Heritage Health Therapy and Senior Care in Gibson City, Illinois, according to his daughter, Marinell Croson. He was 82. Continue reading

Alden Global Capital regains upper hand in bid for Tribune Publishing

Chicago Tribune

With the collapse of a competing offer for the parent company of the Chicago Tribune over the weekend, it’s full speed ahead for Alden Global Capital in its bid to acquire complete control of Tribune Publishing.

Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss withdrew his participation in a $680 million bid for Tribune Publishing with Maryland hotel executive Stewart Bainum Jr. through their newly formed Newslight LLC. After examining Tribune Publishing finances, Wyss backed out.

While Bainum is said to remain committed to pursuing ownership of the company with other investors, Wyss’s withdrawal effectively scuttles the deal, as far as the Tribune Publishing board is concerned. That leaves the $635 million offer of New York-based hedge fund Alden Global Capital as the only one standing. Continue reading

Robservations: Free agent Mark Giangreco still missing from ESPN 1000

Mark Giangreco (Photo: ESPN 1000)

Robservations on the media beat:

Don't look for Mark Giangreco to be back on the radio any time soon. The veteran Chicago sportscaster had been a fixture for years on Good Karma Brands ESPN sports/talk WMVP 1000-AM, where he'd join afternoon hosts Tom Waddle and Marc Silverman in the studio three times a week. But Giangreco hasn't been on since late January when he was placed on administrative leave (and eventually fired) as top sports anchor at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 over comments directed at news anchor Cheryl Burton. His settlement with ABC 7 doesn't prevent him from working elsewhere, but it's not clear if or when he'll return to ESPN 1000. Both stations broadcast from studios at 190 North State Street. "Right now, Mark is doing some traveling," said Mike Thomas, ESPN Chicago market manager. "We continue to stay in touch." Meanwhile, it's too soon to assess the impact of Giangreco's ouster on Chicago's TV ratings, but here's a clue: Halfway through April, ABC 7 is tied with NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 for first place at 10 p.m. among viewers between 25 and 54 — the key demographic tied to advertising revenue. ABC 7 previously held the top spot alone. Continue reading

Robservations: Top bidder for Chicago Tribune called influential liberal donor

Chicago Tribune

Robservations on the media beat:

Hansjörg Wyss

Hansjörg Wyss, the Swiss billionaire who has his sights set on owning the Chicago Tribune, has been a major donor to progressive causes and the Democrats who support them, the New York Times reported Tuesday. Along with hotel magnate Stewart W. Bainum Jr., Wyss has made a $680 million bid for Tribune Publishing, exceeding that of New York-based hedge fund Alden Global Capital. "As a newspaper publisher, Mr. Wyss would be in a role very different from that of a behind-the-scenes backer of progressive causes," the Times reported. "If he succeeds in his bid for Tribune Publishing, a chain that includes The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun and The Daily News, he could help shape news coverage for millions of readers." Earlier the Wall Street Journal reported that Wyss ultimately plans to turn over control of the Tribune to a nonprofit trust. Continue reading

Robservations: Kontender network brings more sports talk to Chicago

The Kontender

Robservations on the media beat:

Jon Zaghloul

Another sports talk offering has just been added to the Chicago media menu. This week marks the launch of The Kontender, a 24/7 digital audio network with commercial-free sports content focusing on Chicago and Washington, D.C. (Here is the link.) Chicago sports programming, including Pat Morenzoni’s “The Windy City Breeze” and Jon Zaghloul’s “Sports Talk Chicago,” will air on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (along with other content on Sundays). Washington sports content will air Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. “We look to take advantage of talent that may be on the sidelines because of the economic trouble of traditional radio broadcasters," said Joe Curci, marketing manager of the Scotch Plains, New Jersey-based network. "And we’re always looking to find new faces that haven’t gotten a look.” Plans for a mobile app are in development. Continue reading

Tribune's Eric Zorn regrets 'chilly tone' of column on shooting of 13-year-old

Eric Zorn (Photo: Chicago Tonight/WTTW)

Saying he "should have done better," Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn is expressing regret for what he called the "chilly, analytical tone" of his piece about the fatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy by Chicago police.

Zorn's Tuesday column, headlined "Let’s wait before turning slain 13-year-old Adam Toledo into a martyr," urged people to withhold judgment until more facts are known. He argued that it's too early to say whether police acted in justifiable self-defense, but "it’s not too early to stop romanticizing and infantilizing 13-year-olds." (Here is the link.) Continue reading

Robservations: Weigel Broadcasting pulls the plug on ‘The Jam’

Felicia Lawrence, Jon Hansen and Amy Rutledge

Robservations on the media beat:

Friday will mark the final airing of "The Jam," the low-rated evening talk show on WCIU-Channel 26.2/WMEU-Channel 48.1, the digital subchannels known as The U. Launched as a two-hour morning show in 2017 and hosted most recently by Felicia Lawrence, Jon Hansen and Amy Rutledge, "The Jam" was cut to one hour and moved to 6 p.m. weeknights when the pandemic shut down in-studio production. "Through very difficult conditions for the last 13 months, the team has produced live shows with a completely at-home team and featured important discussions on the key issues of our time," Steve Farber, senior vice president of operations at Weigel Broadcasting, told staffers Wednesday. "Going forward, we are working on other Chicago-based content that we can scale differently." Syndicated programming is expected to air at 6 p.m., starting Monday. Farber declined to say how many positions were affected, but insiders said as many as 10 jobs could be cut, including Steve Bailey, who was architect of "The Jam" as head of local programming and creative. Continue reading

Robservations: Ryan Chiaverini moonlights as lawyer in Lifetime movie

Elizabeth Rohm and Ryan Chiaverini

Robservations on the media beat:

Ryan Chiaverini spent Tuesday in front of the cameras, but it wasn't as co-host of "Windy City Live." Instead he was playing a small role as a lawyer for the upcoming Lifetime movie "Switched Before Birth." It's directed by Elisabeth Rohm, whom Chiaverini first worked with when the former "Law and Order" star auditioned to co-host "Windy City Live." "Now here we are 10 years later working together," he told me. "I’m not quitting my day job, but it’s fun to moonlight in the acting world. Hoping to do more in the future." Chiaverini joined ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 in 2006 and became co-host of "Windy City Live" with Val Warner in 2011. Continue reading