Despite a flood of publicity, talkshow host Jerry Springer’s controversial first commentary on WMAQ Chicago on Monday failed to boost the station’s 10 p.m. newscast out of second place.
NBC O&O WMAQ’s 10 p.m. newscast rated a 14.7/24, placing second to the 15.8/25 newscast on ABC-owned WLS. CBS O&O WBBM was third with a 10.8/17.
WMAQ’s newscast was up three share points from the 13.1/21 average in the February sweeps, while WLS was nearly on par with its 15.8/26 that month. WBBM was actually up the most from its February average of 6.6/11. WMAQ didn’t significantly increase from its February 1996 average.
In Springer’s first commentary, he addressed the firestorm he created by joining the station’s newscast and the decision of WMAQ anchor Carol Marin to quit the station in protest. While not addressing Marin by name, Springer said her protest demonstrated “elitist snobbery … hidden in the self-righteous cries of journalistic integrity.”
He added, “I’m sorry the anchor quit. I’m sorry she found it necessary this week to use me as her stepping stone to martyrdom. But I would never, ever suggest that she doesn’t have a place on our airwaves.”
To illustrate his free-speech stance, Springer told a story about his father, who is Jewish, encouraging him to grant a permit for the Nazis to march in Cincinnati, where Springer was mayor.
Appearing on CBS’ “The Late Late Show With Tom Snyder” on Monday, Marin said Springer was a “grenade in that newscast” who represented “the dumbing down of news.”
“Once you do something to totally disrupt the trust of the viewers, you can’t just get that trust back,” she added. “I don’t see this as a movement or a crusade. I’m not a martyr. I’m not the Mother Teresa of journalism. I’m just a reporter with strong feelings and a strong commitment about this.”
Marin’s former co-anchor Ron Magers also protested Springer’s hiring, but didn’t walk off the newscast. Marin replacement Allison Rosati introduced Springer, though, and Magers never appeared in the same frame with the talkshow host. It’s unclear what Marin will do now, but sources say she’s fielded offers from numerous network and local news operations, as well as syndicators.