20 years ago, one of Chicago's most-respected news anchors and hard-political junkies, Carol Marin, resigned her job at Chicago's most-watched nightly news program because the station hired Jerry Springer to fizz up their ratings. From the Chicago Tribune, May 4, 1997:
Chicago News Anchor Quits After Station Hires Jerry Springer20 years later, and what was once the only even-remotely "Liberal" national teevee news outlet in American now looks more and more like the bottom of Sean Hannity's birdcage:
The decision by a Chicago television station to hire Jerry Springer, the host of a syndicated talk show, to provide commentaries on its nightly newscasts has led to the resignation of one of that city's most popular and respected television news anchors.
A second anchor is almost certain to follow her this summer, staff members at the station, WMAQ-TV, said on Friday. If so, the hiring of Mr. Springer, whose talk show usually deals with vulgar subject matter and who occasionally engages in the ''ambush'' interviews that have prompted widespread criticism of the talk genre, could shake up news-viewing habits in Chicago.
On Thursday, Carol Marin, one of the two anchors of the 10 P.M. news on WMAQ, the NBC-owned station in Chicago, announced her decision to quit after a protracted dispute with the management over the direction of its newscasts. Ms. Marin, who had been the anchor for 12 years, has won numerous awards for reporting, including 15 Emmy Awards and 1 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award for broadcast journalism.
The other anchor, Ron Magers, had previously said he might also quit. On Friday, he issued a statement saying that he disagreed with the hiring of Mr. Springer but that he would fulfill his contract.
Staff members close to Mr. Magers said he had tried to renegotiate his contract to allow him to leave in the summer and was likely to do so. His contract would have continued for three more years.
The departures of two leading anchors would be highly unusual for any television station, but especially so in the case of WMAQ because it leads the Chicago market among the viewers most sought by advertisers.
Ms. Marin said in a telephone interview that she ''could not understand at all'' why the management had chosen to ''take the news in a whole new direction.''
That direction, she and other staff members suggested, is toward a more tabloid-style newscast. The management of WMAQ did not respond to calls on Friday. But the president of NBC's stations division, John Rohrbeck, said WMAQ would not adopt a tabloid style.
He suggested that Ms. Marin's departure was a result of longstanding unhappiness with the management.
The decision to hire Mr. Springer was ''a symptom of where news is heading,'' Ms. Marin said. She did not dispute the station's right to choose its staff. ''But for me, it crossed a line I would not cross.''
20 years ago, Jerry Springer was ''a symptom of where news is heading,''.
20 years later, and "news" -- which barely exists any more at all -- has sunk so far past that point that it is no longer detectable by the most powerful ground-penetrating radar.