The Media Notepad: Suppelsa, Herndon exit respective 9 p.m. news anchor positions

Also: Rob Stafford returns to WMAQ; Get ready for more PAC ads; CBS Radio gambles and loses on blunder

Mark Suppelsa is calling it a career – the longtime Chicago news anchor and investigative reporter announced Thursday he was retiring after nearly three decades in the news business. Suppelsa is currently anchoring newscasts for WGN-TV at 5, 6, 9, and 10 p.m. with Micah Materre. Suppelsa released a statement thanking Chicagoans for their support and generosity.

Suppelsa has anchored for WGN since 2013, and beforehand, anchored news at WFLD-TV and WMAQ-TV, in addition to Minneapolis’ KSTP, where another now-retired Chicago anchor (Ron Magers) worked. During a time when WMAQ received negative blowback for allowing trash-talk show host Jerry Springer to do commentaries for its 10 p.m. newscast (which resulted in the resignations of Magers and Carol Marin), Suppelsa interviewed Springer in a memorable segment the day he resigned as commentator.

The move is the second 9 p.m. news anchor shakeup in last two weeks; on August 10, WFLD anchor Jeff Herndon announced he was stepping down as co-anchor to return to Wichita, where he previously worked.

No replacement has been named for either vacancy; WGN-TV is undergoing an ownership change as Tribune Media is being sold to Sinclair Broadcasting, known for cost-cutting and a conservative news bent – Suppelsa is the first major name from any Tribune station exiting as the ownership change is taking place. It will be interesting to see who else is leaving Tribune’s news stations as the Chesapeake Boys take over.


As Suppelsa is exiting, another local anchor is returning: Rob Stafford is returning to his main anchor slot at WMAQ after being out for months due to a medical condition. As first reported by Robert Feder, the NBC 5 veteran is returning August 28 at 10 p.m. and is also resuming his 5 and 6 p.m. anchor duties shortly thereafter. Stafford was absent after receiving a bone marrow transplant and needed chemotherapy for anyoidlosis. During his leave, longtime veteran Dick Johnson was filling in for Stafford alongside Allison Rosati.

During his absence, ratings for WMAQ’s late newscasts have declined as ABC-owned WLS-TV solidified its ratings lead at 10 p.m.

On a personal note, both Stafford and Rosati emceed several annual dinners when yours truly worked at the Better Business Bureau. Both couldn’t have been nicer. Looking forward to seeing Stafford back in the helm again and I’m certain NBC 5 viewers will, too.


If you’ve been watching local news or certain syndicated programs lately, you’ve probably noticed a huge uptick in SuperPAC ads despite not being an election year. Over the last week, these “political action committees” have bought TV and radio time to push their campaigns on everything from overhauling the tax code to education issues to of course, the Governor’s race. PACs linked to Governor Rauner and candidate J.B. Pritizker have purchased tons of airtime to get their message across.

Now, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has launched a media campaign to back Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s penny-per-ounce soda tax, which went into effect earlier this month, saturating the market with either more ads from special interest groups. As yours truly pointed out in a post about President Trump earlier in the week, Preckwinkle is among a group of pols (Trump included) who don’t care for people – although she fired back at critics in two ridiculous op-eds this week, claiming she cares about the people of Cook County (while fleecing our pockets.)

The campaign is a reported as $2 million time buy, spanning across television, radio and digital. As far as television is concerned, the first ad from the campaign debuted online Thursday and debuted in the Chicago market Friday. The commercial has run mostly in local news programs and syndicated programming targeted to older viewers, such as Wheel of Fortune and Judge Judy, alongside other PAC ads.

In June 2015, a SuperPAC for Governor Rauner took the then-unusual step and launched a television ad campaign regarding the now-resolved state budget impasse. Yours truly called the move a waste of money.

As trade groups such as the National Association of Broadcasters continue to encourage political advertising – even in non-election years, the increase of these types of commercials are driving away annoyed viewers like myself from broadcast and cable TV – you can easily see why creative talent such as Shonda Rhimes left for Netflix. As for Bloomberg, he would’ve been better off donating the money to anti-hunger organizations such as the Greater Chicago Food Depository. But as long as greedy broadcasters are eager to take any kind of money (just look at the retransmission consent mess) from special interest groups eager to spend on any subject, the oversaturation of this type of advertising will continue, pushing more and more viewers away from live TV.


Let’s just say they gambled and lost by not betting on gold: CBS Radio suffered a embarrassing public relations gaffe in the Las Vegas market this week when a internal memo regarding coverage of the city’s new NHL team, the Vegas Golden Knights was released. The memo stated the cluster’s six radio stations were not allowed to cover the team in any way shape or form, even as far not to mention on air. In other words – pretend the team doesn’t exist.

CBS Radio Las Vegas owns six stations in the market, including Top 40 outlet KLUC-FM, Hot AC KMXB-FM, and News/Talk KXNT. CBS does have a sports talker in the market, KXST.

After considerable backlash and even a threatened boycott, CBS wisely backed off as they decided to let the cluster cover the team after all.

CBS was among one of the bidders for the Golden Knights’ broadcast rights, but lost to Lotus Broadcasting, who are broadcasting games on rival sports talker KRLV and owners of three other stations in Las Vegas. Lotus’ KENO-AM plans to carry a Spanish-language broadcasts, given the market’s large Latino population , joining two other NHL teams offering Spanish-language broadcasts (the Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers.)

The Golden Knights recently struck a TV deal with AT&T Sports (formerly Root Sports) – beating out Los Angeles’ Spectrum SportsNet and Fox Sports West. Both RSNs  have a significient presence in the market, with the former airing Los Angeles Lakers games, a popular draw in Las Vegas. The Golden Knights begin play this fall at the new T-Mobile Arena, just off the Las Vegas Strip.

There was question whether or not this “ban” was sustainable anyway, given CBS Radio’s pending sale to Entercom. Though CBS owns radio stations in Las Vegas, it does not own the market’s CBS affiliate KLAS-TV.


Further reading:

Kathy Hart to return?

YouTube TV to carry Sinclair stations

AMC  Theaters says no to Moviepass


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