The Media Notepad: Paris Schutz exits WTTW

Also: Chicago Blackhawks add animated alternative broadcast; FCC fine won’t affect WADL sale; Caps/Wizards move to Virginia scuttled

In another blow to the long-running Chicago Tonight, anchor and co-host Paris Schutz announced Tuesday he is leaving the WTTW show after a twenty-year run, departing on April 12.

“Nearly 20 years ago I walked into WTTW as a college intern and instantly fell in love with ‘Chicago Tonight,’ a program unlike any other in television”, said Schutz in a memo sent to staffers at the public television station, via Axios. “My run here almost feels like fantasy, to go from intern to producer to reporter to anchor in my hometown, for a station that has been part of my life since the day I was born.”

He also said: “I want to express my deepest gratitude to everyone at WTTW for always supporting and nurturing my career. Wherever I roam, WTTW will always be home.”

Schutz also composed the previous theme to Chicago Tonight and took over as moderator of Chicago Tonight: The Week in Review after Joel Weisman retired.

“We are grateful for [Schutz’s] many years of exceptional work and commitment to independent journalism, and we are looking forward to seeing him continue to grow as a respected journalist in Chicago,” said WTTW president and CEO Sandra Cordova Micek.

Chicago Tonight’s presence on WTTW has been greatly reduced in the last fifteen months, going from a four-night a-week hour-long show stripped at 7 p.m. to a Monday and Tuesday half-hour show airing at 5:30 p.m. with Black Voices, Latino Voices, and Week In Review filling out the rest of the week as more focus is being placed on digital and web content. The changes come as the decline of linear TV is hitting broadcasters hard – especially PBS stations, which affects pledge donations.

Chicago Public Media’s WBEZ made a similar move earlier this month when it reduced its Reset show to an hour from two.

Brandis Friedman continues as the solo host of Chicago Tonight while Amanda Vinicky takes over the Week In Review on Fridays.

Based on the success of ESPN’s two recent Big City Greens games, NBC Sports Chicago is teaming up with an animation studio for a local version of the Chicago Blackhawks game. The special real-time “animated” game takes place on April 6 at 2:30 p.m. against the Dallas Stars on its Plus channel, while the regular, live-action broadcast takes place on its regular channel.

“Every day, we’re challenging ourselves to bring hockey to fans in new ways, and we’re incredibly excited to bring the first-ever local animated game to kids across Chicagoland and beyond in partnership with NBC Sports Chicago and the NHL,” said Jaime Faulkner, President of Business Operations for the Chicago Blackhawks. “It’s our highest priority to introduce Blackhawks fandom to our youngest generation, and this passion project of ours is fueled by our ongoing efforts to share the game we love with families in ways that connect with their daily lives.”

Blackhawks PBP man Chris Vosters will call the game along with in-game analysis from Dominic Moore with Adam Burish and Tony Granato in the studio. Produced by Beyond Sports, the broadcast is geared toward families and uses NHL EDGE personal data along with Hawkey Innovations to recreate the action as it is happening on the ice and also features Blackhawks mascot Tommy Hawk, celebrating his “birthday” with some of his friends within a fun environment with the United Center as a backdrop.

This comes as ESPN and Disney had two successful Big City Greens alternative telecasts over the last two years, featuring characters from the Disney Channel animated series. This year’s matchup was the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins and it was a big hit with viewers.

Alternative telecasts targeted toward younger viewers are becoming more common in the last few years with Nickelodeon leading the way with their kid-targeted NFL telecasts with two this year – a regular-season game on Christmas and this year’s Super Bowl.

Mascots for the Washington Capitals, left, and Wizards, surprise a biker on the Mall as the duo was being filmed. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In good news for D.C. fans of the Washington Wizards and Capitals, a planned move to Virginia was scrapped on Wednesday as the team decided to stay in the District after all.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed a new deal with owner Ted Leonsis to keep the teams in Washington D.C. through 2050 and agreed to renovate Capitol One Arena, with D.C. spending $515 million to refurbish the facility and to expand his Momuental Sports empire in town, which includes his regional sports network. This came after a deal announced in December between both teams and Alexandria, Va. to build a new arena in Potomac Yard unraveled Wednesday.

In a statement, Alexandria pulled the plug on the project, saying “The City was adamant that any favorable consideration of the proposal included substantial and thoughtful improvements to the existing transportation system; included affordable housing; protect our stellar AAA bond rating; protect existing and future residents from financial risk; provided substantial future revenue for city and school services; protected existing neighborhoods; and provided quality jobs for our community. “We are disappointed negotiations did not result in a proposal that protected our financial interests and respected these community values.”

Virginia Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin wasn’t happy, blaming partisan politics for the deal’s collapse, a similar sentiment shared by Alexandria Democratic Mayor Justin D. Wilson who said he was disappointed and in a statement said “[W]e got caught up in partisan warfare in Richmond.” (at least the two agree on something.)

The timing of the Wizards and Capitals’ decision to stay in D.C. is quite interesting as a potential Chicago Bears move to northwest suburban Arlington Heights to build a new stadium on the site of the old Arlington Park racetrack is now in serious doubt as the team has shifted its attention to a site directly south of Soldier Field. The Bears bought the old Arlington site in 2022, but property tax issues surfaced. After Bears President Kevin Warren made it known he would prefer the team to stay in Chicago, it appears the NFL Lakefront Team will stay on the Lakefront after all.

Last week, the FCC fined Mission Broadcasting and Nexstar Media Group $1 million-plus over the ownership and operating structure of WPIX New York as it relates to the 39 percent ownership cap, leaving some observers wondering how this could impact a sale of a Detroit TV station to Mission with the agency.

WADL owner Kevin Adell planned another meeting with the FCC on March 28, this time with Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, as reported by The Desk. This would be his fifth meeting with the agency in several months, as he is trying to sell WADL to the Wichita Falls, Tex.-based broadcaster, who is an affiliate of Nexstar with numerous shared services and joint sales agreements.

The FCC fined both as Nexstar was declared a de facto owner of the New York City CW affiliate, as the network is 75 percent owned by the Irving, Tex. company.

Several cable and satellite operators oppose the WADL deal but have support from the Detroit NAACP and RainbowPUSH leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, who led a boycott of CBS-owned WBBM-TV in the mid-1980s following the demotion of anchor Harry Porterfield.

Adell said he remained optimistic that the FCC would approve the deal, despite the agency’s action against WPIX. If approved, look for The CW to rejoin WADL as it was an affiliate for a few weeks after leaving Paramount’s WKBD but dropped the network after a few weeks due to a pay dispute. The CW is currently airing programming over Scripps’ WMYD. Originally scheduled to be terminated on March 31 if the deal didn’t close, both WADL and Mission have agreed to extend the deadline for another three months (or 90 days) at the urging of the FCC as it continues its process.


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