WMAQ hires former “Survivor” contestant as an investigative reporter

14849293_SAIf Tammy Leitner thought politics on a reality show was something, she hasn’t seen anything yet in regards to Chicago’s.

As first reported by Robert Feder last week, Ms. Leitner has joined the investigative team of NBC-owned WMAQ-TV (known as NBC 5 Investigates) which currently employs Carol Marin, Rob Stafford, Marion Brooks, and others. Leitner started at NBC 5 Monday.

Leitner’s credentials are very impressive: she spent eleven years at Meredith’s KPHO-TV in Phoenix, where apart of the investigative unit at the CBS affiliate, won a Peabody and an Edward R. Murrow Award. Most recently, she worked at CBS-owned WCBS-TV in New York. Leitner is a UCLA graduate, and received a Masters in Journalism from Boston University.

But we all know it takes more than education and a bunch of awards to survive in the Chicago media jungle, where politics and journalism often collide – and the results sometimes aren’t pretty.

And that’s where Leitner’s Survivor experience comes in.

Tammy Leitner in her "Survivor" days.
Tammy Leitner in her “Survivor” days.

Leitner appeared in CBS’ Survivor: Marquesas, which was shot in the fall of 2001 and aired in the spring of 2002. The fourth edition of the reality show featured memorable – and controversial contestants Sean Rector and “Boston Rob” Marciano, who would go on and appear on Survivor three more times. Leitner was briefly on the same tribe (Rotu) with the two troublemakers and was the tenth person voted out of the show and became the sixth member of the jury on May 2, 2002 – but not before she won two individual immunity challenges.

Vecepia Towery won the million dollar prize over Neleh Dennis – but not before Letiner lashed into both contestants at tribal council, criticizing them for their “holier-than-thou” attitudes (Tammy had to change the way she played the game as a result), accused both of being hypocrites,  and dismissed them as liars (fans of the show agreed; many felt Vecepia didn’t deserve the million.)

Survivor host Jeff Probst went on record saying Marquesas was his least favorite season, ahead of only All-Stars. Despite the creatively lackluster season, Marquesas averaged 20.8 million viewers in its Thursday night slot, opposite the popular Friends. Recent editions of Survivor, now on Wednesdays, have averaged half that number.

Just goes to show you having a little reality TV experience on your resume doesn’t necessarily hurt. In fact, it helps a lot – especially in a city known for being one huge, dysfunctional reality show. If Tammy Leitner can put up with Jeff Probst and Boston Rob, she can do the same with Rahm Emanuel, corrupt politicians and scam artists (not to mention some members of the investigative team.)

But now the floodgates have opened. Look for Fox’s WFLD to take advantage and hire a couple of Survivor contestants to add to their news team. Of course, they’ll screw up and hire Russell and Brandon Hantz and that Phillip guy who runs around in pink underwear as their “FBI expert”.