On-air comment has top sports anchor off-air
It looks like we’re going to need not one but two new hosts for annual New Year’s Eve special Countdown Chicago.
Viewers of ABC 7 (WLS-TV) have noticed top sports anchor Mark Giangreco’s absence for the last few weeks and now we know why he’s been off the air – and it isn’t because of coronavirus or any other illness issues.
As first reported by Robert Feder Wednesday, Giangreco made an on-air comment about co-anchor Cheryl Burton during a newscast on January 28 after showing a clip about hockey player Spencer Jenkin painting his house on roller skates. After the clip aired Giangreco said: “Gotta get him a show on DIY Network. We’ll call it ‘House Fix with Sticks,’ and Cheryl can play the ditzy, combative interior decorator. I got it all worked out.” [DIY Network is a cable channel owned by Discovery Communications and whose fare is available on streamer Discovery Plus.]
Needless to say, Burton wasn’t happy about the comments and went to station management. As a result, Giangreco has been off the air since then – basically the entire February sweep period with Jim Rose and Dionne Miller taking over sportscasting duties from their respective homes.
Viewers have been left to speculate why Giangreco was off the air as not only he was off ABC 7 but also was off social media and also hasn’t been on ESPN 1000’s Waddle and Silvy show, where he was a regular contributor. Giangreco hasn’t commented and neither have officials at the ABC-owned station and continue to clam up.
This isn’t the first time Giangreco has landed in hot water with management. In 2017, Giangreco was suspended for a tweet he made about then-President Trump in February 2017. Giangreco has also had a history of making controversial comments in his nearly 40-plus year career in Chicago television, notably about Walter Payton’s liver condition and joking about the city of Detroit rioting after the Pistons won the NBA championship in 2004. Giangreco has been with ABC 7 since 1994 after hiring him away from rival NBC 5 (WMAQ-TV.)
This is the third time in less than a month a Chicago television station has had to deal with questionable behavior. Last month, WTTW was forced to part ways with Chicago Tonight executive producer and Latino Voices host Hugo Balta for making social media posts supporting liberal candidates and failing to disclose vital information to the local public broadcaster.
And just last week WGN-TV sports anchor Dan Roan deleted a tweet referring to a Michigan State basketball player as a “thug” after he broke the nose of an Illinois player during a game. He later apologized and wasn’t disciplined.
With this latest suspension, it appears likely Giangreco is on his way out after 27 years at Chicago’s top-rated news station. Last month, ABC 7 parted ways with Janet Davies after 36 years, and in recent years both were co-hosts of the highly-rated Countdown Chicago. Giangreco’s contract expires next year, and his will likely be bought out. At one time, Giangreco made $1 million per year at the station.
But it’s a reminder to some viewers of what passed for local news at ABC 7 in the 1970s when Joel Daly and Fahey Flynn held sway and headed the “Happy Talk” format, which was a hit with viewers but crashed the station’s ratings by the early 1980s. While every local news station nationwide has some form of Happy Talk these days, it’s best not to treat viewers like they’re at a comedy club during the sports segment – especially at a time when journalism is under fire in some quarters for its transparency while linear TV is facing a impending crisis over shrinking audiences as streaming is taking hold. And that’s no laughing matter.