As expected, ABC-owned WLS-TV fired top sports anchor Mark Giangreco was fired late Friday after his on-air comment about co-anchor Cheryl Burton.
As first reported by Robert Feder, Giangreco was officially released from his contract, settling financial terms with the station, which were not disclosed. Giangreco arrived at ABC 7 in 1994, after 12 years at rival NBC 5 (WMAQ-TV). Giangreco replaced the popular Tim Weigel as sports anchor, who moved to CBS 2 (WBBM-TV) where he was until 1999 when he was forced off the air due to brain cancer, dying a short time later.
Giangreco made an off-hand on-air comment on January 28 during the sports segment about Burton saying she “can play the ditzy, combative interior decorator.” Burton reportedly complained to management about the comment and Giangreco has been off the air ever since. Giangreco is known for his biting humor, but it has gotten him in trouble numerous times at ABC 7 and apparently to management, this was the last straw.
Earlier, ABC 7 released Janet Davies after 36 years. She and Giangreco co-hosted the highly-rated Countdown Chicago New Year’s Eve special each year.
With Davies and now Giangreco gone, it remains to be seen if viewers tune out as ABC 7 has been the local news leader since 1986 and dominated the ratings once again last month in households and the key 25-54 demos. Back in May 1997, NBC 5 had their own drama after then-trash talk show host Jerry Springer was hired to do commentary on the station’s 10 p.m. newscast, with anchors Ron Magers and Carol Marin resigning in protest as Springer lasted only two nights. Ratings fell, but rebounded a few years later.
It also remains to be seen if the news affects his status at WMVP/ESPN 1000, where he is a contributor to the Waddle and Silvy show as he has been absent the last few weeks. Even though ABC 7 and ESPN 1000 share a corporate owner in the Walt Disney Company, ESPN 1000 is managed and operated by Wisconsin-based Good Karma Brands.
ABC 7 has survived key departures before, but this time it could be different as viewers are continuing to head for the exits from linear TV to streaming – local and national newscasts included and it also comes at a time when many are questioning journalism’s transparency, with “fake news” and all. At least Giangreco’s wit actually gave viewers a reason to smile after hearing about the latest on Chicago’s gun violence epidemic night after night. Community activist Andrew Holmes seems to be a bigger local TV star than most of the Eyewitness News team or any other news team in town these days.
This caps a rather strenuous period in Chicago television in recent weeks with the firing of Chicago Tonight executive producer Hugo Balta over social media tweets and a near-revolt of the NewsNation newsroom, with the departure of several staffers including VP of news Jennifer Lyons. I guess you can say there’s just as much drama in Chicago media on the TV side as there is with Harry, Meagan, and the rest of the Royal Family.