Former WGN-TV and NewsNation executive Jennifer Lyons has landed another Nexstar alum to join her at CBS-owned WBBM-TV (CBS 2).
As first reported by Robert Feder, Joe Donlon is joining Irika Sargent as co-anchor of the station’s 5, 6, and 10 p.m. newscasts starting May 2. This is the second NewsNation alum to join Lyons, who left the struggling Nexstar-owned cable news network and later landed at CBS 2 as general manager. A few months ago, Lyons hired former NewsNation meteorologist Albert Ramon.
Before he joined NewsNation, Donlon was primary co-anchor across the hall at WGN-TV where he shared anchor duties with Micah Materre, coming over from Tegna-owned NBC affiliate KGW-TV in Portland, Ore. to replace the retiring Mark Suppelsa. Donlon was one of the primary anchors on NewsNation’s prime-time newscasts until a format change instituted more interview-driven programming on the schedule – hence The Donlon Report, which was canceled when he departed.
With the Donlon hire, Brad Edwards – who was co-anchoring with Sargent, will continue to produce and report on investigative pieces and was named primary anchor of streaming channel CBS News Chicago (formerly CBSN Chicago.) CBS stations have made local news streaming channels a priority with all but one of the owned-and operated stations now operating them (Detroit’s WWJ-TV relaunches their news operation with a streaming channel as its masterpiece later this year.)
The move is the latest to try to rejuvenate a news operation once regarded as the best and highest-rated in Chicago back in the 1970s and early 1980s under anchors Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson. But the station’s fortunes went south starting in the mid-1980s (thanks to the rise of crosstown rival WLS-TV due to Oprah Winfrey’s skyrocketing popularity combined with overall cutbacks at CBS) and fell into fourth place by the end of 1990, when the station went the “if it bleeds and leads” tabloid format route and since, has been an also-ran with several more missteps. If you’ve read this blog since its inception in 2006, then you are familiar with the often poor way CBS has run WBBM and the entire station group, leading this space to spawn the phrase “The Church Of Tisch”, referring to former owner Laurence Tisch and how his cost-cutting ways hurt the network, including losing the NFL to Fox at the end of the 1993 football season.
In December 2020, CBS 2 made a big splash winning praise (and Emmys) for several investigative reports on the actions of the Chicago Police Department, who mistakenly barged into the home of a civilian looking for a murder suspect. However, CBS 2’s news ratings continue to lag way far behind the competition but the continuing emphasis on investigative reporting should serve the station well.