ABC 7 meltdown reminds anchorman of sci-fi horror scene

Robservations on the media beat:

  • The perils of automation hit Chicago’s top-rated news operation in full force Tuesday when ABC 7’s 10pm newscast dissolved into a technical nightmare. From start to finish, nothing seemed to go right. Blame for the multiple snafus — including botched camera cues and repeated stories — was placed on new software being used for the first time to write and produce the newscast. In addition to staffers’ input mistakes (which also affected newscasts earlier in the day), additional glitches were caused by the computer system that operates graphics and video. Calling it “a perfect storm,” news anchor Ron Magers likened the meltdown to the climax of 2001: A Space Odyssey, joking: “I believe the proper explanation would be that we asked HAL to open the pod bay doors and HAL said, ‘I'm afraid I can't do that.’ ”

  • August 28 will mark the 25th anniversary of Larry Lujack’s farewell broadcast on WLS-AM (890). Only 47 at the time, the self-styled Superjock was calling it quits after 20 years on the air in Chicago, taking a buyout of his 12-year, $6 million contract. “It ain’t no big deal,” Ol’ Uncle Lar told his WLS colleagues in a memo. “So let’s skip all the nice working with you,’ etc. crap on the final day. It’s awkward and stupid, so please don’t feel like you have to come up and say something to me Friday. There ain’t nothin’ to say. ” Since then, Lujack retired to Santa Fe, New Mexico (where he still lives), and was inducted in the Radio Hall of Fame, the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame and the Illinois Broadcasters Association’s Hall of Fame. Despite his making a couple of comebacks, Chicago radio has never been the same.

  • Mancow Muller’s morning radio show is coming to WPWR-Channel 50, starting this fall. As first reported by the Tribune’s Robert Channick, a simulcast of Muller’s Mancow Experience radio show, syndicated by Talk Radio Network, will air from 6 to 8am weekdays on the Fox-owned station. No start date has been announced. The show, currently originating from Cumulus Media studios at 190 North State Street, will move to Channel 50’s studios at 205 North Michigan Avenue. “Viewers will have unlimited access into Mancow’s madness, with a live, unedited simulcast that will bring this dynamic voice to life,” Mike Renda, the station’s vice president and general manager, said in a statement. Contacted Wednesday, Muller declined to comment. On August 4, Fox News Channel aired a pilot for Mancow TV, a weekend talk show.

  • Jacquelyn Heard, the former Tribune reporter who spent 14 years as Mayor Richard M. Daley’s press secretary, recalls her tumultuous odyssey in the current issue of Today’s Chicago Woman. Writes Heard: “In a nutshell: Yes, he was demanding. You often couldn’t toast a gain on one goal before he was on to the next. He was direct. You never really had to guess what he was thinking. And yes, he shouted every now and then. Sometimes his eyeglasses went askew and the lenses were so fogged with fingerprints, you wondered if he could see you, but you didn’t dare laugh because, when it came to the business of bettering Chicago, he cared deeply and was serious.” Heard still works with Daley as director of communications and public relations at his law firm, Katten Muchin Rosenman.

  • Steve Darnall wraps up his month-long tribute to Chicago radio’s golden age this weekend with the 20th anniversary broadcast of Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club from June 23, 1953. Also featured will be a 1960 excerpt of Jay Andres’ Music ‘Til Dawn, a 1955 excerpt from Paul Gibson’s afternoon show, and a 1949 episode of Predict-A-Hit with students from Senn High School rating the latest songs. They’ll all be heard on Those Were the Days from 1 to 5pm Saturday on College of DuPage’s WDCB-FM (90.9) and online at



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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)