CBS 2 celebrates Bill & Walter with cupcakes and no comment

Two years after CBS 2 reunited Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson, the 6pm weekday newscast they anchor still finishes third in the ratings. But that isn’t stopping the station from throwing a party for them.

“It’s a celebration of their second anniversary on the air,” Bruno Cohen, president and general manager of CBS 2, said of the newsroom bash called for 3pm Tuesday. “It’s an internal party at the station for their anniversary.”

Monday’s email invitations to the party immediately set off speculation among staffers that the real purpose of the gathering was to announce a renewal of Kurtis and Jacobson, whose two-year agreements are believed to be up.

Cohen would not say whether he and news director Jeff Kiernan will have anything to announce. “If we have anything to tell you or anyone in the press, we will tell you when we tell you,” he told me. Asked specifically about the future of Kurtis and Jacobson at CBS 2, Cohen said: “I have nothing to talk to you about.”

A station spokeswoman was equally cryptic about whether there would be news. Asked what will happen at the party, she said: “We’ll have cupcakes from Sprinkles.”

Kurtis, 71, and Jacobson, 75, could not be reached for comment Monday.

The reunion of the two Chicago television legends in 2010 was widely seen as a bid to  “resurrect ratings, relevance and respect” that had marked Kurtis and Jacobson’s first partnership at the station from 1973 to 1982. Still, there were those (OK, me) who viewed it as “an act of desperation by Channel 2,” a cash grab by Bill and Walter, and “a cynical stunt that’s doomed to fail.”

Of the three local newscasts airing at 6pm, CBS 2 continues to rank third overall and third among viewers between 25 and 54, according to Nielsen. Although ratings for Kurtis and Jacobson’s half-hour were up marginally from last year, the only group in which CBS 2 beat NBC 5 for second place in May was viewers 65 and older. ABC 7 leads in all demographics.

CBS 2 does little to promote the septuagenarian stars of its 6pm newscast, focusing all of its advertising and marketing efforts on the 5 and 10pm anchor team of Rob Johnson and Kate Sullivan.

Rumors of a possible change surfaced early this month when a blogger wrote of Jacobson: "Is the veteran newsman telling friends that it does not appear that CBS Television will be renewing his contract next month??? Just asking . . ." It was the same blogger who reported in June that Robin Robinson had been ousted from Fox Chicago — two weeks before she was renewed.


Tuesday update: CBS 2 announced that Kurtis and Jacobson have been renewed through February 2013. Effective March 1, they'll relinquish their 6pm anchor duties to Rob Johnson and Kate Sullivan, who currently anchor at 5 and 10pm.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)