Fox 32 pulls bait-and-switch on Facebook friends

Sorry, but I’m just not interested in pictures of Kori Chambers and Anna Davlantes doing the tango on the morning show. I don’t need to read a list of “Chicago's top 10 cheating neighborhoods” or click on a lewd billboard about blowjobs. And I couldn’t care less which stupid video wins today’s “Facebook Faceoff.”

But suddenly this is the kind of garbage that’s been filling my news feed on Facebook day and night, courtesy of Fox Chicago News.

How did I become an unwitting recipient of this Fox effluvia? It apparently happened because I’m a fan of One More Thing, the signature commentaries Bob Sirott delivers at the end of the 9pm newscast he anchors with Robin Robinson. Early last year, when I saw Sirott had a Facebook page devoted to One More Thing, I added it to my own list of “Likes.”

Up until now, everything was fine. Once a day I’d receive a friendly little notice with a link to the text and video of Sirott’s commentary from the night before. If I’d missed seeing it on the air, it was a convenient way to catch up on whatever funny, insightful or clever twist on a story in the news — or some other Chicago-related topic — he had written to close out Fox 32 News at Nine.

Unfortunately, the recent arrival of a new vice president and general manager at Fox 32, a company man from Orlando named Dennis Welsh, ruined all that. Newsroom sources tell me Welsh is on a rampage to raise the station’s social media profile and boost its Facebook following — even if he has to play fast and loose to do it.

So earlier this week, Fox 32 eliminated Sirott’s One More Thing page along with other Facebook pages related to specific news shows, hijacked their followers and converted them to the Fox Chicago News page without their knowledge or consent. Instead of receiving one notice a day about something I’m interested in, now I’m getting inundated with dozens of posts I care nothing about. ("Do you believe in love at first sniff?" one post asked Thursday. "Does your spouse or significant other smell good to you?")

The obvious solutions to this bait-and-switch are either to hide the messages from my news feed or to drop Fox 32 entirely from my Facebook account, which is what I did last night.

And speaking of One More Thing, it may be just a coincidence, but it’s been nearly two weeks since I’ve seen any of Sirott’s commentaries on the air. Some nights they’ve been bumped by Bill Zwecker’s updates on American Idol (which Fox flogs shamelessly and interminably during sweeps). On other nights they’ve been missing without explanation. 

For a last-place newscast that’s trying to differentiate itself from its competitors, you’d think they would value One More Thing, a unique local franchise that just might make viewers want to stick around until the end of the show. (Or at least tune in for the last few minutes, as I often did.)

I called Sirott, a smart guy and a seasoned pro I’ve known for more than 30 years, to ask why his bosses seem to be messing with him. Citing an idiotic company policy that muzzles the station's anchors and reporters, Sirott said he couldn’t talk about it and referred me to Fox publicists in New York.

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll send them a message on Facebook.


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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)