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City Honors Bill Kurtis For His Service To Official Sources

Monday was Bill Kurtis Day in Chicago. I don't see what's so great about Bill Kurtis; just the other day he was chatting on the air with "reporter" Jay Levine and co-anchor Walter Jacobson about how Rahm Emanuel's budget was a "win" for the people of Chicago. That's great journalism?

Time and again I've seen this kind of nonsense coming from the unfrozen dynamic duo manning the Channel 2 news desk. It's sickening, but then again this is a town with a journalism association that recently honored Stella Foster with a lifetime achievement award.

Kurtis, of course, is really a spokesman for Corporate America and a shill for pols staging groundbreakings, not a journalist.

As I wrote in July 2010, Kurtis has been City Hall's official emcee for years

No wonder they gave him a day.

From the Beachwood Vault:

* From September 29, 2011:

Bill Kurtis Keynoter for Meat Industry Hall of Fame Ceremony.

Stick around for the meet-and-greet with lobbyists and then an evening Q&A on media ethics.

* From January 21, 2011:

Bill Kurtis last night on Emanuel's fundraising: "I suppose it's impossible to know where the money came from."

Bill Kurtis, everybody.

* From October 22, 2011:

Bill Kurtis and bananas, WTF?

WTF's ears perked up this week. It sure sounded like him.

But what siren song could have brought Bill Kurtis, the Ancient Journalism Mariner, out of the comfy harbor of voiceover checks for one more voyage? Busting crime syndicates? Uncovering political corruption? Nah. Turns out Kurtis' duty Tuesday night was another of his specialties, a voiceover promo for a hard-hitting piece on why eating bananas in the morning can dampen your mood. They didn't even let him do the actual banana story. Just the cutaway promotion.

And the piece itself? Another indication that a TV franchise's long-term death spiral is not totally a function of which pretty face sits behind a desk and reads the teleprompter. Sometimes what's on the station stops viewers from watching.

This particular piece suggested we avoid carbs and eat fresh fruit, eggs and peanut butter for breakfast. Also, be sure to avoid turkey at breakfast because that tryptophan can make you really drowsy [Editor's Note: NOT]. Plus when you eat too much turkey, you wake up in the middle of a Lions-Cowboys game on Thanksgiving afternoon.

WTF, breakfast is your most important meal.

And somewhere far away where only the angels could hear, Murrow whimpered and asked, "What the EF?"

* From July 30, 2010:

Sorry for not being excited about the return of Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson to the Channel 2 anchor desk, but neither has any rightful place in a newsroom anymore. From the Trib last December:

"Dignitaries at an announcement today for the new French Market at the Ogilvie Transportation Center were treated to a bit of political theater featuring a deep-voiced announcer, heckler and a mayor irked at some aldermen.

"It all began with Chicago TV legend Bill Kurtis, mustering his best baritone voice to introduce Mayor Richard Daley: 'The king of public-private partnerships, who of course makes all this possible. . . . Ladies and gentlemen, with a tip of the hat today to Paris, let's give a big Chicago welcome to, how we say, the greatest mayor in the greatest city in the world, Mayor Richard Daley!'"

How is this acceptable, Channel 2?

And it's not as if the French Market is an innocuous project.

"In the case of the market, the City Council, at Daley's urging, voted in 2006 to spend a total of $12 million in taxpayer money on construction of a new shopping area in the Ogilvie Transportation Center; $8 million of that sum went to the French Market," the Reader reported. "The project happens to be headed by a well-to-do, politically connected developer who's contributed thousands of dollars to the mayor's campaign coffers. And the city plans to spend another $23 million in the River West TIF district through 2011.

"By contrast Roseland, one of the poorest neighborhoods in town, will get just $5 million to spend through 2011."

The greatest mayor in the world also showed his petty, tyrannical side that day when Kurtis endorsed him.

"The mayor then lashed out at the dozen aldermen who dared to oppose his budget on the ground that Daley was draining the $1.15 billion windfall generated by the sale of Chicago parking meters to a private company," the Sun-Times reported.

"I really appreciate those 38 aldermen who stood with me and the taxpayers of Chicago. The other ones are not gonna convince me to raise taxes or raise fees," Daley said.

"Not one of 'em gave me one amendment to cut basic services or . . . raise taxes . . . If you voted 'no,' then be proud. And I'll debate any of 'em any time.''

Of course, that's simply not true. I was in the city council chambers when Ald. Tom Allen, for one, offered an array of budget alternatives. As for debating any of 'em any time, we'll see how that plays out if any of the council members rumored to be looking at a mayoral run go through with it - Daley has refused to debate his campaign opponents for 20 years.

Kurtis has been City Hall's official emcee for years. When I wrote about McCormick Place for Chicago magazine in 2004, Kurtis was championing an $850 million expansion there.

In January, Kurtis said he represented "an extension of the FBI in the media" while accepting an award from the very same.

And according to his speakers bureau, he is a board member of "several distinguished organizations including The Nature Conservancy, the National Park Foundation, Chicago Green City Market, Chicago Botanic Garden, and the Field Museum of Chicago."

Of course, he's also a shill for AT&T. (And Mass Mutual.)

What does he do on the night AT&T executives are indicted and the Field Museum is embroiled in scandal?

As for Jacobson, in April he complained about media's coverage of U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias. "Too much on the Giannoulias family bank," Jacobson said. "It's not news."


Jacobson went on to claim that Giannoulias had "a pretty good record" as a state Treasurer still in his first term, but offered no such endorsement of Mark Kirk's nine years as a U.S. congressman.

I know these guys are gonna just be reading the news, but maybe the smart move for Channel 2 would be to start reporting some.

* From December 4, 2009:

Bill Kurtis should never anchor the news again.

Thank you, Bill, for your "immeasurable contributions."


Comments welcome.


Posted on November 9, 2011

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