Thursday, June 22, 2006

Ponce v. Berkowitz: Who interviewed Dock Walls better?

Congrats to WTTW: filling the public policy void in the media by bringing you more sports. What next for Public TV in Chicago? World class poker? Your pledge dollars at work. Ante up, donors.
On April 30, 2006, Jeff Berkowitz, host and producer of “Public Affairs,” interviewed Bill Dock Walls, who is the only publicly announced challenger to Mayor Daley in the February, 2007 City of Chicago election. Chicago Tonight’s Managing Editor and host, Phil Ponce, gave it a shot tonight, and you can watch his interview when Chicago Tonight is re-run at midnight, 1:30 am and 4:30 am on WTTW, Ch. 11 in the Chicago Metro area.

To compare and contrast, you can watch the Public Affairs interview with Dock Walls on your computer [by going here], and scrolling to the April 30, 2006 show with Mayoral candidate Walls on our podcast page.

Of course, when you tune in WTTW tonight to watch Dock Walls and learn more about his run for Mayor, you’ll have to wait twenty minutes, or so, because, somewhat ironically, the lead items for tonight’s Chicago Tonight are news of the current Mayor’s effort to snag the 2016 Olympics for Chicago and then the latest on prostate cancer treatment.

There was a time on Chicago Tonight when hard public policy news and analysis came first, but no more. Indeed, on May 23, 2006, when all eyes and ears were interested in when, where and how did the Governor break the news of his education funding program that had persuaded Rev. Meeks not to run against Governor Blagojevich, Chicago Tonight took the night off and ran off the court, so to speak.

If you tuned in for Public Policy that night looking for analysis of the Governor's education funding plan, instead you got Women’s Professional Basketball [Chicago Sky, Tonight, that is]. This would be why we have Public TV? To fill the gap in commercial sports coverage? Who would have thunk it. WTTW’s management, such as it is, that's who.

Chicago Tribune columnist and fellow blogger Eric Zorn once was worried about the direction of Chicago Tonight. But, then he wrote, about a year ago, not to worry. Zorn was convinced that Chicago Tonight was still the place to turn when you wanted to learn what had happened during the day involving public policy. Well, not on May 23, 2006. Not unless you think Chicago Sky basketball is the public policy event of the day.

Then last Thursday night-- yet another substitution on WTTW of women’s basketball for public policy. And, nobody seemed to notice. Further, WTTW is scheduled to substitute Basketball for Chicago Tonight about two nights per month for May-August, 2006. Well, maybe Lincoln was wrong: You can fool all the people all the time. Or, at least the 30,000 to 40,000 viewers who might have taken the pledge to watch Chicago Tonight. Congrats, WTTW, filling the public policy void in the media by bringing you more sports. What next for Public TV in Chicago? World class poker? Your pledge dollars at work. Ante up, donors.

Talking about your pledge dollars, during the last WTTW pledge drive, Chicago Week in Review host Joel Weisman, who doubles as an agent for various media personalities [new and old], including some of the guests booked for his show and John Callaway, the man who made Chicago Tonight famous for his serious interviews before the show was turned into a food, health, gadget and sports features magazine format, sat across from each other talking about how great and noble WTTW is, realitive to the barbarians in commercial TV. Do they really think that?

If so, somehow Weisman and Callaway neglected to discuss the noble effort to replace Chicago Tonight, from time to time, with basketball. Or, to replace public policy discussions with a roundable on the Bulls coach. Or, to replace interviews of serious public policy decision makers and analysts with interviews of entertainers and sports figures. All unintentional oversights, I am sure. Perhaps a budding, young, not so noble, commercial, investigative reporter will do a story on this-- assuming that up and comer has no conflicts with anyone at WTTW, that is.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at