Bob Manewith, News Director/Editorial Director

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WGN Memories

My career history at WGN:

October, 1957: Overnight in the newsroom. TV signed off whenever the 10:15 movie ended and radio signed off after the 1:00am news, which I wrote for whatever staff announcer was on duty. Both stations came back on the air at 6:00am I wrote the 6:00, 7:00 and 8:00 newscasts. We added headlines on the half hour around 1960. When Franklyn MacCormack joined us in 1958, and the radio station became a 24-hour operation, I wrote the hourly newscasts…which he read.

1964: I became supervisor of the radio news side. This allowed the news director to pay almost full attention to the television operation. We had a single newsroom, as did most radio-tv operations at the time, until the Paul Davis era.

1967: Although we continued to operate a single news room, we had separate news directors for a couple of years. Bob Henley, who headed the TV operation, was promoted to Radio Program Manager. Gene Filip moved from Radio News director to TV news director. I became Radio News Director.

1968 (late in the year): Mainly because of disagreements on use of staff, we returned to a single “Manager of News,” yours truly, Gene moving to head the public affairs department, still a single unit serving both stations.

1970: Because the FCC decided doing editorials was a license protector, we got permission from the newspaper folk to do editorials. I was selected to do them … writing for Orion Samuelson and/or Alexander C. Field (both VPs, thus management) to deliver. I was Editorial Director for both stations until 1982 when the stations were split from top to bottom and TV ceased doing editorials. That was when Gene Filip retired and I added responsibility for Radio Public Affairs. This included the Traffic Central operation (now part of News) and the intern program.

Toward the end of my career, I became the ad hoc historian and launched What’s Goin’ On, the fan magazine Jim Herrmann created. I also had responsibility for compiling the section of the public file devoted to discussion of issues of public importance.

I left WGN November, 1994.

Before I forget, let me relate two Jack Brickhouse stories:

Jack’s talents were not limited to the world of sports. He interviewed presidents and a pope. He also used his play-by-play style for political conventions, election nights, etc.

Story #1: In 1964, Jack was assigned to anchor the radio station’s election night coverage. The idea was to have Jack — working with a staff announcer — do 15 minute segments beginning at 6:00pm, alternating quarter hours with music, etc.

Because neither of Illinois’ senate seats was on the ballot this year, we enlisted the services of our two senators, Democrat Paul Douglas and Republican Everett Dirksen (then the minority leader) to provide commentary. Douglas was to be in-studio at Bradley Place, shared with TV. Dirksen, unfortunately, was a patient at Bethesda Naval Hospital near Washington. However, he was well enough to be on the air. Phone quality was far from today’s standard so we set up his room like a remote studio, engineer and all.

About 5:30, Brick strolled into MC because he wanted to check in with Dirksen. The engineer in MC potted up in time to hear the open mike in the hospital room where the senator was making romantic small talk with the Navy nurse on duty. The tone indicated it wasn’t serious, more what we now would call politically incorrect suggestive conversation. Brick heard it, took the phone that the remote engineer had for cue purposes, asked for the senator and then lied to him:

“Everett, we just put you on the air with that cute nurse. We’re getting calls from the folks down in Pekin.”

“Jack, you’re a sonofab—-!”

Then, Jack broke up and all was well. When Dirksen DID get on the air, he lauded the staff at the hospital.

Story #2: Between the end of the football season and the start of spring training, Jack always went to Europe for four weeks, one week in London and three on the French Riviera. In January, 1965, he arrived in London the day Winston Churchill died. Through the good offices of the Tribune bureau in London, Jack got a seat in the back row of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London…and a live phone line…and did play-by-play of the funeral for WGN Radio.

I produced both programs.

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