Sep 15, 2023 - News

"Chicago Tonight" makes more programming cuts

Chicago Tonight co-hosts Paris Schutz and Brandis Friedman. Photo: Courtesy of Steve Ewert and WTTW.

After nearly 40 years as a four-day-a-week public TV news show, "Chicago Tonight" will air just two days a week starting next month, WTTW officials confirmed to Axios.

Why it matters: The show has offered one of the only consistent TV sources of daily Chicago news affairs discussions.

What's happening: The original "Chicago Tonight" program will air Mondays and Tuesdays.

  • The other three weeknights will be filled with existing weekly shows, "Chicago Tonight: Black Voices" on Wednesdays and "Chicago Tonight: Latino Voices" on Thursdays. "Chicago Tonight: Week in Review" will continue to air on Fridays.

What they're saying: "We are committed to offering a high-quality, local television news program to our viewers as we continue to meet audiences where they are," a WTTW spokesperson tells Axios.

  • WTTW says the move will enable the station to expand its digital presence and website, which has broken big local stories in the last year.

The other side: "I think it's a serious civic mistake," former host Carol Marin tells Axios. "'Chicago Tonight' is a go-to place for newsmakers, a reliable place to hear more than one sentence on an issue. To lose it is to sell off a PBS jewel."

Context: The nightly public affairs program is set to celebrate its 40th anniversary next year. Its original host, the late John Callaway, helmed the desk for the first 15 years.

  • Beyond Marin, other hosts have included Phil Ponce and Bob Sirott. Today the show is co-hosted by Paris Schutz and Brandis Friedman.

The intrigue: The move to cut "Chicago Tonight" comes after the show shifted from 7pm to 10pm earlier this year. During that move, its length was cut to 30 minutes from an hour.

  • The show moved again mere months later, settling in live at 5:30pm with reruns at 10pm.

Between the lines: According to the station's financial statements, the station has gone from about $49 million in revenue in 2015 to $43 million last year. That's about a 12% loss.

  • WTTW wouldn't provide a specific budget number for its "Chicago Tonight" programming, but the show has various union contracts for journalists and the crew, making it expensive to produce.

The bottom line: In less than a year's time, WTTW has cut "Chicago Tonight" from four hours a week down to one. Even though WTTW will continue to have local programming, the move signals the end of an era in local TV news.

Editor's note: This story was corrected to reflect that "Chicago Tonight: Black Voices" will air on Wednesdays, and "Chicago Tonight: Latino Voices" on Thursdays (not vice versa).


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