CHICAGO TV LEGENDS: Walter Jacobson

INTRODUCTION: There are those who have grown up in Chicago or are still living in the Windy City; And to those kinds of folks, they have admired the most fascinating personalities that they’ve known and grown up with. Today, KALEIDOSCOPE begins its special series on Chicago TV legends beginning with one who has been a part of TV in the Windy City for years and is now a part of radio: Walter Jacobson…

Jacobson was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 28th, 1937, at Chicago’s South Side’s Michael Reese Hospital; He was the son of an insurance agent by the name of Sam Jacobson and his wife Anne. During his youth, Jacobson was a true Chicagoan, and his love for the baseball team the Chicago Cubs led him to become a batboy for the team in 1952 and ’53, which motivated him to his first journalism job as the sports editor for his grammar school newspaper.

While he was in sixth grade, Walter Jacobson and his family moved to Glencoe, Illinois; then he would attend New Trier High School(Class of 1955), and from Grinnell College in 1959 he received his bachelor’s degree in political science and then from Columbia University he would receive his master’s degree in journalism. Jacobson would then get his career started at the City News Bureau in Chicago, and later he joined the reporting staff of the Chicago American newspaper.

Then Jacobson left the Chicago American to join WBBM-TV in 1963 as a news writer, and he had been promoted to be a reporter full time in 1968; Two years later, he became the station’s political editor. WBBM-TV had fired Jacobson in 1971, and then in the next two years would move on to NBC affiliate WMAQ, but after two years he would rejoin WBBM-TV, this time as an investigative reporter and anchor, co-anchoring the 10 PM news alongside Bill Kurtis for the next 16 years.

But soon after Kurtis left WBBM in 1982 to go to CBS News in New York, the station itself ffell out of first place four years later. After a dispute with the management at WBBM, Walter Jacobson left for WFLD in 1993.

While at WBBM, Jacobson had his own segment entitled, “Walter Jacobson’s Perspective”, which was delivered live from his own office during the 10 PM newscasts thus while generating significant controversy; those commentaries often criticized political hypocrisy as well as government waste.

Walter Jacobson was also known for having such a temper, and that caused him to be suspended with pay for two days for being what his news director labeled a “disruptive element” in the newsroom; Jacobson told at the time to the Chicago Tribune, “I think arguments are healthy, and I certainly don’t think I’ve been abusive…” (Maybe he should have tried anger management…just saying…)

For 10 years, from 1976 to 1986, Walter Jacobson was the solo anchor of WBBM’s 5 PM newscast, and from 1986 to September 1991, he was the co-anchor of the afternoon newscasts; then he was the co-anchor of the 10 PM newscast for 16 years, until he had been replaced by Linda Maclennan.

On July 29th of 2010, Jacobson and Bill Kurtis anchored the 6PM newscast on WBBM; they stepped down three years later, in February of 2013 when their contracts were not renewed. Today, Walter Jacobson is a radio personality in the Windy City, on WLS Radio, to be precise.

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