2002 Flashback: Jackson-Middlebrooks-Cassidy


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Posted by Regis in Wildwood on February 15, 2010 at 07:22:58:

In Reply to: Pat Cassidy Salary Issue posted by Deanny on February 14, 2010 at 10:31:21:

When Jackson talks, WBBM bosses listen
March 19, 2002
BY ROBERT FEDER SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST

Did the bosses of WBBM-AM (780) cave in to pressure from the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson? Or did Felicia Middlebrooks finally realize the terrible mistake she'd made and come crawling back to reclaim her old job?

A little of both, actually.

Jackson's intervention Friday salvaged Middlebrooks' career as morning news anchor at the Infinity Broadcasting station and landed her a new multiyear deal that continues to make her the highest paid anchor on any all-news radio station in the country (she already was the highest paid black woman radio news reporter in the country, but she was still a victim in need of Jesse's help)

As if nothing had happened, was back on the air Monday with her considerably lower paid "Newsradio 780" (white male)co-anchor, Pat Cassidy.

The fact that Jackson personally brokered the agreement two days after Middlebrooks rejected the station's "final offer"--and management said it was "moving forward" without her--speaks to the almost mystical clout that Jackson wields in the McClurg Court offices of CBS in Chicago.

The fact that Middlebrooks' agent, Darcy Bouzeos, was not even present for Friday's talks speaks for itself.

In the end, Rod Zimmerman, vice president and general manager of WBBM-AM, chose to overlook the deadline that had passed Wednesday for Middlebrooks to accept his offer of single-digit raises. He also chose to overlook her scheme to orchestrate a racially charged letter-writing campaign, in which she raised threats of "very serious long-term ramifications" if her salary didn't jump from its current $350,000 a year to more than $600,000.

For her part, Middlebrooks finally dropped the self-righteous blather about "fighting for women and/or minorities" and "changing the course of history" when it dawned on her that no other station would ever pay her as much to read radio copy.

For the concessions on both sides, Jackson deserves full credit.

The civil rights (not) leader has held sway at 630 N. McClurg Court since 1985, when he led a successful, 10-month viewer boycott against WBBM-Channel 2. Prompted by the demotion of Harry Porterfield, an African-American news anchor, the boycott ended only after CBS publicly groveled before Jackson's Operation PUSH. (f_ing cowards)

Among other things, the boycott prompted the hiring of Johnathan Rodgers as Channel 2's first African-American general manager and the hiring of Lester Holt, an African-American news anchor, who succeeded Bill Kurtis as the station's No. 1 news star.(of course the remedy--throw out the whities!)

Channel 2 never fully recovered from the effects of the boycott, which took a toll on ratings, morale and management autonomy. What's more, the fear that Jackson might target the station again has never been far from the minds of Rodgers' successors.(Jesse Jackson=racial terrorist)

More than a decade later, Jackson was still considered a force to be reckoned with by CBS brass. In 1999, as Channel 2 prepared to take Holt off the 10 p.m. newscast and install Carol Marin as solo anchor, general manager Hank Price shocked his staff and angered his newsroom by announcing plans to give Jackson's son, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), his own weekly talk show on the station.

Although the talk show never came to fruition, cynics saw Price's move as a way to forestall racial protests over Holt's demotion.

It has become a fact of life in the Chicago broadcasting industry that managers who make any changes in the racial makeup of their top talent lineups do so at their own peril. Like it or not, they know they'll have to answer to Jackson (the racial terrorist).

So when Jackson placed a friendly call Friday to "Newsradio 780" boss Zimmerman, he didn't have to say that he was speaking as more than just another fan of Middlebrooks and her 18-year tenure as a skilled morning-drive newsreader. The message was clear.

"I'm glad to be welcomed back as a valued member of the WBBM news team and that we were able to come to a mutual agreement," Middlebrooks said in a statement. "I look forward to continuing my commitment to the station and our listeners."

Just one question: What happens the next time Middlebrooks has to report a story involving the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson?


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