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WBBM's Levine 'Let Loose' to Report With Some Attitude

Interesting story from Chicago media pundit Robert Feder on WBBM chief correspondent Jay Levine presumably being encouraged to inject some opinion into his reports. Levine made his opinions known last week on a story about a proposed $174 million renovation of a Chicagoland high school.

Feder writes on

Levine’s report was no straightforward news story. In keeping with his latest persona on the CBS-owned station as a cocky advocate for the little guy (a role created and once played to perfection by Walter Jacobson), Levine is being encouraged by his bosses to embellish the facts with his opinion. But unlike Jacobson, whose commentaries were always labeled “Walter’s Perspective,” Levine’s editorializing carries no such disclaimer.

We covered this issue in a cover story last fall, although we were more focused on stations looking to add some political P.O.V. to their newscasts, a la MSNBC and Fox News. Some news veterans were all for the idea of making the newscasts stand out with opinion-fueled reportage.

“It’s hard to look at the decline in news audience and not think they’re bored by the product,” WOIO Cleveland GM Bill Applegate told me at the time. “Maybe we should put a little vigor back in the news–have something to say instead of being so damned objective all the time.”

Apparently WBBM, a CBS O&O, sees it similarly.  After Levine’s report, which can be viewed here, some viewers issued an open letter to news director Jeff Kiernan that called the report “unethical, biased and factually inaccurate.”

After one minor clarification, WBBM stands by the story–and stands by the new Jay Levine persona.

“There definitely is a change in Jay,” Channel 2’s spokeswoman tells Feder. “He’s been let loose.”

Kiernan recently marked a year at WBBM after a run at WBZ Boston.

Bruno Cohen was named the station’s president/general manager in fall 2008.