Forty years after Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson first teamed up at WBBM CBS 2 in Chicago, they’ll sign off for last time this Thursday. Then they’ll hand over the 6pm weekday newscast they’ve been anchoring since September 2010 to Rob Johnson and Kate Sullivan.
What began amid hopes for a ratings renaissance at the station Bill & Walter once transformed into a powerhouse ultimately amounted to a nostalgic curtain call for one of Chicago television’s most celebrated partnerships.
“I think we’ve benefited more than CBS,” Kurtis candidly tells Robert Feder. “What fun to relive the best years of your life. Walter and I started co-anchoring in 1973. I was 33. He was 36 or 37, I think. Now we’re over 70.”
If Kurtis was disappointed that this latest run lasted only 2½ years or that CBS 2 never gave him or Jacobson the resources or encouragement to do much more than show up each night, he wasn’t saying. But it’s clear not all of his initial expectations were met.
“I think we both came to work seeing all these stories to be done and feeling the old juices flowing again,” he told me. “Then, like an old-timer who sees a pretty girl and realizes that doing something about it is nature’s payback, we realized that the younger reporters are very good. We enjoyed watching them fight the cold and rain as we sat by the fire and talked about the good old days.”
Leaving CBS 2 doesn’t mean Kurtis will be any less busy now. If anything, he’ll have more time to devote to Kurtis Productions, whose current roster includes the American Greedcrime series for CNBC. (Last week’s season premiere drew the show’s highest ratings yet.)
“I’ll look for a new series, perhaps returning to The New Explorers, the PBS educational science series we produced with WTTW in the 1990s,” he said. “It’s needed more than ever now. I’d like to use the old shows on climate change as a baseline to measure the progress or slippage we’ve made in 20 years.”