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NBC Chicago

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NBC Chicago

Branding NBC 5 Chicago (general)
NBC 5 News (newscasts)
Slogan We Are Chicago
Channels Digital: 29 (UHF)
Virtual: 5 (PSIP)
Subchannels (see article)
Affiliations NBC
Owner NBCUniversal
(NBC Telemundo License, LLC)
First air date October 8, 1948 (1948-10-08)
Call letters' meaning WilliaM A. Quinn – publisher of Chicago Daily News or We Must Ask Questions
(derived from former sister station WMAQ radio)
Sister station(s) WSNS-TV,
Comcast SportsNet Chicago
Former callsigns WNBQ (1948–1964)
Former channel number(s) Analog:
5 (VHF, 1948–2009)
Transmitter power 350 kW
Height 508 m
Facility ID 47905
Transmitter coordinates

41°52′44″N 87°38′10″W / 41.87889°N 87.63611°W / 41.87889; -87.63611


WMAQ-TV, virtual channel 5 (UHF digital channel 29), is an NBC owned-and-operated television station located in Chicago, Illinois, United States. The station is owned by the NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations subsidiary of NBCUniversal, it is part of a duopoly with Telemundo station WSNS-TV (channel 44) and is also co-owned with regional sports network Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

WMAQ-TV maintains primary studios and business offices at the NBC Tower in the city's Streeterville neighborhood, and its transmitter is located atop the Willis Tower. Syndicated programming on WMAQ-TV includes Access Hollywood, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Degrassi: The Next Generation, and Extra among others.


See also WMAQ (AM) for pre-1948 history of the station.

The station signed on October 8, 1948, as WNBQ; it was the last of Chicago's four commercial VHF stations to launch. WNBQ is also the third of the five original NBC owned-and-operated stations to begin operations, after New York City and Washington, D.C. and before Cleveland and Los Angeles. Eight years later, it became the first station in the world to broadcast all of its programs in color. Though NBC had long owned WMAQ radio (670 AM, frequency now occupied by WSCR; and FM 101.1, now WIQI), it did not change the television station's call letters to WMAQ-TV until August 31, 1964.[1][2] The calls of its sister radio station were initially assigned by the government, but went on to form the phrase "We Must Ask Questions," which the radio station took on as its motto in the 1920s.

WMAQ-TV originated several programs for the NBC television network from its studios in the Merchandise Mart during the 1950s, including Kukla, Fran, and Ollie, featuring Burr Tillstrom and Fran Allison; Garroway at Large, starring Dave Garroway; and "Studs' Place," hosted by Studs Terkel. Television critics referred to the broadcasts – often low-budget with few celebrity guests but a good deal of inventiveness – as examples of the "Chicago School of Television."[3][4]

WMAQ-TV gained fame for its newscasts during the 1960s, anchored by Floyd Kalber, John Palmer, Jim Ruddle, and Jorie Lueloff, with weatherman Harry Volkman (later of WBBM-TV, WGN-TV and WFLD), sports reporter Johnny Morris, and commentator Len O'Connor. Though its role as a program provider to NBC diminished in the 1960s, WMAQ-TV gathered and distributed more than 200 feeds per month of news footage from overseas and the central United States to NBC News.[5]

In 1975, Jane Pauley, later of NBC's Today Show, briefly co-anchored WMAQ-TV's 10 p.m. newscast with Kalber. Carol Marin joined WMAQ-TV in 1978; Ron Magers followed in 1981. Magers and Deborah Norville (later host of Inside Edition) co-anchored the station's hour-long 4:30 p.m. newscast during the 1980s, and Magers and Marin co-anchored WMAQ-TV's 10 p.m. newscast. On October 1, 1989, the station began broadcasting from the NBC Tower after 40 years at the Merchandise Mart. WMAQ-TV's newscast ratings overtook those of WBBM-TV in the 1980s, but the station could not dethrone ratings leader WLS-TV during the period.

On February 26, 2004, WMAQ-TV garnered national attention when Katie Couric, Al Roker, and Lester Holt hosted the Today show on Cityfront Plaza to debut the station's streetside studio at 401 N. Michigan Ave. Named "Studio 5", it was the first of its kind in Chicago. The station's morning and noon newscasts were broadcast from there until late 2012, when the space was put up for sale.

Digital television

Digital channels

The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[6]
5.1 1080i 16:9 NBC5 Main WMAQ-TV programming / NBC
5.2 480i COZI-TV Cozi TV

WMAQ-TV also has a Mobile DTV feed of subchannel 5.2, labelled "NBCMobile", broadcasting at 1.83 Mbit/s.[7][8]

NBC Weather Plus ceased national broadcasts on December 1, 2008, but weather maps and traffic reports continued to run on channel 5.2 as NBC Plus. "Raw" coverage of various live events, including Barack Obama's victory rally in Grant Park[9] and Governor Rod Blagojevich's impeachment trial have also been carried on 5.2.[10] On November 1, 2010, WMAQ launched NBC Chicago Nonstop, a news and lifestyle network;[11] NBC Nonstop was relaunched as Cozi TV in December 2012.

Analog-to-digital conversion

WMAQ-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 5, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 29.[12] Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 5.

From June 13 to July 12, 2009, WMAQ-TV had simulcast most of its newscasts as a contributor to WWME-CA (channel 23)'s analog lifeline service for the Chicago area, in an "unprecedented" four-station partnership. The "lifeline" programming on analog Channel 23 included WMAQ's weekday and Saturday morning, weeknight 6 p.m. and weekend 5 p.m. newscasts along with WGN-TV (channel 9)'s 9 p.m. newscast. The lifeline continued only as a simulcast of entertainment programming from WWME's sister station WCIU-TV until January 2011, when it was switched to a simulcast of WCIU's The U Too subchannel.[13][14]

News operation

WMAQ-TV presently broadcasts 33½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with five hours on weekdays, four hours on Saturdays and 4½ hours on Sundays). The station has launched national careers for Jane Pauley, Deborah Norville, CBS sportscaster Greg Gumbel, HLN morning anchor Robin Meade, Maury Povich, PBS reporter Ray Suarez, and Access Hollywood and The Insider host Pat O'Brien.

On January 14, 2008, WMAQ-TV became the second television station in Chicago (after WLS-TV) to begin broadcasting its local newscasts in high definition. Only in-studio footage and some of the remote field footage are in HD; most other remote field footage remains in standard definition using a mix of 16:9 widescreen and 4:3 cameras.

On January 12, 2009, WMAQ and Fox owned-and-operated station WFLD entered into a Local News Service agreement, in which the two stations share helicopter footage; this agreement has reportedly paved the way for a larger pooling effort between the two stations.[15]

After years in second place behind WBBM-TV and, later, WLS-TV at 10 p.m., at the conclusion of the November 2009 Nielsen Ratings sweeps period, WBBM-TV's 10 p.m. newscast overtook WMAQ-TV for second place for the first time in many years, largely due to the low ratings of the latter station's lead-in The Jay Leno Show. WLS-TV continues to dominate the local newscast ratings in the Chicago media market.[16] It has since regained second place at 10 p.m., although closer to third-place WBBM-TV than to WLS-TV. However in the November 2010 sweeps period, WMAQ's 10 p.m. newscast slipped back to third behind WBBM-TV in that time slot (and fourth among Chicago's late night newscasts, behind WGN-TV's 9 p.m. newscast), although WMAQ continues to place second in other time slots.

For several years, WMAQ differed from most NBC stations in the Central Time Zone in that it did not carry a newscast in the weekday midday time period, this changed on September 12, 2011, when it debuted a half-hour newscast at noon. On December 6, 2011, WMAQ-TV announced a partnership with The Chicago Reporter as part of a larger effort by NBCUniversal to partner with non-profit news organizations following its acquisition by Comcast.[17]

On February 28, 2012, WMAQ-TV unveiled a new studio for its newscasts at NBC Tower along with new music, and a graphics package similar to that of other NBC-owned stations. Its logo was also updated by placing the new 3D glassed version of the peacock logo on the left side of the "5" logo (although the new version of the logo was launched by the network in May 2011), becoming the first NBC O&O to add the revised peacock to its logo. Months later, five, adjacent 21-foot-wide Panasonic plasma displays were installed in the studio behind the anchor desk to resemble windows, displaying a wide view overlooking North Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River, the footage is fed by a camera mounted on the building which formerly housed the streetside studio.

On July 27, 2013, WMAQ expanded its weekend morning newscasts; it expanded the early edition of the program on both days to two hours by moving its start time from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m., with an additional half-hour added at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays.[18]


Jerry Springer

WMAQ achieved notoriety in 1997 when the station, in an effort to boost ratings for its newscasts, hired Jerry Springer as a commentator.[19] At the same time, the station adopted a more tabloid news format by bringing in Joel Cheatwood as news director. Cheatwood was previously known for establishing fast-paced tabloid newscasts at WSVN in Miami and WHDH in Boston (both owned by Sunbeam Television).

Though Springer was once a two-term mayor of Cincinnati before becoming a news anchor for that city's NBC affiliate WLWT, his association with his infamous syndicated talk show (which, until 2009, was broadcast from WMAQ's NBC Tower studios, and is now distributed by NBCUniversal) led to the belief that the newscast was being dumbed down. There were a handful of Springer supporters; nevertheless, the incident triggered a lot of negative publicity, both locally and nationally. The station's longtime anchor team, Carol Marin and Ron Magers, resigned in protest. News broadcasts at that time originated from a studio that opened onto the station's newsroom. As Marin signed off her last newscast, station personnel stood en masse in the newsroom behind her in a symbolic show of support for her decision to resign. The station saw a drop in its news ratings. Springer only made two commentaries before he resigned, feeling unhappy with the criticism he received.[20][21]

Magers wound up at rival WLS-TV, where he remains today. Marin joined rival WBBM-TV while contributing reports at CBS before returning to WMAQ in 2004 as a special correspondent.

Amy Jacobson

On July 10, 2007, Amy Jacobson, who had been a reporter at WMAQ-TV for 10 years, negotiated her exit with WMAQ-TV, after being videotaped in a bikini with her two sons at the home of Craig Stebic; the video was obtained by rival station WBBM-TV. Craig's wife Lisa was missing and had not been found as of that date. The incident raised the issue whether Jacobson crossed a journalistic ethical line in being friendly with a subject of the story.[22] The video of her at Craig Stebic's home was either taken by or given to WBBM-TV, which has the entire six-minute video on its website. In 2008, Jacobson filed a libel lawsuit against WBBM for $1 million after the video was posted by the rival station; the suit was thrown out by an Illinois judge in July 2013.[23]


In the February 2011 Nielsen local news ratings, WMAQ ranked in third place overall in late news with a 5.5 rating share, dropping substantially from the 6.8 share it scored in February 2010 that was propelled by a lead-in from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. WMAQ had the second-lowest lead-in number among all news stations in the market with a 4.7 lead-in share (WGN-TV's primetime lead-in for its late newscast was the lowest, scoring a 2.2 rating lead-in, though its 9 p.m. newscast remained strong).[24]

News/station presentation

Newscast titles

  • NBC Newsroom Chicago with Clifton Utley (1949–1959)
  • NBC News Chicago Report/NBC News Night Report (1959–1970)[25]
  • NewsFive (1970–1975)
  • NewsCenter 5 (1975–1983)
  • Channel 5 News (1983–1997)[26]
  • NewsChannel 5 (1997–1998)[27]
  • NBC 5 Chicago News (1998–2000)
  • NBC 5 News (2000–present)[28]

Station slogans

  • "Your 24-Hour News Source" (1989–1993)[29]
  • "Committed to Chicago" (1996–1998)
  • "We Are Chicago" (2010–present)
expanding it with reliably sourced additions.

News team

Current on-air staff[30]


  • Marion Brooks - weekdays at noon and 4:30 p.m.; also weeknight reporter, investigative reporter and host of The Talk
  • Rob Elgas - weekdays at 4:30 p.m.; also weeknight reporter at 10:00 p.m.
  • Daniella Guzman - weekday mornings (4:30-7:00 a.m.)
  • Stefan Holt - weekday mornings (4:30-7:00 a.m.); also general assignment reporter
  • Lauren Jiggetts - weekends at 5:00 and 10:00 p.m.; also general assignment reporter
  • Dick Johnson - weekends at 5:00 and 10:00 p.m.; also weekday and investigative reporter
  • Anthony Ponce - weekend mornings (5:00-7:00 and 9:00-10:00 Saturdays + 5:00-7:00, 8:00-9:00 and 10:00-10:30 a.m. Sundays)
  • Allison Rosati - weeknights at 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00 p.m.
  • Rob Stafford - weeknights at 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00 p.m.; also investigative reporter
  • Kim Vatis - weekend mornings; also weekday reporter and fill-in anchor

NBC 5 Weather

  • Brant Miller (AMS Seal of Approval) - chief meteorologist; weeknights at 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00 p.m.
  • Andy Avalos (AMS Seal of Approval; member, NWA) - meteorologist; weekday mornings (4:30-7:00 a.m.)
  • Alicia Roman (AMS Seal of Approval) - meteorologist; weekdays at noon and 4:30 p.m.
  • Cheryl Scott - meteorologist; weekends at 5:00 and 10:00 p.m.
  • Pete Sack (AMS and NWA Seals of Approval) - meteorologist; weekend mornings (5:00-7:00 and 9:00-10:00 Saturdays + 5:00-7:00, 8:00-9:00 and 10:00-10:30 a.m. Sundays)

Sports team

  • Mike Adamle - sports anchor/reporter; also host of Sports Sunday
  • Peggy Kusinski - Bears reporter

Note: Sports anchors employed by WMAQ-TV cycle; there is not a set sports "anchoring" schedule.


  • Mary Ann Ahern - political reporter; also host of Ward Room
  • Christian Farr - general assignment reporter; also fill-in anchor
  • Steve Handelsman - NBC Newschannel national correspondent
  • Nesita Kwan - health reporter; also fill-in anchor
  • Mike Lorber - "Sky 5" reporter
  • Carol Marin - political editor; also investigative reporter and host of Ward Room
  • Kye Martin - weekday morning traffic (4:30-7:00 a.m.) and transportation reporter
  • Natalie Martinez - general assignment reporter
  • Lisa Parker - consumer and investigative reporter; also fill-in anchor
  • Lauren Petty - general assignment reporter
  • Michelle Relerford - general assignment reporter; also fill-in anchor
  • Phil Rogers - investigative reporter
  • LeeAnn Trotter - entertainment reporter
  • Charlie Wojciechowski - general assignment and technology reporter
  • Sharon Wright - general assignment reporter

Former on-air staff

† - deceased


  • Broadcasting in Chicago: 1921–1989

External links

  • - Official website
  • Query the FCC's TV station database for WMAQ
  • Reporter Rich Samuels' WMAQ Web site
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