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5 Questions with...CBS 2's Bill Kurtis

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5 Questions with...CBS 2's Bill Kurtis

Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.com Contributor

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the city's most popular personalities on the spot with everyone's favorite weekly local celeb feature entitled "5 Questions with..."

On Wednesdays, exclusively on CSNChicago.com, it's our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This week's guest, one of the most popular news anchormen in television history whose legendary, multiple Emmy award-winning career has spanned over four decades, he's also a celebrated filmmaker, motion picture narrator, nationally-recognized advertising personality and successful entrepreneur, he recently made his triumphant return to his local TV home in Chicago co-anchoring the CBS 2 News at 6 PM with his long-time on-air partner Walter Jacobson, one of the all-time TV greats, here are "5 Questions with...BILL KURTIS!"

BIO: Bill Kurtis is co-anchor of the weekday CBS 2 News at 6 PM with Walter Jacobson. The legendary anchor team has reunited and returned to WBBM-TV where they once dominated Chicagos 10 PM news from 1973 until 1982.

Bill is an award-winning journalist who began his Chicago television career at WBBM-TV in 1966 as a reporter. In 1973, he was promoted to co-anchor the 10 PM evening news alongside Walter Jacobson.

The celebrated anchor team of Bill and Walter went on to earn the No. 1 ratings position for most of the 16 years they were on air. In 1982, Bill became anchor of CBS Morning News in New York. In 1985, he returned to Chicago and to WBBM-TV as the 10 PM anchor 1985-1996.

Bill is renowned for reporting several groundbreaking stories during his television news career.

In 1966 at WIBW-TV in Topeka Kan., Bill was recognized for his coverage of a severe tornado that killed 16 and injured hundreds.

He stayed on the air for 24 straight hours reporting the destruction.

He covered the Richard Speck murders and the Charles Manson trial, and is credited with breaking the Agent Orange story as well as the Amerasian children in Vietnam.

Reports such as these have contributed to numerous honors and recognitions, including more than 20 Emmys, the 1998 Illinois Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame Award, and the 2003 Kansas Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame Award. Being of Croatian descent, Bill was also honored this past spring with a 2010 Pleter Award, honoring individual Croatian-Americans for preserving and promoting their Croatian heritage.

In addition to spending more than 27 years behind the anchor desk at CBS 2, he founded Kurtis Productions in 1990, where he produced documentaries for the television show, The New Explorers on the A&E cable network. He continues to produce and host A&Es American Justice, recognized as the longest running nonfiction justice series on cable, and Cold Case Files, nominated for Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Nonfiction Series in 2004 and 2005.

Bill narrated the Will Ferrell satirical comedy Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and was featured in several AT&T Mobility commercials that poke fun at his serious investigative journalist persona.

He is also the founder of the Tallgrass Beef Company and an investor in the Prairie Grass Caf in Northbrookboth businesses reflect his interest in raising and marketing grass-fed beef.

Bill was raised in Independence, Kan., graduated from the University of Kansas with a B.S. in journalism in 1962 and he earned his J.D. from Washburn University School of Law in 1966.

Bill and his longtime partner, Donna, actively support several Chicago not-for-profit organizations and they split their time between homes in Chicago and their 10,000 acre ranch in southeastern Kansas.

1) CSNChicago.com: Bill, this is a true honor. Thanks for taking time to spend a few minutes with us. Here we goyour massive fan base is naturally thrilled youre back behind the anchor desk where you and your longtime on-air partner Walter Jacobson have dominated the ratings for years. From a news telecast standpoint, what would you say in the single biggest change you have encountered since you last anchored the news at CBS 2?

Kurtis: The biggest change is the technology. When I retired from CBS 14 years ago we were using videotape. Now the cameras record on a disc (I guess since digital means numbers, they can be recorded on anything they stick to). When the disc arrives in the newsroom it is ingested into the Avid editing system. That means a reporter can screen the video on their desk computer. What a change! Once the appropriate video is selected, a script is written and makes its way to a real editor who makes sense of it all, creating the visual package you see on television. Its a long way from scotch tape and a razor blade when I started 40 years ago. However, there is a downside. The new gadgets make our work faster and easier but require fewer people.

Journalism has lost nearly 40,000 jobs in the last few years as newspapers and broadcasters have downsized their staffs to meet the shifting economic venues. Journalism schools now debate whether there should be journalism training if there are no jobs waiting after graduation. The smaller newsroom staffs mean fewer eyes serving the community.

2) CSNChicago.com: Many younger fans of yours probably recognize you best as a successful advertising pitchman, along with your role as the narrative voice of Bill Lawson in comedian Will Ferrells successful 2004 comedy Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. How did that film role come about and how did it feel to you personally that you were singled out to be THE VOICE of that very funny movie?

Kurtis: The director, Adam McKay, was working at Second City when Walter and I were in our heyday. To him, I guess I was the Anchorman. He sent me the script, thinking that Id turn it down. Little did he know that I have a wicked sense of humor. I laughed out loud on a plane while reading it. I sent him an audition reading on tape and was laughing so hard between sentences I think it gave them a lift that said, Hey, this might really be funny. And so it was born. I was later to learn when I went out to Universal to record the final narration that they thought anything I said was funny because of the deep voice and old age.

3) CSNChicago.com: Lets talk sports for a two-part question here. Did you play, if not excel at, any sports growing up in your native Kansas?...and who would you say is the one Chicago pro athlete that you admire to this day?

Kurtis: I played quarterback for the Independence, Kansas Bulldogs. Our undefeated season in 1958-59 started a 47 game record-breaking win streak for Kansas high schools. All the teams had a reunion last month to reflect on what we learned. To a man, we agreed that the lessons learned in high school football were the foundation for our lives.

As far as Chicago, it has to be Ernie Banks and Michael Jordan. Ernie because of the exemplary life he has crafted after his career. And Michael because of what he gave us during his career. He once said when I asked him what hed say to young people who admired him but couldnt match his abilities on the basketball court, Assess your talents, then choose something you love to do for the rest of your life. Because youll never have to work again.

4) CSNChicago.com: Your Tall Grass Beef company has skyrocketed in popularity over the years as its served in numerous, popular Chicago restaurants including Harry Carays Restaurants, Frontera Grill, Schubas, Prairie Grass Caf and even The Stadium Club at Wrigley Field. For those who havent tried Tall Grass Beef products before, what are the primary health benefits for the average consumer?

Kurtis: Grass-fed and finished beef has significantly higher amounts of Omega-3 essential fatty acids than corn-fed beef. It comes from leaving cattle in pastures all their lives rather than putting them in a feedlot on a diet of corn. Feeding corn to ruminants like bison or cattle is like putting diesel fuel in your car. Its unnatural. Cattle evolved on grass not grain. By going back to the way they were originally raised, the nutrition is restoredthings like conjugated linoleic acid, higher levels of beta-carotene and lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol and calories. Many doctors are putting grass-fed beef back on the menus of their patients.

5) CSNChicago.com: What would be an ideal night of relaxation for Bill Kurtis?

Kurtis: Going to a movie. Donna LaPietra and I see them all. Action-adventure, feature documentaries, drama and comedyI love them all.

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: For someone who has done it all in the media and business world, what would you consider to be the proudest moment of your professional career?and, tell us your proudest moment from a personal standpoint?

Kurtis: I think breaking the story of Agent Orange probably ranks at the top of my professional career. I had an investigative unit during my previous tenure with CBSWBBM-TV called the Focus Unit. Rose Economu, Brian Boyer and I worked the tip given me by a veterans advocate in the Midwest Regional office of the Veterans Administration. We broadcast an hour documentary after the 10:00 news and the rest is history. Its still kicking around from Vietnam to Washington D.C. I was in Washington a month ago emceeing a dinner for a law enforcement group when the stage manager took me aside to thank me for my work on Agent Orange. Thats more than 30 years after the first airing. Id call that satisfying.

Personally, I hope founding Tallgrass Beef Company will be one of the proudest personal moments. I say hope because our biggest challenges are ahead of us. Watch this space.

Kurtis LINKS:

CBS 2 Chicago official web page

Kurtis Productions

Tallgrass Beef Company

Final Bears thoughts: Will Akiem Hicks earn his deserved spot in the Pro Bowl?

Final Bears thoughts: Will Akiem Hicks earn his deserved spot in the Pro Bowl?

Akiem Hicks deserved to be a Pro Bowler in 2017, a year in which he led the Bears with 8 1/2 sacks while proving to be one of the best run-stuffing defensive linemen in football. But it wasn’t even that he wasn’t selected to the roster — he was only a fourth alternate, which seemed like a slap in the face to a guy who had a standout season.
 
The biggest prohibitive factor for Hicks’ Pro Bowl campaign, though, was the Bears’ 5-11 record and general irrelevance in the NFL landscape.
 
“Yeah, it doesn’t really work out when you don’t have the record to match your performance, right?” Hicks said last year.
 
The Bears’ record now matches Hicks’ performance. He’s having an outstanding season as part of the league’s best defense: His 30 stops, defined by Pro Football Focus as plays that result in a “loss” for the offense, are the most among defensive linemen this year. He has six sacks and 39 total pressures, pairing good pass rushing productivity with his elite-level run defense.
 
All that adds up to an impressive Pro Bowl resume. Fan voting — which counts for one-third of determining the roster, with the other thirds coming from player and coach voting — ended on Thursday, with Hicks receiving the second-highest number of votes among NFC defensive linemen. The guy ahead of him is Aaron Donald, and there’s certainly no shame in that.
 
“It would be an honor,” Hicks said. “It’s something that I’ve aspired to achieve, it’s something that I’ve wanted for a really long time. Is it going to happen and is it a guarantee to happen? No. Have I been shafted before? Yes. Will it hurt the same? It for sure will. But that’s what we got. That’s what we gotta deal with. So I hope everything goes the way that I deserve but we’ll see.”
 
Hicks, though, would prefer to make the Pro Bowl roster and then not play in the actual game — which would mean the Bears would be preparing for the Super Bowl.
 
“The objective is to be able to play in the biggest game,” Hicks said. “We’ll see how all that shakes out.”
 
Packed for Chicago
 

Earlier this year, Allen Robinson told a Jacksonville TV station that his free agency decision came down to the Bears and the Green Bay Packers. That he chose the Bears — with an unproven coach and unproven quarterback — over Aaron Rodgers and the Packers was a notable leap of faith, but one in which Robinson was always confident.
 
“For me, since early on in free agency, I had my eyes on Chicago,” Robinson said. “I think that was the big thing for me as far as again, Chicago not only had Mitch Trubisky and coach Nagy, but the city of Chicago. Being close to my hometown (Detroit), being in a city that I was pretty familiar with — and there’s a lot that goes behind Chicago. Chicago is a big sports town, as far as a player, there’s no other place that you would want to play in like this. For me, it was a lot that went into Chicago more than just some of the small variables.”
 
Not has Robinson’s decision paid off with an all-but-confirmed playoff berth — which would be the first of his career — but he’s taken advantage of his platform in Chicago. Robinson’s Within Reach Foundation on Monday raised more than $112,000, which will allow his foundation to launch “Reach For a Book” reading rooms at Title I elementary schools and Boys & Girls Clubs.
 
Deflected praise
 
The Associated Press this week named Nagy the NFL’s best coach in 2018, likely the first of a handful of coach of the year honors the first-year Bears’ coach will receive.
 
Nagy, though, was quick to credit everyone else around the Bears for his personal achievement.
 
“That kinda stuff — the individual awards, for everybody, I think to me when you hear something like that, especially as a head coach, it speaks to who we are,” Nagy said. “When you hear an award like that, you get humbled by it, you appreciate it, but it’s all about everybody in this building. It’s about the players. so that’s pretty good for them.”

Zach LaVine's injury provides an opportunity to evaluate Rawle Alkins

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USA TODAY

Zach LaVine's injury provides an opportunity to evaluate Rawle Alkins

According to sources of Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic, the Bulls have called up Rawle Alkins in the wake of the Zach LaVine injury news. 

However, the 21-year old wing will not play with the Bulls tonight in San Antonio.

Alkins is a 6-foot 5 wing player who plays with tenacity and energy on the defensive end. In 18 NBA G League games Alkins has averaged 15 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists per game. 

The main weakness in Alkins game was his inconsistent perimeter shooting, which has looked good so far with the Windy City Bulls. He is shooting 38 percent on 4.5 attempts from 3-point range per game, though he is struggling mightily from the free throw line. 

It will be interesting to see how Jim Boylen deploys Alkins in lineups—assuming he gets solid playing time in LaVine's absence—because a Alkins-Shaq Harrison-Kris Dunn pairing could provide a very big dose of switchability and defensive pressure for a team that has been quietly been 17th in the league in defensive rating since Boylen took over.