Ron's history of rebellion

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On Wednesday, Ron Magers signs off from the anchor desk for the very last time, ending a legendary career in television news. (WLS)

Good reporters question authority, even if the authority may be their own boss. Ron Magers has had some experience with this, but his tangles with management went well beyond routine, red-faced disagreement. After taking a stand on principle, he quit. And he did it not once in his career, but three times in three different cities.

Amidst fierce competition for 10 o'clock ratings 19 years ago, Channel 5 management announced that talk show host Jerry Springer would do social commentary on the late news. Anchors Carol Marin and Ron Magers saw that as a dim-witted stunt-an affront to journalism-and both quit. Their stand on principle made headlines across the country.

"We weren't trying to embarrass them in any way," Magers said. "We were just saying if that's the way you want to run the railroad, we don't want to ride anymore."

It wasn't the first time Magers took a principled stand and quit. He was the top-rated anchor in San Francisco four decades ago when management there brought in a news consultant who recommended--among other things--a quota of cute animal stories. "You want animal stories?" Magers said. "Hire veterinarians."

He, and nearly a third of the newsroom, left.

"You know management will come up with the newest, latest great thing that is really a pretty bad idea, and Ron wasn't afraid to say that's a bad idea," said Ron's former colleague Derrick Blakely.

In Minneapolis, his success was immediate. His popularity was the stuff of legend. But he ultimately butted heads with his bosses--again largely over how news should be covered and not homogenized. He quit.

In all three career departures, there were no jobs in waiting.

"I always thought I was doing the right thing," he said. "I always thought I was standing on principle, but to jeopardize my career and even the wellbeing of my family in those ways is scarier now than when it happened."

"He just knows when time's up, and he knows, I think, the price he'll pay for being a hypocrite by sticking around," said Marin.

"He has very high standards, and a moral compass that's very unwavering," said Emily Barr.

"He won't bend when it comes to what he believes is right," said Kathy Brock.

He concedes as he looks in the rearview mirror that standing on principle has consequences and maybe he was impetuous and a bit fool hardy, but the compass has never really changed.

"Beneath that placid, mellow exterior beats the heart of a rebel," said Marin.

This job departure is, of course, quite different than the last three. Retirement calls after half a century. The time is right. Retirement tends to make one even more placid and mellow on the exterior, but about that heart of a rebel? Who can predict?
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