Chicago reacts to the death of Jerry Springer: 'defining figure in American television'

You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who had as unique of a public career as Jerry Springer had, which spanned entertainment, law, journalism and even politics.

He died Thursday at his home in the suburbs after suffering from pancreatic cancer.

"Jerry Springer was a defining figure in American television because of the format that he brought to the industry," said Bruce DuMont, a longtime broadcaster and founder of the Museum of Broadcast Communications.

The show was a spectacle: part talk show, part tabloid magazine, part boxing ring...whatever it was, it was difficult to turn away.

"It was like, why do people want to stop when there's an automobile accident? They want to see what happened," said Dumont.

"For many people, he was their first exposure to cultures that exist outside the mainstream," said Bill Cassidy, professor of journalism at the NIU School of Communications.


The Jerry Springer Show ran for 27 seasons, but many Chicagoans will remember his very brief stint doing news commentary for WMAQ, which led to two of the station's main anchors resigning.

"It's not going to fly publicly and you have someone--a respected journalist Carol Marin--say 'nope. I'm outta here. I'm not going to do this,'" said Cassidy.

DuMont knew Springer personally and describes a gregarious, magnetic personality.

"Walking down the street with Jerry Springer was quite an experience," he said.  "Literally everyone would say, 'hi Jerry!' or chant, 'Jerry! Jerry!' You could understand the magnetism that the guy had. I think there's a lot of people all over the country tonight that are really mourning the loss of someone they grew up with and someone they felt was addressing their needs at their level."