CHICAGO (CBS) — We’ll miss his signature baritone voice, his wicked sense of humor, and his compelling storytelling, but most of all we’re going to miss Mike Parker.
For more than 35 years at CBS 2, when a big story broke, Mike Parker got the call. Last night, he died at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He was 75 years old.
“They used to call us back in the day the New York Yankees of television news, and there was something to that,” said upon his retirement in 2016.
Parker also worked in New York and Los Angeles, but he found a home in nation’s third largest market.
“When they talk about it being a gritty, shot-and-a-beer kind of town, it really is, and it took me a few months to get used to it, but it didn’t take long after that for me to fall in love with it,” he said.
As one of Chicago’s most trusted reporters, Parker covered the shooting of Pope John Paul II in Vatican City in 1981, the release of Americans held hostage in Iran, the downtown Chicago Flood of 1992, the legal troubles of disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
“It’s my belief that my role was not only to report the facts, but report them in such a way that it made for a compelling narrative; a story that would fascinate you, the viewer,” Parker said when he retired.
Out of more than 10,000 stories he covered in Chicago, his most memorable story at CBS 2 was the “Home Alone” couple in 1992. Two years after the famous Macauly Culkin movie about an 8-year-old boy accidentally left behind when his family went to Paris, Parker broke the story of real-life parents David and Sharon Schoo taking a nine-day Christmas vacation in Mexico, leaving their 4-year-old and 9-year-old daughters behind in west suburban St. Charles.
Parker had the story first, and when the Schoos returned from their vacation, they were swarmed by a crowd at O’Hare International Airport, after the story drew international attention.
“What had been my little story that we had done out there in the Fox River Valley suddenly became this international incident; with literally tens and dozens of reporters, and camera crews, and police, and bystanders shouting and screaming at the couple as they walked by,” Parker recalled.
His hallmark was his versatility, serving as a top-rated anchor, and aggressive reporter on the street. Perhaps talent was in his DNA.
“My father was radio newscaster after the Second World War, and I just hung out with him, and thought this looks like a great way to make a living,” Parker said.
In a statement, CBS 2 News Director Jeff Harris said:
Mike Parker is a legacy at WBBM-TV and throughout this market. Like many others in our industry, I knew Mike by reputation because he was considered one of the best journalists in the business. For 35 years, Chicagoland was the sole beneficiary of his craft and we are grateful for all he contributed to this station and our viewers.
Colleagues in the CBS 2 newsroom continue to reminisce about Mike’s raspy voice, his generosity and how much he cared about the words he spoke on air and in the field. Mike Parker stands as an old-school example of what it means to be a reporter and reminds all of us in the newsroom the true importance of our jobs.