Pam Zekman, longtime Chicago investigative reporter, among layoffs at CBS 2

Zekman is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who had worked at the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune. She’d been at the TV station since 1981.

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Pam Zekman, seen here in a 2018 file photo, was one of the integral reporters in the Sun-Times’ Mirage investigation in 1978.

Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

Longtime Chicago investigative reporter Pam Zekman’s 39-year run at CBS 2 Chicago ended Wednesday.

Zekman was among 12 or more reporters, anchors and other employees laid off by the local CBS television affiliate WBBM, as first reported by the Daily Herald’s Robert Feder.

Other layoffs included news anchor Erin Kennedy, sports anchor Megan Mawicke, meteorologist Megan Glaros and reporters Mike Puccinelli and Mai Martinez.

Zekman, 75, joined CBS in 1981 with her reputation as one of Chicago’s most prominent investigative journalists already cemented, then built even more on that acclaim during her four decades at the station.

The journalist’s notable investigative work includes exposing fraud and manipulation from the Medicare system to Cook County property taxes to the free lunch program at Chicago Public Schools. She found cab and bus drivers with spotty driving violation histories still employed and showed how towing companies exploit vulnerable crash victims.

But she was among the victims herself of CBS 2’s reshuffling this week, which slimmed staff in response to declining advertising during the coronavirus pandemic, Feder reported. The station’s revenue was down more than 60 percent year-over-year in April, according to Feder.

“We are restructuring various operations at CBS as part our ongoing integration with Viacom, and to adapt to changes in our business, including those related to COVID-19,” CBS said in a statement. “Our thoughts today are with our departing colleagues for their friendship, service and many important contributions to CBS.”

The layoffs come just a month after the station announced CBSN Chicago, an online local news streaming service billed by WBBM president Derek Dalton as representing a “new chapter” for the station.

Zekman declined to comment when reached by the Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday.

Zekman began her Chicago reporting career with the Chicago Tribune in 1971, then moved to the Sun-Times in 1976, where her five-year tenure included arguably the most famous investigation in Sun-Times history.

She and the late Zay Smith, who died earlier this month, were integral reporters in the 1978 Mirage tavern series — a 25-part story about corruption in the Chicago bar and restaurant industry.

At Zekman’s suggestion, the Sun-Times purchased a Wells Street dive bar and ran it undercover for four months — with Zekman, Smith and others posing as bartenders — to expose the bribery necessary to operate successfully in Chicago.

Zekman, a University of California-Berkeley alumna, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her work in the Mirage investigation and a two-time winner while at the Tribune.

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