Karen Meyer retiring as ABC 7 disabilities advocate

Karen Meyer

Karen Meyer

Karen Meyer may be irreplaceable, but WLS-Channel 7 hopes to carry on her mission.

After more than two decades as a unique presence in all of local television, Meyer announced Thursday she’s retiring from the ABC-owned station to spend full-time in Southern California with her husband. Her last day on air will be September 28.

“I’m proud to have been able to report on issues pertaining to people with disabilities for 23 years,” Meyer said. “I want to thank ABC 7 for their incredible support, people with disabilities for sharing their stories, as well as ABC 7 viewers and co-workers who have always been there for me.”

Jennifer Graves, vice president and news director of ABC 7, said the station would continue to cover stories focusing on the disabled community, with news anchor Hosea Sanders and special projects producer Sylvia Jones teaming up on a weekly report. But Meyer’s part-time staff position won’t be filled.

“Karen Meyer has never met a challenge she couldn’t handle,” Graves said in a statement. “She has worked tirelessly at ABC 7 to shed light on issues pertaining to people with disabilities – reporting stories often ignored by other media outlets. . . . I cannot thank Karen enough for that commitment. She will be missed.”

Deaf since birth, Meyer, 60, joined ABC 7 in 1991 — one year after the Americans with Disabilities Act became law. She was president of a consulting firm specializing in disability issues and directed the Office of Students with Disabilities at DePaul University, where she taught from 2003 until earlier this year.

Meyer had no TV news ambitions before she was approached by former ABC 7 general manager Joe Ahern. “I met him while I was working for United Cerebral Palsy Association doing Americans with Disabilities Act consulting work and followed up with a letter offering to train the staff in understanding the disability community,” she told the Chicago Tribune in a 2011 interview. “He accepted, and I came to speak at one of his breakfast meetings. I gave a whole presentation on how the ADA was changing workplace rules and how there needed to be more coverage because it was going to be a hot topic.

“Two months later the former news director and former general manager said we like your idea, here’s a job. My first reaction was, ‘Wait a minute, I am not a journalist, I have a speech impediment and if I put the ear piece in I won’t be able to hear anything.’ They said as long as you know the stories, we will figure everything else out, so I said OK.”

For her reports on ABC 7’s weekend morning newscasts Meyer has received numerous honors, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chicago Headline Club last May.

Here is the text of Graves’ memo to the staff:

I have news this morning to share with you regarding Karen Meyer.  After 23 years here at ABC 7, Karen has decided to retire.

I can’t say enough good things about Karen.  She has truly blazed a trail, overcoming obstacles to report on issues most television stations ignore. We should all be proud of her body of work.  Karen has been honored many times for that work, most recently in May when she received a Lifetime Achievement from the Chicago Headline Club. She’s also won an Emmy Award and garnered honors from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the National Rehabilitation Association and Easter Seals, among others. In 2012, Karen was selected as one of the Chicago Tribune’s “Remarkable Women” and Today’s Chicago Woman magazine recognized Karen as “One of the 100 Women Who are Making a Difference in Chicago.” Again, so much to be proud of!

As many of you know, Karen has been splitting her time between Chicago and Southern California, where her husband Michael and her beloved dogs have been living for the past few years.  After her last day on the air, Sunday, September 28, she’ll be heading west to join Michael and enjoy the Palm Springs sunshine and time on the tennis court!

After Karen’s retirement, we’ll continue to air stories focusing on issues important to the disabled community. Hosea Sanders and Sylvia Jones are teaming up to produce a weekly report.

Let’s all thank Karen for her contributions and wish her the best as she enters this new chapter in her life!