Hispanic women were all but invisible on television news when Theresa Gutierrez got her start as a production assistant at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 in 1971 and shifted to ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 the following year.
Now, 43 years later, she’s stepping down from ABC 7 after an inspiring career as a general-assignment reporter, public-affairs host, program producer and, perhaps most importantly, role model. Gutierrez announced on the air Tuesday that October 31 will be her last day as an Eyewitness News reporter and host of “The Ñ Beat,” the Hispanic public-affairs series.
“I’m not retiring,” she told viewers of ABC 7’s 5 p.m. newscast. “I’m just moving on to the next chapter of my life and do some things that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. . . . It’s been a great journey. I’ve had a ball. There’s never been a dull moment with you, the viewers, or my colleagues.”
John Idler, president and general manager of ABC 7, praised Gutierrez as a “trailblazer,” saying: “She broke ground in Chicago television as one of the first Hispanic woman to serve in both a producer and on-air role. She brought a tremendous amount of passion to her work and a commitment to the community that has never wavered in more than four decades. We thank Theresa for her countless contributions and wish her nothing but the best.”
After starting as a production assistant at ABC 7 in 1972, Gutierrez went on to host and produce numerous series, including “The Feminine Franchise,” “Weekend Edition,” “Weekend” and “Sunday in Chicago with Theresa Gutierrez.” Since 1986 she’s been a full-time reporter for the station. In 2006, she was inducted in the Silver Circle of the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Here is the text of a memo Tuesday from ABC 7 news director Jennifer Graves:
If you saw our 5pm news this afternoon, you saw today’s headline: Theresa Gutierrez has decided to retire from ABC 7.
Theresa’s career here is nothing short of legendary. She’s been at ABC 7 for almost 43 years. She’s held multiple positions in the newsroom and in our programming department: program host, program producer, general assignment reporter, even production assistant! Theresa was one of the first Hispanic women to break into television journalism. Theresa, along with Barbara Walters, Connie Chung, Christiane Amanpour and Jane Pauley were featured on the cover of an educational book, Women Who Broke Barriers: The New Face of TV News.
She’s a true trailblazer and one of the hardest working, most dedicated and most versatile journalists in the business. As you know, Theresa’s community roots are deep and she’s been honored with awards too numerous to list. Please take a look at the attached news release, and you’ll be reminded of Theresa’s many and varied contributions to ABC 7 and television journalism.
Theresa’s last day will be October 31. We’ll celebrate her amazing career as we get closer to that date. In the meantime, let’s all thank Theresa for her many contributions to ABC 7 and wish her the best as she prepares for this next chapter of her life with her wonderful husband Ambrose.
Thank you, Theresa!