Veteran Chicago television news executive Frank Whittaker will be taking a leave of absence as station manager and vice president of news at WMAQ-Channel 5 while being treated for prostate cancer, he told colleagues Monday.
Whittaker, 58, said he will undergo surgery Thursday and expects to be away from the NBC-owned station at least through the end of February.
“I was diagnosed about three months ago (on Halloween, actually), and have spent recent weeks undergoing tests and researching my options,” he wrote in a memo to employees. “Surgery is the best long-term option for me. Prostate cancer, as you may know, is very curable when detected early enough, as mine was.”
A Chicago area native and graduate of Wheaton Central High School and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Whittaker joined NBC 5 as news director in 1998 and was promoted to station manager and vice president of news in 2008. He previously was assistant news director and executive producer at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7. He began his career at CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2, where he rose from desk assistant to special projects producer, assignment manager and 10 p.m. news producer.
Whittaker told NBC 5 staffers he’d be keeping an eye on things while he’s away, adding: “I do expect to be watching a lot of television and plan to have a computer nearby, so you may be hearing from me sooner than you think!”