WGN news chief Greg Caputo to retire

Greg Caputo (Photo: Slawek Chrzaszcz)

Greg Caputo (Photo: Slawek Chrzaszcz)

Greg Caputo, a widely admired and respected television news executive who headed three Chicago news operations over more than three decades, is retiring as news director of Tribune Broadcasting WGN-Channel 9.

Caputo announced Monday that he plans to step down in June — one month before he turns 65. “I think the time is right for me to pay more attention to my personal, family life after 30-plus years as a news director at this level,” he told me.

His announcement comes just five weeks after Greg Easterly was named president and general manager of the station. “Greg has been terrific about this since I told him,” Caputo said. “I think the last thing he thought he’d have to do is think about replacing me. But the department is in good shape, and I wanted to give him at least two months’ notice to make plans.”

In 2013, Caputo was inducted in the Silver Circle of the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which recognized him as “a respected newsroom leader and mentor to many Chicago reporters and anchors.” In addition to his 11 years as news director at WGN, Caputo was news director of CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 from 1983 to 1986, and vice president of news and founding news director of Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 from 1986 to 1993.

After a decade away, when he served as corporate director of news for Malrite Communications in Cleveland and Cincinnati, and as news director of former Tribune Broadcasting WLVI-TV in Boston, Caputo returned in December 2002 to become WGN’s news director.

At WGN, Caputo oversaw an explosion of news to 54 hours a week, including the launch of 5 p.m. weekday and weekend morning newscasts and the expansion of weekday morning and midday newscasts. He also managed the merger of CLTV, the cable news channel, with WGN’s news operation in 2009.

“Greg has done an amazing job of keeping ‘Chicago’s Very Own’ news organization growing and winning,” said Larry Wert, president of Tribune Broadcast Media. “He has a lot to be proud of.”

Caputo earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He began his career in 1968 at WNDU-TV in South Bend, Indiana, and later worked for KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh before joining CBS 2 here in 1972.

Here is the text of Caputo’s memo to his staff:

Folks:

The time has come. 

After joking about it for a long time, I’ve decided that I’m going to retire.  I let Greg [Easterly] know about it last week and now I want all of you to know as well.  In order to give him time to make plans, I’ll be here till the end of June.

Being a part of WGN was a goal for me for years.  Being here for the last 11 years has been even better than I thought it would be.  We’ve done so much together to grow and improve that I don’t really need to mention it here.  And there is so much more to come as our company continues to focus on local programming as a key to success.  Can’t get much more “local” than news, and this department has proved a remarkable ability to remain loyal to our local roots that allows us to expand and grow with success.

But I’m at a point in life, now, where I want to focus on other things. My wife. Grandchildren. My kids. My parents.  And after a couple of months doing mostly nothing, I may engage in a few other pursuits that will fit the lifestyle I want. 

Working with all of you is an honor and a pleasure that will never change. 

Thank you.