Steve Edwards, one of the brightest stars to have guided WBEZ FM 91.5 in a generation, is returning to the public radio station as vice president and chief content officer, parent company Chicago Public Media announced Thursday.
Edwards is stepping down as executive director of the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, where he has worked since leaving WBEZ in 2012. At the time, he was anchor of “The Afternoon Shift,” a live, two-hour weekday call-in program that showcased his enormous talents as an inquisitive journalist, brilliant interviewer and affable host.
“I am thrilled to welcome Steve back to WBEZ, and I’m sure this is welcome news to all of his former fans,” Goli Sheikholeslami, president and CEO of Chicago Public Media, said in a statement. “His commitment to independent journalism and appreciation for the importance of innovation to serve the next generation of public media listeners uniquely qualifies him for this position.”
In his new role, effective August 16, Edwards will succeed Ben Calhoun, who resigned in April as vice president of content and programming to return to “This American Life.”
Edwards returns in time to oversee a major expansion of news and programming at WBEZ, including the addition of a dozen reporters, editors, producers and hosts by the end of this year. Sheikholeslami recently unveiled plans to increase newsroom staff from 56 to 68 by December and to 90 by 2020.
During his initial 14-year run at WBEZ, Edwards served as director of content development and program director, in addition to hosting the highly acclaimed morning show “Eight Forty-Eight” and launching the innovative “Afternoon Shift.” Although both programs no longer air on the station, their legacies endure.
“There’s never been a greater need for rigorous, independent journalism — locally, nationally or globally — so I’m honored to be returning to an organization that I love and that fully embraces that mission,” Edwards said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the entire team to build on their tremendous success and to chart an exciting future marked by vibrant reporting and dynamic innovation.”
His return is a genuine coup for Sheikholeslami and for the station. Edwards stunned colleagues when he left in 2012 to help founder David Axelrod launch the non-partisan Institute of Politics at U of C. The role appealed to him, Edwards said, because he’d been following politics all his life and majored in political science at Amherst College.
As executive director, Edwards oversaw all programming and operational duties, including the podcast “The Axe Files” in partnership with CNN.