WGN news director Jennifer Lyons resigns ‘at top of her game’

Jennifer Lyons

Jennifer Lyons, a much loved and respected leader who guided Chicago’s busiest television news operation to the top of the ratings, announced her resignation Tuesday as news director of Tribune Broadcasting WGN-Channel 9 and CLTV.

Lyons, 50, said she has accepted a new position as vice president of communications and external relations for Catholic Extension, a Chicago-based fundraising organization that supports and strengthens poor mission dioceses nationwide. No date has been set for her departure from WGN.

“I have decided to resign as news director of the most magnificent local news operation in the country,” Lyons told staffers in an email. “It has been a privilege to work alongside you, leading you, laughing with you and sometimes crying with you. It has been fun being a part of your lives. You are a remarkable team.

“The only reason I can confidently step away is because we have built such a strong team, every daypart is on a roll and will continue to dominate.”

WGN

Paul Rennie, president and general manager of WGN, said in a statement: “Jen’s leadership and passion has lifted WGN-TV to unprecedented audience growth and journalistic impact. Jen has touched each of us with her unique style and deep commitment to WGN-TV and to our community. She is leaving at the top of her game.”

Rennie said he will begin a search for the next news director, “who will have very large shoes to fill.”

Lyons, a nearly 25-year veteran of WGN, succeeded Greg Caputo as news director in 2014. She previously served as assistant news director and as executive producer of the station’s morning and midday newscasts. A graduate of Iowa State University, Lyons joined WGN after working at NBC affiliates WHO-TV in Des Moines and KWQC-TV in Davenport, Iowa.

In 2017 she was named News Director of the Year by Broadcasting & Cable magazine. That followed her designation here as The Most Powerful Woman in Chicago Journalism, which noted: “Under her admirable leadership, WGN has strengthened and expanded its news operation day and night. It now produces more than 70 hours of live, local news each week (including the immensely successful WGN Morning News, which airs from 4 to 10 a.m.). And that’s not counting the additional output on CLTV.”

Here is the text of Lyons’s email to staff:

All –

I never imagined I would write these words, I never even thought this day could come… alas it has been put before me.  I have decided to resign as News Director of the most magnificent local news operation in the country.  An opportunity has come my way that speaks to my very heart and soul.  I have accepted the position of Vice President of Communications and External Relations for Catholic Extension. 

This has not been an easy decision because I truly love you all!  Together we have built something very special, a newsroom like no other.  You are a remarkable group of talented journalists who have made me better.  We have worked together to make WGN a powerhouse. 

I smile when I think of what you all accomplish in the everyday storytelling, making an impact as Chicago’s Very Own.  I also marvel at the “go big or go home adventures” we’ve become known for… wall to wall election night, World Series celebrations, Kids Fairs and some extraordinary Block Parties to name a few. 

It has been a privilege to work alongside you, leading you, laughing with you and sometimes crying with you.  It has been fun being a part of your lives. You are a remarkable team.

The only reason I can confidently step away is because we have built such a strong team, every daypart is on a roll and will continue to dominate.  My departure date has not been set yet, please know I will be around to make the transition as smooth as possible.

I am forever proud to be One of Chicago’s Very Own.

Jennifer

Here is the text of Rennie’s email to staff:

All,

After 25 years of service with “Chicago’s Very Own” WGN-TV News, Jen Lyons has accepted a new position as Vice President of Communications and External Relations for Catholic Extension. Jen’s leadership and passion has lifted WGN-TV to unprecedented audience growth and journalistic impact. Jen has touched each of us with her unique style and deep commitment to WGN-TV and to our community. She is leaving at the top of her game. In the July sweep, WGN-TV News finished #1 or #2 in nearly every time period. Additionally, as we all know, Jen was chosen B&C’s 2017 News Director of the Year.

Jen will be with us for a few more weeks. We will start a search for the next News Director who will have very large shoes to fill.

I know you’ll join me in wishing her the very best in her new opportunity.

Paul Rennie