Geoffrey Baer, who’s been Chicago’s genial tour guide and unofficial historian at WTTW-Channel 11 for more than 25 years, is taking on a major new role at the public television station.
Baer has been named vice president of original content production for television, effective Monday. In his new position, he’ll oversee creation of programming in such areas as local history, documentary and lifestyle.
His promotion was part of an organizational and operational realignment unveiled Thursday to the board of Window to the World Communications, the nonprofit parent company of WTTW and classical music WFMT 98.7-FM. It follows the departure of Dan Soles as senior vice president and chief television content officer.
In an email to employees outlining the new management structure, Sandra Cordova Micek, president and CEO of the company, wrote: “Each and every day, we continue to reimagine and evolve what we do and how we do it to achieve our ambitious goal to be a best-in-class content company essential to Chicago and beyond.
“We will put content first: trusted, local news and public affairs; content genres that entertain, cultivate curiosity and open doors and minds; and kids content that nurtures and educates. We will focus relentlessly on our audience and leverage technology to meet them where and when they want us.”
Baer, who grew up in Highland Park and Deerfield, and earned degrees from Miami University and Northwestern University, was working as a guide for the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s boat tours when he joined WTTW as associate producer in 1989. Since then he has written, produced and hosted dozens of feature-length specials about Chicago architecture and history including “Chicago on Vacation,” “The Chicago River Tour,” “Chicago’s Lakefront,” “Chicago’s Loop: A Walking Tour,” and many others.
He also has hosted the “10 That Changed America” series for distribution on PBS stations nationwide, and has appeared regularly on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” in a popular segment called “Ask Geoffrey.”
“I’ve always felt incredibly lucky to work at WTTW, which has a singular voice in Chicago’s public conversation,” Baer said. “I’m looking forward to working with a truly gifted team of storytellers to create new content for years to come.”
Among other moves announced Thursday:
- Jitin Garg, who was brought on as interim head of finance after the departure of Reese Marcusson as chief operating officer and chief financial officer, was promoted to vice president and chief financial officer. Garg previously was vice president of finance at GCM Grosvenor and Victory Park Capital Advisors.
- Lisa Tipton, senior director of programming, was named head of programming and pledge drives.
- Anne Gleason, senior vice president of marketing and digital media, has taken on additional responsibility for creative services, graphics and audience insights and research.
WTTW has not yet named a replacement for Mary Field, longtime executive producer of “Chicago Tonight,” who announced her retirement last week. “We are working on next steps to fill the lead role for WTTW News,” Micek said.
Here is the text of Micek’s email to employees:
Each and every day, we continue to reimagine and evolve what we do and how we do it to achieve our ambitious goal to be a best-in-class content company essential to Chicago and beyond. We will put content first: trusted, local news and public affairs; content genres that entertain, cultivate curiosity and open doors and minds; and kids content that nurtures and educates. We will focus relentlessly on our audience and leverage technology to meet them where and when they want us. We will always seek to be valuable to and valued by our community.
Your input in the strategic plan has been essential as we lay the groundwork for the future. So, thank you to all who have participated along the way. As we develop the strategic plan, it has become clear that we need organizational and operational alignment in order to achieve our objectives.
I am pleased to announce that Geoffrey Baer, our long-time WTTW writer/producer and talent, has been promoted to Vice President of Original Content Production for television, leading local and national productions in our key genres (e.g., local history, docs, lifestyle, etc.) outside of News. Geoffrey will report to me.
On the WTTW programming side, Lisa Tipton has been promoted to Head of Programming and Pledge. In her new role, Lisa will oversee TV programming and pledge, program acquisitions/presenting station deals and traffic for WTTW. Lisa will report to me.
With Mary Field’s upcoming retirement, we are working on next steps to fill the lead role for WTTW News. Going forward, our news and community engagement teams will also report to me.
With the recent arrival of WFMT General Manager, George Preston, the WFMT Radio Network team and WFMT Archivist, Alison Schein Holmes will now report directly to George.
I am also pleased to announce that we have filled our Vice President and Chief Financial Officer role. Jitin Garg, who joined us to lead finance on an interim basis, has accepted our offer to join the organization full-time. Jitin joins us with a strong corporate finance and accounting background having worked at firms like Deloitte and Citadel among others. Jitin is a U of I grad and a native Chicagoan who has a passion for and understanding of what we do. He will be an outstanding asset to WTTW and WFMT.
In order to enable a more consolidated view of revenue across development and sales and to maximize our revenue potential, WTTW and WFMT Sales will now report to Jill Britton, SVP/Chief Development Officer.
Anne Gleason, SVP/Marketing and Digital Media has taken on additional responsibility for creative services, graphics and audience insights/research. This will allow us to leverage audience insights across the organization and will ensure that our brands are consistently represented across our platforms, materials and wherever audiences interact with WTTW and WFMT.
And, finally, Security and Facilities will be moving over to Engineering. Security will report to Director of Production Operations, Derrick Young, and Facilities will report to Director of Broadcast and Technology, Mike Tompary.
Please join me in supporting these colleagues in their evolved roles and responsibilities. We are in the final stages of the strategic plan and look forward to begin rolling it out this summer. And, once again a sincere thank you to all of you. Every day, you deliver on our purpose “to enrich lives, engage communities, and inspire exploration.” I am excited about our team and our future, and look forward to continuing to work together as we serve the community.
Thursday’s comment of the day: Chuck Schaden: Congratulations to David Plier. I’ve known him to be a dedicated member of the Museum Board and a leader through various MBC transitions. His enthusiasm, expertise and know-how make him exactly the right person at the right time to help develop and carry forward the goals of this unique organization.