Steve Sanders, a consummate professional and one of the all-time coolest guys on Chicago television, is retiring after more than 37 years as a news anchor at WGN-Channel 9.
Sanders, who turns 70 today, announced Friday that his last day on the Nexstar Media Group station will be February 28.
“It’s been an amazing run, working in a place that has long held a magical connection with Chicago viewers,” he told colleagues in an email. “I’m proud to have been part of the indefinable mojo that has long made our three legendary call letters a cultural and informational touchstone for millions of Chicagoans.”
No word yet about a replacement for Sanders on the midday newscast he co-anchors with Dina Bair from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays.
“Steve has been an important part of the WGN newsroom for nearly 40 years,” said Dominick Stasi, news director of WGN. “As one of ‘Chicago’s Very Own,’ his integrity and journalistic curiosity define what is great about this station. We wish Steve well in his retirement.“
What’s ahead for Sanders? “Do you have to have a plan?” he asked me. “I look forward to traveling without a deadline and sleeping late. As long as I’ve got a few good books and a fine guitar, I’m never bored.”
A native of Birmingham, Alabama, and graduate of the University of Alabama, Sanders began his career as a studio floor director at WBRC, then the ABC affiliate in Birmingham. After a stint as a helicopter traffic reporter and radio news anchor, he joined WVTM, the NBC affiliate in Birmingham, as a reporter and weekend news anchor.
WGN beckoned in 1982. In between two long stints as midday news anchor, Sanders co-anchored the station’s top-rated 9 p.m. weeknight newscast from 1993 to 2008. In 2010 he was inducted in the Silver Circle of the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Sanders made a bit of local TV history in December when he was pressed into service at the last minute to host “Family Classics,” the venerable WGN movie series. Filling in for Dean Richards, he became only the fourth person ever to host the show — after Frazier Thomas, Roy Leonard and Richards.
Here is the text of Sanders’s email to his colleagues:
Hello News Folks:
Let me not bury the lead and get straight to the point. I am confirming the worst kept secret in the WGN-TV newsroom. After more than half of my life at the Old Number Nine, I am retiring.
I’ll spare you the incessant, old timer’s ramblings and simply say, it’s been an amazing run, working in a place that has long held a magical connection with Chicago viewers. I’m proud to have been part of the indefinable mojo that has long made our three legendary call letters a cultural and informational touchstone for millions of Chicagoans.
I’m deeply grateful to so many WGN colleagues who have supported me on this journey, but also to our Chicago viewers who’ve allowed me into their homes for more than 37 years. February 28th is my last day.
Thank you WGN and thank you Chicago!
Friday’s comment of the day: Charlie Meyerson: “[Richard Milne is] only the third morning personality at the Entercom adult album alternative station since 1981.” And only the fifth since 1978 — or whenever the first year was for Scott McConnell, who preceded my first partner at ‘XRT when I joined in 1979, the great and tremendously funny Garry Lee Wright. (And I don’t recall who came before Scott, if anyone.) Richard is a tremendous talent and a great person, worthy of a seat held by so many other gifted broadcasters. Now, get a smart newsperson to keep him company.