Robservations on the media beat:
Colleagues are remembering Bob Petty as a pioneering African-American news anchor, reporter and public-affairs host at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 for more than three decades. Petty died of lung cancer Tuesday at his home in Hyde Park. He was 79. “Bob Petty was an outstanding journalist, giving voice to thousands of important Chicago stories during his 31-year career at ABC 7,” said Jennifer Graves, vice president of news at ABC 7. “He handled both anchor and reporting duties with poise, professionalism and grace and paved the way as one of the first, full-time African-American anchormen in Chicago.” Petty, who retired in 2002, was inducted in the Silver Circle of the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and in the Cronkite Alumni Hall of Fame at Arizona State University, his alma mater. The Memphis native also served a William Benton Fellowship at the University of Chicago.
Circus Blago is back in town! Eight years after Rod Blagojevich was sent off to prison for corruption, the remorseless and self-pitying former governor burst back onto the scene Tuesday after his sentence was commuted by President Donald Trump. The ensuing media frenzy seemed to pick up right where it left off the day he was sent away. Print and broadcast journalists brought their A game to coverage of Blago’s release, including especially insightful work by Eric Zorn, Natasha Korecki, Carol Marin, Chuck Goudie and Phil Rogers, among others. In a fascinating footnote, Mark Konkol, the former Sun-Times columnist who now writes for Patch, used the opportunity to nail Governor J.B. Pritzker over his dealings with Blago and revisit Konkol’s firing as executive editor of the Chicago Reader in 2018. (Here is the link.)
Angela Rozas O’Toole, deputy metro editor at the Chicago Tribune, has joined Chicago Public Media WBEZ 91.5-FM as senior editor of its government and politics desk. “Over the past 20 years, Angela has moved from tenacious reporter to respected newsroom leader to both reporters and editors,” said Tracy Brown, managing editor at WBEZ. “As we embark on a monumental election season, Angela brings not only an outstanding history of election planning, but keen editorial judgment in landing big investigative projects.” Rozas O’Toole, a graduate of Louisiana State University and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, joined the Tribune as a reporter in 2003 from the New Orleans Times-Picayune. She has been deputy metro editor since 2015.
Two new reporters have joined the Chicago bureau of Chalkbeat, the nonprofit news organization covering schools. Mila Koumpilova previously reported on higher education and immigration for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and Samantha Smylie, a former City Bureau fellow, covered education, housing, retail and development for the Hyde Park Herald. “These hires will allow us to broaden our coverage in Illinois beyond Chicago, with a particular focus on state policy and the critical issues facing low-income districts just beyond our city limits,” said Cassie Walker Burke, Chicago bureau chief. “I am thrilled that the bureau is growing and that we’ll be able to deliver more public education coverage at such a critical time.”
Charles Hayes, who rose from reporter to editor in chief of Paddock Publications before a long run as an editor at the Chicago Tribune, died February 4 at his home in Palatine. Hayes, who was battling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure, was 88. Born in Evanston and raised in Park Ridge, Hayes graduated from Maine Township High School, Wittenberg College and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. “Chuck Hayes was way ahead of his time in understanding the complexity of suburbia and giving it the deep and nuanced journalistic coverage it deserved,” former Suburban Trib reporter Sam Freedman, now a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, told the Tribune’s Bob Goldsborough. After retiring from the Tribune in 1994, Hayes wrote a column for the suburban Copley Newspapers chain until 2008.
Tuesday’s comment of the day: Rob Olson: Got to love radio hype. “This will make Chicago radio history!” Disco Demolition made Chicago radio history. No one will remember this “stunt” in six months. Especially on the 26th-rated radio station.