Robservations: Midday anchor Julie Unruh leaving WGN; The Mix wins Marconi Award; Betsy Leonard to lead Kartemquin Films

Julie Unruh

Robservations on the media beat:

Julie Unruh, midday news anchor at WGN-Channel 9, is signing off after 20 years at the Nexstar Media station. Her last day will be November 24. “I’ve been proud to work alongside you as I’ve watched Channel 9 grow from a few small, local newscasts each day to broadcasting nearly non-stop, earning our rightful place in a competitive news market. It’s been truly amazing to watch. Truly,” Unruh wrote in an email to colleagues Thursday. “I’m looking forward to stepping aside and spending more time with my family. The time is right.” A Chicago native and graduate of Regina Dominican High School in Wilmette and Indiana University, Unruh joined WGN as a general assignment reporter in 2001 after two years at CLTV, the former cable news channel. She was promoted to midday news anchor in 2020. No word yet on her replacement alongside co-anchor Dina Bair.

101.9 The Mix

Although undoubtedly tarnished by the sexual misconduct allegations that took down longtime morning kingpin Eric Ferguson, WTMX 101.9-FM remains a darling of the radio industry. On Wednesday the Hubbard Radio Chicago flagship was honored as Adult Contemporary Station of the Year in the 2021 Marconi Radio Awards. The Mix was the only Chicago station cited this year by the National Association of Broadcasters. “We are honored and humbled by this award,” said Jeff England, vice president and market manager of Hubbard Radio Chicago. “It is truly a testament to the leadership of [vice president of brand and content] Jimmy Steal and [assistant program director] Nikki Chuminatto, the hard work and dedication of the entire staff of 101.9 The Mix, and indeed everyone at Hubbard Radio Chicago.”

Betsy Leonard

Betsy Leonard, a leading light with the Heartland Alliance for three decades, has been named executive director of Kartemquin Films, the Chicago-based nonprofit documentary production company. Starting December 1, she will oversee all aspects of operations and programs and serve as executive producer of Kartemquin documentaries. She most recently was senior director of people and culture at Heartland, the global anti-poverty and human rights organization. “Betsy Leonard is joining Kartemquin at an exciting and urgent moment in our history, where diverse, independent filmmaking is critical to maintaining our thriving democracy,” said Carrie Lozano, chair of the search committee. “As a forward-looking organization grounded in artful, impactful storytelling, I am beyond thrilled to have Betsy leading Kartemquin into the future.”

Charles Whitaker

“Facing the threat to local journalism — and democracy,” a free webinar featuring a panel of Chicago media experts, will be hosted by the Evanston Roundtable, starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday. (Here is the link to register.) Participants will include: Charles Whitaker, dean and professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism; Tim Franklin, senior associate dean at Medill and a leader of the Medill Local News Initiative; Tracy Baim, president and co-publisher of the Chicago Reader and founder of the Chicago Independent Media Alliance; and Laura Washington, columnist for the Sun-Times and political analyst for ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7.

Cheryl Larsen and Robert Murphy

Mazel tov! It only took them 35 years, but one of Chicago radio’s all-time class acts finally tied the knot with his longtime inamorata. Former morning star Robert Murphy announced on Facebook this week that he and constant companion Cheryl Larsen were married October 9 in a private ceremony on the banks of the Big Sable River in northwest Michigan. Last weekend they celebrated with friends at Marchesa in River North. “I was overcome with emotion when she said those three little words: ‘It’s about time!'” Murphy quipped.

Thursday’s comment of the day: Gary Lee: Congrats to Lisa Fielding and Andy Giersher. And Jay Zawaski’s value in the podcast and multimedia role is quickly being felt, leveraging the wealth of content and talent at WBBM.