Robservations: Janet Davies debuts showbiz podcast; George Papajohn named editor of ProPublica Midwest; Deborah Douglas wins Dorothy Storck Award

Janet Davies

Robservations on the media beat:

Broadway and Beyond

The stellar Janet Davies, who covered Chicago’s entertainment scene with authority and style for 37 years at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7, is back on the beat with her own weekly podcast. “Broadway and Beyond with Janet Davies” just launched on Apple Podcasts and soon will appear on other platforms. (Here is the link.) “Now that entertainment is roaring back, I have the opportunity to take my over four decades (yikes!) of reporting experience and focus on long-form interviews with creatives,” she said. “Please check it out if you love performance, if you love Chicago and if you are curious what people really want to say after they do a short news soundbite.” The premiere spotlights changes at The Second City, including interviews new executive producer Jon Carr and 109th revue director Anneliese Toft. Added Davies: “I think there cannot be enough coverage of arts and entertainment in Chicago.”

George Papajohn

George Papajohn, former associate managing editor for investigations at the Chicago Tribune, has been named Midwest editor of ProPublica, the nonprofit investigative news organization. He replaces Louise Kiernan, who resigned to return to Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in the new role of director of strategic initiatives. Papajohn, who joined ProPublica as a senior editor in August, will oversee investigative reporting efforts in Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri and Minnesota. He previously served as an investigative editor at BuzzFeed News. “This Midwest team has shown how a talented and passionate group of individuals can make an impact with their journalism,” Papajohn said in a statement. “It’s been led by skillful editors, and I look forward to the opportunity to build on that success.”

Deborah Douglas

Congratulations to Deborah Douglas, co-editor-in-chief of The Emancipator, on winning the $1,000 Dorothy Storck Award from the Chicago Journalists Association. The former editorial board member, columnist and editor at the Sun-Times, who also teaches journalism at DePauw University, was cited by the judges for her unique ability to “unabashedly and eloquently speak truth to power.” Douglas also is the author of U.S. Civil Rights Trail: A Traveler’s Guide to the People, Places, and Events that Made the Movement. Other Storck Award finalists honored at the virtual awards ceremony Friday were Sun-Times columnists Neil Steinberg and John W. Fountain.

Jesse Kirsch

Jesse Kirsch, a reporter at WLS-Channel 7, announced Monday he’s leaving the ABC-owned station after more than four years. Kirsch, who was hired straight out of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism as ABC 7’s first digital reporter in 2017, was promoted to general assignment reporter in 2019. “I’m excited for new adventures in the new year and am grateful to my work family, our viewers and those who shared their stories,” he tweeted. “For now, I’m headed home. More to come!” The native of Livingston, New Jersey, graduated summa cum laude from Medill, where he was news director and anchor for Northwestern News Network.

Michelle Lopez

One year after she was promoted to director of audience at the Chicago Tribune, Michelle Lopez has resigned to join the marketing team of the Philadelphia Inquirer as director of audience development. “It’s been an incredible experience that not many get to have,” she tweeted about her eight-year run at the Tribune. “It’s hard to leave a lifelong dream job — even harder to realize it’s OK to choose something for your life the teenage version of yourself wouldn’t understand. . . . I’ll always love Tribune, but it’s time for a new chapter.” A graduate of Riverside Brookfield High School and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Lopez worked for the South Bend Tribune, GateHouse Media and Clear Channel Communications (now iHeartMedia) before joining the Tribune in 2013.

Peter Karl

Peter Karl, the former Chicago TV investigative reporter, just released his second novel — a crime thriller titled Bug Man. It marks the return of investigative reporter Peter Michaels, who discovers a deadly plot to kill tens of thousands of Chicagoans using genetically manufactured microbiological organisms, germs, bugs and pathogens. “Scary thing is: It can really happen,” Karl says. It’s available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. (Here is the link to order.) Karl, who moved to Florida, introduced the series with his first crime thriller, On the Night of a Blood Moon, in 2019.

Johnny “Koolout” Starks

Johnny “Koolout” Starks, former afternoon host at Crawford Broadcasting R&B WSRB 106.3-FM, is headed to Wichita, Kansas, to host afternoons at KDGS. The Chicago native began in radio at Kennedy-King College and previously hosted weekends on iHeartMedia hip-hop WGCI 107.5-FM and Midway Broadcasting urban news/talk WVON 1690-AM. “I will miss my Chicago family and broadcasting in the city that raised and made me, but with technology now I can always take my family wherever I go,” he told me. “I’m extremely excited at the new opportunity.”

Sandra Myers

Sandra Myers, who worked as a receptionist and promotions assistant at Window to the World Communications classical WFMT 98.7-FM for more than 25 years, died Thursday from complications of COVID-19 and pneumonia in St. Paul, Minnesota. She was 81. Myers, who graduated from Calumet High School and Woodrow Wilson Junior College (the former name of Kennedy–King College), was a mainstay at WFMT from 1979 to 2005.

Monday’s comment of the day: Ron Magers: Cronkite choked back his tears while on the air. Sitting at home, I couldn’t.