Robservations: WGN legend Merri Dee dies at 85; WBBM Newsradio promotes editor Zac Weber; Linda Lutton takes leave from WBEZ

Merri Dee (Photo: Heidi Zeiger)

Robservations on the media beat:

Merri Dee is being remembered as an inspirational and groundbreaking broadcaster whose name was synonymous with “Chicago’s Very Own” WGN-Channel 9 for generations. The retired staff announcer and director of community relations died in her sleep at home Wednesday, according to family. She was 85. Before joining WGN, where she worked from 1972 to 2008, Dee hosted talk shows for south suburban WBEE Radio and independent TV stations WCIU-Channel 26 and WSNS-Channel 44. “Merri Dee was a homegrown broadcasting legend whose time as an anchor and radio and talk show host made her a beloved local celebrity,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. She added that Dee “truly made a positive and indelible mark on our city and inspired countless others to follow in her footsteps.” In 1996 Dee was inducted in the Silver Circle of the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and in 2011 she was inducted in the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame. Her memoir, Life Lessons On Faith, Forgiveness & Grace, was published in 2013.

Zac Weber

It’s been three months since Julie Mann resigned as managing editor of WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM to head up the public information office for west suburban Kane County. The 25-year veteran of the Audacy all-news station left big shoes to fill. On Wednesday WBBM Newsradio announced the promotion of morning editor Zac Weber to interim broadcast managing editor. Weber, who holds degrees in journalism and history from Loyola University, joined the station as a part-time assistant producer in 2013 and moved up to writer/editor before being named morning editor in 2017. “Zac has done a tremendous job as morning editor, and there’s no question his skills of scouring the world for the latest news early each morning will pay off for all of us,” Ron Gleason, brand manager and news director of WBBM Newsradio, told staffers in an email.

Linda Lutton

Linda Lutton, who covers Chicago’s neighborhoods for WBEZ 91.5-FM, announced she’s taking a “do-it-yourself sabbatical” from the Chicago Public Media news/talk station to pursue “some radically different things for a while.” In addition to helping the Pilsen Housing Cooperative and working with artist Hector Duarte on public art projects, Lutton said she plans to write a children’s book and travel. Lutton, a former Daily Southtown reporter, joined WBEZ as education reporter in 2008. “I want to be back on the radio in 2023, and the people at WBEZ say they want that too, which makes me exceedingly happy,” she wrote. “Because it’s hard to even express how much I love reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.”

Dana Rebik

Dana Rebik, who’s been a per diem reporter at WGN-Channel 9 since 2014, has been promoted to full-time general assignment reporter at the Nexstar Media station. She replaces Patrick Elwood, who moved up to midday news co-anchor alongside Dina Bair in January. Rebik, who grew up in West Dundee and graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder, previously worked for KCPQ, the Fox affiliate in Seattle; WPTY, the ABC affiliate in Memphis; and KVAL, the CBS affiliate in Eugene, Oregon.

Bill Chuck

Bill Chuck, the baseball historian and statistician who writes for the Sun-Times, dives into some of the most astounding games and stats in Major League Baseball history in his new book. Co-authored with former Boston Globe writer and ESPN personality Bob Ryan, In Scoring Position: 40 Years of a Baseball Love Affair will be published May 10 by Triumph Books. It’s available for pre-order now. (Here is the link.) The book also features reproductions of dozens of scorecards from Ryan’s collection. Chuck previously co-wrote Walkoffs, Last Licks, and Final Outs (Baseball’s Grand and Not-So-Grand Finales) with Jim Kaplan.

Craig Lynch

Craig Lynch, a blind sportswriter who covered the Chicago Cubs for more than two decades, died Tuesday at 72. He had been in the hospital after having a stroke, according to friends. “One of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met,” tweeted Chuck Garfien, whose 2017 profile of Lynch for NBC Sports Chicago showed how beloved by his colleagues (including Cubs broadcaster Pat Hughes) this truly remarkable man was. (Here is the link.) Lynch covered prep sports for the Sun-Times and reported from Cubs, DePaul and Northwestern games for LaSalle Broadcasting stations and others. He also worked as sports director of Triton College’s WRRG 88.9-FM in the 1980s. “Craig was a pleasure to work with and the Wrigley Field press box will not be the same without him,” the Cubs organization tweeted.

Wednesday’s comment of the day: Mark Edwards Edelstein: Call me a cynic, but I want to see a picture of them in the Chicago studio three weeks after their show starts in Chicago.