Channel Zero Oct. 5, 2020

October 5, 2020
By John Owens, NATAS Chicago/Midwest President

Nominations Announced

As expected, coverage of this year’s global pandemic and historic nationwide civil unrest after George Floyd’s police-related death in Minneapolis dominated in the 2019-2020 Chicago/Midwest Emmy Nominations list, which was released by the NATAS Chicago/Midwest chapter this week. Stations in Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and Rockford were all recognized by the Academy for their stellar work on these two extraordinary stories in the Outstanding Achievement for News Gathering categories. But other major stories of the 2019-2020 also were also represented in the nominations list, including the mass shooting where five died at the Molson Coors Brewery in Milwaukee in February; and the chaotic incident where a motorist drove his SUV through Woodfield Mall.

Other highlights include multiple nominations for media producers not affiliated with broadcast networks, ranging from the Green Bay Packers, the Chicago Blackhawks and Fighting Irish Media to Spirit Juice Media, Grotto Network, Lucid Creative Agency and Bitter Jester Studios.

This will be our 62nd Annual Chicago/Midwest Emmy Awards event. But this year, our Emmy Awards Ceremony will be virtual, in keeping with social distancing guidelines due to the global pandemic. The event will be streamed on our website ( in mid-November. The date and host for the event will be officially announced in the coming days on our website.

The ceremony will feature presenters from all eight markets in our chapter, and we will pay special tribute to frontline workers during the pandemic in all of those markets.

News and Documentary Emmy Awards
Chicago was represented in the 41st Annual National News and Documentary Emmy Awards, which were also staged virtually earlier this month.  “16 Shots”,the Showtime documentary about the 2014 Chicago police shooting of Laquan McDonald, was named the Outstanding Investigative Documentary in the event. The documentary was produced by noted Chicago investigative journalist Jamie Kalven, who heads the Chicago non-profit journalism organization Invisible Institute. Kalven broke the McDonald story in this 2015 Slate Magazine article.  You can watch the complete National News and Documentary Emmy Awards here

Google Tools workshop
NATAS Chicago/Midwest kicks off its season of virtual special events and workshops with a Google Tools workshop that we’ll co-sponsor with the Society of Professional Journalists. SPJ digital trainer Mike Reilley will give you, hands on training so you can easily build interactive charts, maps, visualizations and more. Tools we’ll cover: Google Trends, MyMaps, Earth Pro, Earth Studio, Earth Engine Timelapse, Google Scholar, Google Dataset Search, Google Flourish, data scraping with Google Sheets and Tabula.  The best thing about all these incredible tools — they’re all free!

Mike, a former reporter with the L.A. Times and web editor with the Chicago Tribune, has taught this workshop to almost 4,000 journalists. So this is one that you won’t want to miss. The two-hour workshop is on Monday, Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. RSVP for this free virtual workshop here.

Chicago Film Festival
October is one of my favorite months, not only because it is this writer’s birthday month, but also because of the Chicago International Film Festival. I always try to make room on my schedule for multiple screenings at River East, the usual spot for the festival. Of course, this year’s social distancing guidelines preclude these kinds of screenings. But while much of the CIFF will be virtual, there will be some in-person screenings … at various drive-ins! That includes the World Premiere of “Belushi”, the long-awaited doc about legendary Second City/SNL comedian John Belushi. The festival is from Oct. 14 to Oct. 25 — the complete screening list and ticket information can be found here,

Congratulations to former WLS-TV President and General Manager Emily Barr, who was named Broadcaster of the Year by the periodical “Broadcasting and Cable”. Barr, now the president and CEO of Graham Media Group, received her award on Oct. 1 at TVB’s Alt Forward Conference. Barr served as President and GM for ABC 7 Chicago from 1997 to 2012.

Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism is offering up a series of unique free virtual workshops designed to introduce high school students to careers in journalism and the media. Each workshop will feature notable Medill faculty, including former Chicago Tribune reporter Melissa Isaacson and Arionne Nettles. All high school students, advisers and parents are invited to attend. Register

Chicago On Film
The Chicago Tribune’s Tracy Swartz has a good report here on how Chicago has continued to be a Midwest center of film production, despite the pandemic. FX’s “Fargo” and Amazon Prime’s “Utopia” both primarily shot in Chicago. “Utopia” wrapped a year ago, but “Fargo” shot here up until last month.
WGN-AM’s Hall of Fame broadcaster Orion Samuelson announced his retirement late last month after 60 years at the station. Robert Feder reports that Dec. 31 will be his last day on the air. The legendary 86-year-old broadcaster will still do “five or six daily business reports for WGN” per weeks= until the end of the year, Feder reports. This writer fondly remembers his early morning WGN-TV show, “Top O’ The Morning”, which aired before “Ray Rayner & Friends” in the late ‘60s and early 70s — a show which consisted of Mr. Samuelson reading detailed farm reports and organ music (!) from what was surely the last organist staffed by a television station. If you have some time, check out this raw video from Media Burn, showing Samuelson hosting the U.S. Farm Report for WGN-AM at a downstate Illinois Farm Progress Show back in 1991. The raw video was from the award-winning PBS series “The 90s”.
Do you have a story about news in your market that you would like included in the NATAS Chicago/Midwest newsletter. If so, email your story idea to or


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