Can’t Stay Away

Jeanne Sparrow is an Emmy Award-winning television program host and reporter, a voice-over artist and top-rated and award-winning radio personality. She co-hosts “You & Me This Morning” every weekday on WCIU.

Michael Corleone said it best: “Just when I thought I was out … they pull me back in.”

But they can’t pull you back in unless you have unfinished business — something you want to, need to or are supposed to accomplish. I’m still trying to figure which one it was for me, but I doubt it really matters.

In 2005, when I left NBC5, I really thought I was done with broadcast TV. I loved my years in radio but didn’t want to go back because I’d worked for and with the best at the best station ever (WGCI) and didn’t need to top it. Still don’t.

I started doing television while I was there, then that became full time. After a few years, I was ready for a new challenge. I might have stayed, waiting around for it, but after seeing almost my entire family upended by Hurricane Katrina, I realized that life was too short to waste one minute not doing exactly what I wanted to do.

So I quit. Without a job. And it was the best thing I ever did. I spent almost 4 years freelancing, being what my best friend’s brother called “No Job Jeanne,” and loved every minute of it.

I did voiceover and on-camera work and taught broadcasting at the City Colleges, but most importantly, I enjoyed my life, friends and family, not just my job.

The funniest thing is, I never intended to do any of it. At least not at first. It was just a good time. The fact that I got paid to do it was always a bonus. From my first day at KNIR, the country music daytime AM station I worked at in my hometown during my senior year, I just KNEW nobody could make a living doing something so fun and easy. But when I got to Chicago, I saw you could. And how! Then my intent changed.

But when I got the call about hosting You & Me This Morning at WCIU, I knew in my gut that I had to. The show keeps changing and growing but somehow it remains my perfect fit. I work with an awesome team, great management and an amazing partner and I’m happy.

So now I find myself back in broadcasting full time. Back on mornings. Which is just hilarious, because there was a time I’d said I’d never do it again.

And that’s what getting pulled back in is all about.


Welcome To Our New Home

Marcus RileyMarcus Riley is in his first term as president of the TV Academy, but during the day he’s a Content Producer at NBC Chicago specializing in New Media content. He’s a 7-time Emmy winner, a member of the NATAS national Board of Trustees and a graduate of West Virginia University’s Perley Isaac School of Journalism.

Things sure are looking a lot cleaner around here. Can you smell the new-ness? Welcome to our new web site and our new blog. Our digital makeover has been a long time in the works, and it’s gratifying to actually see it come to fruition. Our Channel Zero blog you’re reading right now is an opportunity to hear from a variety of voices amongst our membership, along with providing an information resource for students and young journalists looking for that next gig. If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please email your pitch to

We’re in the midst of one of our busiest times of the year. Last Friday, we were proud to induct seven new members into the Silver Circle. It was an extremely poignant and heartfelt evening, and we’ll be posting video clips from the ceremony in the next few days.

2013 Silver Circle honorees.

A special thanks goes out to our friends at CLTV, who will broadcast the ceremony on May 25 at 6 p.m. and May 26 at 2 p.m. Check out the bios and photos on our Silver Circle page, and congratulations to the new inductees and the high school scholarship winners who were also recognized.

I’m sure you also aware that we’re in the midst of the Emmy Call For Entries period. The entry system is completely online again this year, so the process is simple. You have until June 14 to get your submission in so don’t leave it until the last minute, although we all know most of us will. Good luck!

I’ll end with a tease. Look out for an exclusive Chicago screening of HBO’s “The Newsroom” before the second season premiere this summer. More to come on that later. In the meantime, keep following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and we’ll see you around soon!


Remembering Roger Ebert

Thea Flaum is the producer and creator of the movie-review show with Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel that ran for 35 years. She is a long time member of the Board of Governors, currently an Emeritus Trustee, and the former national vice-president of NATAS.

On a warm summer day in 1975, I met Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel at a North Side restaurant for lunch. Roger picked the restaurant because it was close to his house. When he heard this, Gene insisted on picking the restaurant the next time we met. And thus the sparring began — and was to continue non-stop for the next 23 years.

Of course, none of us knew it then.

I was a TV producer on an interesting mission — to create a new series about the movies. Roger loved the idea right away. It was clear to him that television was a perfect way to tell people about the movies because the film clips would show viewers what he was talking about.

2006 Silver Circle

Thea and Roger Ebert at his 2006 induction in the Chicago Silver Circle.

And as any one would have told you back then, it was highly unlikely that two guys from Chicago — Chicago! — were going to become nationally known film critics on PBS. But Roger, Gene and I believed. In fact, shortly after we began, I promised them that one day our show would be the highest rated series on PBS. And, after a few years, it was.

Along the way, Roger and I piled up a lot of memories. He used to arrive at my house on Sunday evenings, teleprompter copy in hand, so we could work on it together. We would sit at my dining room table, while he mastered how to write for TV, and only once during all my editing, did he grumble, “You know, Thea, I do have a Pulitzer Prize.”

As time went on, Roger got famous. He once called to tell me that he’d been recognized from TV by a woman at the airport in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but that she’d called out “Which one are you?” His great friend Bill Nack tells a story about walking into a busy, crowded, loud restaurant and the whole place suddenly going silent when Roger was

“Pay no attention,” he said. “It’s just TV.”

Nothing changed Roger — until Chaz. She was his soulmate. She brought him joy, a family and made his life “whole.” When Roger got sick, it was Chaz who brought him through, and helped him focus on new books, new TV shows, Twitter, his website, his blog — things that did not require that he speak, only that he think, and write. He called Chaz his “guardian angel.”

Roger had always been a great guy; Chaz enabled him to become a great man.

I was at the hospital with Roger and Chaz the Monday before Roger died. Josh Golden came in to show Roger the final version of his new website,

Roger looked it over, then wrote on the small pad he used to communicate. “Looks great. Even better than I hoped.” Then, gracious and eloquent to the end, he added: “Thank you. You have made me immortal.”

I certainly hope so.

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Tips For Landing That Job

Jeff HinkleJeff Hinkle is the Assistant Art Director at WCIU-TV. He was one of the panelists at our 2013 Career Day event, held April 6 at Columbia College.

Your resume is typed up. Your cover letter is a thing of beauty. Your references are glowing. Everything naughty is off your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Now the only thing standing between you and that coveted job is the interview. But before you find yourself in the Chair of Many Questions, there’s a few things you should keep in mind.

Dress The Part:That old saw about first impressions and second chances is true. I often see people coming in for an interview looking like they’re on their way to grab some brews with the bros. Guys, seriously, break out the suit and tie. Ladies, you have more options, but a business suit is still your best bet. You want to be seen as a professional; dress like one.

Do Some Research: Yes, an interview is primarily to gauge your skill set and see how you’d fit with the company, but at some point they’re going to ask if you have any questions. Have some. Go online beforehand and familiarize yourself with their products. Ask the interviewer about her career and training. Show some interest and initiative. You’ll look much better than the fellow who only asks about how much vacation time he gets.

Lose the Ego:There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. So many applicants have this entitled attitude, like they’re doing the company a huge favor by merely showing up for the interview. If I’m choosing between two applicants of roughly equal skill level, I’ll take the person with the positive, pleasant attitude every time. I’ll even take a slightly less-skilled applicant over one who’s highly skilled but impossible to work with. Skills can be taught, but attitude can’t.

Remember Me? A couple days after the interview, send a letter to the interviewer, thanking him for his time and the opportunity. Include your contact information again with an offer to get in touch with you if they have any further questions. It shows follow-through and helps them to remember you. And don’t call repeatedly to pester them about the decision. Trust me, when they know, you’ll know.

Remember, a diploma is not a get-a-job-free card; it merely unlocks the door. Once you’re through, it’s up to you to convince them you’re the person for the job. The more professional impression you make, the better your odds of making the cut.

And showing up with donuts doesn’t hurt either.


NATAS Online News Forum

We know our Silicon Valley journalists are particularly savvy when it comes to New Media, so there’s plenty to learn at this Online News Forum held recently at KGO-TV in San Francisco and hosted by our National Program Chair Cynthia Zeiden. Representatives from many of the local station web sites were on hand to share best practices in digital media.