New Board President Letter

September 2020

Dear NATAS Chicago/Midwest Members:

I would like to extend my greetings to you as a member of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Chicago/Midwest chapter, as our board begins its 62nd season as gatekeepers of the prestigious Emmy Awards in our region.

It is a great honor and privilege for me to announce the start of my term as NATAS Chicago/Midwest President, succeeding my colleague Steve Novak, who did such a fine job as in his four-and-a-half year stint leading our chapter.

Of course, 2020 has been the most challenging of years for all of us. The global pandemic has forced many of us to re-think how to handle video production, as many of us have been forced to work “at-home” or from a safe distance in the field or in the studio.

The pandemic has definitely affected NATAS as well. For the first time in our chapter’s history, we will produce a virtual Emmy Awards event this November. This will be a unique online Emmy Awards presentation, which will involve all eight television markets represented by NATAS Chicago/Midwest.

And our annual Silver Circle Honors Program, which recognizes outstanding careers from individuals who have devoted 25 years or more in television, was postponed in May. It will return as a live, in-person event at some point next year, when we will recognize our prestigious 2020 honorees — Jackie Bange, Richard Bernal, Mark Giangreco, Alan Krashesky, Marda Le Beau, and Jennifer Lyons. At that time, we will also induct four television greats who left us far too soon: Marlin Perkins, Lynn Hauldren, and Jack and Elaine Mulqueen.

Despite the challenges from this unprecedented health crisis, our organization is striving to provide as many benefits as possible in an ever-changing industry, where our members are not only broadcast professionals, but also work for independent production companies, online multimedia firms and other non-traditional media organizations.

In fact, NATAS is the only professional association representing television and multimedia professionals from all disciplines of the industry, serving as the common meeting ground for those individuals dedicated to advancing the arts and science of visual media.

Our primary mission, of course, is to foster and reward excellence in visual media through the Emmy Awards and the Silver Circle Honors Program.

Our other main mission is to identify and foster future talent, through our NATAS Scholars program. Our chapter created a non-profit foundation over 25 years ago to award scholarships to college seniors, graduate students, and graduating high school students studying journalism, broadcast TV, production, and communications on an annual basis. The Chicago/Midwest Chapter scholarship program has distributed more than $500,000 to dozens of students for scholarships since the mid-1990s. Recipients include NBC’s Peter Alexander, WGN-TV’s Michael Lowe, and ABC-7’s Chicago’s Jessica D’Onofrio and Jesse Kirsch.

But moving forward, our chapter is poised to do more, even during these times of uncertainty. We will continue to offer our popular series of educational and networking events to students and our members, although of course these events will be virtual in the foreseeable future. These events range from co-sponsored events about new technologies, working with organizations like Google and the Society of Professional Journalists; our popular “Career Day” series; lectures and panel discussions featuring industry professionals; and our popular Film Club Series.

We want to reach out to make our events and services more accessible to our professional and student colleagues in the chapter’s markets outside Chicago — from Milwaukee to Green Bay to South Bend. That will be easier now, due to our increased use of video-conferencing platforms that are now ubiquitous due to the pandemic. But this is also a long-term goal that we will strive to execute, even after this health crisis is over.

We also want to continue to reach out to our “non-traditional” communicators — visual media practitioners who aren’t affiliated with television stations. These independent media members are becoming an important part of our chapter and will continue to increase as the media landscape continues to diversify.

Most importantly, NATAS Chicago/Midwest will be an active participant in diversity and inclusion efforts involving media organizations in our chapter. This is an important initiative not just for NATAS Chicago/Midwest, but for all 19 NATAS chapters throughout the country. These efforts will be varied, ranging from co-sponsoring networking events for students and young professionals of color to working with our national office on studies and strategies with regards to diversity and inclusion issues in our chapter.

In short, these are exciting and challenging times. And I look forward to working for you during these unique times as President of one of the oldest and most successful NATAS chapters in the country.



John Owens
NATAS Chicago/Midwest Chapter