CHICAGO / MIDWEST

Honorees

2008

Bob Bell

Robert Lewis Bell was born in 1922, in Flint, Michigan, the youngest of three brothers. His show business career began as a U.S. Cavalryman extra for the motion picture Arizona (1940).  Bob served in the Marine Corps and Navy from 1941 to 1946, before returning to Flint where he landed a job as a disc jockey at WMRP Radio. A year later, he moved to South Bend, Indiana's WHOT Radio where he met and married copywriter Carol Atkinson.  They moved to Indianapolis where he broke into television on WFBM-TV.

Bob's flair for comedic character acting surfaced in 1953 when he was paired with talk show host Wally Phillips at WLWT-TV and WLW Radio in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1956, their boss, Ward Quaal, became General Manager of WGN Continental Broadcasting Company in Chicago and brought Bob and Wally along.  In 1960, WGN-TV asked Bob to portray the character that would make him a Chicago television legend, "Bozo the Clown."  Chicago's Bozo debuted as a 30-minute live weekday program at noon.  The show expanded to an hour in 1961 with an orchestra, comedy sketches, circus acts, cartoons, games, prizes and a studio audience. The show succeeded unlike any children's show in Chicago television history.  Bob’s improvisational skills and double-entendres even attracted a huge adult following. The program began airing nationally via cable and satellite and studio audience reservations surpassed a 10-year wait.

Bob retired in 1984 and was immediately honored by the Television Academy with its prestigious Governors' Award.  After raising four children, Bob and his wife Carol moved from Deerfield, Illinois, to Lake San Marcos, California.  In 1986, he was greeted with a lengthy standing ovation when he appeared in the live broadcast of The Bozo 25th Anniversary Special from Medinah Temple in Chicago. Ten years later, Bob became the first portrayer of Bozo to be inducted into the International Clown Hall of Fame in Wisconsin. 

 

On December 8, 1997, Bob Bell died due to heart failure at the age of 75.  Governor Jim Edgar and Mayor Richard M. Daley proclaimed April 18, 1998, "Bob Bell Day" in the State of Illinois and City of Chicago as Addison Street near the WGN-TV Studios was named "Bob Bell Way."

Renee Ferguson

Award-winning investigative reporter Renee Ferguson brings more than 30 years of reporting experience to the NBC5 News team. During her career, she has covered major stories locally, nationally and internationally with insight and expertise.

 

For her work, Renee has received some of the nation's most prestigious journalism awards, including: the DuPont Award, given by Columbia University in New York; the Goldsmith Award, given by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard; the Gracie Award, given by American Women in Radio and TV in New York; and, most recently, the Associated Press Award for Best Investigative Reporting. She has received seven Chicago Emmys and reporting awards from The National Association of Black Journalists and its Chicago chapter.

 

Among her many community service awards, Renee has been given recognition by the National Organization for Women, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, the Chicago Black Women's Lawyers Association, and numerous other religious and civic organizations.

 

 

Renee's work with the Unit-5 Investigative Team often leads to major change in the lives and working conditions of people.  Renee’s undercover investigation into allegations of sexual harassment at Ford Motor Company led to a class action lawsuit, a multimillion-dollar settlement and changes in corporate policy to better protect women.  Her investigation into allegations that minority women were unfairly targeted as drug couriers and strip searched at O’Hare Airport led to congressional hearings and major changes in search policies nationwide.  Renee’s undercover look at working conditions inside the metropolitan water reclamation district’s treatment plants led to the appointment of an outside investigator.  After Renee began investigating the deaths of children involved in a clinical drug trial, the trial was suspended and a government probe was launched. 

 

Renee began her career in broadcasting at WLWI-TV in Indianapolis.  There she covered migrant labor issues, traveling between Mexico and rural Indiana farms. Her investigation of a loophole in state law governing the criminally insane led to public hearings and legal reform.  Renee received her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from Indiana University in Bloomington. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Ken Smikle, and their son, Jason.

 

Gary Meagher

 

Gary Meagher is a graduate of the University of Illinois beginning his television career in 1977 at WCIA-TV in Champaign as a News/Sports cameraman.  In the spring of 1980, he was hired by WSNS-TV in Chicago to be a cameraman for their broadcasts of the Chicago White Sox games.  After the 1980 baseball season, he started working as a freelance cameraman for ESPN and other broadcast networks.

On Friday, January the 13th, 1982, Gary and Jack Walsh partnered up with Dick Shapiro of WBBM-TV to start Trio Video.  Trio has done events for most all of the TV stations in the Chicago and Milwaukee markets, as well as numerous of the nation’s largest cable and broadcast networks.  In recent years, Trio has done many of the first remote HD broadcasts of Chicago’s stations.  Trio started with 84 remotes in its first year and now does over 800 broadcasts a year. 

  

Jack Walsh

 

Jack Walsh is a graduate of the Radio-TV-Film Department of Temple University in Philadelphia.  Beginning in 1975, he worked as a director of news, commercials, and special events shows at WCTI-TV, New Bern, NC; WSPA-TV, Spartanburg, SC; WCHS-TV, Charleston, WV.  He then moved to Chicago as a cameraman for WSNS-TV in March of 1979 for their White Sox and Blackhawk telecasts.  After a year at WSNS, Jack went to work at WGN-TV as a cameraman for The Bozo Show, The Phil Donahue Show and the Cubs telecasts.  In late 1980, he started a freelance crewing service, Location Crew Services, to cater to the growing sports and entertainment cable networks originating telecasts in the Chicagoland area.

On Friday, January the 13th, 1982, Gary Meagher and Jack partnered up with Dick Shapiro of WBBM-TV to start Trio Video.  Trio has done events for most all of the TV stations in the Chicago and Milwaukee markets, as well as numerous of the nation’s largest cable and broadcast networks.  In recent years, Trio has done many of the first remote HD broadcasts of Chicago’s stations.  Trio started with 84 remotes in its first year and now does over 800 broadcasts a year. 

Neal Sabin

 

“Entrepreneurial, enterprising, passionate, compassionate and above all a Chicago television original” are the words that Howard Shapiro, Chairman of Weigel Broadcasting Co., uses to describe Neal Sabin.

 

Neal has spent more than twenty-five years programming, managing and reinventing independent television stations in Chicago. Currently as the Executive Vice President of Weigel Broadcasting Co, Neal oversees various aspects of the company’s 3 local stations as well as its television properties in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and South Bend, Indiana.

In 1983, Neal joined WPWR-TV and quickly created a music video program that took WPWR from off the radar to off the charts. “MV-60” beat major stations such as WGN and WFLD in key demographics. For 11 years, Neal’s savvy scheduling, stunting and acquisition skills were part of the team that built WPWR into one of the most successful independent stations in history.

 

In 1994, Neal was hired by the Shapiro family’s Weigel Broadcasting to transform WCIU from a foreign language, financial news and brokered ethnic station into a general market independent. Neal silenced skeptics who claimed the days of traditional, stand-alone independent stations were history. He led the team that transformed WCIU into “The U,” a station with personality and a variety of top syndicated programs reflecting the diversity of the Chicago TV audience.  Neal’s other Chicago creation, Me-TV and new companion Me-Too unite his love for classic TV with Weigel’s talent for maximizing the potential of low power television and digital multicast facilities. Chicago has embraced Me-TV with ratings that have tied or beaten “the big guys” in key demographics.  Perry Mason doesn’t beat Oprah, but he’s often number two in adults!

 

Neal is a life long Chicagoan, having grown up in Skokie, attending Niles North High School, where he was named a distinguished alumnus. Neal graduated with an honors award in radio programming from Northwestern University’s School of Speech.  He spent six years as an instructor in Loyola University’s Department of Communication and serves on the board of Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute.  Neal has also served on the Board of Governors for the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of NATAS. He is an avid gardener. On Summer Mondays, you may find bouquets of his flowers or baskets of heirloom tomatoes on the WCIU reception desk.

Rich Samuels

Rich Samuels brings a “rich” history of broadcast journalism to his current position as a correspondent for Chicago Tonight on Chicago’s PBS station, WTTW Channel 11.  In addition to filing reports for the nightly news program, Rich has contributed segments to Artbeat Chicago and has reported and produced documentaries that aired on the Chicago Stories and Chicago Matters series. 

 

From 1973 to 1990, Rich was a general assignment and investigative reporter for WMAQ-TV Channel 5.  During his tenure at Channels 5 and 11, Rich has won thirteen local Emmys, six Peter Lisagor awards, along with Jacob Scher, National Headliner, Associated Press and the United Press awards. 

 

Samuels received his MA and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago after completing his
undergraduate work at Yale. His academic field of specialization was the 16th century Florentine Renaissance.  Perhaps Rich’s academic training as an historian explains why he maintains a web site, www.richsamuels.com, that is devoted to the history of broadcasting in Chicago (he fervently hopes someone will photograph every square foot of 630 North McClurg Court before CBS leaves the building).  On his web site, Rich points out that early in his tenure at NBC, he realized that few measures were being taken to preserve Chicago’s illustrious history as a broadcast center.  He launched his web site to help remedy that shortcoming.  Rich also wrote the scripts for the Museum of Broadcast Communications’ 1995, 1996 and 1997 Radio Hall of Fame broadcasts.

 

Rich and his wife, Judy Korshak, apportion their time between Evanston and rural Green County, Wisconsin. Rich skis in the winter and cycles in the summer (pursuing both pastimes in moderation, to be sure). Rich is an ardent advocate of Apple's Final Cut Pro and a dabbler in other non-linear editing systems.  He is a licensed amateur radio operator with the callsign of KF9KV.  Rich has a son, Nicholas, and a daughter-in-law, Amy Gignesi, who claim to have found affordable housing in Westchester County, NY.

Cheryl Stutzke

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Joel Weisman

Joel Weisman is an attorney, talent agent and Emmy award-winning Chicago television host and commentator.  He is host and senior editor of Chicago Tonight: The Week in Review, winner of Chicago Emmy Awards for Outstanding Conversation Program Series and Outstanding Public Affairs Series.  He has been with WTTW, Channel 11, since 1973, and he has hosted Week in Review for more than 30 years. 

The “Joel Weisman” name is synonymous with no-nonsense interviews and commentaries, often spiked with inside information about Chicago politics and public affairs. In his weekly program, Joel analyzes state, local and national issues with a panel of journalists.

A Chicago native, Joel broke into journalism with the storied City News Bureau of Chicago, worked for the Gary Post-Tribune, was political editor and investigative reporter for the Chicago American (Chicago Today), reporter/columnist and Metropolitan Editor of the Chicago Sun-Times and Midwest correspondent for The Washington Post.  He’s won multiple Peter Lisagor, Jacob Scher, and Associated Press awards and was twice nominated for Pulitzer Prizes for his investigative reporting. His television career also includes Emmy Award-winning commentary and news analysis for 13 years for WGN Television, where he directed election coverage with a team known as the “Joel Patrol.”

As an attorney, Joel specializes in media and entertainment law.  He has represented hundreds of media personalities (including some of the highest paid in local television) since 1976. He represents journalists at stations and publications around the country and has lectured extensively on legal and journalism issues.  Joel has also devoted many years of service to his alma mater, The University of Illinois, where he was chairman of the Alumni Association and member of the Athletic Board.  He was also an adjunct professor at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, where he received his J.D. degree.

Joel lives with his wife of 43 years, Analee, in Deerfield. They have three sons, Scott, a real estate investor and actor; Mitchell, an internet company owner, who lives with his wife, Kimberly, and their son, Holden, in San Carlos Ca.; and Matthew, a legislative director for an Arizona congressman in Washington D.C.  Joel’s hobbies are golf, fishing, and reading, activities he enjoys on the many weekends each year that he and Analee spend in Galena, Illinois.