Emily Barr is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Graham Media Group, Graham Holdings Company’s television broadcasting division. Emily previously served for 16 years as President and General Manager of WLS-TV Chicago, Chicago’s ABC-owned station. While at ABC 7, she helped create The LIVE WELL NETWORK, an innovative digital broadcast, online and wireless network focused on home, health and lifestyle programming. Before coming to Chicago, Emily was President and General Manager of WTVD–TV, the ABC–owned station in Raleigh–Durham. Prior to that, she worked in Baltimore at WMAR–TV as Director of Broadcast Operations & Programming before being promoted to Assistant General Manager. Earlier in her career, Emily worked at stations in Houston, Washington, D.C., and St. Paul. Emily serves on the boards of the Television Bureau of Advertising, the Emma Bowen Foundation, and the National Association of Broadcasters. She currently is Chair of the ABC Affiliate Board of Governors and has twice served as Board Chair for the Illinois Broadcasters Association (IBA). In addition, Barr is actively involved in the community as a board member of The Chicago Network, The Chicago Academy for the Arts and the UCP/Seguin Foundation of Greater Chicago. Honored for her civic involvement, Emily was named the 2014 Vincent T. Wasilewski Broadcaster of the Year by the IBA and received the Westbury Leadership Award from the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago for her involvement in a citywide media effort to raise funds for Haitian earthquake relief. She has also received an Honorary Doctorate from Robert Morris University in recognition of her community service, a National Museum of Mexican Art’s Corporate Service Award, Business Professional of the Year Award from the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the Chicago Urban League’s Spirit Award, the Girl Scouts of Chicago Luminary Award, and the Dante Award from the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans. A native of Haverhill, MA, Emily is a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy and Carleton College.
Lilia Chacon’s 30-year journalism career took her from Chicago to Albuquerque, from Guatemala to Vatican City in pursuit of news and newsmakers.
Lilia was born in Syracuse, New York to Stella and Rafael Chacon, immigrants from Guatemala and Costa Rica who she says were crazy, brave and resourceful enough to start a new life here. Spanish was always spoken in the home, so Lilia learned English from TV cartoons and classmates at school. Her family settled in Riverwoods and Northbrook in Chicago’s suburbs. She graduated from Glenbrook North High School, continued at Oakton Community College, The School of the Art Institute, and The Institute Americain Universitaire in Aix-en-Provence. At Northern Illinois University, she worked for NIU’s student newspaper the Northern Star, while earning her Broadcast Journalism degree.
Lilia’s first job as a big time journalist was for the Chicago City News Bureau and she was working for WFLD-TV News at Marina City the night Harold Washington became the mayor of Chicago. She won a Peter Lisagor Award for a series on Guatemalan kidnappings she freelanced to the Chicago Tribune.
Lilia spent 5 years at the CBS affiliate in Albuquerque, New Mexico reporting and anchoring weekends. She also did a weekly nature series called The Outdoors Report. In 1989, Fox News Chicago News Director Greg Caputo brought Lilia back home and for the next 21 years, she covered breaking news, hard news, politics and Chicago’s record-setting weather.
Lilia won the first of 6 Emmy® Awards covering the Chicago flood of 1992, when the damaged wall of a utility tunnel resulted in water from the Chicago River wreaking havoc in the Loop, flooding banks and department stores. She reported from the Oklahoma City bombing site, tornado-ravaged Plainfield, Havana Cuba with Fidel Castro, Vatican City when Chicago’s Archbishop George was elevated to Cardinal and again when Pope John Paul II died.
Lilia left Fox 32 in 2010, and worked 4 years in Chicago City Hall as Communications Director for then-Treasurer Stephanie Neely. In early 2016, she returned to Chicago from Des Moines after a 5-month stint as Iowa Press Secretary for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Mary Ann Childers was the first woman to anchor a top-rated 10 p.m. newscast in Chicago. At WLS-TV she was part of the team that took the all-important ABC 7 late newscast to number one, a position it still holds today. Additionally, as Medical Editor, she created the franchise, “Medicine Tonight.”
In 1994, Mary Ann moved to CBS 2, where she anchored the 4 & 6 p.m. newscasts, and debuted the station’s 2 ½ hour morning news block.
For three decades, Mary Ann covered political conventions, natural disasters, war, and nearly every major breaking story in Chicago. She was the first Chicago TV journalist to report from the Mideast during the first Persian Gulf War. Her reports on breast cancer, AIDS, mental health, heart disease, and women’s health have won dozens of awards and national recognition, including 5 regional Emmy® Awards and a prestigious national Emmy® for anchoring coverage of the death of Pope John Paul II.
Immediately after graduating from Northwestern University, where she majored in speech, Mary Ann began her career behind the scenes, as associate producer of the nationally syndicated Phil Donahue Show.
Today, her firm, Mary Ann Childers, Inc., specializes in strategic communications, crisis consulting, video and web content production, and honing on-camera and presentation skills for Chicago’s top business executives, civic leaders and others in the public eye. As Senior Consultant to the Chicago-based Res Publica Group public affairs firm, Mary Ann handles communication issues for civic organizations such as the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago and the Economic Club, as well as major hospital systems, national hotel chains, law firms, professional sports teams, both Chicago newspapers, and financial institutions, among others.
Mary Ann has a reputation for extensive community involvement, and helped launch major events such as the American Heart Association’s Chicago “Go Red for Women” campaign; the AIDS Walk; the former Y-Me Race (billed as America’s largest single charity fundraising event); and the Respiratory Health Association’s “Catch Your Breath” awards.
Mary Ann is married to fellow Silver Circle honoree and journalist Jay Levine, and lives in Chicago.
Long before Chroma key, green screen and computer graphics, P. J. Hoff was bringing weather alive on television with his loveable hand-drawn characters. But it was a long journey with decades blowing by before he launched his television career. Piercy J. Hoffstrom was born in Mounds, Oklahoma, in 1896. He graduated from the University of Washington where he studied electrical engineering before accepting a job with the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company. P. J. Hoff’s journalism career began in Minnesota as a humor columnist and cartoonist for the St. Paul Dispatch. His “Hawf & Hawf” column and artistic talent helped pave his way to become KSTP’s first television weatherman. In the early 1950s, P. J. came to Chicago to become Channel-2’s first weatherman, alongside legendary news anchor Fahey Flynn. For nearly two decades, P. J. used his sketch pad, hand-crafted animations and imagination to illustrate the weather to an appreciative television following. He became known for the weather characters that brought life to his forecasts --- regulars such as Mr. Yell & Cuss, Little Ah-Chew who would help give the pollen count and, of course, the weatherman’s best friend, the Vice-President in Charge of Looking out the Window. P. J. also starred in P. J. and Patte, a children’s show in which Patte Preble narrated stories while P. J. illustrated those adventures for the TV audience. P. J. retired from WBBM-TV in 1968 and with his wife, Susie, moved to St. Simons Island, Georgia. P. J. died in 1981 at the age of 85. Before the era of computerized weather toys, P. J. leaves behind a legacy of weather excellence using an oversized sketch pad and a magic marker.
Jay Levine has reported the news on Chicago television, first on ABC 7 for 16 years, then on CBS 2 since 1974. He joined WBBM-TV as weekend anchor and reporter and was ultimately named the station's first and only Chief Correspondent. Among his assignments, anchoring the CBS 2 morning news with his wife and fellow Silver Circle Honoree, Mary Ann Childers.
Jay has traveled the globe covering politics and international affairs and uncovering scandals. His reports range from interviewing the Pope, to dodging bullets in Beirut, to chasing drug runners in the Andes. In 1996, his coverage of Cardinal Bernardin’s death was widely acclaimed by both his peers and the public. He reported live on Gulf Coast hurricanes Katrina and Rita and their aftermath.
In 1991, Jay became the first Chicago reporter to broadcast live from Saudi Arabia, the day before the Gulf War began. He was the only Chicago TV reporter in Saudi Arabia during the war and filed 260 live reports for CBS 2 Chicago and CBS stations across the country. In 2003, he was the only Chicago television reporter embedded with U.S. troops during Operation Iraqi Freedom, covering the 101st Airborne and its Chicago-area soldiers from the deserts of Kuwait to Saddam’s palaces in Baghdad.
Levine’s awards include a National RTNDA Award and an Edward R. Murrow Regional Award for writing – “Farewell to the Pope.” His reports have helped CBS 2 Chicago win two national Emmy® Awards: one in 2008 for the station’s coverage of the CTA Blue Line derailment and one in 2006 for coverage of the death of Pope John Paul II. Levine has also won 11 regional Emmy® Awards, a Jacob Scher Award for Investigative Reporting and numerous AP and UPI honors.
Prior to working in Chicago, Jay worked as a news reporter for WCAU-AM, the CBS- owned station in Philadelphia. He began his journalism career as a news and sports anchor and reporter for WHCU-AM/FM, the CBS affiliate in Ithaca, NY, while still in college.
In January 2016, after 42 years of daily coverage, he became a special contributor to CBS 2, and now concentrates on special projects.
Len O’Connor began his journalism career in 1935 as a reporter for the Davenport Times. He returned home to Chicago in 1937 to join NBC Radio as a news writer. In 1948, at the direction of News Director Bill Ray, reporter O’Connor began News on the Spot broadcasts, taking a wire recorder out in the streets of Chicago to get the news of the day and man-on-the-street interviews. Those broadcasts continued for more than a decade. Len also wrote and co-produced documentaries for radio and for Channel 5. The special he wrote and anchored, It Must Never Happen Again examined the tragic Our Lady of the Angels School fire that took the lives of 92 students and 3 nuns. Len anchored Channel 5 newscasts and pioneered commentary when he began giving 3-minute editorial essays on national and local politics. His sign-off, “and I am Len O’Connor,” became famous to Chicago viewers, as Len tackled corruption and political issues for decades. He was also a mainstay of Chicago’s longest-running public affairs panel discussion show, City Desk. The show featured local activists, Illinois politicians and national newsmakers of the day from Richard J. Daley to Malcolm X. Len also profiled the city and its politics with three best-selling books: Clout: Mayor Daley and His City (1975), Requiem: The Decline & Demise of Mayor Daley and His Era (1977), and A Reporter in Sweet Chicago (1983). After more than 30 years at NBC Chicago, Len O’Connor moved to WGN-TV in 1974 where he continued to build his legacy with nightly no-holds-barred commentaries. Len retired in 1980 and he died in 1991 at the age of 79. He and his wife Jane had five children: John (deceased), Paul, Mary Margaret, William and Leonard.
Dean Richards is WGN-TV’s Emmy® Award-winning entertainment reporter and critic and long-time host on WGN-720 AM. Seen and heard on several Tribune Media-owned properties, he was cited in a New York Times front-page article as “Tribune Company’s Man of Many Hats.” Dean joined WGN-TV as a staff announcer in 1991. In 1998, he began appearing as a guest reviewer but quickly became a regular. Today he’s seen throughout the day on WGN newscasts interviewing national and local celebrities, reporting on showbiz and reviewing the latest movies and theater. He’s hosted and co-produced specials, including the award-winning Bozo, Gar & Ray, WGN TV Classics, the Oscar preview special: The Envelope Please and Stories of Hope: Facing Breast Cancer. Dean has contributed to national cable channel WGN America, classic TV network Antenna TV, and Tribune Publishing’s Chicago Tribune and RedEye. On WGN Radio (720 AM), Dean Richards’ Sunday Morning covers Chicago’s entertainment and lifestyle scene. Dean’s entertainment reports and reviews can also be heard on The Steve Cochran Show and The Bill & Wendy Show. Since joining WGN Radio in 1994, he has won over 30 local and national awards for programming and production. Dean soon will be enshrined with a bronze plaque on The WGN Radio Walk of Fame, honoring the station’s legendary talent. Dean’s annual radio and television specials on the fight against breast cancer have garnered many awards. He’s been a tireless worker on HIV/AIDS issues, hosting functions such as “AIDS Run & Walk Chicago” and “Dance for Life Chicago,” lending support to organizations including Howard Brown Health Center, Horizons Community Services (now Center on Halsted), Open Hand Chicago and The AIDS Foundation of Chicago. For over 25 years, Dean was part of, and co-hosted the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon benefitting the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He has also hosted numerous events for Alzheimer’s, hunger, homeless, and domestic violence prevention organizations. A Chicago native, Dean worked at several Chicago area radio stations --- WNUA, WCLR, WIND, WCFL, WFYR, WPWR and WFLD --- after completing his Broadcast Communications/Marketing degree at Columbia College. He also hosted a nationally-syndicated morning radio program for the ABC Radio Network, while acting as its Operations Manager.
Tim Weigel began his television career at NBC 5, but it really blossomed at ABC 7, where he was Sports Director for 17 years. Tim continued in that position at CBS 2 until his death from brain cancer in 2001. After graduating from Yale with a History Degree, he received a Master’s Degree in Film from Northwestern University. Perhaps that was the inspiration for creating sports bloopers and the popular and often imitated “Weigel Wieners” which, along with his colorful attire, became his TV legacy. Tim briefly held a news anchor position, but sports seemed to be a better fit. He had an affinity for sports, having played football, basketball and baseball at Lake Forest High School, rugby at Yale, and even a stint with the Chicago Lions, a semi-pro team. And, of course, he loved 16-inch softball, a Chicago specialty. In addition to his TV gigs, Tim earned journalistic credentials from jobs at the Chicago Daily News, the Chicago Sun-Times and several radio outlets. Tim was very generous with his time as a speaker, an emcee and supporter for many Chicago charities and causes. He particularly enjoyed working with the “Off The Street Club,” a wonderful oasis in West Garfield Park where neighborhood kids can play, study and socialize without fear. On a totally different note, Tim loved the Lyric Opera and often hosted their gala. He had a gift for making everyone feel important. Those who knew him appreciated his easy laugh, his breadth of knowledge, gregarious nature and accessibility. He was also a fabulous pianist! Tim is survived by his daughters Teddi and Jenniffer, his son, Rafer, and his wife, Vicki Truax.
NBC 5 Station Manager and Vice President of News Frank Whittaker is a 39-year veteran of three Chicago TV newsrooms – WBBM, WLS and WMAQ.
Frank joined NBC 5 in June, 1998 as News Director. He was promoted to Vice President of News in 1999, and added Station Manager duties in 2008. He is responsible for leading the Channel 5’s news department on broadcast and digital platforms, as well as taking the lead role on station projects. During his tenure, NBC 5 has expanded its investigative unit to become the largest in Chicago. Frank also expanded local news in the mornings and middays.
Before joining NBC, Frank served as Assistant News Director and Executive Producer at WLS-TV. During his four years as Executive Producer, the station’s 10 p.m. newscast led in the market’s ratings battle.
Frank worked at WBBM-TV for 16 years beginning in 1976, when he got his start answering telephones on weekends in the Channel 2 newsroom. Following his graduation from journalism school, the station hired Frank full time as an assignment editor. During his years at WBBM, he also worked as a news writer, associate producer, special projects producer and newscast producer. From 1990 until he left WBBM-TV in 1993, Frank produced the station’s 10:00 p.m. newscast.
Frank is the winner of five Chicago Emmy® Awards for his work on spot news coverage, media interactivity, and for producing news specials on Mayor Harold Washington and Earth Day. He attended Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, where he earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. While at Medill, he was the recipient of the RCA/NBC fellowship. He currently serves as Executive Vice Chair of the Illinois Broadcasters Association.