Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The loss of a legend, Chicago journalist John Callaway dead at 72

Chicago Sun-Times: Ch. 11 broadcast legend John Callaway dies

June 24, 2009

Chicago television news giant John Callaway died Tuesday evening in Racine, Wis., after suffering a heart attack in a store, according to his executive producer. He was 72.

Mr. Callaway was the founder of WTTW’s ‘‘Chicago Tonight,’’ a program he anchored for 15 years before retiring in 1999.

Mr. Callaway had not been gone long from WTTW public broadcasting, returning to host the ‘‘Friday Night Show,’’ featuring newsmakers who included former presidents, television stars, and famous authors.

Mr. Callaway was known for his penetrating interviews and the depth and breath of his preparation.

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Chicago Tribune: Journalist John Callaway dies
June 24, 2009 12:53 AM | 31 Comments | UPDATED STORY

Legendary Chicago journalist John Callaway died Tuesday evening in Racine, Wis., his wife confirmed.

Callaway, the longtime host of WTTW-Channel 11's news program Chicago Tonight, died of a heart attack about 6:30 p.m. after growing faint in a Racine store, said his wife, Sandra Callaway. He was 72.

Callaway founded Chicago Tonight and was the show's host for 15 years before retiring from the job in 1999. He wasn't out of action long though, returning to WTTW a year later as host of the station's Chicago Stories documentary series.

He hailed from New Martinsville, W.Va., where he lived with his sister and parents. His father, editor of the town's newspaper, was "a boozer" who had trouble holding a job, and the family was poor for much of John's early years, according to a 2001 Tribune story about his one-man show, "John Callaway Tonight."

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WTTW-TV bio: John Callaway is the Host and Senior Editor of Friday Night, and the Chicago Stories anthology series. The Chicago Tribune described Callaway as "Chicago Television's No. 1 interviewer" and "the best in the business." The Atlanta Constitution said, "He is hands down, the best on-air interviewer in the land."

John Callaway's work has won more than sixty awards, including the coveted Peabody award and seven Emmys. Several of his program series and specials have aired nationally on public television including John Callaway Interviews, Campaigning on Cue, Inside Television, and Dilemmas of Disarmament. Callaway came to public broadcasting after spending seventeen years with CBS in various capacities in Chicago and New York. At the CBS-owned radio station in Chicago, WBBM, he was host of the nationally broadcast Nightline program in the mid-1960s. He served as News Director at WBBM and helped transform it into an all-news station in 1968. Later that year, he was appointed Vice President of CBS Radio in New York for the development of CBS all-news stations around the nation. After serving as National Group Correspondent for CBS Radio in the early 1970s, Callaway returned to Chicago where he was a general assignment reporter for WBBM-TV as that station pioneered its newsroom-minicam format. In 1974, Callaway joined WTTW as News Director and in 1975, hosted the station's first venture into nightly news analysis, The Public Newscenter. He later was host of WTTW's Chicago Feedback town meeting series.

1 comment:

Michelle Minkoff said...

Thanks for posting this. I'm a web content intern at Chicago Tonight and we wanted to let readers of the Windy City Watch know that we are devoting our 7-8 pm time block tonight (Wed) and Friday to celebrating John's life and work. Please also visit to see archival interview footage and share memories of John.