WBBM-News Radio’s Josh Liss grew up in Skokie, and there was one voice that had a real impact on his career direction, though it didn’t manifest itself for a few years.
“Harry Caray was the big reason I wanted to do sports broadcasting,” he says. “I didn’t have a dad to take me to games, but my mom and grandmother always had the game on when I came home from school or camp. And there was something about Harry’s voice, and the excitement he brought to the game. Of course, I wanted to be an athlete first, and played multiple sports growing up through high school. I even tried to play baseball at Oakton Community College, but when I found out I wasn’t good enough to do it anymore, I had to find something else to do. “
That love of sports led him to the next best thing. “I called the Score when they first went on the air in 1992,” Liss remembers, “but they told me I needed to be taking classes to intern there, so I contacted Steve Leventhal of WVVX-FM (103.1) in Highland Park, and they were doing syndicated stuff at night. Leventhal said ‘You know what? I think we could use someone to help us stuff envelopes and things like that.’ They sent me to (late sportscaster) Bob Greenberg’s house to help him produce his show, but I didn’t realize he was blind until I extended my hand for a handshake, and he reached his hand out but didn’t meet mine. It would have been nice if they had told me. But before I knew it, I was out covering Bulls and Blackhawks games at the Stadium with a tape recorder as a would-be reporter. It was a great experience.”
Liss has come a long way since those days. He is the sports director and morning sports anchor on WBBM News Radio. Most of his time is now confined to the anchor chair in the WBBM studios, but he does still get out occasionally, including one time recently that may never be beat. He went to Cleveland to cover Game 6 and 7 of the World Series.
“I still have not come down from that high,” he admits, “and I hope I don’t. It was tough riding the fine line between supporting and reporting, being objective and all, but I think I did a good job. After going through that – the whole month of playoffs, going to Cleveland for Games 6 & 7, and the parade coverage, that buzz is still there – and I hope it lasts until spring training because it makes the rest of the Chicago sports scene more palatable.”
Though the Bears may be sliding toward mediocrity, and the Bulls may have a difficult time reclaiming their former glory, they can never take away this once in a lifetime experience from him. “That World Series is without question the greatest sports story I’ve ever covered and I don’t even sense one on the radar that can possibly top it. The generations of fans that stuck with this team—and some of them who didn’t make it to see the championship. To pop that cork with so many people hanging on it for so many years and carrying the emotional investment – to see it pay off. I don’t think it will ever be topped in my career.”
That’s saying something because Liss’ career has been a series of highs. He’s won awards from the Associated Press and the Illinois Broadcasters Association, and even won a prestigious Peter Lisagor Award for his sports reports. Though Liss doesn’t do a sports talk show, and he doesn’t do sports play by play, he is the best at what he does. And he does it for the largest radio audience in Chicago every morning.
“Just when I think I really wish I could spend more time on a subject, or would like go to the phones to further discuss a topic, I’m reminded that our ratings are so strong—that this team I’m on right now has a real healthy audience, and I’m very happy to be a part of it. I’m perfectly happy being with this audience, whether it’s four or five minutes an hour, or four or five minutes at a time.”
He’s also surrounded by a highly regarded team of professionals. “Felicia (Middlebrooks) and Pat (Cassidy) are two news professionals who I count on every day when we’re on the air, and at the end of the day, they balance it with humility. We have fun on and off the air together. And Bart Shore is a grinder. He has owned morning drive traffic for so long. His work ethic is so strong.”
So is Josh’s. If you haven’t heard him on the radio, check him out on social media where he provides the multi-media experience every morning on Facebook and Twitter. “You need to be in all formats. It’s beyond keeping up with others—it’s part of the job. There are people who listen to me or watch me on Facebook that don’t even listen to me on the radio. It’s a chance to expand our audience, and expand our horizons, and reach new people wherever we can. And Twitter has nearly replaced news wire services for prompt, up to the minute news. Once you can curate your news choices, it can operate like a scrolling news feed.” If you’d like to add Josh to yours, he’s at JoshLiss@JoshLissSports.
– Rick Kaemper