Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

Media: December 2017

| November 30, 2017

Bill Jurek

It’s become a year-end tradition in this space to honor some of the broadcasters we lost in the past calendar year. All of them touched countless lives in the Chicago area, maybe even your own. The Chicago media community is diminished by their absence.

JOE COLLINS – Collins was a veteran traffic reporter in Chicago best known for his many years as the afternoon anchor at WBBM News Radio. A few years ago Joe was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy and his last few years on this earth were a tremendous challenge. We interviewed him for this column in 2013. He was still working on the air, although his working days were quickly coming to an end. “It’s nice to go to a job I still love every day and work with people I really care about, and I think we contribute something meaningful. I’m still here, and I really try to be a good person, which I know sounds a little corny, but as long as I can remain independent and can contribute something, I’m going to keep on doing it.” Joe was beloved by his fellow traffic reporters. He passed away this summer at the age of 58.

MIKE MATHIS – In May of 2017, Mike Mathis was inducted into the WGN Walk of Fame. The veteran airborne traffic reporter (from 1983-2008) passed away just two months later at the age of 67. His good friend, former WGN morning man Spike O’Dell, had this to say about Mathis. “It was impossible NOT to like this man. He greeted you with a smile and a friendly word when you passed him in the hallway. He was a model employee who never said no when you asked him to do something. ..There is a reason he was inducted into the WGN Walk of Fame. He DESERVED it! Some people didn’t realize that he didn’t actually work for the Tribune Company. He was always “on loan” from the Cook County Sheriff’s Department. Although all of us who worked with him every day at the radio station considered him family…because he was.”

MARTY ZIVIN – In January of 2017, Marty Zivin passed away after a long bout with cancer at the age of 60. Zivin worked at numerous radio stations in the Chicago area, and he was an internet pioneer. He was also a mentor and guide to a whole generation of Chicago broadcasters. One of those was Lisa Greene, who remembers Zivin very fondly. “He was this wiry, gentle, grizzled tech genius who formed one of the first Chicago Radio message boards more than 20 years ago, and developed patents for internet radio as we know it before anyone knew what it was, or could be. He was one of the sweetest, loveliest people you could ever meet: brilliant, quirky, and a family man. If I or any of my colleagues had some time on the beach (unemployed), he would excitedly offer, ‘do you need to make or edit some demos? Want to be on my internet stations to keep up with your craft til your next gig? I’ve got a studio in my basement if you ever need one for anything!!’”

BILL JUREK – Jurek worked in both television and radio in Chicago, first as a staff announcer at Channel 5, and then at various different radio stations including WLIT. One of his colleagues at WLIT was the legendary programmer Mark Edwards. This is how he remembers Bill. “Bill Jurek was truly one of a kind. While we worked together at WLIT, his vision began to fail him but he found a way to still do a radio show until it just wasn’t possible anymore. He then found what will be his legacy, devoting his considerable talent to CRIS Radio, the service that provides reading services for the disabled and hosting a program that covered the important subject of living with disabilities. Few people have the talent, kind heart, and drive to help others that Bill did. It was an honor to work with him and see his tremendous contributions, first to Chicago media and later to the disabled community. He is sorely missed.”

KELLY SEATON – She was a trailblazer for women in Chicago radio, having served as a general manager (WFYR) and a sales manager for several Chicago stations. She passed in April. One of her former colleagues was traffic reporter Stephen Haas, who had this to say about her: “Kelly was a kind and gracious lady, always willing to share knowledge of sales and radio in general. She was one of the first females in Chicago radio to break the glass ceiling, and she did so with class. We got to know each other just by passing in the halls of then Metro Networks. She was that kind of a person…easy and fun to know.”

GEORGE COLLIAS – In June of 2017, the former founder of Century Broadcasting passed away at the age of 89. Collias amassed a broadcasting empire that included a Chicago station (WPNT, now known as WSHE) before selling it in 1996. He walked away from a very wealthy man. Bob Heymann, the director of Media Services Group, remembers him well. “George was a true gentleman and visionary in the radio industry. He was smart enough to recognize and capture the heightened value of WPNT-FM (now WSHE) when Century Broadcasting sold it for $75,000,000 in 1996.”

We lost many more media figures this past year, including WBBM’s Tom LaPorte, WIND’s Jim Gannon, WKQX’s Dick Penn, NBC’s Bob Walsh, WLS’ Cliff Levine, WMAQ’s Ted Lauterbach, agent Robert Eaton, WBBM’s Alan Bickley, WCFL’s John Webster, WJOB’s Keith Middleton, WBBM-TV’s Mary Nissenson, FM 100’s Darrel Peters, and so many more. All made their marks in the local media community, and it’s a shame we must enter 2018 without them.

– Rick Kaempfer

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