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Media: October 2019

| October 1, 2019

Rob Hart

Next year will be Rob Hart’s 20th year on the radio in Chicago, and he has worked at several stops along the way, including WGN, News 101, and the Loop. But now he’s manning the anchor desk at the dream destination for any radio newsman: NewsRadio WBBM 780.

“It’s a great radio station,” he says. “The people I work for and with are really good. I’m incredibly comfortable there, and I like it a lot.”

Rob is Chicago born and bred, and while most people his age (within sniffing distance of 40) grew up listening to rock stations, he had a slightly different upbringing.

“Everyone has their Chicago radio origin story. In my case, I grew up with a steady diet of WBBM. One of my earliest radio memories is going to the auto show and watching Dick Helton and Kris Kridel anchor the afternoon news. Kris and I later worked together and were co-anchors in the midday. She thought it was kind of neat that a kid who watched her back in the day eventually came to work at that same radio station.”

Rob is steeped in the station’s history.

“When we were doing the 50th anniversary of the radio station (2018), (program director) Ron Gleason was sitting in his office listening to old stingers and jingles and bumpers. You’d hear these hour openers from the ’80s that I hadn’t heard in twenty-five years, and they totally triggered memories for me. It’s really exciting to be a part of this station’s history. Everyone came from different places and backgrounds, but when you get here, you really respect what people built for you. WBBM is a big deal, primarily because of the work of John Hultman, Felicia Middlebrooks, Kris Kridel, Sherman Kaplan, Dale McCarron, Rich King, Alan Bickley, and all of these anchors that came before you. You want to continue that professionalism. You want to respect the work they did. It keeps you in line.”

Anyone who follows Rob on Twitter knows that his interest in radio isn’t just limited to WBBM history. He’s really into Chicago radio history in general.

“I have a lot of memorabilia and stuff in the basement, and I’m trying hard to make sure no-one throws it away. When I was working at the Loop a few years ago, they were cleaning out a promotions closet, and there were all sorts of stuff that had been sent over from the Hancock to the Merchandise Mart when the station moved, including that iconic pool playing poster with, and Johnny B. I saw all of that, picked it up, and took it home. “

That history, he finds, offers an insight into radio’s present.

“I appreciate the history of it, because in many ways, what you’re experiencing today is similar to what they experienced then. Nothing is necessarily new. One of the books I enjoyed reading was Larry Lujack’s Superjock, which was written in 1975 at the height of his fame. It’s a fascinating look at what the industry was like then. We look at that time as the good old days of radio, but he was talking about how the industry didn’t really pay unless you were in one of the biggest markets, and even when you did get there, there was an enormous amount of instability. He joked about needing an adding machine to keep track of all the different former colleagues that came and went at his stations. And those were the good old days. It’s just important to remember that it’s always been this way. We’ve been through this before, and it always worked out okay.”

In his current role, Hart anchors Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, and reports on Thursdays and Fridays.

“I’m glad I can do both,” he says. “The anchoring is fun because it’s a complex format and you have to pull it all together, and hit all the elements on time. You have to be precise when you get to breaks. On the other hand, I’ve covered some great stories, including the White Sox World Series in 2005 (with WGN at the time). As a Sox fan that was incredible. It was the first story I covered for WGN. And in 2016, I was out there in Wrigleyville all night for Game 7, and I’ll never forget it. After Rajai Davis hit the home run to tie it up, I was talking to a CBS cameraman, and he said, ‘Listen, if this goes bad, and they start rioting, you can hide out here in our van if you need to. We’re all CBS employees when push comes to shove.”

That was probably the most historical moment he has ever covered.

“I really thought about the history of that moment as it was happening. In 1908 there weren’t any electronic reporters covering the Cubs. It didn’t exist yet. That meant I was in the first group of electronic reporters that ever got to do this. Some people lived their whole lives and never got the opportunity. Think of Ronald Reagan. He was born in 1911 and worked as a Cubs announcer in the 1930s, eventually went on to become president, and lived a long life, and never saw the Cubs win the World Series.”

Rob reports history every day on WBBM-AM 780.

– Rick Kaempfer


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