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Copernicus Center

Media – March 2020

| March 2, 2020

How long has Pat Cassidy been delivering us the news on the radio by “the dawn’s early light?”

“The alarm clock has gone off at 2:30 am for over 40 years,” he says with a laugh. “I go to bed early. The bottom line is that I start going to bed around 6:30 or seven at night. I read. I have the double dark curtains and the white noise machine, but you gotta get your six or seven hours of sleep if you want to do a good job.”

It’s probably one of the reasons why Pat is one of the most trusted news voices in Chicago. He’s our modern-day Walter Cronkite.

“Oh, I wouldn’t go that far,” he says humbly. “John Hultman, who preceded me in this job, is one of my heroes. He’s anchor emeritus at this station, and I’ve worked with him a number of times. Hard to find a more trusted voice than his. Bill Cameron at WLS is someone I really admire. He’s a reporter, not an anchor, but he’s really good. There are a lot of others. The reporters and anchors here—my co-workers are top-notch; [like] my fellow-anchor Felicia Middlebrooks. This whole staff is excellent. It’s nice of you to say that, but I’m certainly not the only one. I’ve just been around for a long time.”

One of the reasons that WBBM is so trusted is because it takes a village to put on every show every day, and the morning show staff is large and dedicated.

“Zach Weber is our morning editor,” Cassidy says, giving us a verbal tour of the newsroom, “and he took over from the legendary Jim Benes a few years ago, and those are big shoes to fill. He’s a young guy, but he’s a quick study, bright, creative, and works very hard. He’s really the last person to get the information to us. There are our reporters out on the street in the morning like Bernie Tafoya and Mike Krauser and various others. We have news writers—Ken Kosek and Joe Bartosch are the primary ones. There’s quite a conversation off-air—it’s a lively newsroom—and we have occasional disputes about stories, and where they should go, or if we should do them at all. We’ve got desk assistants taking the feeds. They’ll do phone calls to double-check with the fire department and police to double-check—they follow up news leads. We always verify. And some individuals specialize. Len Walter is our business anchor, and he has his own sources. Josh Liss is the one who handles sports. Beau Duran is our traffic reporter in the morning, and he has a producer Dan Frank, and they work amazingly hard. You should see their room back there. They have screens and cameras all over the place, and they take it very seriously. Traffic is an inexact science because it changes so quickly, but they work hard at making sure they have the best information—and the most recent information available. It’s a team thing. Felicia and I are the final editors and make the final decisions, but there are so many others that are part of this.”

In this era of “fake news” and “opinion journalism” and social media memes, it’s difficult for the consumers to find an outlet they can trust. Pat Cassidy sympathizes, but his consumption of news hasn’t changed too much over the years, despite the many changes in the media landscape.

“I think the traditional mainstream sources are still the most trusted, and they should be. For me, they are still the best way to get information: News radio, television networks, the big newspapers, the places that have staff vetting, and following up to get the stories as right as they can be. Twitter and Facebook don’t vet. You’re really taking your chances getting information from these other sources. That’s not to say that it’s all untrue—because it’s not. But you just don’t know. Rumors get started, stories get spread, and some of them turn out to be flatly untrue. As a news consumer, I tend to stick to more conventional sources. I’m on Twitter, and I do follow it, but again I look at the original source and use that as a guide. Is the public better served by having all these sources out there? Probably. But buyer beware. It’s still the wild, wild west on the internet. Consumers need to be vigilant that they are getting information from reliable sources.”

Pat has been doing this job for a long time but has also done just about everything else in radio. He has worked all kinds of formats, including some that seem like strange detours. He was with WMAQ for twenty-five years through several formats and worked with the likes of Mort Downey Jr., Chet Coppock, Tim Weigel, and Jerry Taft. He met one of his best friends, Mitch Michaels when he worked with him at WKQX. Pat was the best man at Mitch’s wedding. Cassidy was also the only white on-air employee of WBMX during the early part of his career. He even had a stint as part of Mancow’s show at WLS about a decade ago.

“That was my career midlife crisis,” he now says. “I scratched the itch and then returned. “

We’re lucky he did. Pat Cassidy gives Chicago the news every morning on News Radio WBBM 780 AM and 105.9 FM.

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Category: Columns, Media

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