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Media: April 2021

| March 31, 2021

WCIU-TV and WGN Radio 720AM’s Jon Hansen


It’s hard to describe everything Jon Hansen brings to Chicago media. He’s really a Jon-of-all-trades, able to shift from television to radio to just about anything else that requires a microphone.

First and foremost, he’s one of the stars of the nightly gabfest (6-7 pm), The Jam on WCIU-TV.

“It’s your Twitter feed on TV,” he explains. “We tackle all sorts of different topics. It’s basically the big Chicago stories of the day and what has people talking. The facts, but also our opinions about them, and how they affect us. It can be politics or sports or weather or a local news event. There’s no set formula about how we do it on any particular day. We just come out of the gate with the most important story of the day—the thing that most people are talking about—and we roll with it.”

He approaches it with the same philosophy he approaches everything.

“I just try to be the same person on the air and off the air. If I have a thought in my head, I have to assume someone else will have a similar one. If I have a corny joke to share, I share it because that’s who I am. I can also tear up on a story that affects me deeply. I think authenticity is valued, and it’s harder than it sounds. I’ve been lucky. Here at WCIU, I asked right off the bat if I could say I was gay. They’ve been so great about that. Norm Shapiro’s whole philosophy is telling the stories that need to be told from people who often don’t have a seat at the table. They want me to talk about those issues that affect me and my community. I’ll occasionally read a comment or text that makes me grimace, but for the most part, people have responded really well to that.”

However, his favorite part of being on the show is when he is sent out to report from the field. Considering he is also responsible for giving weather reports, it can make for a challenging task.

“When the show originally launched in 2017, the bosses wanted to do things differently. Whatever bit I was doing that day, I also had to incorporate that into the weather report. When I’m in a snowstorm, that’s one thing. When I’m interviewing a barbershop quartet, that’s something else. I’m pretty much known for saying ‘yes’ to any request, especially if it means I get to do another segment (laughs).”

And now he’s an Emmy Winner.

“I think it was a recognition of my unconventional approach. I don’t just report from the snowstorm; I see if I can deliver the entire report while sledding down a hill. Another time I was sweeping off car windshields as I reported the weather. I like being out in the elements. I know a lot of people worry about the reporters, and a lot of reporters don’t like it, but the same people want to see what steam looks like coming off the lake at 20 below. And they can’t believe it when we show there are runners out there in that weather. What are they doing?”

In addition to his Emmy-award-winning work on television, Hansen has become the main fill-in at WGN Radio. That’s a role he relishes.

“I was a talk radio nerd as a kid. It’s a real thrill. I love that every show has a different feel, and though I can’t be Bob Sirott or John Williams or Anna Davlantes, I can do the type of show their listeners expect. I like the variety and the different skill set I have to bring to each different show.”

He admires all of the shows on WGN, but he has particular praise for their midday personality.

“I have always loved listening to John Williams. I just marvel at his ability to bounce back and forth from silly topics to really serious ones. He also does something you don’t hear often. He admits he doesn’t know everything, and he is comfortable in the gray area of the world. He recognizes there is nuance in everything, and he’s open to having his mind changed if someone makes a convincing argument. That’s incredibly refreshing.”

Williams is obviously a radio influence. Hansen lists Paul Konrad at WGN-TV as his main television influence. As for his other gigs, he may be influenced more by a utility baseball player like former Cub Ben Zobrist because Hansen can do it all.

“I’m Gene Honda’s backup as the PA guy for the Blackhawks, but in the last two years, I’ve also become the gameday arena emcee on the jumbotron—pre-COVID, of course—entertaining the crowd with the types of bits I do on the U.”

If you’re keeping score at home; he’s on television every weekday (6 pm on WCIU), he’s often on the radio (WGN), he’s entertaining the folks at Blackhawks games. And now, Hansen has added one more thing to his plate.

Block Club Chicago is launching a weekly podcast, and I’m going to host it. It’s going to be a good news podcast, focusing on all the good stories in Chicago. We’ve had so much negativity over the last year, enough to last a lifetime, so this is a welcome twist to me. We’re going to represent every part of the city and bring people some positivity.”

Here’s to hoping he also gets to take an occasional nap.

– Rick Kaempfer

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Category: Columns, Featured, Features, Media, Monthly

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