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Media: May 2023 • Andrea’s Illini Calling

| April 30, 2023

Andrea Darlas

After decades of working at WGN Radio and WGN Television, Andrea Darlas has fond memories of her time there.

“I loved all the people I worked with at WGN. Working with Spike O’Dell was a joy. He was a legend. Being his news anchor for five years is probably the highlight of my career. I also look back at some of the stories I got to cover, and it was amazing. I got to cover the 2016 election from start to finish, from the Iowa Caucuses to the very end, election night in New York. Plus, I got to work at WGN-TV, which was a great opportunity. I began by voicing packages for CLTV and the web and various other synergy projects. Then I freelanced at CLTV. In 2010, I started doing it for WGN-TV as a weekend reporter, and I loved doing that.”

But now she has found a new calling.

“I work in public affairs for the chancellor (Dr. Robert Jones) of the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. We have almost 300,000 alums living in Chicago, so it’s important to keep a presence here.  I love my job. I’m a U of I graduate, and my career has come full circle. My boss now at U of I, Robin Kaler, was my first news director in radio. We kept in touch all these years.”

And though the job is different, there are also a lot of similarities.

“I help organize the chancellor’s media appearances in Chicago, which is obviously something I know how to do. When COVID hit, my role expanded. I started to tap into our great array of professors who are experts in various fields and place them in media availabilities here. If there’s an expert needed about, say, Ukraine, or NATO, or the COVID vaccine, or whatever is needed, I help with that. The first saliva COVID test came from us and became the gold standard, so it was really natural to have the people who created it on the air in Chicago.”

She has been in the job now for more than three years, but she has managed to keep a toe in the water when it comes to radio.“I left full-time radio in 2019 when Nexstar came in at WGN. Roe and Cochran and Nick DiGilio and Bill & Wendy and others left then too. Stephanie Tichenor was my producer at one time at WGN, and she is now the program director at WLS. She asked me to contribute on a freelance basis, and because WLS is also the Illini station, my bosses at U of I encouraged me to do it. It’s sort of like a WGN reunion over there these days. Pete McMurray, Steve Cochran, Nick DiGilio does movie reviews, all super talented guys.”

Andrea’s main contribution is a podcast, which is repurposed in a few different ways.

“The call letters WLS are legendary, and it’s very conservative between 9 am and 5 pm and then later in the evening. The mornings and afternoons are a little less so, more mainstream, middle-of-the-road for a wider audience, and my stuff fits more into that category. My podcast is more entertainment based. Arts, theater, culture, museums, whatever is happening. I love doing it. I just did my 50th episode, and I’m really loving it. We do four interviews a week, and now it’s also a Saturday show from Noon-1 pm and a Sunday show from 5-6 pm. It’s called Show and Tell with Andrea Darlas. The podcast is on the WLS website.”

As much as she loves doing the podcast, she also enjoys staying in the radio world.

“I record most of my interviews from home, but I do like to go into the station once a week or so, seeing my friends at the station. Plus, Stephanie has a bunch of really talented young producers and talent, and it’s been fun watching them learn and grow and offer a new perspective on things. They have brought everyone there into the world of YouTube and TikTok. There’s a producer named Rachel Woodall, who was another intern at WGN and is now John Howell’s producer. Kim Gordon is his news anchor, and I worked with her in the WGN newsroom too. Tom Hush was Landecker’s producer at WGN, and he’s now working with Steve Cochran.”

A few months ago, the 2023 inductees into the Illini Media Hall of Fame were announced. The class included print media alumni from the Daily Illini who are now journalism icons, and radio alumni from WPGU who went on to radio stardom, like former WXRT DJ Wendy Rice. The 2023 class also included Andrea Darlas.

“I had agreed to emcee their event this year, but I got a call later, and they said, ‘You are being inducted, how do you feel about that.” I thought they were misunderstanding what was going on. I said, “No, you don’t understand. I nominated Mary Van de Velde from WGN.” I was told, “No, you don’t understand. You’ve been nominated, and you’re going into the Hall this year. So, I am an emcee and inductee, which is a little odd. I was completely blown away and honored. I never, ever, ever thought I’d be inducted. That was my first job, working at WPGU Radio. It’s come full circle here too.”The induction ceremonies took place on April 29.

-Rick Kaempfer

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