Friday, July 3, 2009

Chicago news legend dies; leaves 'lessons'

Longtime Chicago journalist John Callaway died last week after suffering a heart attack in Racine, Wisc. He was 72.

Besides leaving behind thousands of viewers, listeners and readers and his wife Sandra, the host of WTTW-TV 11's news program Chicago Tonight, originator of WBBM-AM 780 and CBS Radio's all-news format, and former City News Bureau reporter also leaves a legacy embodied in his dedication to journalism, common sense and decency.

NPR's Scott Simon tweeted about Callaway's advice to journalists.
"What I learned from John Callaway about journalism --and life," Simon recalled:
Be persistent.
Be kind.
Be fair.
Be interesting.
Try to do something different.
Call people back.
Give people a break.
Assume nothing.
Remember people's names.
Write thank you notes.
Tip the bartender.
Try to do something every few weeks that scares you at least a little.
Go to the bathroom just before you go on.
Most of all: Remember that it's a blessing to be a Chicagoan, and a privilege to come into people's homes with the news."

The Chicago Tribune 15 years ago wrote, "It has been said that John Callaway, who has won more than 60 awards -- including seven Chicago Emmys -- is the best interviewer on television. He can be tough, like when he told Sen. Paul Simon he hadn't mastered his own campaign material. He can be sensitive, like when he delicately asked director Gordon Parks about the death of his son. He can elicit quotable sound bites. Mike Ditka, when he was Bears coach: 'My motives are right, even if my methods stink.' Rich Daley, when he was state's attorney: 'I could subpoena you overnight if you became my enemy.' He made the Frugal Gourmet cry. When Johnny Carson asked William Buckley who was the best interviewer, Buckley answered, 'That chubby fellow in Chicago.' "