IT ALL started on April 5, 1968. I was a young Chicago police officer who had decided about a month before this to start taking freelance news film of events in the Chicago area. I was planning on selling that film to WGN TV. It was a Friday and the looting and burning and shooting had begun on the west side of Chicago after Martin Luther King died. I went to the top of an apartment building with some Chicago firemen and because I was so engrossed with what I was doing I did not realize they were smart enough to bail off the roof due to the dangerous conditions. I would take my film into the WGN TV news room at which time the then news director asked me to go up in the helicopter to shoot some more film. Who would have ever known that all those thirty plus years would be spent with the Tribune company in one way or another.
Seeing that most of those years were spent with WGN Radio I thought I would tell you how it was to work with some real giants of the business.
WALLY PHILLIPS–Wally was “my clout” shall we say. If it was not for him giving me the chance to do what I do I would not be where I am today. He supported me, he fought for me and he encouraged me when some, well many, thought having a man with no journalism training on the greatest radio station was foolish. Together we broke so many big stories. We used the radio listeners to give us tips and they might get a scarf as a thanks. Some people thought that was stupid but let me tell you those listeners were the eyes and ears for WGN Radio and to Wally I will always be grateful. Wally had a simple idea–give the listeners the news when it happened and not wait till the hour or half hour as some do. You produced and Wally was your friend and supporter. If you did not, he had no use for you. He expected the best from you and by golly you gave it to him.
ROY LEONARD–You listeners might not remember Roy for his news sense but I can guarantee you he had it. We never talked off the air. I would call directly to him through his producer and off we went. When Mayor Harold Washington collapsed on his office floor we had it on the radio within maybe 4 minutes. When Laurie Dann killed that child in Winnetka we had it on the radio within a few minutes. As that story unfolded Roy let me do my stuff and we had the correct and accurate information before anyone else. Roy allowed me time when necessary and you the listeners benefited.
BOB COLLINS–First story I ever did with Bob was the crash of American Airlines 191 at O’Hare. I hope that Bob isn’t mad at me for not doing my job when I bailed out of covering the story of his death when I discovered it was him. You never knew what to expect from Bob. Never ever rehearsed a story. I told one joke on his show and almost got fired and there were no nasty words. It was about motorcycles. Bob would tell us that if there was a big weather story the weather people had the show. Traffic or sports the same. And when I got a biggie Bob wanted to know it all and he wanted right. He never pulled any punches. He would go after me on the radio if he thought I screwed up or he did not like what I had said. We took boat rides–I broke my knee. We went to amusement parks–I left in an ambulance with a real bad kidney stone attack. Both times Bob was in charge. He told the fire people how they should treat me and the next day on the radio he would say thanks. No matter what happened working with Bob or driving in a demolition derby or wrestling a real big wrestler at a county fair on Bob’s suggestion or even milking a pig it was fun and never ever boring.
Even though the majority of my stories are not pleasant, I have tried to do them all with class and dignity. I want you, the listener, to have the opportunity to know what is going on around you. I try to do it without sensationalizing–just telling you the facts. You people have called me many things, but hopefully never boring. I want you to feel as though you are with me on the streets and in the alleys.
Stick around. I don’t want you to miss a thing.
Take care and please be safe.