Steve Edwards departs for a non-media role
In a major realignment at one of Chicago’s major radio stations, WBEZ-FM (91.5 FM) named Tracy Brown as Chief Content Officer of the public radio station last Friday, who is replacing Steve Edwards (no relation to the former WLS-AM and KTTV Los Angeles personality) in the role as he departs for an executive search firm. His last day is May 14.
Edwards was instrumental into bringing WBEZ its’ highest ratings in its history in recent years, peaking as high as second in February and setting an all-time ratings record for the station in January. Edwards started at WBEZ in 1999, and returned to the station in 2017 after serving a five-year stint at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics.
“[Edwards’] character, his integrity and his passion are woven in and out of who we are at WBEZ. In that way, it’s a really difficult transition,” Chicago Public Media Interim CEO Matt Moog said in a statement. “On the other hand, it’s such a meaningful passing of the baton to Tracy, somebody who’s been here, who’s gotten to know everybody, who understands the city and knows the newsroom. She so identifies with the core mission and purpose of public media.”
Brown arrived at WBEZ two years ago with a newspaper/print background, serving in numerous positions including Atlanta, where she was editor of the Journal-Constitution. During her tenure overseeing WBEZ’s newsroom, she put a spotlight on how Chicago’s minority communities were coping with Covid-19, and scooping other media outlets with stories on scandals involving ComEd and racism in mortgage lending throughout the Chicago area. Under Edwards and Brown’s watch, WBEZ won three Edward R. Murrow awards, being the only local station – TV or radio – to achieve such a feat.
“Both Steve and I deeply believe in the importance of local journalism and being of essential service to our community,” Brown said in the same release. “I’m looking forward to a new chapter ahead for WBEZ with the entire team. It’s been incredibly rewarding to work for and with Steve, and I’m delighted knowing he will continue to have a huge impact on Chicago in his new role.”
This marked the second time in a week an African-American was named in a key position at a Chicago media outlet. A few days earlier, NBCUniversal named Kevin Cross general manager of WMAQ-TV and WSNS-TV in addition to his current duties at NBC Sports Chicago. While we’re not there quite yet when it comes to diversity in Chicago’s media core, the appointment of Brown and Cross are clearly steps in the right direction.