Steve Edwards is the host of “848”, which airs weekdays from 9am-10am on WBEZ 91.5 FM (Chicago Public Radio). His local news magazine show derives its name from the street address of Chicago Public Radio’s studios on Navy Pier.
WAMH –(in Massachusetts). College radio station. I was the news director.
KBEA – 1480 AM (in Kansas City). That’s my hometown.
WTTT- (in Western Massachusetts). Afternoon news anchor
Then I worked at Leo Burnett in Chicago for two years, before returning to the business.
WDCB- 90.9FM in Chicago.
And since 1999, I’ve been at WBEZ.
Rick: How did you get started in this business?
Steve: I got the radio/TV bug in high school in my TV/radio class. My friend and I produced a quarterly TV public access show, and we followed the presidential campaign of 1988 (Bush/Quayle vs. Dukakis/Bentsen). We got secret service clearance and stood side-by-side with people like Sam Donaldson. After that, I knew I had to get in this business.
Rick: As a former radio producer myself, I know that it must take quite a few people to put your show together every day. To paraphrase Hillary Clinton, “It takes a city”, doesn’t it?
Steve: Absolutely. We have four producers (Gianofer Fields, Joe DeCeault, Kristin Moo & Matt Cunningham), a director (Jason Marck), and a senior producer (Aurora Aguilar). We also have a long list of regular contributors like Studio 312’s Jimmy Carrane, Dueling Critics (Friday theater reviews) Jonathan Abarbanel & Kelly Kleiman, Jonathan Miller on film, Ed Keegan on Architecture, Cheryl Raye Stout on sports, Gianofer Fields (Outta my way), Lucia Mauro on dance, David Greising on business, and our Resident Philosopher Al Gini.
Rick: “848” is such a Chicago show. What Chicago topics interest you the most?
Steve: I just love it all. Everyday is different. That, for me, is what makes it interesting to do this show. It’s like being paid to go to school. That being said, I’m a sucker for politics, particularly Chicago politics. There are so many stories that shock or surprise. I also love talking about Chicago architecture and culture, particularly those neighborhood stories that might not make it to page one. We have the opportunity to give those stories more attention on our show, stories that are steeped in Chicago. Last year we did a feature called “Should I stay or should I go” about artists that chose to stay and live in Chicago. That was one of my favorites.
Rick: Other than “Should I stay or should I go” what other moments over your years at 848 really stand out to you?
Steve: Our first broadcast in front of a live audience. We did a show at UIC in front of 500-700 people who attended a conference about the future of cities in America, and had a really great discussion about the future of Chicago with participants from that conference. It’s funny, but every day you have so many more people listening to your show than you have in a live audience, but it makes you concentrate more, makes you worry more about screwing up. I’m also really proud of our award winning coverage of city and state elections, and for that matter, the presidential election of 2000. We threw out our prepared show that next day, and went totally live, covering the biggest story in the country. I’m also very proud of our show on the first anniversary of 9/11, and the one we did last September on the fifth anniversary. We got a great response on both of those shows. As for interviews, probably my one-on-one interviews with Mayor Daley.
Rick: If someone put a gun to your head and said you had to listen to a commercial radio show in this town, who would you listen to?
Steve: I actually listen to quite a few. I peck around the dial. I think the shows at WGN do a tremendous job—Spike O’Dell, John Williams, Steve Cochran. I also listen to Mike Mulligan and Boers & Bernstein at the Score. As far as music goes, I like WDCB’s jazz. I spend quite a bit of time at the lower end of the dial, listening to the college radio stations from Loyola, U of C, Columbia College, and Northwestern, just to hear what’s new and interesting.
Rick: You may be able to speak more freely about this than someone in commercial radio. I was curious about your take on media consolidation, particularly its effect on radio.
Steve: I think it has had a serious and troubling effect. The diversity of formats isn’t even what it was when I came to town ten or twelve years ago. There used to be two all-news stations, and now there is one. The music stations sound the same as music stations in any other town. News is often outsourced to the Shadow Traffic’s of the world. We’re the third largest city in America—and our radio dial should be awash in musical styles and diversity of opinion, but it isn’t. The one thing that Chicago has going for it that some other markets don’t is the loyalty and dedication to the local radio personalities like Steve Dahl, John Landecker, et al. But I’m afraid they may be the last generation that inspires that kind of loyalty.
Thanks to Eric Zorn at the Chicago Tribune for mentioning this blog in his column: Eric Zorn's "Land of Linkin"