Dec. 4, 1997
Vol. 17, No. 6

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    Benton Medal to journalist Callaway

    John Callaway, Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist and host of WTTW/Channel 11's Chicago Tonight, will be honored with the Benton Medal for Distinguished Public Service at the University's 450th Convocation on Friday, Dec. 12 (see story on page 3). Callaway was the founding director of the University's William Benton Fellowships in Broadcast Journalism, which awarded 123 fellowships to broadcast journalists from 1983 to 1994.

    The Benton Medal, which recognizes "the most extraordinary service to the field of education and to the University," was created by the University Trustees in 1967 to honor Sen. William Benton on the occasion of his 25th anniversary as chairman and publisher of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Callaway is the sixth person to be so honored in the medal's nearly 30-year history.

    As senior correspondent for WTTW, Chicago's public broadcasting station, Callaway has been described by the Chicago Tribune as "Chicago television's No. 1 interviewer" and by the Atlanta Constitution as "hands down, the best on-air interviewer in the land."

    A broadcast and print journalist with 40 years of experience, Callaway began his career as a police reporter at the City News Bureau in 1956 after leaving Ohio Wesleyan University and hitchhiking to Chicago. He began working for CBS and by 1968 was news director at the CBS-owned WBBM Radio, where he successfully transformed that station into its current all-news format. He later served as vice president for CBS Radio in New York, developing the company's all-news radio stations across the country.

    In 1974, he joined WTTW as news director. One year later he began hosting WTTW's first nightly news program, The Public Newscenter, and he later was host of the station's long-running town-meeting program Chicago Feedback. He has been host of Chicago Tonight, the station's prime-time news analysis program, since 1984.

    Several of Callaway's specials have aired nationally on PBS, including the John Callaway Interviews series, which included biographical portraits of John Updike, Helen Hayes, Aaron Copeland, John Cheever, Leontyne Price, Mike Wallace, Howard Cosell, Charles Addams and Jonas Salk.

    Callaway's work has earned him more than 70 awards, including the Peabody award and seven Emmy awards. He is the author of the best-selling book The Thing of It Is (Jameson Books, 1994).

    The Benton Medal was first awarded in 1968 to William Benton. The medal was presented in 1972 to Paul Hoffman, who, as administrator of the Marshall Plan, engineered Europe's economic recovery after World War II. In 1976 it was awarded to Hermon Dunlap Smith, former chairman and chief executive officer of the Marsh and McLennan insurance firm, who was known for his lifelong support of social-service work both at the University and in the community. In 1996 the medal was presented to Katharine Graham, chairman of the Washington Post Company, who is among the world's most influential women and is an advocate for a free, responsible press. The medal was most recently presented last March to Geoffrey Canada, president and chief executive officer of the Rheedlen Centers for Children and Families in New York City and a pioneer in creating social programs for inner-city youths.