For the second time in less than three years, Chicago Public Media is in the market for a new programming chief at WBEZ FM 91.5.
Ben Calhoun is leaving as vice president of content and programming, effective in April. He is expected to return to the staff of “This American Life,” where he spent five years as a producer and reporter for the public radio magazine show.
Culminating a national search, Calhoun was named director of content and programming in December 2014, and was promoted to vice president the following July. He’d previously worked at WBEZ, starting as an intern in 2000 and rising to assignment editor, documentary producer, deputy news director and political reporter.
Goli Sheikholeslami, president and CEO of Chicago Public Media, announced Calhoun’s departure to the staff Tuesday.
“Over the past 2½ years, Ben has expanded and led a 60-person team of first class reporters, editors, producers, hosts and anchors,” Sheikholeslami said in a statement. “In addition to leading the award-winning news team, Ben oversaw the launch of WBEZ’s digital experience, with innovative podcast programs like 'Making Oprah' and 'Nerdette,' successfully polished 'The Morning Shift,' and revamped WBEZ’s programming schedule.
“With his leadership and ability to identify and recruit top talent, Ben has allowed us to produce great journalism and elevate our ability to tell the stories that matter to our community, and our listeners. While he will be greatly missed, Ben’s ambitious plans and high standards will be fulfilled as we continue to deepen our coverage of the essential news and information that is so vital to our city, state and nation,” she said.
In response to a request for comment, Calhoun said: “Since I joined the station as an intern answering the phone in the newsroom, I have loved this station. I have believed in it. I love its values, its people, and the city and public it serves. That has only grown over time. To be a partner in shaping WBEZ’s future with Goli and the staff — that has been an honor I’m humbled by and grateful for. I think this organization’s future is stronger and brighter, and its future has always been bright. But I’ve decided to step away from this role, and to get my hands back on the tools of the craft I’ve dedicated myself to.
“Despite that, I’m going to be president of their fan club. And I’m going to be rooting them on as they continue to grow, and to do more brilliant and creative work,” he said.
No word on plans for Calhoun’s successor. Before his appointment, the station’s top programming job has been vacant for two years. Steve Edwards relinquished the role in 2012 to become host of “The Afternoon Shift.” Later that year, Edwards left to join the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics.