After 35 years at WLS-Channel 7, Alan Krashesky is living proof that nice guys finish first.
In the 18 months since Krashesky succeeded the legendary Ron Magers as 10 p.m. news anchor, the ABC-owned station has maintained its dominant first-place position in Chicago television's late-news battle. The same is true of the 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts Krashesky also anchors.
That’s no small feat at a time of shrinking news audiences and increasing competition from a multitude of platforms. Then again, Krashesky has never been associated with anything but a top-rated newscast since shortly after he joined ABC 7 in 1982 as a rookie reporter from KTBC, then a CBS affiliate in Austin, Texas.
At 56, the Philadelphia native and graduate of Ithaca College seems as youthful and energetic as ever. But his unaffected manner and likability belie a professionalism and commitment to excellence that have earned him the respect and admiration of colleagues and viewers alike.
“I’d like to congratulate Alan on more than three decades of great work and thank him for his contributions to our continued success,” John Idler, president and general manager of ABC, said Tuesday. “His leadership and seamless transition to the 10 p.m. news, together with co-anchor Kathy Brock’s continued dedication have helped us stay Chicago’s top choice at 10.”
As Krashesky marks the latest milestone in his career, he took time out to reflect on his remarkable run and share some personal insights about the challenges of the business:
Q. Hey, Alan, how’s it going?
A. It's going great, Rob. I can't believe I've worked 35 years at ABC 7. Aren't we both still in our 30's?
Q. Wow, 35 years at ABC 7. Other than the wide lapels and big hair, what do you remember most about those early days?
A. I was incredibly self-conscious about my age. Hired at 21 years old, I didn’t want anyone to know, out of concern that I would lose credibility. I actually asked Jerry Taft not to tell anyone my age. I can still remember the first time I saw the Chicago skyline, riding in a taxi from O’Hare down the Kennedy, heading to ABC 7 for the first time. I was awestruck.
Over the years, of course, I’ve managed to cover stories in practically every neighborhood of the city and every suburb. To this day, when I see that skyline, as I’m heading into work, I’m still impressed by the magnificence of Chicago — and humbled that I get to call it “home.”
Q. When you succeeded Ron Magers, you also stepped up in newsroom leadership. What is the importance of that role to you?
A. It’s been a very natural “succession,” if you will. I’m keenly aware that what I do is a “team sport,” and I enjoy working closely with our producers and managers in structuring and writing the elements of our evening and nighttime newscasts. I like the vibe in the newsroom and often work there between the 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts. We all bring our voices to the table — and I feel that’s an important part of the process. I simply want us to be the best at what we do.
It’s not a solo act. Likewise, my co-anchors, Kathy Brock at 6 and 10 p.m. and Cheryl Burton at 5 p.m., are partners in that process and our eventual success.
Q. Do you know any young people who watch local TV news? I don’t.
A. Well, they may not be traditional linear TV viewers, that's true. I recently helped my youngest adult daughter move to Seattle and tried to understand when she told me she wouldn't need a TV set. She streams what she wants, when she wants it, on her laptop and mobile devices. It's an industry-wide challenge. That's precisely why we've made such a strong digital move at ABC 7 to position our local news and other content on multiple platforms other than conventional broadcast TV.
The mobile platforms in particular lend themselves to shorter local news stories, which viewers can chose to watch as they wish. A viewer may first find out about a breaking story on a mobile phone, which may then cause them to turn to TV for the latest information or a more in-depth report. So we know we need to be available on all these electronic devices simultaneously — and adapt quickly to new technologies consumers may embrace.
I feel what we do best on TV is provide the latest local news for the Chicago area, especially in live breaking news situations or dangerous weather. Broadcast TV also includes a relationship component between anchors/reporters and the viewer which you don't find on other platforms. If we're talking solely about broadcast TV news, I’ll move my definition of “young people” to the 25-54 demographic. If we win those folks, I’m pretty happy.
Q. Considering President Trump’s assaults on “fake news” and press freedom, what do you wish viewers understood better about the media?
A. It’s not monolithic. Yes, there are news programs or print publications which may lean right or left – and there are some which deliberately position themselves to appeal to a political niche – but I think it’s problematic to lump them all together for the purpose of hitting a big target.
We also now live in a time where the coverage of events — through social media — spreads with an immediacy we haven’t experienced before. This is when source credibility is crucial and when a discerning public is essential. Likewise, it’s the responsibility of working press to ask the tough questions of our elected officials and to hold them accountable to the public they serve.
Our greatest asset is trust, earned not merely in a moment of coverage, but over years. We take that seriously – and we should.
Q. In a business thought to be as cynical as journalism, how have you managed to live your life as a person of faith? Has that informed your signature coverage of the Catholic Archdiocese and the Vatican?
A. You’re asking me this as we’ve just witnessed the horror of the massacre in Las Vegas and the prolonged suffering of those victimized by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and the earthquake in Mexico . . .
It pains me personally – as does the violence we report on the streets of Chicago, or the stories involving the mistreatment of individuals or children. It should trouble anyone with a human heart. Perhaps I relate to it on a personal level, as my own life was impacted by violence – when my father was murdered in a robbery. At times, these problems can seem unsurmountable, and often defy reason. Yet, I remain convinced that the goodness within us is always greater than the evil we encounter. We’ve seen that again and again when people come together to help one another or to fight for what is just. My faith doesn't give me the ability to know all the answers, but it allows me to trust in One who does.
Regarding covering the Roman Catholic Church, it’s certainly a highlight of my career. I’ve been privileged to witness the progression of three Popes and three Chicago Cardinals. Two of my favorite stories would be the car ride I took with Cardinal Cupich from Spokane to Pasco, Washington, just before he became Chicago's Archbishop, and Cardinal Bernardin's final trip to visit his family in the Italian Alps, before he succumbed to cancer. Those were opportunities to see the personal sides of those men. I've also witnessed the process of papal selection, a papal resignation and a papal funeral.
I love watching history unfold before my eyes. Along with all that, however, came the shocking reality of the sexual abuse crisis and our coverage of the response and eventual reforms. Hopefully those reforms are helping to restore the trust parishioners placed in their spiritual leadership.
Q. You’ve traveled all over the world for ABC 7. What’s your most lasting impression of those experiences?
A. Our individual hopes are universal. No matter where we live, no matter where we pray, no matter how much money we have in our pockets, we all desire food on our table, a roof over our heads, a safe place to call home, love from one another, laughter from our children, and the belief that somehow, our kids will be better off than we are.
Q. You seem to be such an easygoing, nice guy. Have you ever done anything to make Kathy Brock really mad?
A. Hmm . . . no . . . except not sharing my wife’s carrot cake recipe. You really don’t want to make Kathy mad. We joke that the success of our 27-year “TV anchor marriage” is that we only spend one hour of each weekday near each other.
Q. If you weren’t in TV news, what job do you think you would have now?
A. I’d love to travel around the world, with my camera in tow, and capture the fascinating stories of people I’d meet along the way. Of course, there’s always the matter of making a living . . .
Q. How long are you going to keep doing this?
A. Until somebody pays me to travel around the world, with my camera in tow . . .