Robservations: Justin Kaufmann, Monica Eng join Axios as Chicago reporters

Justin Kaufmann and Monica Eng

Robservations on the media beat:

Justin Kaufmann and Monica Eng, two former pillars of public radio in Chicago, have been hired by Axios as Chicago-based reporters, starting August 16. As part of the company’s growing local news initiative, they’ll write a daily Chicago newsletter, expected to be launched this fall. "Axios is a great new media company and I'm honored to be a part of their Chicago team," said Kaufmann, who was a producer and host at Chicago Public Media WBEZ 91.5-FM for the better part of the last two decades. The northwest suburban Chicago native and Columbia College graduate also spent five years on the air at Nexstar Media news/talk WGN 720-AM. "I've been itching to get back to telling Chicago stories, so this is a perfect opportunity," he said. "I'm so happy to be reunited with Monica. She's a top-notch journalist and storyteller. Her passion for Chicago is unparalleled and she plays a mean 16-inch softball. Dream come true."


The feeling is mutual for Eng, who said: "I couldn't be more thrilled to work with Justin. I think our skills and personalities will complement each other. I am glad that Axios chose to invest in experienced journalists. I think it shows the importance they're placing on the Chicago bureau and I'm certain we will deliver." Eng resigned last month after eight years at WBEZ, where she was the station’s “Curious City” reporter and also covered food, health, cultural and environmental issues. A fourth generation Chicagoan and graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Eng joined WBEZ after 16 years at the Chicago Tribune. Earlier she worked for the Sun-Times and Daily Southtown. "I've loved working in legacy newsrooms over the last 35 years, but am excited to dive into this whole new model," she said. "I see it as highlighting the great work those outlets still do while breaking stories no one else is covering and doing it in super engaging ways."

Louise Kiernan

Louise Kiernan, the esteemed Chicago journalist who launched the first regional outpost of ProPublica in 2017, has resigned as Midwest editor of the nonprofit investigative news organization. She's returning to Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism in the new role of director of strategic initiatives. Kiernan previously was an associate professor at Medill and co-director of Medill’s Social Justice News Nexus. "I'm so proud of our team and what they’ve accomplished here," she tweeted of her tenure at ProPublica. "Their reporting has already changed thousands of people’s lives for the better. And one gift of this experience is that it's really kindled my passion to work more broadly to strengthen journalism and to develop the next generation of journalists." Kiernan, a graduate of the University of Virginia, received a master’s degree from Medill and was awarded a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University. A reporter and editor at the Chicago Tribune for 18 years, she won the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting in 2001.

Vince Gerasole

A familiar face is back on WBBM-Channel 2. Vince Gerasole, who stepped down last year after two decades as a reporter at the CBS-owned station, just began a weekly segment on arts and theater for CBS 2's 11 a.m. newscast every Friday. "This kind of runs along a theme so many of us have been talking about," Gerasole told me. "When media outlets scale back, certain types of coverage get pushed aside. Arts coverage is one of them. We are a city with 200-plus theaters. That’s a gift and being able to throw  a spotlight on those productions will be an honor. And though it may seem trivial to some, arts coverage is also a way to help people decide what to make room for in their busy schedules or tight budgets." Gerasole, a Pittsburgh native and graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, left CBS 2 to join the Archdiocese of Chicago as director of multimedia content. "I made sure to get their blessings — pun intended," he said of his new freelance gig.

Garry Meier

Garry Meier, the Radio Hall of Famer who's been hosting a subscription podcast since he left terrestrial radio, landed a weekly gig on the Cumulus Media news/talk station in Los Angeles. Meier's show airs at 10 p.m. Sundays on KABC. Credit the hire to Meier's two-time Chicago boss Drew Hayes, the former Chicago program director and operations manager who's now vice president/market manager of KABC. "Nobody tells a story — or views the world — like Garry," Hayes told me. "It's great to be together again, now for a third time, on L.A.'s first talk station, KABC."

Bud Solk

Bud Solk, a titan of Chicago’s advertising and marketing community in the era of “Mad Men” and for decades beyond, died Saturday after a long illness. The founder and president of Bud Solk & Associates was 87. Even from his offices at John Hancock Center and later One Mag Mile, Solk never lost touch with his roots. He remained a proud member of the "Great Vest Side Club of Chicago,” a charitable group of Jewish men from Chicago's West Side, many of whom attended John Marshall Jr. High School. Solk was the father of Greg Solk, vice president of programming and operations for Audacy Chicago. Services will be Thursday in Skokie.

Friday’s comment of the day: Donald Liebenson: For a longtime Chicago freelancer, to get a mention in Robert Feder's column is bucket list stuff. Thank you, Mr. Feder.