* John Callaway was a mentor to me without him even knowing it. I had watched him for years on Chicago Tonight and always wanted to be there with him, talking about the issues of the day. I practically worshiped the man. So when the big call finally came during the 1998 gubernatorial campaign, I immediately hopped on a plane and flew to Chicago just to be on the set with the person whom I considered my journalistic idol.
Callaway died yesterday of a heart attack at the age of 72…
“It has been said that John Callaway, who has won more than 60 awards, including seven Chicago Emmys, is the best interviewer on television,” according to a 1994 Tribune article. “He can be tough, like when he told Sen. Paul Simon he hadn’t mastered his own campaign material. He can be sensitive, like when he delicately asked director Gordon Parks about the death of his son. He can elicit quotable sound bites. Mike Ditka, when he was Bears coach: ‘My motives are right, even if my methods stink.’ Rich Daley, when he was state’s attorney: ‘I could subpoena you overnight if you became my enemy.’ He made the Frugal Gourmet cry. When Johnny Carson asked William Buckley who was the best interviewer, Buckley answered, ‘That chubby fellow in Chicago.’ “
When it started in 1984, Callaway envisioned Chicago Tonight as “the second half of the news,” a program that provided a forum for a more reflective discussion of the news.
Speaking about the show around the time of his retirement in 1999, Callaway said: “We tried to be fair. We tried to view complexity as complexity, as opposed to trying to oversimplify it. And we had a lot of fun, too. But I think if you looked at that program for 15 years, you’d see a lot of the fabric and soul of the city.”
Callaway continued to work in the final months of his life, conducting interviews and mediating panels, his wife said. Most recently, he moderated a panel at an iron and steel industry conference in St. Louis in May, she said.
He can’t ever be replaced.
* Ch. 11 broadcast legend John Callaway dies
* Legendary Chicago journalist John Callaway dies
* Chicago Journalist John Callaway Has Died