Posted by Barton Lorimor
* With sympathies to her family, friends, and the WTTW newsroom…
Elizabeth Brackett, the Emmy Award-winning journalist and internationally decorated triathlete who for two decades served as a “Chicago Tonight” host and correspondent for WTTW, died Sunday evening at Stroger Hospital, surrounded by family. She was 76 years old.
Brackett was admitted to the hospital Wednesday morning following an apparent accident while she was biking along the lakefront path – a routine part of her triathlon training. She was found about 30 feet from the path near 39th Street Beach, according to Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford, who said paramedics at the scene witnessed “no signs of trauma” including “bruises, scrapes, contusions.” Family members believe Brackett accidentally fell from her bicycle and say damage to the top and back of her helmet suggests as much.
Brackett’s training regimen reflected her serious approach to the sport – and would challenge an athlete half her age: 9-12 hours each week spent running and biking (three times a week) and swimming and weightlifting (twice a week). “She would come here and train hard – not skip a beat, go out and train hard all the time,” Aharon said. “The workout I gave her, I’d give to a 35-year-old.”
Brackett showed equal determination and focus in the newsroom, where she “snuck in” to a career in journalism at age 34. It’s a story she shared in a 2012 interview with the Chicago Tribune for its “Remarkable Woman” series: “I’d gotten a master’s degree in social work and didn’t have a journalism degree,” she said told the Tribune. “You probably could never do that today, but I wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”
Family members say that was one of her defining character traits. “She saw a ‘no’ as an obstacle to be overcome,” said her son Jon Brackett, a public school teacher in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
That resolute approach would propel Brackett’s 40-year career, during which she covered everything from the 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York to the Challenger disaster in 1986 to the Chicago Bulls. Her reporting on the dangerously deteriorating conditions of public housing in Chicago prompted policy changes at the Chicago Housing Authority. She was recognized with five Emmy Awards, including a national Emmy, two Peter Lisagor Awards for Business Journalism and a National Peabody Award, among others. In 2009, she was inducted into the Chicago Television Academy’s prestigious Silver Circle.
“Her political coverage included, I think, the best profile that’s been done on Barack Obama and for which she won a regional Emmy,” said “Chicago Tonight” Executive Director Mary Field.
In addition to journalism and athletics, Brackett served as a coordinator for the Adolescent Alternative Placement Program of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, a community organizer for the Uptown WMCA, Illinois Issues Coordinator for Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign and as fundraising director and advance director for William Singer’s mayoral campaign.