WGN-TV anchor Steve Sanders is being honored with a Silver Circle Award, a special Emmy given to people who have 25 years or more of outstanding contributions to the Chicago television market.
Sanders joins Tom Skilling, Robert Jordan, Muriel Clair, and Gloria Brown as recent WGN-TV recipients of the Silver Circle Award.
Steve is a veteran broadcast journalist who began at WGN-TV in 1982 as a general assignment reporter. From 1984 to 1993, Steve anchored WGN News at Noon. He then served as co-anchor of WGN News at Nine for fifteen years from November 1993 to July 2008.
Steve is a rare TV writer in that he has the mind of a poet. He can take a small observation and make it beautiful.
"You know there's not a pretentious bone in his body," Mary Field, WTTW Executive Producer of Chicago Tonight, said. "He's charming, he's smart, he's articulate. He's fun to work with and he's a fabulous writer."
"The perfect example is the story we did on little Emily Bear 6-year-old piano player," Pam Grimes said. Grimes is a special projects producer at WGN-TV who has worked closely with Steve on many projects. "He called me up very excited and he said what do you think of this? From that one line, that video now has around 9 million hits on YouTube!"
"When you're working on a Steve Sanders story, you feel like you're doing something better," said Photographer and Editor Mike D'Angelo.
You can tell from his accent that Steve Sanders is not from Chicago, but he's from Illinois. Steve still owns a farm in Crossville that's been in the family since the 1840s. He likes to say he grew up with one foot in the Midwest and one in the South, but it's those Southern roots that shaped who he is.
"I often asked him, where are your roots? Where are you from?" WGN-TV Business Manager and Silver Circle winner Gloria Brown said. "You're from Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Southern Illinois. But deep down I think he wants to be African American."
Steve mostly grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, the second of Bill and Gladys Sanders' four kids. Steve's aunt and uncle lived a couple of doors away from the Presleys in Memphis. Yes, the Presleys.
Sanders went to college -- or colleges really -- most of which he left voluntarily. After a short stint as the bearded-guitar-playing Sanders, the boys in his band helped him get a job at a rock and roll radio station. Steve got his shot at TV in 1979 and occasionally did traffic reports for extra money.
It almost killed him.
A new helicopter pilot ran out of fuel and they crashed. Yet Steve walked away and went back to work that night. Needless to say, Steve worked hard and learned to write, covering everything from George Wallce to Weeds. His hard work eventually led to a call from WGN-TV in 1982.
At first Sanders was a fill-in anchor, but mainly he was a street reporter. One of his proudest moments was a series called "Dead Giveaway" about county employees ripping of the deceased. The series won an Emmy and a prestigious American Bar Association Award. Mary Field was his producer at the time.
"He taught me that good writing really matters," Field said. "Even in a story like Dead Giveaway that was based, not even on records, but on what was missing from records. You could find a way to tell it that would bring viewers into the story."
Steve also started a family in Chicago, the proud father of daughter Lauren and son Tyler. The hardest story he'll ever tell is of Lauren's death at age six. She died two days before Thanksgiving 1991 of a congenital neurological disorder.
But Tyler, the Sanders clan and music got him through it. In the early 90s Steve was promoted to anchor for the 9pm News.
You'd think a man anchor in the third largest market would be the Sanders success story. But there's more to the Sanders family: Sister Cindy is a college instructor in Monroe, Louisiana; Brother Chip is a wonderful songwriter and pianist; and Baby Brother John played on a Grammy-winning John Lee Hooker album. He's still performing regularly from his home in British Columbia.
Truth be told, Steve may someday take those writing talents and turn them into songs, becoming what he always really wanted to be: a rock star.
WGNTV's Steve Sanders honored with Silver Circle Award
Sanders receives a special Emmy given to people who have 25 years or more of outstanding contributions to the Chicago television market
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