A respected voice in Chicago, Dillon Smith made a difference

Robservations on the media beat:

  • Back in the days when television stations cared enough about the communities they served to air editorials, no one did them better than Dillon Smith. As editorial director of NBC 5, he won Chicago Emmy Awards for his work five years in a row. He also made a difference: Illinois drivers can turn right on red, and consumers can buy fresh meat in supermarkets after 6pm and on Sundays, thanks to two of his editorial crusades. In his 15 years at NBC 5, he also served as a producer and program director before he left to form Dillon Smith Communications in 1984. Even after he retired, he remained vitally active in Chicago broadcasting and journalism institutions. Smith, who was 71, died Friday at his home in Naples, Florida. Services will be 10am Thursday at Old Saint Patrick’s Church, 700 West Adams Street.

  • News of Dillon Smith’s passing prompted this recollection from Jim Ruddle, the former Chicago news anchor who knew him since Smith was an intern at WGN nearly 50 years ago: “Dillon was something of an oddity in the business. He worked at his jobs, never seemed to go out of his way to annoy people — a rarity in television — but he was not one of us. He was rich as hell and didn't need the money. His father owned TV properties in Connecticut, and on his demise, Dillon came into a fortune. He used the edges of this treasure on attire. He always looked as though his tailor was waiting just outside the door for another crack at the style section of the paper. His bosses were openly envious of his natty appearance. Of course they couldn't understand how he did it, but they didn't understand a lot of things." (Tuesday morning followup: A correction from Dillon Smith's daughter, Lisa Smith Fulton: "Dillon Smith co-owned Gilmour Manufacturing with his father, Robert Smith, which they sold in 1984 after building a successful business with products carried at most hardware stores. The elder Mr. Smith passed in 1994. His father's estate passed to his father's wife and many philanthropic entities.")

  • David Greising, former Chicago Tribune business columnist, has been hired as Midwest bureau chief for Reuters. The veteran journalist, who also worked as a reporter for the Sun-Times and Business Week and as managing editor of the Chicago News Cooperative, most recently was a consultant to World Business Chicago. “Given the state of affairs in journalism, I wasn’t sure if I would ever make it back,” Greising, 53, told me. “I am thrilled with the move to Reuters — a digital news platform that delivers valued content to dedicated readers around the world. The Midwest bureau has done great work covering Chicago and the greater Midwest, and I look forward to working with my new colleagues to bring even more incisive, newsy coverage to our readers."

  • Carol Roth, the former investment banker who became host of the Noon Show on Tribune Broadcasting news/talk WGN-AM (720) last month, has been hired as an on-air contributor to CNBC. Roth, who’s also been a regular guest on Fox Business Network, will “weigh in with regular insights into the stories driving financial markets for CNBC’s audience,” according to mediaite.com.

  • Kathy Hart, who co-hosts the top-rated Eric & Kathy morning show with Eric Ferguson on Hubbard Radio hot adult-contemporary WTMX-FM (101.9), returned from vacation Monday with a surprise: She eloped in Montana. Hart and Billy Baruth (known to listeners as “Plow Tender”) were married February 17 in a small ceremony at a home in Georgetown Lake, Montana. The two grew up in northwest suburban Crystal Lake and have known each other since Baruth was her brother’s roommate 17 years ago. Hart, 48, has three children from a previous marriage.

  • Dan Ponce, reporter at Tribune Broadcasting WGN-Channel 9 and weekend co-host on Cumulus Media news/talk WLS-AM (890), has a movie in the works about his other life. DreamWorks just signed Michael Sucsy, who directed The Vow, to direct a film about Straight No Chaser, the a cappella group Ponce founded at Indiana University in 1996. Ten years later, the group achieved worldwide stardom when a video of their 12 Days of Christmas went viral on YouTube, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

  • A new classic rock station came to the suburbs Monday. WWYW-FM (103.9), the northwest suburban station operated by Mile High Trust, dropped its classic hits format and rebranded itself "103.9 The Fox." Mornings will be hosted by Ben Herman, formerly of KCCQ-FM in Des Moines, Iowa. He’ll be followed by program director Ryan Wild in middays, Jonathan Peletis in afternoons and the syndicated rocker Alice Cooper in evenings. “This modification will allow us to better serve our northwest suburban communities and provide increased opportunity for existing and future advertisers of both WWYW and our sister station WZSR,” general manager Jack Taddeo said in a statement.

  • Two Hubbard Radio properties — hot adult-contemporary WTMX-FM (101.9) and classic rock WDRV-FM (97.1) — are the only Chicago stations among 50 finalists nationwide for 2013 Crystal Radio Awards. Presented by the National Association of Broadcasters, the awards honor year-round commitment to communication service. Winners will be announced April 9 at the NAB convention in Las Vegas.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)