WGN’s Duarte putting her Spanish to good use on radio

Now that Lourdes Duarte is taking on a daily radio gig, the hardest thing for her may be to remember when she’s broadcasting in Spanish and when she’s broadcasting in English.

In addition to her main job as anchor of the 5pm weekday newscast on Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9, Duarte next week will begin delivering news briefs at 2:50pm weekdays on Spanish Broadcasting System’s WLEY-FM (107.9), the station known as La Ley. She’ll also chat with midday host Martin Omar Novela, who calls himself El Plebe.

“I think it will be fun and my mom will be happy to know that I’m putting my Spanish to good use,” Duarte told me Thursday. “I started out in news working with Spanish media, so it’s exciting to go back to it. I will just have to make sure my brain makes the switch from Spanish to English in time for the 5pm show every night. Otherwise I may start WGN News at 5 with: ‘Hola . . . yo soy Lourdes Duarte.’ ”

A Chicago native and graduate of DePaul University, Duarte, 36, got her start working as a free-lance reporter for Telemundo here and doing radio news, weather and traffic for Metro Networks in Miami. After TV news jobs in Peoria, Indianapolis and Detroit, she joined WGN in 2007 as a general assignment reporter. Since 2009, she’s been anchoring at 5pm with Mark Suppelsa and hosting WGN’s biweekly public-affairs show Adelante Chicago.

She said she welcomes adding radio to her routine. “Radio can be a lot of fun and challenging since it’s rarely scripted. I actually did something similar to what I will be doing with La Ley in Indianapolis when I worked for Tribune’s WXIN-TV. That was more of a cut-in with scripted stories. This format with El Plebe will be a bit more of a conversation.”

I asked Duarte to compare her TV co-anchor with her new radio host. “Let me think . . . El Plebe is much nicer,” she laughed. “Suppelsa treats me like the little sister he loves to make fun of, and El Plebe thinks I’m brilliant. I will try not to disappoint. Nah, both guys are great and a lot of fun.”

In truth, Duarte and Suppelsa have extraordinarily good chemistry, making their newscast easily the most engaging and watchable on the air at that hour. In many ways, it’s the perfect bridge between the controlled lunacy of WGN Morning News and the more staid, traditional format of WGN News at Nine.

Could there be a radio show of her own in Duarte’s future? 

“One step at a time grasshopper!” she said. “I would love to do something like that, but WGN keeps me real busy. Maybe down the road. Let’s see how the audience reacts to this first project. I certainly would not rule it out.”

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)