‘Chicago Tonight’ on-camera talent
Phil Ponce, the Alexandra and John Nichols Chief Correspondent and host of “Chicago Tonight,” began at WTTW in 1992 as a correspondent for the show and substitute for longtime host John Callaway. In 1997, Ponce joined the Washington, D.C.-based NewsHour with Jim Lehrer as an anchor. Two years later, Ponce returned to Chicago to host “Chicago Tonight.” Ponce grew up in neighboring East Chicago, Indiana. He began his career in broadcast journalism at WRTV in Indianapolis and spent 9 years as a reporter at WBBM-TV in Chicago. He has an undergraduate degree in English from Indiana University and a law degree from the University of Michigan. He and his artist wife, Ann, live in Chicago and have three grown children, a photographer daughter and two sons who also are Chicago broadcast journalists.
Carol Marin is a segment host who joined the “Chicago Tonight” team in January 2006. Marin hosts discussions on local issues and news, conducting timely interviews with Chicago newsmakers. She has worked as an anchor and network correspondent, has been awarded two George Foster Peabody awards, two National Emmy awards, and two Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University awards. She has worked for NBC-5, CBS-2, and CBS on 60 Minutes, 60 Minutes II, the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, and 48 Hours. In addition to her role on “Chicago Tonight,” she continues as an investigative reporter for NBC-5 and as a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times.
Eddie Arruza is a correspondent and segment host at “Chicago Tonight.” Arruza began his television career in Chicago working in a number of behind-the-scenes capacities at two Spanish-language stations. He became a general assignment reporter for Chicago’s former Univision affiliate, WCIU-TV, before making the jump to the English language market, working at WABC-TV in New York City and then WGN-TV in Chicago. In addition to reporting for the WGN News at Nine, Arruza was also a substitute anchor and host of a Latino-oriented public affairs program for which he won an Emmy Award.
Paris Schutz is a correspondent and segment host. In 2011 and 2012, he received the Peter Lisagor Award as Chicago’s “Best Television Reporter,” an honor presented by the nation’s largest chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Schutz began his career at WTTW as an intern after graduating Magna Cum Laude from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. He has covered local politics, sports and even hit the corned beef beat. In addition, Schutz is a pianist, singer and songwriter. Along with Chicago Symphony Orchestra trumpet player John Hagstrom, Schutz composed and performed the “Chicago Tonight” theme music. Schutz also created, co-wrote, co-produced and wrote the theme music for “IL-Informed,” a political satire special that aired on WTTW. He is a three-time Emmy nominee and an alumnus of St. Ignatius College Prep on the Near South Side.
Brandis Friedman is a correspondent and segment host. Friedman comes to WTTW from a two-year stint as a freelance anchor and reporter for WBBM Newsradio in Chicago. At WBBM Newsradio, she anchored radio broadcasts, produced, wrote and voiced daily news stories. Prior to that, she was a Special Projects Producer and Fill-In Reporter for WJLA-TV/ABC-7 in Washington, D.C.; served as Deputy Communications Director for the House Committee on Science and Technology; and worked as a Reporter for the NBC affiliates in Little Rock, AR and Wichita Falls, TX. Brandis grew up in Vicksburg, Mississippi, graduated from Dillard University in New Orleans, and received her Master’s degree from The Journalism School at Columbia University in New York. She also earned three regional Emmy Awards during her time in DC, and she currently resides in Chicago with her husband and son.
Amanda Vinicky is a correspondent and segment host who focuses primarily on Illinois government and politics—though her insatiable curiosity leads her to cover a little bit of everything. Vinicky joined “Chicago Tonight” in 2017, after spending a decade as the Statehouse Bureau Chief for NPR Illinois and the Illinois Public Radio network. She also co-hosted WSEC-TV’s “CapitolView,” and was a regular analyst on the “State Week” roundtable. Her work and analysis has been featured on shows including NPR’s “Morning Edition,” “All Things Considered” and “The Takeaway,” and she’s garnered top honors from the Illinois Associated Press and the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors. Vinicky received her master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois Springfield and has degrees in political science and journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She began her career in the Chicago suburbs (where she grew up) as a newspaper reporter. She loves mustard, hot sauce, podcasts, yoga and traveling (though she doesn’t do nearly enough of it). Vinicky’s always looking for stories to tell, foods to try, books to read and new places to discover, so get in touch: @AmandaVinicky | email@example.com | 773-509-5461.
Jay Shefsky is a senior producer and host of the series Jay’s Chicago. During his more than 25 years at WTTW, Shefsky has told a lot of stories about people and life in Chicago. His 10 documentaries were honored with numerous awards, including Emmys, Peter Lisagor awards, and a Cine Golden Eagle. His work has been broadcast nationally on PBS and on the ABC News Nightline program. In 2003, he brought his unique brand of storytelling to “Chicago Tonight,” where his beat has ranged from history to arts to science to human interest stories.
Geoffrey Baer answers viewers’ questions about Chicago architecture and history in his “Ask Geoffrey” segment. He is the host and writer of WTTW’s popular television “tours” including the river, lakefront, boulevards (by bike), the “L”, and Chicago’s suburbs. In more than 20 years at WTTW, he has been executive producer of Artbeat Chicago and the documentary series, Chicago Stories. His first national PBS primetime special, Ten Buildings that Changed America, debuts in early 2013. He has won multiple Emmys and other awards. He is a docent for the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and a board member of the Art Institute’s Architecture and Design Society and Lookingglass Theatre (emeritus).
Behind the scenes of ‘Chicago Tonight’
“Chicago Tonight” Executive Producer Mary Field is responsible for all news and public affairs production at the station, including “Chicago Tonight,” “Chicago Tonight: The Week in Review” and segments produced for PBS NewsHour.
In more than 35 years in the news business, Field has been a William Benton Fellow in broadcast journalism at the University of Chicago, an investigative/special projects producer for WGN-TV, an assistant news director for WIND Radio and a reporter for the legendary City News Bureau.
She has been honored with numerous journalism awards for investigative reporting, as well as a Peter Lisagor Award for public service and a National Silver Gavel Award for legal affairs reporting. She received a 2009 lifetime achievement award from the Chicago Headline Club, the Chicago chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Jay T. Smith
Jay T. Smith is the supervising producer for “Chicago Tonight.” In more than 20 years at Channel 11, Smith has served as the producer of “Chicago Tonight: The Week in Review” and “The Cheap Show,” and produced a number of “Chicago Stories” documentaries. He also was the producer of WTTW’s national (PBS) series “HandyMa’am with Beverly DeJulio.” Smith has received numerous awards for his work, including six Chicago/Midwest Emmys and two Peter Lisagor Awards from the Chicago chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Smith is a graduate of Indiana University in Bloomington.
Rebecca Palmore | @RebeccaPalmore
Rebecca Palmore is the digital editor for WTTW News, including “Chicago Tonight.” She first tried journalism in Urbana-Champaign, writing occasionally about local theater for alt-weekly rag The Octopus (may it rest in peace). In 2002, she moved to Chicago and began working for Metromix, the Chicago Tribune’s entertainment guide to the city, before focusing on the Chicagotribune.com website and, most recently, managing the Tribune’s 50 digital suburban sections. Before receiving her BA in Creative Writing and English Lit at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Rebecca spent several years working her way around the world, including a stint as a dish washer in Perth, Western Australia. She continues to wash dishes – only now, without pay.
Crystin Immel is the line producer for “Chicago Tonight.” A native of Wisconsin, she moved to Chicago in 2009 for college. She graduated from Loyola University Chicago in May 2013 with a BA in Journalism and Political Science. Crystin is also a former intern and McCarter Fellow for Chicago Tonight. Like any true Wisconsinite, Crystin is a die-hard fan of the greatest sports teams in the country -- as far as she’s concerned -- the Packers and the Brewers.
Marc Shaykin is the director of “Chicago Tonight.” An Emmy-nominated director, Marc has been working freelance DGA positions in Chicago for the last 15 years. In addition to working at WTTW, he has worked at ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and Harpo Studios. For the last six years, he’s been teaching at Kennedy King College and at Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy. During the summers, Marc also directs a live video feed of musical acts at The Ravinia Music Festival. A graduate of Northern Illinois University, Marc was raised in the far south suburbs, but now he and his wife live in the northern suburbs with their three children.
Marc Vitali is a producer for “Chicago Tonight,” with arts and culture as his main focus. A native of Philadelphia, he’s lived in Cook County for 27 years and is a 25-year veteran of WTTW. His stories and profiles have appeared on Wild Chicago, The Golden Apple Awards, and Artbeat Chicago. He’s won five Midwest Emmy Awards and shared a Peter Lisagor Award from the Chicago Headline Club. He is an Arts Journalism Fellow with the USC Annenberg School of Journalism in Los Angeles.
Since 1997, Alex Silets has been a producer on a number of WTTW programs, including “Chicago Tonight,” “Chicago Week in Review” and “Chicago Stories.” In 2012, she co-produced the documentary, “Remembering Chicago: The ‘70s & ‘80s.” In 2007, she co-produced a groundbreaking documentary on the history of Chicago’s LGBT community, “Out & Proud in Chicago,” hosted by Jane Lynch. Airing nationally, it won a Lisagor Award for Exemplary Journalism, among other honors. She also produced the documentary, “Schoolboy to Showgirl: The Alexandra Billings Story.” She co-produced the national PBS series, “Health Secrets: What Every Woman Should Know,” hosted by Paula Zahn. Silets went to Connecticut College and Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism.
Paul Caine is an associate producer for “Chicago Tonight.” He began his journalism career at The Chicago Reporter where he won several awards, including the National Association of Black Journalists Award for outstanding coverage of the black condition; the Peter Lisagor Award for public service journalism; the Ohio State Award for excellence in educational and public affairs broadcasting; and the Lincoln University of Missouri Unity Award for outstanding coverage of minority issues. He also worked as a senior correspondent and editor for Reuters in Hong Kong, and as a sports editor and writer for the Associated Press in London.
Nick Blumberg is an associate producer for “Chicago Tonight.” A Chicago native, he is a magna cum laude graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. He joined WTTW after nearly five years with KJZZ, the NPR member station in Phoenix, where he served as a reporter, producer, and fill-in host. During his time at KJZZ, he also filed stories for and appeared as a guest on NPR’s Weekend Edition and Here and Now, Marketplace, and the BBC World Service. Blumberg loves live music, nonfiction, cooking and (unfortunately) the Chicago Cubs.
Kristen Thometz | @KristenThometz
Kristen Thometz is a reporter for WTTW News, covering the health beat and other topics. A native of Chicago’s southwest suburbs, Kristen began her journalism career working for her hometown newspaper, The Orland Park Prairie, before becoming editor of The Lockport Legend. She received a BA in Journalism from Loyola University Chicago in 2011.
Erica Gunderson is an associate producer who produces Ask Geoffrey, as well as the Chicago Tonight Puzzle and other segments, having joined the team in 2012 with a background in copywriting, among other things. She is also the editor of Viewer Feedback. A lifelong Chicagoan, Erica is also an avid gardener, zealous cook, optimistic Cubs fan and adjective enthusiast.
Evan Garcia | @EvanRGarcia
Evan Garcia is an associate producer for “Chicago Tonight.” Originally from Allentown, Pennsylvania, he earned a bachelor’s degree in English and political science from The George Washington University as well as a master’s in video journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. While in graduate school, he produced a documentary in Uganda about the persecution of albinos called “Equal Under God,” which aired on WTTW in January 2016. He previously worked on the show as a Newton N. Minow Fellow and digital producer. In his free time, he enjoys playing guitar and tennis – but rarely at the same time.
Matt Masterson | @byMattMasterson
Matt Masterson is a reporter for WTTW News who occasionally appears on “Chicago Tonight,” covering education and criminal justice. A native of Buffalo, New York, he got his start in reporting as sports editor of The Daily Cardinal student newspaper while an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin where he earned his BA in Journalism along with multiple Wisconsin Newspaper Awards for his weekly column. Following graduation, Matt continued covering sports in Madison for the Wisconsin State Journal before becoming the city reporter of The Waukesha Freeman in suburban Milwaukee. He has a soft spot for sports teams that just can’t win the big game (Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Sabres) and suspects he’ll fit in just fine living down the block from Wrigley Field.
Alex Ruppenthal | @arupp
Alex Ruppenthal is a reporter for WTTW News who occasionally appears on “Chicago Tonight,” covering urban nature, environment and other topics. A sportswriter-turned-newshound, he ditched the sweaty locker rooms to chase down public records and dissect an array of bizarre events and characters, like a quarry blast that turned into an earthquake and a police officer who succumbed to road rage. Alex graduated from the University of Missouri in 2011 with degrees in Journalism and German, then spent a year living in Germany on a U.S. State Department fellowship. He’s also made stops at MLB.com, ESPNChicago.com, RedEye, Suburban Life and WickedLocal in Boston, where he was selected as a 2014 investigative reporting fellow by the New England First Amendment Coalition.
Ava Odom Martin
Ava Odom Martin is the assignment manager for “Chicago Tonight.” She joined our team in 2015. Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, she has been in television production for more than 30 years. A graduate of Southern Illinois University-Carbondale with a bachelor’s degree in Radio/Television, she began her career at startup station KSTS in San Jose, California. After returning to Chicago to produce the nationally syndicated program “Ebony/Jet Showcase” for six years, she went on to work for many broadcast and corporate video productions throughout the Chicago area. Ava has many awards in her career and considers herself a perfect fit as the “air-traffic controller” of our newsroom.
Nicole Cardos is an assistant producer for “Chicago Tonight.” Her first journalistic gig included writing and producing video stories for her college newspaper at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She went on to work for the school’s alumni news magazines, where she dug through archival material and wrote obituaries. She later produced segments for “Chicago Tonight” as a Newt N. Minow Fellow while working towards a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. She took a short hiatus from Chicago to be a show producer for ABC affiliate WQAD in the Quad Cities, but returned to join the “Chicago Tonight” team. Nicole is a fan of history, horror films and music that prominently features the banjo.