25th anniversary for “Chicago Tonight”

In the TV world of head-spinning change, it’s rare when a show can sustain itself, night after night, for a quarter of a century, as WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” has done.

In celebration of the show’s 25th anniversary, WTTW is celebrating with a benefit gala at the Harris Theatre April 17, with host Tim Kazurinsky and a galaxy of local stars.

They include gospel legend Mavis Staples, Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, the top brass from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, The Second City performers and 7-year-old piano prodigy Emily Bear.

“Chicago Tonight” was the vision of two legendary journalists: original host John Callaway and political broadcaster Bruce DuMont, founder of the Museum of Broadcast Communications.

In 1984, during the city’s lengthy and contentious Council Wars, Ch. 11’s then-President Bill McCarter agreed to launch a nightly news analysis program. Mayor Harold Washington was the guest on the first show, April 24.

Callaway was the nightly host for 15 years. Phil Ponce took over in June, 1999, and is the show’s lead anchor.

Station president/CEO Dan Schmidt expanded the show to a full hour in November, 2002, allowing it to broaden its coverage of Chicago and the surrounding region.

“?Chicago Tonight’ remains timely, smart and the go-to local TV show for making sense of the day’s events,” said Schmidt. “Kudos to the staff and on-air talent over the years for all they’ve done to create something enduring and unique.”

To purchase tickets, call 773/509-5525 or visit