WLS News Director Jennifer Graves Retires

Jennifer Graves

Jennifer Graves, who served as vice president of news for Chicago’s ABC-owned station WLS, retired June 21 after an impressive 32-year career with the station, including nearly 23 years as news director.

Reflecting on her impact, John Idler, president and general manager of ABC7 Chicago, praised Graves: “Her leadership has profoundly influenced Chicago, informing and entertaining the community. The city has greatly benefited from her guidance.”

Graves is celebrated as the longest-serving female television news director in Chicago’s history.

She led Chicago’s top-rated news organization since October 2001 when she was promoted to Vice President of News at ABC 7 Eyewitness News. Under her guidance, ABC 7 consistently became Chicago’s preferred choice for news, boasting more top-rated newscasts than any other station in the market.

As Vice President of News, Graves directed the station’s 24/7 news coverage across all on-air and digital platforms. She oversaw a wide range of content, from breaking news and major event coverage to political debates, half-hour news specials, and day-to-day news planning.

Managing over 100 employees, her tenure saw ABC 7 Eyewitness News earn numerous accolades, including Associated Press awards, local Emmys, Peter Lisagor Awards, a National Emmy for investigative reporting, and several Illinois Broadcasters Association Awards.

Graves significantly contributed to the station’s technological advancements, including the installation of ABC 7’s state-of-the-art news set, the transition to an all-digital newsroom, High Definition news, and the development of the historic State Street Studio.

Before becoming Vice President of News, Graves served as Assistant News Director at ABC 7 from 1998 to 2001. She originally joined the station in 1992 as an executive news producer. Prior to her time at ABC 7, she worked at WAGA-TV News in Atlanta, Georgia, from 1988-1992, progressing from news producer to executive producer. She also worked as a producer and assignment editor at KSDK-TV in St. Louis, Missouri.

“She took over a number-one operation and managed to keep it there, which is no easy task given the high expectations,” said former ABC7 reporter Paul Meincke. “Maintaining that level of excellence for so many years is truly remarkable.”

Graves humbly attributed the station’s success to her team: “It’s not my success. It’s our success.”

Former station anchor Alan Krashesky emphasized her leadership qualities: “Jennifer always credited her team for the station’s achievements, but her exceptional leadership from the top has been crucial to our success.”

Graves is a member of the Radio Television Digital News Association and The Chicago Network, a women’s business leadership organization. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism degree and lived with her husband and twin daughters in the northern suburbs.

Offering advice to young journalists, Graves said, “Stay curious and practice your writing. At the core, people want to hear stories. No matter how news is delivered in the future, a connection through storytelling will always be essential. If you can master that, you’ll go far.”

Reel Chicago wishes Jennifer the best of luck.