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WTTW News Debuts a New Experience for Viewers

Paris Schutz and Brandis Friedman
Paris Schutz and Brandis Friedman on a new 'Chicago Tonight' set
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UPDATE: Beginning May 1, 2023, Chicago Tonight airs at 5:30 pm, Monday through Thursday, with an encore presentation at 10:00 pm. Chicago Tonight: Latino Voices airs Fridays at 5:30 pm with an encore on Saturdays at 6:00 pm, Week in Review airs Fridays at 7:00 pm, and Chicago Tonight: Black Voices airs Fridays at 10:00 pm with an encore Saturdays at 6:30 pm.

On any given day, the WTTW newsroom is buzzing with activity, with journalists chasing down leads and going behind the headlines on the stories of the day. Recently, they have been investigating new developments in the dangerous lead levels in the water flowing into Chicago’s neighborhoods, a new lawsuit filed by victims of a mass shooting and a grieving mother’s quest to end gun violence, the plight of migrants being bused into the city from Texas, and other important stories from around the city and Midwest. This dogged reporting and pursuit of the truth shows up every day on the WTTW News website, in WTTW’s community engagement efforts, and on the Emmy award-winning, flagship nightly news program Chicago Tonight – which is about to look very different. 

On Monday, October 3, viewers will see and hear exciting changes to the set, graphics, music, and surrounding technology – along with expanded digital coverage, vivid enterprise storytelling, and essential community-driven reporting – across the family of WTTW News programs including Chicago Tonight (Mondays-Thursdays 7:00 pm), Week in Review (Fridays at 7:00 pm), Latino Voices (Saturdays at 6:00 pm), and Black Voices (Saturdays at 6:30 pm). 

Award-winning production designers Eric Siegel and George Allison, who designed the PBS NewsHour set and studios for Al Jazeera, C-SPAN, ABC Nightline, Firing Line, and others, worked with the team at WTTW to create the new Chicago Tonight studio environment. “We always start our design process on the basis that, plain and simple, the goal of any scenic space is to enhance storytelling,” said Siegel. In the case of Chicago Tonight, he says, “The tone of the program is friendly, no-nonsense, and straightforward – with a clean writing style that eschews the hyperbolic and overheated kind of presentation that is all too common in many news and public affairs programs. It was abundantly clear to us that the new studio had to reflect these values and facilitate that approach.”

“Plain and simple, the goal of any scenic space is to enhance storytelling.”
– Eric Siegel, production designer

One important goal of the project was for all of the elements to have a Chicago sensibility. Siegel says, “Chicago is a dizzying mosaic of many different cultures and communities that each hold proudly to their own stories and history. No single style could capture them all, but we feel our new design reflects the colors and textures of the vast variety of Chicago neighborhoods.”

Brandis Friedman and Paris Schutz on the new set

Chicago musician and composer Aesha 'Eesh' Dominguez created the new theme music for Chicago Tonight, Latino Voices, and Black Voices. She collaborated with producers to create music that reflects the unique tone and culture of each program. 

Chicago Tonight’s new season will kick off with the premiere of a four-part special series, “Permanent Punishment,” exploring the restrictive laws, rules, and policies that continue to penalize people long after they have served their sentence in prison. Hosted by Brandis Friedman, this new reporting will expose the harsh realities facing the nearly 3.3 million formerly incarcerated people in Illinois.

In a time when local news reporting is more essential than ever, Chicago Tonight serves as a cornerstone of the extraordinary lineup of trusted and essential news and public affairs programming on WTTW that includes PBS NewsHour, Washington Week, Frontline, BBC World News America, Firing Line, and Amanpour & Company