On this week’s episode of Chicago Stories, Mayor Emanuel turned the tables on Val Warner, co-host of the Chicago’s popular Windy City LIVE daytime talk show, to ask her about everything from parenting, faith, and family, to how she got her start, her place in Chicago’s daytime legacy, and the secret to a good interview.
Val knew she would be a journalist when she was a senior in high school, but “talk show host” wasn’t part of that plan.
“Pat Harvey — who used to be an anchor here in Chicago — came to visit my school and told us all about her job,” Val recalled. “She was an anchor and a reporter and she told stories, and by the time she left that day, I was convinced. I came home and told my mother I was going to be a reporter.”
Val — who grew up in South Central, Los Angeles — wasted no time getting started. Her senior year came at the time as the Rodney King riots, which led to her first “unofficial” report, thanks to her mother’s help.
“My whole neighborhood was on fire,” Val told Mayor Emanuel. “The verdict had come down. They pulled Reginald Denny out of his semi, three or four blocks from where I lived . . . so we go out there and I do my report on what’s happening in my city.”
For there, Val went to college and a career that took to Kansas, New Mexico, and Michigan before finally landing in Chicago 2005. But it wasn’t until she got a call to audition for Windy City LIVE that she ever considered being a talk show host.
Chicago itself has long been home to famous and infamous figures in daytime TV — from Oprah Winfrey, to Phil Donahue, to Jerry Springer. And while every host works to keep viewers engaged, the challenge for Val is doing that in the age of streaming and social media.
“You have to evolve with the times,” Val told Mayor Emanuel.
For Val and her team at Windy City LIVE, that’s meant embracing viewer engagement to create in interactive experience, inviting her viewers to weigh in and be a part of the conversation through instant feedback and live polling.
“Chicagoans want to know that they’re being heard,” Val said. “They want to know that what they’re saying, we’re getting. That it counts, that we’re reading it, and that we’re sharing it.”
Be sure to listen to the rest of the episode as Val and Mayor Emanuel talk about her favorite guests, toughest interviews, as well as the personal triumphs and challenges that come with parenting, faith, and family.
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