CHICAGO (August 11, 2023) – Today WBEZ Chicago named Gilbert Bailon as its executive editor. Bailon is an experienced newsroom leader – having spent several decades as a newspaper journalist before moving to public media and having led newsroom teams to create impactful, award-winning journalism across digital, audio and print.
Most recently, Bailon was the executive editor of KERA public radio in Dallas. Prior to KERA, he was hired as the editorial page editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2007, and then served as its editor-in-chief from 2012 to 2022.
During his tenure at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Bailon received the Benjamin C. Bradlee 2014 Editor of the Year Award from the National Press Foundation for the newspaper’s coverage of the Ferguson, Mo., police shooting and subsequent social unrest. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography and was a Pulitzer finalist for editorial writing for its coverage related to Ferguson.
In 2003, Bailon was named founding president and editor of Al Día, a Spanish-language daily in North Texas. In 2004, he became publisher and editor of Al Día. He started his career as a reporter at The Dallas Morning News in 1986 and was named executive editor in 1998, and he has also worked as a reporter at The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Los Angeles Daily News, The San Diego Union and The Kansas City Star.
As Bailon steps into his new role, he will report to Tracy Brown, Chicago Public Media’s chief content officer.
“I am thrilled to have Gilbert join the WBEZ newsroom as our executive editor,” said Brown. “He is an astute editor who has navigated through disruption in the industry with a focus on producing diverse coverage that serves and engages the community. I worked with Gilbert during my time in Dallas, and I’m excited to welcome him to Chicago to do transformational work together.”
Bailon has served in leadership roles for several professional organizations, including as past president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) and as the second Hispanic to be president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), the nation’s largest newspaper editors association. He served for a number of years on the boards of NAHJ and Unity Journalists of Color.
A native Arizonan, Bailon was selected as the outstanding journalism graduate at the University of Arizona in 1981 and earned his master’s degree in American History from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1992. Bailon was twice named “One of the Top 100 Most Influential Hispanics” by Hispanic Business magazine.
As WBEZ’s new newsroom leader, Bailon will lead the station’s growing news operation of editors, reporters and producers for both online and broadcast. He will oversee editorial decisions regarding enterprise journalism, investigations, daily news and special projects.
“The WBEZ newsroom has some of the nation’s best journalists known for creating award-winning coverage with depth and impact. Our vision is to continue that quality coverage and reach more people across media platforms,” said Bailon. “WBEZ will continue to elevate new voices and tell stories of the local people and institutions that make Chicago a world-class city.”
In addition to leading WBEZ’s news team, Bailon also will partner with the Chicago Sun-Times, which was acquired by Chicago Public Media in 2022 to create one of the largest nonprofit news organizations in the country. Together, WBEZ and the Sun-Times reach more than 2 million people a week in the Chicago area across broadcast, print and digital channels.
Just over a year ago, the Sun-Times appointed Jennifer Kho as its executive editor. Since then, the WBEZ and Sun-Times newsrooms have collaborated on several reporting projects, including an award-winning investigation about how extended magazines are turning handguns into machine guns; an investigation into the impact of the mass closing of 50 Chicago public schools a decade ago; and extensive coverage and voter guide for the Chicago municipal elections. Most recently, WBEZ and the Sun-Times launched the Democracy Solutions Project, an 18-month partnership with the University of Chicago’s Center for Effective Government to look at ways to strengthen American democracy in the lead up to the 2024 presidential election.
“WBEZ collaborations with the outstanding Sun-Times newsroom provide our combined audiences with expansive daily coverage across radio, digital and print platforms,” said Bailon. “Continuing to work with the Sun-Times and other innovative partnerships will extend the reach of news and information that is widely accessible.”
Bailon’s appointment comes after a national search led by Koya Partners, an executive search firm focused exclusively on mission-driven leadership.
“It’s inspiring and exciting to have such a strong and experienced newsroom leader join our team, who cares passionately about local journalism and its role in fostering a strong democracy, civic engagement and participation, and connected communities,” said Matt Moog, CEO of Chicago Public Media. “Gilbert’s appointment is an important milestone as we continue to strengthen and transform local journalism in Chicago and the region.”
About WBEZ Chicago
WBEZ is home to local and national news programming as well as a growing portfolio of popular podcasts. WBEZ serves the community with fact-based, objective news and information, and its award-winning journalists ask tough questions, dig deep for answers and expose truths that spark change and foster understanding. WBEZ is supported by nearly 86,000 members, hundreds of corporate sponsors and major donors. In 2022, WBEZ received more than 20 awards for its journalism, including two prestigious National Edward R. Murrow Awards.