Jenn White, one of the mainstays of WBEZ’s daytime lineup, is leaving Chicago’s public radio station after more than four years to take the reins of the popular NPR-syndicated show, 1A.
But the insightful and empathetic voice that White displays every weekday as host of WBEZ’s live, local talk show, “Reset with Jenn White,” won’t be going far even though she’ll be moving from Chicago to the nation’s capital this summer.
Chicago-area listeners will still be able to hear White in her new role twice each weekday on WBEZ. Starting in July, White will host 1A at 10 a.m. — one hour earlier than her usual time on “Reset” — and then again at 10 p.m.
“One of the things really exciting to me is to move some of the conversations we’ve been having on ‘Reset’ to a national audience,” White said.
Beyond her current duties, White established herself as a leading podcast talent, hosting several critically acclaimed WBEZ productions, including Making Oprah, Making Obama and 16 Shots about the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald.
“Jenn is a remarkable talent, who brings intelligence, grace and warmth to everything she does,” said Steve Edwards, WBEZ’s chief content officer and interim chief executive officer.
“While we will absolutely miss having her on our team, we’re thrilled to see one of our own host such an important national show, and we’re delighted that all of us in Chicago will still be able to hear her on WBEZ each weekday as the host of 1A,” Edwards said.
1A became part of WBEZ’s programming in May 2018, and White follows former 1A host Joshua Johnson, who was a catalyst in the show’s national success before joining MSNBC as an anchor last December.
“With Jenn leading the national conversation as host, I believe listeners across the country will become even more reliant on 1A and take the show to an even higher level of relevance,” said JJ Yore, general manager of WAMU, the NPR affiliate in Washington, D.C., that produces the show.
White’s last time behind the microphone at WBEZ will be June 12, and she will start as host of 1A in early July. Reset will continue to be led by executive producer Daniel Tucker. In a statement, WBEZ said it will launch a search for a new host of the midday show and name an interim host soon.
A Detroit native, White quickly grew to love Chicago, its people, its neighborhood restaurants and its ethos.
“I’ve met so many people who are deeply engaged in creating a city that includes everyone,” she said. “That has sunk into my work in a way that I think will always be there for me — this question of how do we create a city, a state, a nation that has a place for everyone, really recognizing being a neighbor is not just about the person who you live next door to.”
As a WBEZ journalist, White has interviewed some of the world’s most famous people.
Like former President Barack Obama.
“He is very deliberate in the way he presents his story, and not in a way that’s contrived. There is a thoughtfulness and care around what he says and how he says it,” she said. “At the same time, sitting across from him, you’re aware you’re sitting across from an individual who was the president of the United States, and you feel the weight of that.”
And Oprah Winfrey.
“When you meet someone like that, you expect them to come in with an entourage. She didn’t. You expect a certain amount of artifice. There wasn’t. She’s got this big, expansive personality, and she’s very expressive,” White said. “Oprah on TV is Oprah face-to-face.”
She also has interviewed the not-so-famous.
White remembers Lisa Daniels, the grieving mother of a slain 25-year-old Chicago man who showed surprising sensitivity to her son’s killer and created a restorative justice program to help heal crime victims’ families and those who perpetrate violence.
“She talked about her son with so much love and so much care, and she talked about her son’s killer with so much empathy,” White recalled. “Talking to her and seeing how she used that experience to try to build something that would help other families, it was incredibly powerful.”
In a matter of months, some of those same conversations will have a home on 1A.
“I didn’t come to this decision easily or lightly,” White said of her new role. “It was never my plan to create a show I couldn’t step away from. I think some of the healthiest shows exist when you build a strong enough framework that someone else can step in and take it to the next level, and I think we’ve done that with ‘Reset.’
White praised her show’s production team, including Tucker, and said it represents a “strong” foundation for her successor.
“We have such engaged listeners in the Chicago area,” she said. “I trust that whoever steps into the role after me, our listeners will be in good hands.”
Dave McKinney covers Illinois state government and politics for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter @davemckinney.