Melody Spann Cooper is IBA’s 2023 “Broadcaster of the Year”

Melody Spann Cooper is Chair & CEO of Midway Broadcasting Corporation, Chicago’s only Black and female-owned broadcasting company. Its flagship station WVON is celebrating its 60th Anniversary this year. The company’s assets also include a Spanish language station, WRLL and an OTT Digital Streaming Network, VONtv.

As a life-long Chicagoan, Spann Cooper serves on numerous professional and civic boards including as Co-Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Council for the Obama Presidential Center, and as Commissioner of the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. She also serves as a trustee at the Museum of Science & Industry and at her alma mater, Loyola University. In 2019, Spann Cooper added “author” to her list of accomplishments with the release of her first book, The Girlfriend’s Guide to Closing the Deal. It is a semi-biographical book for women in business on how to tap into your innate power and purpose to get the deal done.

Frank Whittaker Named IBA’s 2023 “Chicago Broadcast Pioneer”

Frank Whittaker retired at the end of 2022 as Station Manager and Vice President of News for NBC 5 Chicago after working more than 46 years in three Chicago TV newsrooms. For the last 25 years he led the NBC Chicago newsroom, becoming the longest serving news director in Chicago television history.

Whittaker grew up in Wheaton, Illinois and attended Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Evanston. While a Medill student, Whittaker worked part-time on weekends at WBBM-TV (CBS) answering viewer calls and working the overnight assignment desk. His CBS bosses hired him full time following graduation. During his 16 years at WBBM, Whittaker worked as an assignment editor, news writer, associate producer, special projects producer and newscast producer, eventually producing the station’s top newscast at 10 p.m.

WLS-TV (ABC) hired Whittaker in 1993 to become executive producer of the station’s 10 p.m. newscast, and later assistant news director.

Whittaker joined NBC 5 in June, 1998 as News Director. He was promoted to Vice President of News in 1999, and added the title of Station Manager in 2008. He was responsible for leading the NBC 5 news department on broadcast and digital platforms, as well as other station projects. Under his leadership, NBC 5 expanded its investigative unit to become the largest in Chicago. The station also added hours of local news in the mornings, afternoons and weekends.

Whittaker won a Peabody Award in 2016 for his work on the Laquan McDonald investigation, which resulted in the resignation of the police superintendent and a Department of Justice investigation into the Chicago Police Department. He is the winner of five Chicago Emmy awards for his work on spot news coverage, media interactivity, and for producing half-hour specials on Mayor Harold Washington and Earth Day.

Max Armstrong Named IBA’s 2023 “W. Russell Withers Jr. Downstate Broadcast Pioneer”

Max recently retired as Broadcast Director of Farm Progress Companies, where for 14 years his programs were heard on dozens of radio stations across the country. Two decades of weekly syndicated farm television duties involved hosting “This Week In AgriBusiness” and “U.S. Farm Report.” Working with his long-time colleague Orion Samuelson, Max originated programs from every state in America and from more than 30 different nations, including countries as diverse as Chile, Vietnam, Cuba, Germany, Egypt and Algeria.

Max has received numerous awards including an “Oscar In Agriculture” for both radio and television work. He was recognized as the National Association of Farm Broadcasting “Farm Broadcaster of the Year” and was inducted into the N.A.F.B. Hall of Fame.  Max is also a past president of that group.

Armstrong is the only person to be recognized as an Honorary Master Farmer by both Prairie Farmer Magazine and Indiana Prairie Farmer. He has also been honored by the Purdue University Old Masters Program, the Purdue Agriculture Alumni Association, the National Agri-Marketing Association, the Chicago Farmers Club, the National Corn Growers Association and the American Soybean Association, to name a few.