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July 25, 2013 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-07-25

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Signing Off

Longtime TV reporter Cheryl Chodun
prepares for final broadcast on Channel 7.

Robin Schwartz

JN Contributing Writer

S fitting at the kitchen table in her
tidy Huntington Woods home,
Cheryl Chodun reflects on more
than three decades of impassioned, dedi-
cated, tireless work as a journalist in one
of the most dangerous cities in America
with a smile and a few tears.
There was the day she shouted back and
forth with Detroit's fiery former mayor, the
late Coleman Young; the time she bonded
with the grieving families of two Westland
teenagers found murdered in Detroit; and
the chaotic moment when she was part
of the media frenzy during the arrest of
Timothy McVeigh after the bombing of
the federal building in Oklahoma City.
Chodun flew on a campaign press plane
with future President Bill Clinton; she
was there when South African President
Nelson Mandela visited Detroit.
You name it; she's covered it. First as
a freelance newspaper writer, then as a
news writer at WXYZ-TV (Channel 7),
then as a radio reporter for WCXI and
WWJ, and finally as an on-air reporter
at WXYZ, a job she's held for the last 25
years. But on Friday, July 26, Chodun will
sign off for the last time. She's retiring
and leaving the job she loves because she
says it's time for a new phase in her life.
"There is no question I will miss this:'
she wrote in an open letter to viewers
posted on Channel 7's website. "Looking
out at all of our viewers every night and
often in the afternoon, telling them what's
going on ... covering breaking news and
getting answers; I can't imagine not doing
that. I will miss walking into the news-
room and seeing everyone. This is like a
second home to me. But, all good things,
as we all know, must come to an end:'
It's early afternoon on a weekday, a
few hours before Chodun is scheduled
to arrive at the television station in
Southfield for the 3-11 p.m. night shift
she's worked Monday through Friday for
the last decade. Her hair and makeup
are already done. She's petite and full of
energy; warm, open and sincere, just the
way she appears on the news — traits that
have no doubt contributed to her success
and staying power.
"Cheryl is the quintessential broadcast
journalist," says WXYZ-TV news direc-
tor Tim Dye. "She comes to work each

12 July 25 • 2013

day ready to chase the biggest stories.
She always responds to breaking news.
She always has a source that's better than
every other reporter. She always brings
a sense of historical perspective to her
story. She always looks out for the people
of Southeast Michigan, and she always
lends a hand to a new reporter or an old
Chodun is one of the last remaining
veteran TV news reporters in Detroit.
She has a reputation for being tenacious,
fast and first, but also compassionate.
She earned her stripes chasing the facts,
reporting on court cases, police investiga-
tions and unsolved crimes, and sharing
people's personal stories, all while stand-
ing in the heat and humidity, the sun, the
rain, or the ice and snow.
Much of her time is spent riding
around in a news van, going from city-to-
city and door-to-door, wherever the story
of the night may lead. She travels with a
videographer who does the camera work
and editing, but Chodun has also done
it herself. She's proud to point out she's
changed with the times and technology.
"I'm on Facebook and Twitter:' she
says. "When I started, we had typewriters
and I had to race to a payphone to call in
my report. Now, people can watch us on
their phones?'
She adds her job is challenging and not
"glamorous," like some people may think.
She describes it as "nonstop, intense and
deadline-stressful," but says it's never got-
ten old.
"I could keep doing this because I love
it that much;' she says. "I'm as passionate
today as I was at the beginning."

Lucky Break
Chodun did not set out to become a
reporter. At age 19, she married her
husband, Stan. After graduating from
Wayne State University, she briefly taught
grades 5-6 in Royal Oak. Then the couple
had two children, Scott and Pam, now
in their 40s. One day, Chodun recalls
writing a press release for the children's
nursery school and dropping it off at a
local newspaper (with pigtails in her hair
and a child on each hip). She told the edi-
tor she'd like to come back without the
pigtails or the children to interview for a
freelance writing position.
She got the job in 1978, and as luck
(or fate) would have it, she was given an

assignment to write about TV
anchorwomen. Former WXYZ-
TV anchor Diana Lewis was so
impressed with Chodun's writing
skills, she urged her to apply for
a writing job in the newsroom.
Without any previous TV news
experience, Chodun got that job,
too. She later left the newsroom
to hone her on-air skills in radio,
but in 1988, Channel 7 invited
her back to work in front of the
camera. She's been there ever
"I want to thank everyone who has
watched all these years," she says. "I so
thank those who have allowed me into
their homes literally during the most dif-
ficult times in their lives. I feel so fortu-
nate, really, to have been able to do this,
to meet so many interesting people, to
tell everyday stories and incredible, even
unbelievable stories?'
In her letter, Choden also thanks her
co-workers and even her competitors,
who she says kept her on her toes. During
her career, she received two local Emmy
awards, including one for individual
excellence in reporting. The National
Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
Michigan chapter also honored Chodun
with a Silver Circle award for 25 years of
outstanding work.
She has a box full of other awards
(from the Associated Press and other
organizations) and mementoes; various
head shots over the years with different
hairstyles, thank-you letters from people
whose stories she's told, even a copy of
Coleman Young's autobiography with the
inscription: "To Cheryl Chodun who is
too nice to be in the media:' She's filling
a new box now with cards, letters, emails
and messages from fans sad to see her
Off camera, Chodun says it can be hard
to unwind after working the night shift;
she believes learning to relax will be one
of her biggest challenges in retirement.
Late at night, she's often wide awake
and online, checking Facebook, sending
emails or playing Words With Friends.
She also enjoys reading fictional crime
novels (even though she covers the real
thing). In the car, you might catch her
singing along to rock or country music
CDs. But her biggest escape is camping.
"We have a pretty cool trailer that we

WXYZ-TV reporter Cheryl Chodun
will retire on July 26.

keep in a beautiful camprgound on the
west side of the state," she says. "We go
there and our children and three grand-
children (ages 5, 12 and 15) join us:'
Chodun works out with a trainer at
least once a week and walks to stay in
shape. She's walked the 60-mile breast
cancer three-day four times and raised at
least $20,000 for breast cancer research.
Over the years, she's emceed countless
events for various organizations. She
plans to continue doing that and public
speaking in the years to come.
So what's next for this on-the-go news-
woman? Chodun has plenty on her "to-
do" list. It includes teaching journalism
classes to up-and-coming reporters and
writers, volunteering (she and her hus-
band deliver food for Yad Ezra and are
members of Temple Beth El in Bloomfield
Hills) and spending more time with their
children and grandchildren. She also
wants to share her wisdom with young
people "so they don't end up in the news."
"I've seen so many stories where teens
make bad choices that land them in jail
or prison just because they 'went along,"
she says.
Chodun also expects her phone to keep
ringing with tips from trusted sources
and questions from co-workers who could
use some extra help with their stories.
Like any skilled storyteller, she appreci-
ates the value of a good ending.
Chodun admits her departure from
WXYZ has been difficult and emotional
at times, but believes it's a fitting finale to
a whirlwind career.
"It's going to be different:' she says. "I
like the adrenaline rush of getting out
there. But this is a good ending. It's my
decision — and I'm going out still pretty
much at the top of my game."

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