For nearly a generation, Bonnie DeShong has been an irrepressible voice of Chicago radio.
Between the mid-1980s to the early-2000s, DeShong offered commentary and opinion, along with great Soul music, to thousands of listeners during their morning commutes.
Her presence on the radio became as synonymous with Chicago mornings as a traffic jam on the Stevenson.
Currently, DeShong is the external affairs director for the DuSable Museum. She took he position in 2011 after leaving her position as co-host of Chicago Municipal Television’s show Chicago Works.
“There was a change of administration and they wanted to go in a different direction with the show and so I decided to leave,” said DeShong. “I announced my availability on Facebook and (DuSable Museum CEO) Carol Adams contacted me and I was hired. It could not have been a better fit for me.”
DeShong was born and raised in Champaign. She attended Eureka College and later Illinois State University where she received her degree in theater. She then taught theater at Urban Gateways and later Columbia College.
It was in 1985 when her career took an unexpected turn. DeShong slipped into the role of traffic reporter for WGCI, where she worked under Richard Pegue, at the time the program director.
“I was hesitant because I didn’t know anything about doing traffic,” she said.
DeShong worked at WGCI for eight years, first as a traffic announcer working with Tom Joyner and Bob Wall and later as co-host of Banks and Co. with Doug Banks.
“One of the things that was great about radio in those days was the sense that radio could have a positive impact on the community,” said DeShong. “When I was still on Banks and Co., Doug and I hosted a show where we used to wake kids up and send them off to school. It was a terrific segment, and emblematic of how we tried to use radio as both entertainment and a unifying tool.”
DeShong adds that radio has changed in the last 20 years.
“Now, radio is more business driven. The sense that radio can serve as a social conscious of the community is not really there the way it once was.”
In 1993, DeShong joined the V-103 Morning Show with John Monds.
Although her primary duties are now with the DuSable Museum, DeShong is still very much involved with the media, both on the radio and in print. She co-hosts The Traveling Eye radio program Fridays on WVON with Javonne Harley, writes film reviews for The Chicago Crusader and does a Jazz music program on WHPK on Saturdays.
“I’m staying pretty busy these days,” she said.
When asked to compare print writing with radio, DeShong says that radio can be more challenging because there is no opportunity to edit one’s thoughts before communicating with listeners.
“Radio is very much of the moment. It is a spontaneous medium where the immediacy of the situation can bring out elements of the hosts personality that they may not be able to express in print,” she said. “But writing is wonderful also. I love the way that a writer’s words can have a longevity that can allow readers to consider them, ponder them, reflect on them and help shape the way they view the world. Radio doesn’t always have that quality. If you’re listening to an engaging program, it may make you think, but it may not always stay with you the way print writing does.”