Breaking news from the Chicago Tribune‘s Web site:

Legendary Chicago journalist John Callaway died Tuesday evening in Racine, Wis., his wife confirmed.

Callaway, the  longtime host of WTTW-Channel 11’s news program “Chicago Tonight,” died of a heart attack about 6:30 p.m. after growing faint in a Racine store, said his wife, Sandra Callaway.

He was 72 years old.

I got to see Callaway operate up close once, when he moderated a televised debate at my alma mater, Elmhurst College. The debate was between the final four candidates to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Paul Simon: Democrats Dick Durbin (who ended up winning his first term as a U.S. senator) and Pat Quinn (who replaced Rod Blagojevich as Illinois governor earlier this year) and Republicans Al Salvi (a wealthy right-winger) and then-Lt. Gov. Bob Kustra. Callaway’s successor as host of “Chicago Tonight,” Phil Ponce, was working the aisles that night, bringing a microphone to audience members with questions for the candidates.

For those of you unfamiliar with “Chicago Tonight,” the news program is sort of like the Windy City’s local version of “Meet the Press.” Callaway certainly was Chicago’s version of Tim Russert. He was consistently fair in his analysis, reporting and the way he questioned guests. He will be missed.

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