Last updated on April 21, 2022
Jon Hansen, 37, has been in “The Mincing Rascals” podcast rotation since April 2021. He’s the host of “Your Money Matters” on WGN-AM 720 Monday through Thursday, 6-7 p.m., and “Let’s Get Legal” on Saturday afternoons. He is also the host of “It’s All Good,” a Block Club Chicago podcast, the in-arena host for the Chicago Blackhawks and the coordinating producer and reporter for “On The Block,” a weekly TV newsmagazine that’s a joint venture between WCIU-Ch. 26 and Block Club Chicago. He and his husband, Enrique Martinez Reyes, live in the Roscoe Village neighborhood.
This autobiographical account was gleaned from a transcript of an interview with him:
I grew up in Downers Grove. My father was a firefighter and paramedic, and he became the fire chief in Lincolnwood in 1989 when I was about 5 years old. My mother was a public school art teacher in Westmont, and she quit to be a full time mom when my younger brother was born that same year.
Both of my brothers have gone on to become firefighters. Every Halloween, they would dress up as firefighters, and I would dress up as Harry Caray. The joke was that they wanted to rush into burning buildings and I wanted to rush to the scene with a camera and a microphone.
I went to Hillcrest Elementary School in Downers Grove, and my teachers immediately recognized me as someone who was outgoing and really wanted attention. In third grade, Mrs. Martinek made me the host when the class had game show day. So my dad, who was very handy, built me a “Wheel of Fortune” wheel.
When I was 8 or 9, my parents upgraded their camcorder and gave me their big old VHS camcorder. I used it to create a news channel at my elementary school that I called “Channel 7 Soybean News,” because I knew that soybeans were big in Illinois. I pretended to report from the playground, interviewing friends and stuff. My friends and I also used to put on plays in the basement.
My favorite shows when I was a kid were “The Price is Right,” “Wheel of Fortune” and “World News Tonight with Peter Jennings.” So very early on I had a love for entertainment and game shows , but also serious hard news
I guess you’d call me a quirky kid. I also remember staying up late at night under the covers listening to talk radio on WGN-AM and WMAQ-AM. I was obsessed with the Gulf War, and I was really into the 1992 presidential election between Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot, and I wasn’t even 10 years old yet.
In high school I was really into extracurriculars — speech team, marching band, drama. I had good stage presence and was cast as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof.” I can’t really sing all that well, but I was good enough to play an old Russian father of five.
I was so busy that I didn’t visit a single college. I decided to go to the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana because my best friend was going there and I just figured I’d go and study to become a history teacher. I mean, I liked performing, I liked media, but I thought it was time to get serious, be an adult and aim for an adult job. And I also figured there’s an aspect of performance in teaching.
So in April, 2004, after I’d read a passage aloud in an English class, a friend said, “Hey, you have a good voice, you should go tour WPGU,” which is U of I’s college radio station.
So I did, and while I was there they told me the guy who was supposed to do the sports report hadn’t shown up, so they asked me to do it. And of course I got hooked. Pretty quickly I became news director and started recruiting a team of new reporters to go out and cover stories. I started thinking, “Oh, I can do this. I want to do this.”
I graduated from the U of I in the winter of 2006 with a degree in broadcast journalism. At that time, the position of general manager of the radio station came open — that’s an adult who oversees the operation and keeps the train on the tracks. They offered me the job and I said “Sure! Get a salary to stay in my college town and run a radio station? Yes!”
I started up an alumni network, reaching out to Chicago on-air people like Gene Honda, Charlie Meyerson and Rick Kaempfer to have them come down and talk to students. These relationships became important to me later on.
I stayed at the station until July of 2010, when being nearly 26 and still in my college town even though all my friends were gone didn’t seem so great anymore.
I had a couple friends who were working for Roland Burris, who was in Washington serving out the end of Barack Obama’s term in the U.S. Senate after Obama had been elected president. They told me about some internship opportunities in the office, so I thought it would be a great way to learn about Washington and I signed on.
It turned out I was really bad at it. I know I wasn’t clinically depressed, but I was certainly not myself — out of my element and out of my comfort zone. So I didn’t put much effort into my work. It was unpaid and I was living off my savings and feeling pretty bad about myself.
So after seven months I packed up and came home to Downers Grove with no idea what was next.
And my mom was great about it. She just said, you can figure it out again, you’ll be fine.
So I started at the bottom. I took a job with what was then called Total Traffic Network doing shift work, making very close to minimum wage analyzing data and helping produce traffic reports for radio and TV stations.
I could live free with my parents and sometimes crash in my brother’s spare bedroom in the Andersonville neighborhood, so I could say yes to almost any shift. And I know how privileged I was to have those advantages.
My big break came Snowmageddon (January 31 – February 2, 2011), that blizzard that shut down Lake Shore Drive. No one else could get to the office so I was there for at least 16 hours straight feeding information to the stations. Charlie Meyerson, who was then the news director at WGN, helped me get some on-air traffic work at the station, with my first shift ever being the overnight traffic reporter.
I also did some fill-in traffic on WBBM-AM, but for them I used the name “Jonathan Charles” because I always knew my goal was to work at WGN and I wanted to keep the Jon Hansen name for WGN.
That evolved into more occasional shifts at different dayparts where I’d chat a little with the hosts. In 2013 I went to Judy Pielach, who was the news director at WGN at the time, and asked if I could try some news reporting as well.
It was around that time that I got familiar with Dnainfo.com, a hyperlocal online news outlet owned by Ricketts family, and saw that they were looking to expand into audio, so on a whim I applied for and was hired to do a full time doing interviews with reporters, podcasting and so on.
Clear Channel had offered me a middle management job, but once again my mother was my guiding light. She said, middle managers get fired all the time. Go after what you really want to do, what excites you. It was the right advice.
The dots connected up, then, when I started doing dnainfo reports for WGN radio, filling in their listeners on stories dna had covered.
I was starting to get a little confidence, so I went to the program director at WGN, then Stephanie Tichenor, and said I want to be a program host one day . She said, OK, she’d let me “sidecar” — be a co-host in the studio — with a regular host for a couple of days. That was Patti Vasquez (now at WCPT-AM 820), and it was gas.
So they decided in October of 2015 to let me fill in on a weekend overnight shift — Saturday into Sunday from 2 a.m to 5 a.m. I was freaked out by the idea because, like, what was I going to talk about for three hours in the middle of the night? I was so afraid to just have to talk by myself that I packed that show every minute with recorded guests.
But then I realized that I need to trust that I can just talk and I’d be OK. Which I did when I started getting more and more of these overnight shifts and got comfortable with the idea of not overfilling a show but letting it breathe. I am so thankful that I said yes all those overnight shifts and got to be comfortable with just a few notes on a sheet of paper to get me through.
I filled in at WGN for five years on just about every shift at the station.
At the same time I was doing dnainfo updates for the Fox 32 morning show. WCIU’s news director saw me and called to ask if I’d be interested in being the social media reporter for their morning show “You and Me.” I’d go on the show once a day and update the hosts on what’s trending on Facebook, Twitter and so on. It was really hard to leave behind dnainfo and all my great friends there, but I took the TV job while still doing fill-in work at WGN.
WCIU let me keep on trying new things. I got to be an on-air reporter, then I did weather for a while — won an Emmy!
I met my husband-to-be, Enrique Reyes Martinez, in the fall of 2017. He was a marketing consultant at the time, born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, got his MBA at Michigan. We were married in January, 2019 and now he’s working as a photographer who does product work, portraits and some editorial shoots.
Block Club hired me at the start of 2021 to do a podcast, so I was one of the people at the center of conversations last year when WCIU and Block Club started having conversations about doing a show together.
And last year when they came up with the idea to do Block Club Chicago on TV they asked me to help put it together. They call me the coordinating producer because I’m the person who is the intermediary between the two organizations, making sure there is a strong and simple connection between the two organizations.
At WGN I started in July, 2021, hosting “Let’s Get Legal” on Saturdays (the time moves around depending on sports programming). In February of this year I got a daily show “Your Money Matters” for an hour Mondays through Thursdays at 6 p.m.
I break down financial news of the day, but in a way that ordinary people who aren’t all that familiar with financial and economic jargon can understand. I’m not afraid to ask dumb questions about, say, what does a change in the 10-year treasury yield really mean to me..
I’m very comfortable speaking very plainly because that’s how I am.
My other side gig is as in-arena host for the Blackhawks, running games and promotions and so on for the big screen on the scoreboard.
That came about because I’d kept in touch with Gene Honda from my days interacting with notable University of Illinois alums. He’s the public address announcer for the White Sox and the Blackhawks, and he told me they were looking for a backup for when he had a scheduling conflict. So in the summer of 2011 I auditioned at the United Center and they hired me on the spot.
So for five years I did a handful of games every year — nothing special just, you know, “Blackhawks goal by …”
In 2017 they hired Jackie Kostek to be the in-game host to interact with fans on the video scoreboard. She then left town for a while — she’s back at CBS-2 as a reporter and anchor — and the Blackhawks used a group of rotating hosts. They let me try at the end of March, 2019, and that summer they offered me the gig. Of course I said yes because I say yes to everything.
Then of course there’s been “The Mincing Rascals” podcast starting last spring. Being on a show with John Williams is a real highlight for me. I grew up listening to John and I think a lot of my on-air style has been influenced by how effortlessly he handles a show and conducts a conversation. There’s a humility to him and an appreciation for the gray areas of life. He can make listeners cry and then, two seconds later, make them laugh.