By Pamela Ferdinand
Taking the Lead
A medical reporter doesn’t let a cancer diagnosis stand in her way
By Pamela Ferdinand
Slender with fine features and straight polished hair, Bair is stylish at work on a weekday in November in shiny patent brown high heels and a brown fitted jacket with a brocade pattern. She is generous with her smile, warmly calling people “honey” and is clearly well-liked. She has more than 2,000 “friends” on her Facebook page and laughs when asked about fans who consider her “hot.”
“It’s hysterical to me. I’m an old mom,” Bair says. “It’s not like I don’t try to look good, but it always cracks me up because if people could see me on the weekends, it’s totally different. I’m not this glam TV lady.”
Growing up outside Philadelphia as one of two children, Bair had an early inkling that she was destined for journalism. At age 10, while shopping for groceries with her mother, Bair would report from the aisles, making up stories about how, for example, the police had just apprehended a robbery suspect, much to the relief of worried shoppers. As a teenager, she aired daily news announcements on her high school TV station’s morning program, “Wake Up O’Hara,” which was also broadcast on a local cable channel.
She went on to attend Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., earning a bachelor’s degree in radio, television and film in 1989 in just three years. In lieu of her senior year, the 21-year-old Bair lined up an internship with Joan Esposito, who was a well-known anchor at the ABC affiliate in Chicago. When Esposito moved to NBC’s WMAQ-TV, she hired Bair as a field producer to assist with interviews, log tapes and write scripts.
It didn’t take long for Bair to establish herself as an on-air talent. After stints as a producer, anchor and reporter at other stations, she joined WGN as a full-time general assignment reporter in September 1994. She anchored the weekend morning news for five years until she became pregnant with twins in 1998 and her doctor cautioned her to take it easy. The station assigned her short medical stories instead of news reporting during the week, and the pieces were a hit. Given her interest in science and health, she became the resident medical reporter and over the past 11 years has transformed “Medical Watch” into a ratings and revenue success.
“Just as she is quick on her feet in a physical sense, Dina is equally so as a reporter and writer,” says Czink. “She is whip smart. She simply does not miss a beat.”
Jennifer Lyons, WGN’s assistant news director and Bair’s close friend, agrees. They became friends in 1998 when they were assigned to cover the elevation of the Roman Catholic archbishop of Chicago to cardinal, and instantly clicked on the flight to Rome.
“We’re both tenacious, we’re both dedicated, we’re both a little bit on the perfectionist side,” Lyons says.