One of our favorite radio feature back in the late 1980s and early 90s was “Illinois Notebook.” It offered a behind-the-scenes look at goings on at the state capital and often featured audio that was provocative or funny, but not always critical to telling a hard news story of legislative defeat or victories. Becky Enrietto was behind the first incarnation of the award-winning feature that ran on the Illinois Radio Network and later on the Illinois News Network.
We were saddened to learn Becky died March 15 at the age of 59 in Springfield. Becky left radio in 1994 to work in Governor Jim Edgar’s press office in Chicago. She later became a spokesperson for the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs.
“Becky and I started working for WTAX Radio in Springfield at the same time in the early 80s. Pat Gordon was news director, and LP Phillips and Tim Schweizer rounded out the team,” said longtime INBA member and past president Molly Hall.
Hall said, “Becky was anchoring weekend newscasts and before long, was working at the station’s statehouse bureau. She had a passion for government news reporting,” according to Hall.
“People who worked alongside her in the pressroom will remember her competitive spirit and determination to ‘get the story.’ A lot of Public Affairs Reporting interns benefitted from her mentoring.”
Ben Kiningham who worked with Becky for 10 years said of his colleague, “Becky was a joy to work with; the first female president of the Illinois Legislative Correspondents Association, the 9th President.”
He points out that when Tribune Company was looking to expand its Springfield coverage, Lyle Dean of WGN approached Ben and said, ‘Do we buy you or do we buy the network (referring to Capital Information Bureau (CIB), the statewide radio news network where Ben was employed)?’ Kiningham suggested buying both and he recruited Becky Enrietto to join him at what became the Illinois Radio Network (IRN).
The two of them remained as correspondents in Springfield. He recruited Becky before she had finished graduating from the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois in Springfield. Her skills impressed Kiningham who admitted he probably upset the program’s director at the time, Bill Miller, but as he put it, “We needed a statehouse reporter and she was GOOD!”
One of their first big assignments was covering Paul Simon of Illinois when he announced a run for President. Becky did a personal profile from his hometown of Makanda and reaction reports the next day.
While at the statehouse for IRN, Becky mostly covered the House while Kiningham covered the Senate for 60 radio stations across Illinois including KMOX in STL, WMAQ and WGN in Chicago. “Becky was a hard worker – always met the deadlines, “ said Kiningham who is proud of the reporting they did, including features that aired on WGN which at the time had a listenership of more than two million daily according to Arbitron ratings.
Ray Long who worked alongside Enrietto in Springfield told the State Journal Register, “She worked hard and long hours to get the truth and tell it.” Long, a Chicago Tribune reporter said, “She covered the beat hard and filed fast.”
Becky Enrietto was also a wonderful musician and graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, IL with a bachelor's in music education. She earned a master degree in public administration from UIS in 2008.