Hugo Balta, news director at public television station WTTW-Channel 11, EP of the weeknight newscast “Chicago Tonight” and host of the weekly “Chicago Tonight: Latino Voices” is no longer employed by the company after just one year on the job.
Balta, who joined WTTW in February 2020, was placed on administrative leave last week.
Sources told Chicago columnist Robert Feder that Balta “was under review for tweeting what were described as overtly political opinions and posting some odd Instagram videos of himself.”
That leave is now permanent, Balta tells Media Moves.
“My personal character and professional integrity is under attack,” he said via email Tuesday night. He says he decided to leave the company.
According to Feder, three “Chicago Tonight” news anchors — Phil Ponce, Brandis Friedman and Paris Schutz — raised concerns about Balta’s Instagram posts in a letter to Sandra Cordova Micek, president and CEO of WTTW.
Feder reports other employees also complained about Balta expressing political views and support for liberal candidates and causes on Twitter and Facebook posts, which were subsequently taken down.
Balta sent Media Moves the following statement, published in its entirety, regarding his departure.
“Throughout my career, I have vocalized my commitment to a mission of transparency over the antiquated practices of objectivity. I give everything in my power to combat inadequacy in representation and systemic racism which often cripple newsrooms.
After a year of high-impact news coverage and a clear focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, the intolerance I’ve encountered over the last seven days saddens me and has inevitably led to my separation from WTTW.
I can only hope that at such a critical time due to COVID-19, racial reckoning following the death of George Floyd, and divisive presidential election – I have been able to lead the news team in shedding light on the inequities plaguing Chicago’s diverse communities and bring much-needed fair and accurate coverage by a local newsroom.
I am extremely proud of the progress of the WTTW News Team, and together, we have made a greater effort to engage and listen to community members and leaders. We owe a great deal of thanks to the public who help shape our coverage in a more meaningful way than we could ever do on our own.
I will issue a full statement addressing the entirety of the situation. Still, I want to express my gratitude to the colleagues at WTTW News who exhibited their commitment to excellence in journalism. Above all, I am forever grateful to my family for the investments they have made since the beginning of this journey, including moving across the country, and for their unconditional support at this moment to speak our truth, in lieu of the severance offered for my silence.”