By Dylan Deprey
Eric Von’s voice could be heard every weekday from 7-9am on WNOV-AM. His signature signoff, “Be good, be careful and bye bye,” encapsulated a louder voice that stretched past the Black community.
What began as a DJ gig at the local radio station later became a search for the truth as a news reporter and anchor. His radio broadcast career spanned over two and a half decades. He blessed Milwaukee over the airwaves and on television as panelist for Wisconsin Public Television’s, “Interchange,” He was also a co-host for “Black Nouveau,” and a special assignment reporter and a co-host of “It’s Your Vote,” a weekly political affair show on WISN Channel 12.
Von was one of the most requested opinion leaders for political and socio-economic issues in Milwaukee. He spent his last years working with WUWM 89.7 FM, 371 Productions and AIR’s Finding America on the the 2-year, 100-part weekly radio Precious Lives project. The series shared stories of gun violence and young people in the Milwaukee.
Von’s life ended unexpectedly on Sept. 8, 2016. Though his death has left a void in the community and over the air, his legacy will live on through the Eric Von Broadcast Fellowship.
“We had the pleasure of working with him at WUWM and when he passed away we were trying to figure out an appropriate way of honoring him and his work,” said David Edwards, WUWM General Manager. “Then the idea came up for a fellowship for a young person interested in becoming a broadcast journalist, just as Eric was.”
Edwards said with help from Faithe Colas, Von’s wife, and the community were able to raise enough money for the first year. The fellow would spend a year working in the WUWM newsroom to gain some hands-on experience in a professional work environment along with having a college degree.
The lack of access to paid training opportunities like fellowships are a significant hurdle in equal media representation. Journalists of color account for only 13 percent of all radio journalists a stark contrast to the 21 percent students of color who are graduating from relevant programs, according to a July 2015 article in The Atlantic.
“This is an incredible project to honor my late husband’s life, impact and commitment to making our community better,” said Faithe Colas. “He was a professional journalist and a dynamic commentator and I’m grateful to have the support of WUWM to keep his vision alive.”
Local community leaders will host a community fundraiser to support the Eric Von Broadcast Fellowship, created by WUWM 89.7 FM, on Wednesday, June 21 from 5:00pm to 7:00pm at the Milwaukee City Hall Rotunda, 200 E. Wells St.
Hosts include: Faithe Colas, VonCommunications, Tammy Belton-Davis, Athena Communications, Dr. Howard Fuller, Marquette University, Cecelia Gore, Brewers Community Foundation, George and Michelle Hinton, Florence Hinton – Jewel Fund, George and Gina Koonce, Koonce Tie Collection, Sandra Robinson, WNOV 860 AM/106.5 FM, ReDonna Rodgers, Center for Entrepreneurship, Julia Taylor, Greater Milwaukee Committee and Wallace White, W2Excel.
The program will include discussion on how the fellowship will play a role in carrying on Eric’s legacy, as well as raise funds to cover the cost of the fellowship. To date, over $50,000 has been raised to support this fellowship with the goal of raising $210,000.
While community leader’s raise money to preserve Von’s legacy, WUWM is also on the prowl for the first fellow.
“We’re currently recruiting for an individual who will be the Eric Von Fellow for a year one,” Edwards said. “Who knows we might be in the position to hire them or another broadcast entity will.”