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Scott Craig, award-winning documentary producer who spent many years at CBS 2, dies at 89

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CHICAGO (CBS) -- Scott Craig, a documentary filmmaker and producer who spent several years at CBS 2, has died.

Craig, most recently of Leland, Michigan, died Thursday, April 18, CBS 2 has learned. He was 89.

Craig grew up in Wooster, Ohio, and attended The College of Wooster – where he majored in theatre, a 2020 Glen Arbor Sun profile by Norm Wheeler noted. His first broadcast job was as radio disc jockey in 1957.

He attended the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for his master's and Ph.D., and took a job at local CBS affiliate WCIA-TV in 1959, published reports note. He appeared on a children's show featuring skits with puppets, and also filled in as a weatherman, the profile said.

Craig was soon asked to head up a documentary unit at WCIA-TV, and after finishing his education at the U of I in 1963, he came to Chicago and became a producer at WBBM-TV, CBS 2, according to published reports. He later switched to NBC 5, where he remained for 10 years, but returned to CBS 2 as an executive producer in 1975, a 1988 Chicago Tribune profile recalled.

He also founded his own production company in Chicago that year.

At CBS 2, Craig produced some of the station's most memorable and celebrated documentaries and special reports – fronted by Bill Kurtis, Walter Jacobson, and other members of CBS 2's front-line talent.

Scott Craig, 1978. CBS 2

Among numerous others, they included "Ed Kelly and the Fighting 47th," a 1979 investigative documentary hosted by Jacobson and focusing on the political climate in the North Side's 47th Ward with Ed Kelly as Democratic Committeeman—and also as general superintendent of the Chicago Park District.

The 1981 CBS 2 investigative documentary, "Watching the Watchdog," hosted by Kurtis, took to task a report by Geraldo Rivera on ABC's "20/20" that claimed some Chicago real estate speculators were burning down buildings for insurance payouts—and also criticized the investigative techniques used in the "20/20" story, such as "ambush" interviews."

Also in 1981, Craig worked with photographer Steve Lasker for CBS 2 on "The Trial of Shoeless Joe Jackson," a dramatic reenactment that brought viewers to the courtroom after the 1919 scandal in which members of the White Sox conspired to throw the World Series.

The 1983 Peabody Award-winning "Studebaker: Less Than They Promised"—narrated by Jacobson—documented the history of Studebaker's decline as an automaker, the effect of its going out of the auto business in 1963 on its home city of South Bend, Indiana, and who was to blame.

Craig himself narrated "Studs," a 1989 CBS 2 biographical special on literary and broadcasting icon Studs Terkel—joining Terkel on visits to the old CBS Chicago studios on McClurg Court for an interview, Bughouse Square where Terkel recounts literal soapbox speeches, and Terkel's studio that doubled as a massive library at WFMT radio. Craig is only heard providing sparing narration in the special, which keeps its attention tightly on Terkel and friends such as columnist Mike Royko.

These, of course, are only a few of the numerous documentaries and special reports Craig produced. He also produced more than 20 titles for PBS, and two series for the Home and Garden Network.

Altogether, Craig won more than 100 awards – including a National Emmy and 32 Chicago Emmys. This amounts to more Emmys than any other individual in Chicago television history.

He was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Silver Circle in 1997.

Scott Craig Leelanau Summinars

Craig later moved to Leland, Michigan, north of Traverse City, where he hosted a radio program "The Story Next Door." He went on to publish a book of the people's tales he gathered on the program.

In 2020, Craig published "Laughing in Leelanau: Or I Swear It's True," compiling humorous tales from the northern Michigan county where he resided.

One of Craig's daughters, Amy Coleman, was supervising producer at "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in Chicago for 17 years, and also served as the executive producer and showrunner for "The Jeff Probst Show."

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