Black & Powerful: Melody Spann Cooper, Midway Broadcasting Corporation Chairman & CEO

ByEvelyn Holmes and Colin Evans via WLS logo
Sunday, May 23, 2021
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In episode six of the ABC 7 streaming series "Black & Powerful," Spann Cooper talks with ABC 7 Reporter Evelyn Holmes.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- For nearly 60 years, WVON radio has been "the talk of Chicago," a trusted source to share the Black experience in the city. The leading force behind WVON's work is Chairman and CEO of Midway Broadcasting Corporation Melody Spann Cooper.

In episode six of the ABC 7 streaming series "Black & Powerful," Spann Cooper talks with ABC 7 Reporter Evelyn Holmes.

Spann Cooper's legacy is deeply rooted in Chicago. She attended Mother McAuley High School on the South Side, graduated from Loyola University of Chicago and is the daughter of the iconic radio host Pervis Spann "The Blues Man." Spann bought WVON and continued to grow the station with his daughter.

Spann Cooper started working at WVON when she was 15 years old but said she did not plan to become a businesswoman.

"I wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to go into journalism," Spann Cooper said.

In 1999, Spann Cooper joined the ranks of the nation's female broadcast owners after purchasing Midway Broadcasting Corporation. Spann Cooper attributes the company's lasting influence to its commitment to giving a voice to the people of Chicago.

"We're not selling radio, we're selling community," Spann Cooper said.

WVON 1690AM is the company's flagship Black-orientated radio station. Under Spann Cooper's leadership, the corporation also expanded to include WRLL 1450AM, "Chicago's Home for Hispanic Independent Broadcasters," for the city's Latinx community.

Spann Cooper said being a Black businesswoman and entrepreneur can feel lonely at times, so she wrote about her personal and professional growth in her book "The Girlfriend's Guide to Closing the Deal," with the hope of inspiring women.

"What I'm really doing is trying to turn up in every avenue I can to usher more African American women into C-Suites, into boardrooms, (at) important tables. Not because they need to be there as Black women, but because what we bring to the conversation is so rich," she said.

One of Spann Cooper's greatest joys, she said, is mentoring a group of women entrepreneurs from Chicago. The small group of 12 women won a contest to participate in the "Her Institute" with Spann Cooper, which started in May.

"They give me life," Spann Cooper said. "When you concentrate on somebody else and helping someone else when you can take that little energy you have and focus it somewhere else, that's where the blessings come."

Spann Cooper said being "Black and Powerful" comes with responsibility, and she said she works every day to have a positive impact in her community.