One-on-One With the CBS Chicago Anchor Who Reported the Story of the Misidentified John Doe

Suzanne Le Mignot is an award-winning news anchor and reporter at CBS Chicago. She’s got heart, smarts, and the unwavering determination to right wrongs and help those in need. Le Mignot works hard to pay forward the blessings of her TV journalism success while staying mindful of her roots.

Her father died on Valentine’s Day when she was just 1 year old. He was electrocuted in a tragic work accident. Her grieving mother struggled financially to raise her. Le Mignot learned hard work and discipline at a very young age. While in middle school, she would go to bed early and get up at midnight to help her mother toss newspapers on their Monday through Friday paper route to earn money. On the weekends, she cleaned houses with her mom.

She was the first on her mother’s side of the family to attend a four-year university. While a student at the University of South Florida, receiving scholarships, there were times Le Mignot subsisted on only one loaf of raisin bread per week. She had two babysitting jobs, worked at Payless shoe store, and worked at the campus newspaper and radio and TV stations, all while going to school. At times, she had anywhere from 15 to 20 credit hours in a week. Her hard work paid off. She was able to secure a TV internship in the former Yugoslavia while still at USF. She would eventually work for three television stations in Belgrade before graduating.

Her gratitude and drive to help also explain why Le Mignot has volunteered precious free time to serve as the emcee of the past three Make It Better Philanthropy Awards Celebrations at Wintrust Grand Banking Hall.

We’ve been so inspired by Le Mignot’s values and impactful efforts — on air and off — that we asked her to share more about herself with our readers. 

Susan B. Noyes: Please describe yourself now and your journey to this point in work and life.

Suzanne Le Mignot: I have a motto on my desk. It reads, “God not only knows where He is taking you, but he also knows how to get you there.” It’s a quote from Christian author Roy Lessin. I’ve learned over time, there’s a reason for everything in life. We go through trials and we wonder aloud, “Why is this happening?”

When you think back on the hard times, you realize how much you grew through that experience. I’ve found the adversity I’ve faced has made me so much stronger. It’s also taught me to be grateful for my loved ones and everything I have in life.

What is your daily and weekly schedule? More specifically, how do you plan your Weekend Anchor work, where you have greater flexibility over the stories you present?

On Friday and Saturday nights, I try to get to bed by 5 in the afternoon. I wake up at 12:45 a.m. and get to the station between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m.

The first thing I do is meet with the producers to discuss the stories we’re covering and determine what the top story will be for the reporter working that morning. I write the crawl at the bottom of the screen that you see during the newscasts with the news headlines. I sit down at my desk and monitor national and international news, while reading over my scripts and making any necessary changes. Then, I write my script for WBBM Newsradio, for my live radio tease, to promote what we’ll have coming up on the CBS 2 Weekend Morning News. Then, I’ll read the scripts for the newscast we record for Amazon. After that, I do my hair and makeup and get ready to anchor the show at 5 a.m. We do two shows on Saturdays, one from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. and the other from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. On Sunday, we have a three-hour show from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. During the week, I report Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. shows. I start at 9 a.m. and usually get home between 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. on those days.

For what stories have you won awards?

I have won numerous awards, among them several Emmy awards for my coverage of Pope John Paul II and a major Blue Line crash in Chicago.

Read Suzanne’s bio here.

If they differ from the award winners, what are your favorite stories to date?

I am very proud of several stories that have led to positive change. I did a story after receiving a tip that the dogs at the Metra train stations could not detect the passing scent of a bomb. We went undercover with a person certified to handle explosives. The individual walked into the train station with the material in a duffle bag. The dog not only walked by the individual, but even stopped to play, clearly showing the dogs were not trained to protect the public. After my story aired, State Senator Debbie Halvorson drafted legislation that police dogs must be trained to detect the passing scent of a bomb. The legislation was later signed into law by Governor Rod Blagojevich.

One of my most recent stories appears to be on its way to create change. Chicago Police misidentified a man listed as a John Doe at Mercy Hospital. The wrong family was called to be by his side. They made life and death decisions, even taking him off life support and placing him in hospice until he died. They would learn, days after the man died, their brother was alive after he walked through the front door of his sister’s home. State Senator Patricia Van Pelt is currently crafting legislation to make it mandatory for fingerprints and/or DNA be taken at a hospital to identify a John Doe. The man’s fingerprints were taken at the morgue, after he died.

Watch the series of reports:

When do you feel that your work has made the biggest impact?

I feel my work makes the most impact when it leads to positive change, whether it’s a state law or just helping someone in need. I did a story where an entire building was left without heat during the winter. The story led to a change in the way Peoples Gas conducts shut-offs during the winter months. I was honored in City Council with a Resolution for my work.

Do any potential future stories pique your interest or pull on your heartstrings?

I am working on a cold case that stunned Chicago more than 60 years ago. I am hoping someone watching will bring the family of the murdered girl the answers they’ve been seeking for decades, to give them closure. 

Please tell us about your favorites:

Books: “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson

Restaurants: Walton Street Kitchen, Orso’s, Mario’s Table

Things to do in Chicago: Walk along the lakefront

Hobbies: Singing (I love karaoke!), song and book writing

Causes to support: BBF Family Services, PAWS Chicago, The Answer Inc., The Ray Graham Association for People with Disabilities, and A Silver Lining Foundation

 

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Anything else you want to tell us?

Never let your past dictate your future. You can make all of the deepest desires in your heart become reality.


Susan B. Noyes is the Founder & Chief Visionary Officer of Make It Better Media Group, as well as the Founder of Make It Better Foundation’s Philanthropy Awards.

A mother of six, former Sidley Austin labor lawyer and U.S. Congressional Aide, passionate philanthropist, and intuitive connector, she has served on boards for the Poetry Foundation, Harvard University Graduate School of Education Visiting Committee, American Red Cross, Lurie Children’s Hospital, Annenberg Challenge, Chicago Public Education Fund, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, New Trier High School District 203, and her beloved Kenilworth Union Church. But most of all, she enjoys writing and serving others by creating virtuous circles that amplify social impact.