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The Crisis Cast

The Crisis Cast is a conversational journey in business leadership during a crisis. Our cast of experts review crisis management scenarios and provide resources for navigating uncharted waters. Each episode is moderated by renowned crisis communicators Lissa Druss and Thom Serafin.


David Hochberg - The Credit Utilization Crisis
In part two of our dialogue with David Hochberg, we confront the reality that is plaguing America. We are reaching 70% capacity on credit utilization. As Hochberg puts it, "We are running out of room to spend on stuff we don't need, with money we don't have." During this episode of the Crisis Cast, Lissa & Thom continue their conversation about the future of interest rates and the cycle of strategies for fiscal survival.   Plus, Hochberg gives us a lesson in "credit invisibility" – and why 47 million Americans now find themselves to be credit invisible.
28:46 2/19/24
David Hochberg - A Saver For Life
Once upon a time David Hochberg's father planted a seed. "Pay yourself first, and you'll never go broke." It led to his first passbook savings account at age seven, and a pre-teen career in scrap metal, turning trash into cash. Along the way, he developed a passion for helping home-buyers protect their financial health.   During this episode of The Crisis Cast, one of Chicago's most-renowned mortgage business entrepreneurs tells Lissa Druss and Thom Serafin all of his financial secrets. One of those secrets is what Hochberg calls the "Four T's" – click play, and start taking notes.    
19:45 2/12/24
Richard Irvin - The Day That Changed Everything
As a veteran of Desert Storm and Desert Shield, Richard Irvin confronted a moment with one question, "Is this the day I'm going to die?" During this episode of the Crisis Cast, we'll learn how those seconds have defined every day that has followed. Lissa Druss & Thom Serafin will also explore what drove the Mayor of Aurora to run for governor – and what got in the way of his candidacy. Lissa and Thom also unpack the challenging diversity of Illinois, as Irvin shares his deep passion for being a Lincoln Republican. A story that is fueled by his great grandfather's journey out of slavery.  Plus, we'll get compelling pitch on why Aurora should be the new home of the Chicago Bears.
34:28 2/5/24
Venezuela to Chicago – One Migrant Family's Journey
In this special edition of the Crisis Cast, we'll hear the personal account of a dangerous trek across multiple borders. We invite you to listen in on Thom Serafin's intimate conversation with a couple from Venezuela, who traveled on foot and on top of train cars in search of the American Dream. We'll hear why they left their homeland, what life in Chicago has been like so far, and what sustained their hope along the way.
27:28 1/29/24
Ben Szalinski - Springfield's Next Generation
There's a post-Madigan era emerging at Illinois' Capitol building – and beyond. During this episode, we examine which crisis in state government is top mind – and who are the dominant legislators with solutions. Lissa Druss and Thom Serafin are joined by the Daily Line's Ben Szalinski. Ben is covering the next generation of state leaders, while representing the next generation of journalists.   Listen in on this conversation that predicts the biggest challenges of 2024.  A year that is going to be defined by the backdrop of Chicago playing host to the Democratic National Convention.
28:22 1/23/24
Ilyce Glink - Best Money Moves for 2024
One download with Ilyce Glink is never enough. We dive into part two of our recent chat with Ilyce. In this episode, all eyes and ears are on the long view of the economy.   2023 was a year of acceleration, and 2024 has a whole new set of speed bumps. Is the Fed on the right path managing inflation? How do you best manage your money in an election year? What's the impact of economic perception vs. reality?   Lissa Druss & Thom Serafin go chasing all of the answers with Ilyce Glink's Zen-like knowledge.
19:53 1/16/24
Ilyce Glink - A "Silent" Depression?
A host of TikTokers have coined a name for the current economy as an economic "silent depression." While the monicker continues to churn in social media, Lissa Druss & Thom Serafin wanted to explore how it started. More importantly -- is it real? During this episode we get into one of our favorite pasttimes: crisis identification. Once again, The Crisis Cast calls on our financial wellness expert, Ilyce Glink. As founder and CEO of Best Money Moves, Ilyce gives us a reality check.
28:55 1/9/24
Garry McCarthy - Public Safety's Critical Year
In 2024, all eyes will be on the streets of Chicago -- particularly in August, when the city hosts the Democratic National Convention. We open our 5th season of the Crisis Cast with a voice that's been in the trenches when public safety is on the line. Garry McCarthy has led the design and enforcement of public safety during two national political conventions in New York City, and Chicago's 2012 NATO summit. During this episode, Lissa & Thom go deep on the critical nature of intelligence sharing and how it breaks down. Plus, McCarthy shares what he believes should be happening to prepare Chicago for the global spotlight.
37:58 1/2/24
Fr. Richard Fragomeni - The Search For Christmas
As the Crisis Cast closes out our fourth season, we enter the winter solstice with an abundance of light.  During this episode Lissa & Thom welcome Father Richard Fragomeni, who shares T.S. Eliot's final poem on Christmas.  The Cultivation of Christmas Trees is a poem that challenges the reader to rediscover the wonder of a child. During this episode, Father Fragomeni also explores our crisis of community, and the hope he finds in teaching a DePaul University course on loneliness.  Fr. Richard Fragomeni is Rector at the Shrine of our Lady of Pompeii. 
25:35 12/22/23
Brian Bernardoni - An Army of Good
We are in the midst of a crisis that sends one in seven Chicago children to bed hungry.  It's called post-pandemic poverty.  The problem is absolutely global and national, too.  In the U.S. since 2020, eight million people have fallen into poverty. The Crisis Cast went searching for hope, and action.  Lissa Druss and Thom Serafin found that in Brian Bernardoni.  Brian is the president of the advisory board for the Salvation Army of central and northern Illinois.  During this episode, we get the backstory on the famous red kettles and the mystery behind those who donate gold coins.  Plus, we hear the way a Salvation Army summer camp changed the life of former Chicago Bears star Chris Zorich. Thanks to WGN Radio for sharing the audio of Zorich's remarkable journey.
29:13 12/13/23
Dagmar Braun Celeste - Women & The Priesthood
Dagmar Braun Celeste was born in Nazi-occupied Austria, she authored her own Bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies, which led her to collaborative human rights work with both Rosalyn Carter and Mother Theresa.  Dagmar eventually made her home in Ohio, and fed her passion for politics as the state's First Lady. In 2002, she was secretly ordained as a Catholic priest on the Danube River with six other women. The ordination led to her excommunication by the Roman Catholic Church.  During this episode of the Crisis Cast, Lissa & Thom get to the heart of why she accepted the call to ordination -- even when she knew it would not be accepted by the Church.  What happened to the bishop who ordained Ms. Celeste? What kind of advice did Mother Theresa share? What did the Carters grieve most following Jimmy's loss to Ronald Reagan?  There are a lot of questions with surprising answers during this visit in our chat room.
42:31 11/30/23
Dr. Tasha Green Cruzat - Driving Emotional IQ
This year at Thanksgiving, we are grateful for the dedication of those compelled to change the lives of young people. Dr. Tasha Green Cruzat is leading solutions to our youth mental health crisis. Among the most staggering statistics is 30% of female students nationally reported seriously considering attempting suicide in the past 12 months. Dr. Cruzat, a U.S. Navy veteran, is President of Children’s Advocates for Change and shares a vision for getting our kids better access to mental health care. In this episode of the Crisis Cast, Lissa & Thom push to learn what's driving the shortage in youth psychiatry and psychology. Plus, we ask the question -- is there enough emotional IQ in our culture to produce change?
37:52 11/22/23
Ben Bradley - The "New" News Paradigm
Many of the television newsroom characters have moved on, but there are fresh eyes and ears still holding truth to power.  One of them is Emmy Award-winning reporter Ben Bradley of WGN. During this episode, Lissa Druss and Thom Serafin get Ben's take on the shifting tides of news gathering and consumption. Plus, we'll flash back to his job at the 1996 Democratic National Convention. Those were the days when United Center was only two years old. Ben was not a reporter covering the DNC, but he was most certainly a journalist.  
24:47 11/15/23
Crisis Whiteboard - Migration Task Force
In a span of just 14 months, more than 20-thousand migrants have arrived in Chicago.  Add that to the thousands of residents who are already unhoused and tensions keep rising.   During this episode of the Crisis Cast, Lissa Druss & Thom Serafin get out our whiteboard to brainstorm solutions to this crisis.  The bus loads of asylum seekers keep coming and the dangers of a Windy City winter are also approaching.  Our team suggests regional leaders from all sectors should be locked in a room until we have a long-range plan. Who should be there, and what responsibility does the federal government bear? Click play to hear us get started on the answers.
23:49 11/8/23
Hanania & Lipinski - The Reagan Democrats
Lissa Druss and Thom Serafin are back to do more work examining what divides us — and what might bring us together. Their guests are an award-winning columnist, and a 23rd Ward Alderman turned U.S. Congressman.  Together, Ray Hanania and Bill Lipinski host the Two Guys on Politics podcast. In this episode, we answer dozens of potent questions.  How do we put an end to Chicago's crime crisis?  Is the city ready for the reality of the 2024 Democratic National Convention?  Why is accountability so hard to find? Plus, the real story behind the money that built the CTA's Orange Line to Midway Airport. 
40:47 10/26/23
Bob Berlin - Guarding & Guiding Victims' Rights
Bob Berlin is a career prosecutor.  For more than three decades, he's been focused on guarding the rights of crime victims.  As DuPage Country State’s Attorney, he’s on the front lines of a new provision of the Safe-T Act. In September of 2023, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled to eliminate cash bail in the state. In this episode, Lissa Druss & Thom Serafin ask the tough questions tied to the impact of the court ruling.  Plus, State's Attorney Berlin responds to which violent crime offenders are the most dangerous and what kinds of interventions are working to deter repeat offenses.
34:48 10/19/23
Greg Hinz - Covering The Rooms Where It Happened
Crain’s Greg Hinz has been tracking the political scene in Illinois for a half-century. As Greg steps back from his regular column at, Lissa & Thom get a download on his past adventures and his next adventure. For Hinz, politics is the business of getting things done.  During this visit to the chat room, Greg weighs in on the politicians he believes possess that power.  Hinz also grades the digital transformation of journalism. Plus, he gives up some of names that have reported the news in ways that have earned his admiration.
37:52 10/12/23
Nick Kass - Question Everything
For more than 30 years Nick Kass was guiding intelligence at the highest levels of U.S. government -- from the Department of State to the CIA, and the White House.  Nick's mantra is simple: question everything. Based in Bucharest, this Chicago native is now Senior Fellow for European Affairs at the Center for the National Interest.  Thanks to Nick's life's journey full of questions -- he's in our chat room with a lifetime full of anwers for Lissa & Thom.   Nick Kass is an award-winning analyst, reporter, and intelligence expert, and policy manager. Join this fascinating ride through diplomacy,  from the global warnings inside President Eisenhower's farewell address to present-day Ukraine.
56:24 10/4/23
Crisis Whiteboard - Full Disclosure
The topics of full disclosure and conflict of interest leaped center stage mid-month.  It was triggered by reporting from the Chicago Tribune and NPR. Their stories revealed some crisis communications assistance provided for then Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, five years ago.  The communications firm is SKDK, which is co-owned by Anita Dunn — now a top advisor to President Biden. Simultaneously, SKDK was also involved in a high profile effort to assist victims of sexual harassment through the Time’s Up Legal Defense fund — which was working on behalf of political consultant Alaina Hampton. In 2018, Hampton was employed by the Illinois Democratic Party. She alleged Madigan retaliated against her when she reported being harassed by her supervisor at the Madigan-led state party headquarters. In this episode, our Lissa Druss and Thom Serafin unpack their long journey through the complexities of ethics.
24:41 9/27/23
Crisis Whiteboard - White Sox Lifering
In this episode, we contemplate the unthinkable for Chicago sports fans.  What if we were a city with just one Major League Baseball team?  OUR team won't have it. Lissa Druss and Thom Serafin get out our Crisis Cast "whiteboard" to brainstorm solutions and locations for a White Sox ballpark village.  Hint:  It isn't at 35th & Shields.  The whole debate ignites a conversation about what works and what doesn't work for 21st century sports franchises and their playgrounds.
35:24 9/19/23
Ray Long - The Mapes Tapes
Time to get back to examining public trust in state government, through the reign of the former Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, Michael Madigan. In this episode, Lissa Druss and Thom Serafin bring Ray Long of the Chicago Tribune back to our chat room.  Ray spent nearly three weeks covering the perjury trial of Tim Mapes, who was Speaker Madigan’s Chief of Staff for over two decades.  What did the Mapes verdict signal about Madigan's upcoming trial?  Is Illinois getting any closer to cleanliness in Springfield?   Buckle your safety belt for another trip through the remarkable influence of The Velvet Hammer.
51:40 9/6/23
Crisis Whiteboard: Grading Northwestern
When is silence golden?  That is perhaps the most nuanced question, when it comes to crisis communications. During this episode, we use our Crisis Cast Whiteboard to grade how Northwestern University has been communicating publicly, during the crises in its athletic department.  Lissa Druss & Thom Serafin also interpret who wins and who loses, when you don't get out in front of a crisis.  Plus, we'll answer this question: should the Wildcat football hazing story put a pause on their $800 million stadium project?
25:51 8/21/23
Parliament of the World's Religions
The Parliament of the World’s Religions is the world’s premier interfaith convening of civic, spiritual, and grassroots changemakers.  It's roots are in Chicago, where it first convened during the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. During this episode of the Crisis Cast, Lissa Druss & Thom Serafin document the return of spiritual leaders representing more than 80 nations, to the shores of Lake Michigan.  Their guests are part of this summer's "call to conscience" when it comes to human rights.  In our chat room for this conversation are Rev. Stephen Avino, Executive Director of the Parliament,  and David Hales, Chairman of the Climate Action Task Force.
41:31 8/9/23
Kelly Richmond Pope - Watching The Whistleblowers
Renowned forensic accounting expert Kelly Richmond Pope shows fraud in action, uncovering what makes perps tick -- and she returns to the Crisis Cast to define the archetypes of the fraudster.  Kelly also applauds the bravery of whistleblowers, and explains their peril. With Lissa Druss on assignment, Thom Serafin flies solo with Kelly to dig further on what was so fascinating and maddening about the story of former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes.  Plus, you'll learn the newest lessons she's teaching her accounting students at DePaul University. Kelly Richmond Pope is the author of the best-selling book Fooled Me Once, and director of the documentary film, All The Queen's Horses.
33:44 7/31/23
Mark Carman - Northwestern In A Haze
This is a moment of reckoning for Northwestern University.  In the wake of a hazing scandal within its football program, players on and off the field are immersed in a crisis. In this episode, Lissa & Thom are joined by sports journalist Mark Carman. Not only has he been studying the evolution of college athletics for decades — he's also reported from the Northwestern football sidelines for over ten years. Mark calls former Wildcat coach Pat Fitzgerald a unicorn, but trouble has been simmering for a while in the team's performance. Carman has been a commentator and host for WGN Radio, Yahoo Sports, FanSided, and now CHGO Sports Network.
25:26 7/19/23
Mike Flannery - Chicago's Future Shock
During part two of our send off for political journalist Mike Flannery, we dive into his analysis of Chicago's path forward.  Lissa & Thom get to the heart of whether Flannery thinks the Brandon Johnson administration can bring down Chicago's murder rate. Plus, how do the best reporters separate personal opinion from their pursuit of the truth?  In this follow-up episode, you'll also learn what Mike's father did at the dinner table to catapult his career choice. 
21:00 7/5/23
Mike Flannery - The Ultimate Political Safari
For half a century, this kid from D.C. has been chasing alders, mayors, and senators.  Mike Flannery, has even questioned every president since Richard Nixon.  Flannery has been on the Chicago political beat since 1973, and now he's turning the page.  In this episode of the Crisis Cast, you'll hear how Mike landed his first gig at the Chicago Sun-Times -- just two weeks after graduating from Georgetown.  During part one of this chat with Lissa Druss and Thom Serafin, Flannery shares a patented Mike Royko story. Plus, you'll learn why he once found himself hiding behind the pulpit of a South Side church with future President Jimmy Carter.
24:21 6/28/23
Alex English - Changing Your Shot
Alex English is one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history.  But the points he's made as a humanitarian surpass ALL his basketball records.  Alex even made a movie with Jamie Lee Curtis that earned two thumbs up from Siskel & Ebert. In this episode, Thom Serafin charts Alex English's journey from the racism of South Carolina to his crusade to stop famine in Ethiopia.  You'll hear why his grandmother chose "Alex" as his name, and which NBA opponent was the most formidable defender.  While Lissa is on assignment, Thom gets personal with an inspiring Hall of Famer.
29:49 6/9/23
Larry Doll - EV Speed Bumps
As more EV's hit the market, the manufacturer vs. auto dealer relationship road is laced with potholes.   In this episode, Lissa & Thom dig into the evolution and revolution of electric vehicles.  Their guest has been driving this rocky road trip for the past 15 years as legal counsel for the Illinois Automobile Dealers Association.  Larry Doll sees dealers as the bridge to happy motoring. Our conversation with Larry lays out the sea of change for car owners, that may include a manufacturer subscription model to heat your seats.  Buckle up.
19:50 5/31/23
The Fate of AM Radio
Has the end of a broadcast era arrived?  More EV manufacturers are leaving AM radio out of their electric vehicles -- their motors interfere with AM signal reception. Now, lawmakers on Capitol Hill want to require automakers to keep AM radio in the dash with new legislation. In this episode of The Crisis Cast, Lissa & Thom, debate and reminisce the value of driving with AM radio through your car speakers. Their guest is our producer, Todd Manley, the former VP of Content at WGN Radio. For over a decade, Manley has been a proponent of streaming AM programming through digital channels.
31:32 5/22/23