The show is still a side project for Pang, who enlisted some newsroom colleagues and shot the first six episodes in his spare time. But the Tribune has embraced it nevertheless. In April, to promote the program’s debut episode, a photograph of a grinning, cheeseburger-wielding Pang ran adjacent to the nameplate on the paper’s front page. “It scared the shit out of me,” he says. “The only time you should be on the front page is if you commit a murder or win a Pulitzer. This was neither.”

Still, it’s something. Ratings are high, reviews are positive (“I’m a vegetarian who hasn’t had a cheeseburger since maybe 1996. And yet I still find The Cheeseburger Show to be educational and entertaining on a level with the best programming in this medium”), and his bosses are enthusiastic. While Pang can sound somewhat bemused on the turn his career has taken—“Burgers aren’t even my favorite food,” he admits. “I’d rather have a nice piece of well-done fried chicken, or a porterhouse steak”—he nevertheless knows a good gig when he sees one. “I have to step back and realize that I’m getting paid to eat burgers,” he says. “Thank you, Mr. Zell.”

For more CJR profiles, click here.

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.

Justin Peters is editor-at-large of the Columbia Journalism Review.