We have a few journalism majors on our staff and so are always happy to find and promote another woman journalist, especially one in our own city! Our Women We Love for this week is Sarah Engel, WBEZ Chicago’s radio traffic reporter, as well as a contributor for WGN & CLTV. She’s been all around, and even high above, one of our favorite cities, as well as having spent time down in the trenches of a newsroom. Today she’s giving us tips for overcoming on-air stage fright, taking about her favorite views of the city, and more…
HOW DID YOU LAND THE JOB AND WHAT STEPS DID YOU HAVE TO TAKE TO REACH THIS POINT IN YOUR CAREER?
Right out of college I started working as an Assistant Producer for Newsradio 780, WBBM. A fellow producer told me about a company he worked for part-time that collected traffic information and employed on-air reporters. At the time, I started work at 3 o’clock in the morning and my afternoons were open, so I applied to be a traffic editor. I grew up in Chicago, but honestly — I knew hardly anything about traffic at that point. I figured it out quickly though and started filling in for on-air reporters whenever they called in sick or took vacation. Eventually I landed my spot on WBEZ!
WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE FOR YOU?
Very few things remain the same each day. I can rely on starting my reports at the same time and sitting in the same chair every shift. But apart from that, there is no routine day! Sometimes I only report on a few small accidents, and other days traffic is just awful! Every so often, unpredictable events like police chases, building collapses, and fires happen. Planned events cause problems too. Lollapalooza traffic is maddening, and when President Obama is in town, forget about it — the roads are nuts! I prefer the excitement of the crazy days. As long as no one gets hurt, of course!
WHAT’S THE BEST PART ABOUT YOUR JOB?
I like that I get to help people. Traffic is a nuisance that nearly everyone encounters. I have yet to find anyone that enjoys it! It’s awesome to be in the car with thousands of people, keeping them updated on what time they can plan to get home. It’s a good feeling!
WHAT IS THE TOUGHEST PART?
I always get flack for showing up late to social events. Family and friends think I’m the one person who never sits in traffic. Sometimes there is no way around it guys!
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT QUALITY EVERY ENTERTAINMENT PROFESSIONAL NEEDS TO HAVE?
Confidence. Convince yourself that you can achieve your goal, and you will immediately notice a change in everyone else’s belief in you.
DO YOU EVER GET STAGE FRIGHT (ON-AIR FRIGHT)?
I did when I first started, but not anymore! Sometimes when I’m listening to the radio in the car and I think to myself – Wow, I’m on this thing just like these people are. Weird!
AS A TRAFFIC REPORTER, YOU’RE OFTEN IN A HELICOPTER. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE VIEW OF CHICAGO?
I don’t get to go up in the helicopter very often, but occasionally I fill in for the guy who regularly does for NBC 5. The view of the sun rising behind the skyline is absolutely stunning!
WHAT DO YOU SEE NEXT FOR YOU AND YOUR CAREER?
I love traffic. Often my curiosity gets the best of me and I want to turn on the police scanner app when I see an accident on the side of the road to get all the details. But, I started my career in the newsroom and I know I’ll be back there.