Covering city council meetings and press conferences are all part of the job for Mary Sugden, an evening news reporter for WREX-13, the NBC affiliate in Rockford, Illinois.
But there’s nothing like a good breaking news story.
“City council meetings, board meetings, I go to those on a regular basis. But at the same time, I’m kind of on call for any breaking news, and Rockford has a lot of crime. For example, yesterday I went live from a bank robbery attempt. It definitely does vary every day, it’s different and I’m never really sure what to expect, once I get in there’s a very good chance it can change by the end of the day,” she said.
Sugden, 25, is a Loyola University Chicago, Cum Laude graduate with journalism major and a minor in marketing. Joining Kappa Kappa Gamma during her time Loyola, she sought out and ceased opportunities that made her feel more at home.
“It was the perfect match from me,” Sugden said. “I’m originally from Woodstock, Illinois, so it was nice that I was not too far from home, and I was able to take the train home. I just fell in love with the campus and being in the city was always something that I knew I wanted out of college, especially when I came to visit and saw the brand new conversion studio right on the street, and how beautiful it was, and knowing I was going to get the chance to use that, that experience it would give me is what really sealed the deal for me, knowing that I wanted to go into broadcast,” Sugden said.
Working alongside knowledgeable instructors greatly helped. Sugden described Professor Ralph Braseth as the mentor who helped get her off the ground.
“Another amazing class that I took was a Capstone class with Professor Beth Konrad. She really gave us what a real newsroom feels like; fast paced. It was a great experience to have right before going out into the real world, because a lot of what I learned there is stuff that I practiced every day,” she said.
During her time at Loyola, Sugden decided to pursue a career in journalism due to her passion for sports, becoming one of the founding members of the first sports program that the university ever had, the Ramblers Sports Locker.
“That was a great experience,” she said. “The whole crew and I got to really have a hands on experience and learn the ins and outs of what really makes a show, from producing, directing, reporting, all kinds of behind the scenes things, as well as anchoring.”Sugden’s time at Loyola guided her into continuing to pursue her passion, taking an internship position with Comcast Sports Net, and later becoming an intern at the Loyola Athletic Broadcast.
Today, Sugden more often than not runs a one-woman-show, gathering the gear, setting up the equipment, reporting, and shooting live. She’s an individual with a passion for counting stories, talking to people, and having the opportunity to tell their stories.
“I can’t see myself being happy at a cubicle, I love that it’s exciting. Like yesterday, I’m just racing to get to this bank robbery, figure out what happened and be the one who is presenting that information. I really do enjoy the idea of keeping the public informed, doing my due diligence to make sure that if there’s anything that’s going on in the community not being done properly, the correct way, or the legal way, that you know we’re keeping an eye out on stuff like that, and making sure that we keep those people honest, it’s a fast paced career but I can’t imagine doing anything else,” said Sugden.
“Enjoy the ride, know it can be tough for some to find a job at first, but don’t doubt yourself, don’t worry. You just have to stick it out and if it’s what you want to do you will find your way. There’s no real textbook way to go about a job in journalism, but you just have to be willing and open to those opportunities – kind of pay your dues and have faith that you will find yourself in the right spot.”
BY MARISOL SALGADO