Who’s That Girl? It’s The New WBAA Reporter!
There’s a term that public radio types like to throw around every now and then (especially when they start to fret about demographics): “Back Seat Babies.” A Back Seat Baby is one of those unknowingly lucky children subjected to a unceasing onslaught of All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Fresh Air by their NPR-loving parents, usually while held captive in the backseat of the family car.
I, Sarah Fentem, the new WBAA reporter, am the textbook definition of a Back Seat Baby. I’m not even sure if I knew, growing up, other radio stations besides National Public Radio even existed. Of course, the number one stereo preset in our Ford Escort was obviously set to WQUB, Quincy, Ill’s flagship public radio station. However, (and here’s where it starts to get a little intense) all the other stereo presets were also set to NPR stations around the listening area…KWMU in St. Louis, WIUM in Macomb, even WUIS in Springfield, where my dad would travel maybe twice a year. I suppose he didn’t want to spend the four seconds it would take to fiddle around the bottom of the dial trying to find the next station, lest he miss out on Carl Kassel uttering a single word. Mostly, though, I just don’t think anyone in my family thought there were any other stations worth listening to.
My love of public radio grew along with me. But even after I graduated from college and started working as a reporter in Chicago, I never considered radio for a career. I was worried my voice wasn’t broadcast-y enough, and anyway, it seemed like too specialized and rarified a medium. Even so, I continued listening to WBEZ every day and burning hours worth of Roman Mars and Terry Gross onto CDs to listen to on the drive between Chicago and my parents’ home downstate. (I’ve since joined the 21st Century and bought an iPod.)
That all changed when I started working on my master’s degree at IU’s school of journalism. Sensing my love of radio, a few savvy professors recommended I investigate Bloomington’s NPR affiliate, WFIU. They were looking for a new part-time staffer, and I started working as a reporter and producer there in 2014. In the beginning, I was a little insecure–other than an encyclopedic knowledge of RadioLab episodes, I had no idea how radio worked. This is where being at WFIU helped me. Being in close proximity to such talented people (most who are still very young) taught me so much, not only about audio, but about reporting in general. WFIU’s reporters are so tireless and smart, it was easy to come into work inspired to cover Indiana’s most important stories, in the most thorough, engaging way.
However, I’m graduating in August, and I needed to find a full-time gig. I jumped at the chance when Stan Jastrzebski said I should apply for WBAA’s open All Things Considered Host/Reporter position. Starting this summer, you’ll be able to hear me during ATC on weekday afternoons! When I’m not behind the microphone, I’ll be out finding and reporting important stories in the Wabash Valley for WBAA and Indiana Public Broadcasting. I’m so excited to stay within the IPB family, where I’ve met so many amazing reporters and producers. I can’t wait to reach a whole new audience of Back Seat (and Front Seat) Babies.
When I’m not on the job, you’ll probably find me out on my bike, going on adventures with my sweet boyfriend Elliot, or snuggled up watching netflix with my cat, Lil Rock. (My favorite show: Parks and Recreation!) I’ll choose a Schlitz over a fancy craft brew any day. A lifelong midwesterner, I love the Chicago Blackhawks and have yet to meet a casserole I don’t like.
You can follow me on twitter @petit_smudge, which is pretty much split 50/50 between news links and 30 Rock quotes.