Meet a Member: Christine Herman

For the latest in our 'Meet a Member' series, we get to know Christine Herman, reporter with Illinois Public Media (WILL) in Urbana.

Christine Herman

What’s your current station/employer and position?

I’m a reporter at Illinois Public Media. While I’m technically general assignment, I’ve designated myself as our unofficial health and science reporter. A portion of my time goes to reporting for Side Effects Public Media, a Midwest reporting collaborative focused on public health.

How did you develop an interest in reporting or broadcasting?

I studied chemistry in undergrad and grad school with the plan to become a chemistry professor and do research. Then I realized I hated doing research – even though loved talking about and writing about science. Long story short, I totally shifted gears and dove head-first into journalism and eventually got bit by the radio bug. With not very much prior audio experience, I landed a part-time opportunity at Illinois Public Media. Which led to a full-time producing position with The 21st show, and about a year ago, my current job as a reporter.

What was your first broadcasting job?

I swallowed my pride and – after finishing my PhD in chemistry and masters in journalism – took a part-time, unpaid internship at Radio Health Journal in the Chicago suburbs. I traveled back and forth from Champaign with my 18-month-old son and crashed at my parents’ house for a few days at a time. I was a producer/writer, which meant I did interviews and wrote scripts that I passed off to the host to voice.

Why do you love being a news broadcaster?

There is so much power in hearing a person tell their own story, in their own voice. It’s my favorite way to consume the news, and I feel so privileged that I get to do this as my job.

What broadcast or story you’ve done makes you most proud?

This year, I met a family in Illinois that gave up custody of their son because it was the only way they could get him the expensive mental health treatment he needed. Sounds totally unbelievable, but this is a real thing that happens to hundreds, if not thousands of kids a year. I just finished working with NPR and Kaiser Health News to nationalize the story. The fact that this happens at all, anywhere, highlights a systemic underlying issue: that our country’s mental health system is woefully lacking. My story highlights a critical policy issue – in a way that will hopefully capture people’s attention.

What’s the hardest story or broadcast you’ve had to do?

Another family I’m in touch with is still in the thick of what feels like the darkest time of their lives. They’ve been lucky enough to help their son get treatment, but he still really struggles with his mental illness, which manifests in violent outbursts, self-harming, and suicide attempts. This is their everyday reality. The dad’s biggest fear is his son will end up in jail or dead, or be the next terrible news headline. It’s hard to learn about stuff like this. At the same time, like I mention above, it’s important to tell these stories so that people can be made aware of how the current system is failing kids and families.

What’s your most embarrassing broadcast moment?

I think the worst thing I’ve ever said live on air is the wrong temperature – I read the temp inside instead of the temp outside. But the experience I will never forget is the first time I ever did a live newscast. I don’t think I breathed the entire time because as soon as I was off the air, my hands and face were all tingly from lack of oxygen, LOL.

Why did you join INBA?

To network with other broadcasters at INBA Conventions.

Michelle Eccles McLaughlin

INBA is an organization that really caters to continuing education for professionals. It offers a relatively inexpensive way to learn new things, reinforce best practices and network.

Alexis McAdams

INBA played a huge part in preparing me for my broadcasting career. The INBA conventions connect students with on-air talent and news directors who give feedback on now to improve your work. Through relationships I made at those conventions, I was able to obtain my first on air reporting job.

Nora Baldner

The support INBA gives to student journalists is vitally important as we all discover how technology is changing news dissemination, INBA monitors and actively encourages truth, transparency and accountability from students and their universities.

Aaron Eades

As a student, it's often difficult to picture what working in the real world will be like. For me, the INBA bridged that gap by giving me the chance to talk to professionals who used to be in the same shoes I'm in now.

Bob Roberts

INBA is as much about friendship and as it is about achieving common goals. It provides two things individual newsrooms cannot: in-service training, and the ability to speak out on issues affecting the profession. But most of all, it brings newspeople together.

Jeff Bossert

When I was working in radio for the first time, I had no idea whether I could truly handle the demands. But INBA made me curious and want to improve. Even now, when I’ve maybe worked a lot of hours or planned some stories that didn’t come together for one reason or another, what I learn from an INBA conference gets me re-invigorated about the business.

Brian O'Keefe

One of the greatest benefits for me has been getting to see and know other parts of the state. I’m not from Illinois and traveling to spring and fall conventions over the years has transformed dots on a map to memories of places that enhance my story telling process.

Molly Jirasek

One of my top goals in my career was to get to Chicago. Thanks to INBA I met Margaret Larkin. She remembered our great conversations about Chicago and first alerted me to a job opening in the city I might be interested in. Lo and behold, I got that job! INBA helped me reach my dream.

Mike Miletich

Joining the INBA was one of my best life decisions. I met some of the best broadcast journalists while I was still a college student. Plus, I ended up getting a job through the connections I made!

Andrew Tanielian

INBA taught me how to network in a meaningful way. The scholarship process taught me how to endure a hard job interview and thrive.

Jennifer Fuller

INBA is not only a great networking tool, it also provides advocacy and support for journalists in an ever-changing world.

Ryan Denham

“I recently attended my first INBA conference—and it won’t be my last. The combination of professional and student journalists learning together is electric. Everyone learns from each other and walks away with new friends (and LinkedIn connections). I know I did.”

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