From UAA to WGN: Sports reporting that brings people together

by Matt Jardin  |   

In 2016, UAA alumna Lauren Magiera became the first female sports anchor and reporter for WGN News in Chicago. (Photo courtesy of Lauren Magiera)

When you travel as much as WGN sports anchor Lauren Magiera, B.A. '09, feeling at home can be a challenge. Thankfully, it usually feels like the whole neighborhood travels with her.

"I'm always immersed by Chicago sports fans. I'm here for work but they've paid their way and are here for fun. That's loyalty," explains Magiera. "That's one of my favorite parts about being in sports. It's the common denominator. No matter where you're from, no matter your political or spiritual beliefs, your socioeconomic status, everybody is there to suffer during the hardships and celebrate during the championships together."

For her first big move, Magiera made the decision to relocate from Chicago to Alaska for college. No one was more surprised than Magiera herself. Her family was a close second.

"What have we done to you if you're going to go as far as you possibly can in the country to compete in gymnastics?" she jokingly recalls her family saying. "But they absolutely fell in love with Alaska just as much as I did."

A Chicago native and lifelong gymnast, Magiera first heard about UAA toward the end of high school amidst a stack of offers from other institutions inviting her to compete in their Division I gymnastics programs.

"None of them were the correct fit and I thought for sure when I heard from Coach Paul Stoklos that it was definitely not the right fit to go to Alaska," she shares. "I was looking at universities in warmer climates, no way no how would I move to Alaska. But the more I talked to Coach Stoklos, the more he started to open my eyes to what UAA had to offer."

Starting to reconsider, Magiera visited the UAA campus the weekend after Thanksgiving and instantly fell in love. What really clinched the deal for her was the university's commitment to student success. Additionally, the smaller class sizes meant more one-on-one work with professors, which was an aspect Magiera, who has dyslexia, valued tremendously.

"One thing that appealed to me is when I met Athletic Director Steve Cobb. He told me if I were to come to school here as a student-athlete that I was a student before an athlete," describes Magiera. "That meant so much to me because I wanted to go to a school that cared about my education just as much as they cared about me thriving as an athlete. I'm not going to be an athlete forever but I'm going to have my education forever."

A newly-branded Seawolf, Magiera quickly found her tribe in the gymnastics team, as well as her home away from home in Alaska. As an added bonus, she discovered her calling, which wasn't what she originally thought it was going to be.

(Photo courtesy of Lauren Magiera)

Inspired by her high school caseworker, Magiera always aspired to pay the kindness and mentorship she received forward by becoming a teacher. Her plans began to shift when she enrolled in a freshman guidance course and received a suggestion from another helpful education figure.

"The professor saw that I spent the semester telling stories and suggested I take a Journalism 101 class. I was halfway through my first class and I knew this was exactly what I wanted to do. I loved it so much, it never felt like stressful work," she says.

Magiera dived right into the Anchorage broadcast journalism community by taking an internship at ABC affiliate KIMO. After graduating in 2009, she was immediately offered a position at the station as the 10 o'clock sports anchor and then as the sports director shortly after. Both roles were a perfect fit for the lifelong sports aficionado from Chicago, "the greatest sports city in the entire world" according to her.

When long-time sports anchor for NBC affiliate KTUU John Carpenter retired in 2010, Magiera was tapped to fill one of the resulting sports reporter vacancies. Taking the new job also meant stepping into Carpenter's host role of The Fishing Report, a beloved segment about fishing across the state. This kicked off a trend for Magiera, who sharpened her talent for storytelling while reporting on Alaska's more eccentric sports.

"I covered the Iditarod, Iron Dog and biathlons. I got to meet legends like Kikkan Randall, Martin Buser and Lance Mackey," she explains. "I never would've gotten to see these sports and meet these athletes if I stayed in the Lower 48. It's such a pivotal point in my career because what it did was teach me how to make things interesting instead of just stating facts."

These days, Magiera covers sports that are a little more recognizable outside of Alaska. In 2015, she was hired by the Green Bay Packers in a newly-created in-house communications position where she generated weekly digital content and hosted a 30-minute pregame show for broadcast in the 81,441-seat Lambeau Field. As the first person in the role, Magiera was able to make it her own, much to the team's relief.

(Photo courtesy of Lauren Magiera)

"I went in not knowing what this job was, and they hired me saying we don't know what this job is either. But we figured it out together," she describes. "I just knew I wanted to work for the Packers; I didn't care if was taking out the garbage for them."

Things have come full circle for Magiera. In 2016, she returned to Chicago to become the very first female sports anchor and reporter for WGN News. Turns out, that year would see a number of landmark sporting events in Chicago.

"I've always been a Cubs fan, which says a lot because it means I was a Cubs fan when they were losers!" jokes Magiera. "As luck would have it, my first year at WGN I covered the Cubs when they won the World Series. I got to be there for it and it was such an awesome payoff having been a devastated Cubs fan my whole life."

Written by Matt Jardin, UAA Office of University Advancement

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