Dream Job | Mary Kay Kleist

February 2016 View more

NMAG0216_DreamJobs_MKK-009_smaller_800pxFor Naperville resident Mary Kay Kleist, reporting on the high’s and low’s of the day as an on-air meteorologist at CBS 2 Chicago is a dream come true. After years of hard work and dedication, this Emmy-award winning Meteorologist shares her thoughts on what makes her job a dream job.

Growing up, did you ever dream of being a television meteorologist?

I never thought of it as a career for me because only male meteorologists were on television. During grade school, I wanted to be a teacher, just like my parents. We spent our summers camping throughout Wisconsin. I have countless memories of star-gazing with my dad and watching storms form and explode. I was fascinated with the weather and the dramatic changes it could bring.

How did you become interested in meteorology?

During my sophomore year at the University of Central Florida, Hurricane Hugo was headed for Florida’s East Coast. I was working at Disney’s Grand Floridian Beach Resort as a lifeguard, so many of my co-workers were Florida natives and they were used to tropical threats. A friend of mine was interning at Orlando’s CBS television affiliate in sports and suggested I spend the night at the station volunteering with the American Red Cross. I figured I’d be safe and around many other people. My job was to answer phones in the weather department and give callers any new information we had on the storm. We turned to the chief meteorologist for answers, a 26-year-old female! This opened my eyes that I could “teach” people about the weather while broadcasting on TV.

What was your first weather broadcast like?

It was at the ABC station in Savannah, Georgia. I was so incredibly nervous and not used to the weather “green screen.” So instead of awkwardly pointing to the wrong places, I only looked forward and used huge hand gestures. I know I zoomed through the broadcast with a super high-pitched voice.

You were recently recognized by your peers in the television news industry with three Midwest EMMY Awards. Tell us what that was like.

It was definitely the highlight of my career. I grew up watching WBBM so it’s been a dream to work here for the last 14 years. Our weather team won an EMMY for our severe weather long-format special. The second EMMY was for our extended coverage of the Fairdale tornado on April 9, 2015. I was proud of that coverage since I know we helped a lot of people that evening by talking them through the severe weather outbreak that lasted for several hours. The third EMMY was for a compilation of my on-air weather reporting in the category of Outstanding Crafts Achievement for On-Camera Talent—Weather Anchor.

How would you describe your typical day preparing for a weather broadcast?

The bulk of my time is spent on creating the forecast and building the graphics to support it. There are four meteorologists on the CBS 2 team, but we work alone on a regular basis. We do not rely on producers to generate our forecasts, we do all of our own forecasting for every newscast.

What career advice do you have for people who are interested in getting into the television news business?

Make the most out of your television internships. Make a great resume reel. And when someone tells you ‘no,’ ask another station to hire you. I drove with my dad for a week to hand-deliver clunky ¾” videotapes to 25 stations, from Savannah to Baton Rouge and throughout Florida. Nobody hired me during that trip, but two weeks later, the very first station I went to in Savannah offered me a job. After that, I came up here to work at CLTV News, then NBC in Tampa, ABC in Detroit, then back home to Chicago at WBBM.

Photo by Greg Shapps