By Ambar Gilmore
Lauren Jiggetts may only be 28, but she’s already a veteran reporter in a tough Chicago TV news market.
Depending on the strength of the story, she will either produce a straight package or report her story live from the field. If she is reporting for the 10 p.m. newscast, she gets her assigned story at 3 p.m. At 11 p.m. she is usually preparing herself for stories on an upcoming day.
Jiggetts, a local reporter for NBC 5, reports for the evening newscasts, usually 5 p.m. and 10 p.m., but in case of breaking news, she must report for the 5 p.m. newscast as well.
During a recent sit-down interview at the NBC 5 newsroom in downtown Chicago, Jiggetts, shared her secrets of what it takes to be a good journalist and how she landed in big market at a young age.
One of Jiggetts’ secrets is to multi- task. During the first seven minutes of her interview, Jiggetts was interrupted by NBC 5 news anchor Rob Stafford. He was explaining to Jiggetts her assignment for the 5 p.m. and a follow up story for the 6 p.m. newscast.
Jiggetts graduated cum laude from Harvard University in 2003 with a degree in sociology with a citation in Spanish. She graduated from Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire in 1999 and grew up in Chicago in the North Suburbs.
Jiggetts choose to major in sociology because [she] “thought it was more applicable to journalism because it was interesting and I needed to get the experience somewhere else.” She said always wanted to be a reporter.
Since Harvard did not have a journalism program, she decided to intern every summer to get experience in the field. She interned at Fox Chicago and Tribune-owned Chicagoland TV (CLTV).
Jiggetts also did a fellowship in the public affairs office at MTV Studios in New York City as a summer fellow representing Harvard University. Here Jiggetts worked on its Emmy award-winning anti-discrimination campaign: Fight For Your Rights.
Prior to joining NBC 5, she served as a general assignment reporter and fill in anchor for WLVI-TV (Boston’s CW) where she spent two years. Jiggetts covered a variety of hard and soft news. “I covered a stupid story of a lizard walking into a computer store” to violence in the city, she said. Jiggetts learned a lot and gained experience while doing reporting these types of stories.
After graduating from Harvard, she enrolled at Northwestern University to get a master’s degree in journalism. The day she registered for classes, she received a call to offer her a job as an anchor/reporter at Channel One news in Los Angeles. She accepted the position, and moved to the West Coast, where she had never lived before.
“I wanted to be a reporter and my parents supported me,” Lauren said.
Lauren’s dad, Dan Jiggetts, is a former Chicago Bear player, and is a co-host on “Monsters and Money in the Morning” on CBS 2 Chicago. Dan Jiggetts did not want Lauren to pursue a career as a journalist. He wanted her to be a lawyer or a doctor.
“He thought it could be very vulnerable; he wanted me to have a stable career path,” Lauren said. Her dad was her mentor throughout her career.
Jiggetts said her dad was very supportive when she decided to choose this path and not necessarily helped her to get her foot in the door as some in the Chicago media have implied.
According to Jiggetts, there has been a speculation that her dad helped her to get where she is now. There was a misconception that Dan Jiggetts “made some phone calls and set up meetings to recommend [her daughter]”.
“People knew who he was and recognized my last name,” Jiggetts said. There has been a misunderstanding about this. Dan Jiggetts did mention her daughter to some people but her “last name certainly helped me to get my foot in the door,” Jiggetts concluded.
According to NBC 5 Assistant News Director Chris Pena, it does not hurt that Dan Jiggetts is Lauren’s dad.
“You have to delivered the goods and if you can’t do that, it does not necessarily put you on top,” Pena said. Pena added that it is such a joy to have her in his news team because she is a great fit.
Jiggetts explained that having a degree in sociology helped her understand how deviance, race relations and public policy play an important role while covering stories.
The “qualities of a reporter are to be inquisitive, to ask questions and to be a critical thinker,” according to Jiggetts, who added she learned that while at Harvard.
“I think sociology is interesting and I don’t regret going that path,” she said. “Editing and shooting hurt because I never did those things and it was a lot of learning on the job.”
For Jiggetts, being on the job was not an easy ride and it was never smooth. One of the things she learned while on the job was to always have people around and sometimes they will criticize and critique you.
“Sometimes it can be constructive and sometimes you will find it not so constructive.” She said.
That was the biggest challenge she had to deal with.
Being so young and working for a big market, Jiggetts said she felt intimidated by working along side with reporters she grew up watching. She has a lot of respect for those people that have worked in this market for so long.
There is a lot of bureaucracy in the industry of journalism and it can become “very competitive,” Jiggetts said. She said she never experienced any bureaucracy at NBC 5, and she developed a lot of friendships and she enjoys working there.
When she worked at Channel One news in Los Angeles, she covered national stories and a “lot of journalists jump from doing national stories to local.” This transition helped her to eventually land and work for a big market like Chicago. She loves Chicago and her dad was in Chicago. All of these factors helped her come back.
When Jiggetts is not at work, she loves to read fiction and she enjoys being physically active. She loves to do general assignment work because every day is different. Her most memorable story was reporting on a Category 3 hurricane in Virginia Beach, Va. in 2003.
Managing Editor Angie Rosemond, who works closely with Jiggetts, said that a “reporter has to be very flexible and be willing to do it on its own,”
Assignment Editor Stephanie Streff, who has worked with Jiggetts for more than three years, said Jiggetts is one of the best reporters on the team because “she will never turn down a story she is assigned.”
In the next five years, Jiggetts sees her continuing working as a reporter and would like to start a family. She is married to Pyramis Global Advisors research analyst Patrick Brian Donovan. The couple met at Harvard and have been married for nine months.
“Relationships can struggle in this market,” Jiggetts said. Their marriage has remained stable, she said, because she has a husband “that understands my job.”
Editor’s note: The author of this story works for Telemundo, part of the NBC Universal division of General Electric.