Lisle, Illinois ~ Like many journalists of her generation, Linda Polach, C73, English, can pinpoint the moment when she saw working in the news business not just as a career, but as a calling.
It was the summer of 1973 and all anyone seemed to be talking about was President Richard Nixon and his ties to a burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel.
“I had just graduated from Benedictine,” Polach recalled. “As I watched the hearings and news coming out of Washington, I felt I started to wake up to what was going on and it inspired me to go into journalism.”
Today, Polach is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of experience as a news producer, executive producer and director of special projects for WCVB-TV in Boston, and as an executive producer and executive editor for WGBH News, where she currently helps oversee all of the newsroom’s radio, television and digital programming. In November, she was honored with the prestigious National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Silver Circle Award, a milestone award given to professionals for their lifetime of dedication and contributions to the industry.
“To receive that award was big for me,” Polach said. “As a producer, you don’t always get the obvious kudos because you are working behind the scenes and not on TV, so it was especially nice to be acknowledged in that way.”
Polach enrolled at Benedictine as the first member of her family to go to college and during a time of change as a member of the University’s first class of female students.
“At that time, they were still trying to retrofit Ondrak Hall into an all-girls residence hall,” Polach said. “I was a resident assistant and made some great friends and was very involved. I loved it and had a great time there.”
Polach played on the basketball team and was active in student council and the theater program.
“If I had to come up with one thing I learned that stays with me, it would be the values that were instilled in us as students,” Polach said. “At that moment in life, to be thinking about the meaning of life and what I should do – to have that spiritual guidance and the undercurrent that your job is to be a good person and good citizen – I think that has stayed with me throughout my many different machinations and evolutions.”
After graduation, Polach taught English for three years at her alma mater, the former Maria High School on the South Side of Chicago, and then moved to Boston to pursue a graduate degree in journalism with an emphasis on broadcast news at Boston University.
“I had no idea what Boston was like, but I applied to this one graduate program and was accepted and it seemed like destiny,” Polach said.
While in graduate school, she interned with WCVB (ABC’s affiliate station) and was later offered a position as an associate producer.
Throughout her career, Polach produced live coverage of such events as the Boston Marathon, the Tall Ships® races and various political debates. She has also worked on some of the biggest news stories of the present day, providing coverage of the 1986 space shuttle Challenger disaster (for which she received one of several Emmys), the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Boston Marathon bombing.
Polach’s many career highlights include a series on education that led her to Japan and other stories that took her to the White House.
“Being a journalist is being a chronicler of the world,” Polach said. “It is really a great privilege. When you think about it, the average person doesn’t get to sit in a car with the speaker of the House or talk to the president in the Oval Office.”
Recently, Polach has taken on a more experimental endeavor as project manager of the WGBH Studio – the first TV, radio and digital studio in the world to be located entirely within a public library.
Since opening in September at the Boston Public Library, the WGBH Studio has provided a means to engage the public on a more grassroots level. One segment in particular, called “Hear at the Library,” invites visitors to the library to talk with news anchors for an average person’s perspective on various topics and issues.
“The purpose is really to listen to people,” Polach said. “I think media does a lot of talking to people, but this is an opportunity for people to come in and really talk with us.”
While the journalism industry has weathered declining readership and viewership in recent years, accurate news that holds people in power accountable is still very much in-demand, and will require young and talented reporters to innovate and overcome new obstacles to sort fact from fiction in the flood of the information age, Polach said.
“I would say now more than ever before, we need people who can dig, find the facts and report them so citizens know what they need to know about their government and what’s happening in their communities,” Polach said.
“Young people especially should be thinking about getting into this profession,” she added. “Sure, you can work on Wall Street, but I can’t imagine anything more fulfilling if you are curious, are interested in what’s going on in your community and if you like to find out more about people. If you are sincere about finding out what the truth is, there is nothing better.”
Do you know an alumnus whose life and/or career would make a good feature in an upcoming issue of Voices? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 9,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the sixth consecutive year in 2016. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, email@example.com or visit ben.edu.