Jennifer Fuller Flath is used to asking the questions. Yet, as a skilled professional, she knows even being on the other side of the table is beneficial.
“This experience is good for me,” the 40-year-old radio personality says. “This really helps to guide the way I do interviews because I understand how nervous people can be, how afraid they are that they’ll say something and then think, ‘Oh, no, that’s not what I meant.” I understand how they feel.”
A native of Carterville, she started her career at WSIU-FM while a student at Southern Illinois University. After attending graduate school in Springfield, she returned to the region and WSIU in 2003. She’s been on the air practically every morning since — at work before most of us get out of bed — bringing news, perspective and interviews, lots and lots of interviews.
“That’s what I do,” she says. “My job is all about telling other people’s stories. It’s not about me. It’s about helping people understand something that sounds so big and unimaginable and trying to take it down to a small way that they can either relate it to their own life or help out with it in some way.”
She has served as news director for the National Public Radio affiliate for three years, earning the respect of not only her peers, but also those who tune in. She says she always tries to remember her listeners.
“I try to cover news, not just by looking at it from my own perspective, but also trying to find other perspectives as well,” she explained. “I try to look at things like, ‘What would other taxpayers say about this?’ or ‘How will a business owner, a parent or someone else be affected by this?’ I try to ask those type of questions and sometimes it’s even as simple as thinking about what my 11-year-old would ask if they were talking to the same person.”
She says growing up in Southern Illinois has given her a unique perspective on the news she covers and the stories she tells.
“I think it has made me appreciate not just who I am, but my place in the workplace, the region and my world. My job is to serve the people here and I take that role very seriously. I realize that the issues that are important to us in this region aren’t necessarily the ones to people in other places,” she said.
Flath, who uses her maiden name of Fuller on broadcasts, says that means sometimes she is not just telling stories to Southern Illinois, but she shares Southern Illinois’ stories, too.
“My role also is to make sure that the voices of the people here are heard,” she explained. “I want to make sure that their questions are answered. I’m honored and humbled to know that I can call one of our senators or congressmen and they’ll take my call. That’s not something I take lightly. There are not a lot of other opportunities for someone to talk to them and ask them important questions. It’s my responsibility to take the questions from our region and ask them to the people making the decisions.”
She continues, stressing how important her home region is to her and the way she does her job.
“I realize that we have to tell people what’s important and get them the information they need so that they can each make appropriate decisions for their lives. That’s what it is all about.”