Had it not been for the education he received at Columbia College Chicago, Milwaukee sports anchor Rod Burks might not be doing what he loves.
Currently working with Milwaukee’s NBC affiliate, Today’s TMJ4, Burks has covered sporting events from football to golf. A native of Buffalo, New York, Burks began his broadcasting career in Chicago while attending Columbia.
Unlike many freshman who go into college not knowing what they want to do, Burks had a goal and knew exactly how he was going to achieve it.
It all began when he started pestering the Chicago Bears front office for access to cover a Bears game. After several phone calls and letters, the organization finally granted his request. This type of access is typically reserved for professional media and it is almost unheard for a student to be granted permission to cover a game.
With his neighbor’s camcorder in hand, Burks went to the game and created content unlike that of his professional counterparts, including a segment where he would ask players random questions like their favorite cereal or TV show.
It was this type of original thinking that has landed the 35-year-old where he is today and Burks credits his time at Columbia for that.
“I always knew that Columbia was one of the best schools for what I wanted to do,” Burks said.
“A lot of the professors were and still are in the business but by far the best part about Columbia is that it allowed you to be you.”
After Columbia, Burks secured an internship at WMAQ-TV where he was given his own crew to cover games.
From there Burks moved on to AT&T, which later became Comcast. There Burks covered high school sports like football and basketball. He was only getting paid $75 a game, but he said he knew he was doing what he loved.
It was with AT&T that Burks was able to develop his own unique style of reporting. He would go out of his way to get the most interesting angles and make stories that were compelling. Despite never having worked his way up through small media markets, Burks was able to turn his $75 per game job into an experience that would ultimately lead him to his first major network job with FOX Sports Network Chicago.
At Fox, Burks met photographer Erik Fogle, who was instrumental in helping Burks shoot much of his standup during his time with FOX.
“Rod Burks is one of a kind. A confident person who knows his craft and loves what he does,” Fogle said.
Today Burks has an established reputation as a professional in the world of sports broadcasts and has even turned down jobs at major outlets like ESPN, the MLB network and the NFL network. Despite the prestige, Burks is holding out for an opportunity that will bring him back to Chicago.
Burks said he wants to return to Chicago because there are kids out there who are in the same boat he once was, and he wants to help.
“I once had people that helped me get to where I am today. I want to do the same for those motivated individuals and keep the wheels turning in the sports broadcast world,” Burks said.
To anyone with a dream of being someone or living your dream, Burks says you can do what you want to in life but the key to success is to have a plan and to never stop learning,
“I owe a lot of my success to Columbia, the connections I made changed my life. Who knows, things might have turned out differently if I would have gone to school somewhere else.”