Not everyone gets a career path marked by so many signposts. As a child, Natalie J. Bomke, ’04 MEDIA, talked such a non-stop streak that her mom worried there was something wrong with her—either that, or she had a future in television.
As an undergraduate at the College of Media, Bomke fine-tuned her devotion to telling other people’s stories. By the time she interviewed for her first full-time job—bureau chief at WICS-TV in her hometown of Springfield, Ill.—she had tailored her ambition into something more specific, telling the station boss, “I want to be a morning anchor like Katie Couric.”
Today, Bomke says she’s living her dream. “I’m so happy serving Chicago that I don’t want to be anywhere else! I’ve worked my entire career to get here.”
That dream is the anchor post on Fox 32 Chicago’s 4 p.m. newscast, as well as a third anchor for the station’s 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. broadcasts. She also reports for the station. “I love every single one of my colleagues; I love my bosses,” she says. But Bomke is more than a diehard enthusiast—she also happens to be a hard-working television journalist who takes her job seriously.
“I consider the profession to be a public service. I’m completely dedicated to others and telling their stories. Even if a story doesn’t make the news, you’re there to listen and help in any way you can.”
Nothing exemplifies that dedication more than her report on U.S. veterans and their limited access to dental care, a series that won her a prestigious Peter Lisagor Award from the Chicago Headline Club in 2019. Highlighting a group called Smiles for Veterans, Bomke exposed the restricted medical coverage that can rob vets of their savings or drive them into barbaric treatment methods—such as the vet she featured whose sister discovered that he had to pull his infected teeth with pliers. They weren’t a service-related injury, and he couldn’t afford dentures or implants.
Vets aren’t the only passion that informs her journalism. Bomke has a cousin with Down syndrome who is a Special Olympian. She repeatedly looks for ways to report on that community and the “people within it who are exceptional.”
With a similar fervor, she has championed the work of animal shelters and hosts events for PAWS Chicago, Tree House Humane Society and Harmony House for Cats. She credits her mom who was such a fan of shelters, she had as many as 20 cats living in their home in rural Springfield. Bomke herself has adopted several animals who share her Riverside, Ill., home with her husband, Ed Swiderski, and a 2-year-old daughter, Olive Mae. Her oldest non-human companion is Mr. Bill, a cat with four ears (“He’s all ears!”) whom she adopted in Sacramento, Calif.
Bomke was in Sacramento at age 24, the youngest person ever to anchor the morning show at KTXL Fox 40 News in the nation’s No. 18 market. Going to that job interview was the first time she’d travelled on a plane by herself—and she stayed there, knowing no one, because she needed the experience. (“It’s what I had to do.”) Her next stop before Chicago was Fox 26 morning news at KRIV in Houston.
“I tell students that nothing’s worth having if you’re not working hard for it,” she says.