Searching for WBEZ’s fastest talker

Searching for WBEZ’s fastest talker
Searching for WBEZ’s fastest talker

Searching for WBEZ’s fastest talker

Maybe you’re not aware that at Curious City we’ve got a few ground rules, and one of the biggest is that our producers and reporters don’t take on questions about the station itself. In fact, we usually drop ‘em right away. But given the spirit of the season (it’s, ahem, the end of WBEZ’s fiscal year), we thought we’d break that cardinal rule.

Kristen Paulin from Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood came to the station in May for a member meet-and-greet session. And, apparently, she brought her curiosity with her, asking:

Who’s the fastest speaker at the WBEZ station? Can you challenge them to find out?

Kristen said she had her bets on Jill Egan, one of our traffic reporters. “But it’s just never been tested before,” Kristen told us. She was also particularly curious to know how the people she hears from most frequently on air — Melba Lara, Niala Boodhoo, Jennifer Brandel and Jill Egan — match up against each other. And what’s a little competition among friends?

But what to read? Well, we needed copy that was generic yet familiar enough that participants would not stumble over words. Lately, that kind of copy is within easy reach: lingo from our fundraising drive. (We did mention this was shameless, right?)

The text:
WBEZ is committed to giving you content without the fluff and ads you hear on other stations. On June 30th, WBEZ will end its fiscal year. As a non-profit organization, WBEZ strives to raise enough money to pay our bills each year. Our largest source of funding comes from listeners just like you. For the last eleven months, WBEZ members have donated over seven million dollars. We just have one million more to go to end the year in the black, and that’s where you come in. Support your local, non-commercial radio station by giving $15 dollars a month for the shows that get you through your day, like This American Life, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Worldview and Re:Sound. Show us you care. Help WBEZ finish out this fiscal year by donating online at wbez dot org slash donate. You can also call 1-888-915-9239 right now. That’s 1-888-915-9239 for a $15 dollar amount. And thanks.

Here’s our on-air, Morning Shift smackdown in which Tony Sarabia tries to take the title.

The results (among people Kristen mentioned specifically):

Curious City producer Jennifer Brandel reads this pledge pitch at supersonic speed (32.12 seconds):

Afternoon Shift host Niala Boodhoo races through a generic pledge drive pitch searching for victory (38.28 seconds):

News host Melba Lara reads a pledge drive pitch as fast as she possibly can (48.17 seconds):

Traffic reporter Jill Egan storms through a pledge drive pitch like a dreaded traffic report (49.20 seconds):

But, we couldn’t really stop there. Here are highlights from other folks who accepted our high-stakes challenge:

Events director Don Hall (34.07 seconds):

Events producer Tyler Greene (33.10 seconds):

Reporter/producer Shannon Heffernan (35.18 seconds):

And the final tally is:
Jennifer Brandel: 32.12
Tyler Greene: 33.10
Logan Jaffe: 34.00
Don Hall: 34.07
Shannon Heffernan: 35.18
Lauren Chooljian: 38.21
Niala Boodhoo: 38.28
Greta Johnsen: 41.18
Sarah Ballema: 41.26
Heidi Goldfein: 46.01
Melba Lara: 48.17
Jill Egan: 49.20

Parting shot

We’re not entirely sure what these results mean, but we do know this: The crown for the fastest talker at WBEZ can go to Curious City’s own Jennifer Brandel. That is … at least for now. And if anybody wants a rematch (or you want to take a stab yourself, by posting your submission to and tagging it with “WBEZ” and “Curious City”) … Bring. It. On.