KSDK's Sara Dayley
Reporter Sara Dayley may stop traffic with her looks but she’s paving the way for a big career in broadcast journalism
Growing up in St. Louis, Sara was always known as longtime Cardinals relief pitcher
Ken Dayley’s daughter. Her rising broadcast journalism career began as a sports and traffic reporter at 590 KFNS radio. Soon she found herself trackside as a pit reporter and studio host on Fox’s SPEED Channel. Now as a reporter and anchor on KSDK’s “Today in St. Louis,” she’s turned the tables on that notion.
Today people ask the former Card: “Are you Sara Dayley’s dad?”
Sara didn’t know growing up that all the media attention would later give her a competitive edge in journalism. The experience taught Sara grace, poise and a deep respect for not only athletes and celebrities but also for people from all walks of life. As a journalist, it’s helped Sara understand sensitivity and truth.
“I know what it feels like to have the media intrude on tough situations and family time,” she explains. “It’s definitely softened my approach because I relate to both sides. When someone is injured or going through a tragedy, my heart truly goes out to him or her. There’s always more to the story than the injury, there may be a family it will affect or possibly start a whole new complicated chapter of emotional battles. I understand there are lines you don’t cross. There is a time and a place for everything and that includes a respectable way to get the facts out in a timely manor. ”
IN EXTREME DEMAND
Broadcast journalism is demanding and competitive. And Sara Dayley has never been afraid to dive right in, roll up her sleeves and get dirty—literally in the mud in jeans and steel-toed work boots.
After graduating from the University of Tampa with a degree in communication journalism, Sara sent out tons of tapes while juggling multiple jobs. Soon she landed a job with the SPEED channel (now Fox Sports One) the national authority on motor sports—supercross, monster trucks and drag racing were her beats. For two seasons, she would spend nearly every weekend on the road for a four month stretch—after doing early morning sportscenter updates at 101 ESPN all week—she’d head to some of the biggest stadiums in America to cover Monster Jam for SPEED.
“I just hit the ground running, jumping at every opportunity thrown at me,” she says. “It was a crazy, whirlwind schedule, but I got to cover events in incredible sports venues—Qualcomm in San Diego, the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, the Metrodome in Minneapolis and the New Orleans Superdome.”
Now she spends Sundays at the Edward Jones Dome as the in-game host for the St. Louis Rams. “There is nothing like interacting with fans and being part of an incredible organization. If you are a true sports fan, it’s so exciting to be surrounded by energetic, passionate-die hards who appreciate the team and the game.”
Is it hard covering tough masculine sports like motocross and football as a young beautiful girl? “You make a decision early on to be a good journalist, not a pretty face, and then work hard to build credibility and respect as a reporter. But it takes time to establish that reputation. It doesn’t just happen overnight. ”
As a tomboy, Dayley fit in the sports world right away. “I am not a girlie girl,” she confesses. “I love wearing jeans, boots and a hoodie, throwing my hair in a pony tail and watching sports or being outside—somewhere by water, fishing, four-wheeling, boating, golf and, of course, baseball—but I admit I hate spiders.”
As an undergrad at Saint Louis University, Sara was considering a career in nuclear medicine, but she found herself being pulled away from chemistry and math and drawn to sports and communications. “I wanted to find something I could enjoy for the rest of my life,” she says. “I love working with people and being out in the community. This option just fit; it felt natural.”
Sara found her dream job when she joined “Today in St. Louis” at KSDK in
2011. “People invite us into their homes every morning and count on us to give them the news and information they need before heading out the door to start their day,” she says. “I love the people behind the stories. And I love that journalism is never the same; every day, every hour, it’s always changing.”
Sara admits that it’s tough reporting on serious accidents, abductions and death and disaster. “It’s awful but reality,” she explains. “So I try to be positive and sensitive, while delivering facts and being informative. It’s also a reality check on a daily basis, reminding me that we are all going through life together, as a city, as a country, as a member of our community. You can’t predict the unpredictable.”
Sara turns to the experienced news team at KSDK for inspiration and mentorship. Anchors Jennifer Bloom and Pat McGonigle, meteorologist Scott Connell and Bree Smith and the entire morning crew are like family to Sara. “They all are so talented and professional, there isn’t a tough situation they haven’t been in, and they offer so much support and guidance for reporters at any stage in their career.”
Growing up with the media spotlight on her dad wasn’t the only part of Sara’s childhood that primed her to be comfortable in front of the camera. As a competitive dancer, performing on stage backed Sara with confidence at an early age.
“Being a dancer definitely gave me confidence and a competitive edge because it taught me how to be ‘on’ all the time—it’s great training for broadcast journalism. Having confidence on stage translates well to being in front of a camera but also it gives you the ability to tackle anything that comes your way in life.”
Sara is always up for the next challenge both in life and in journalism.
“Becoming a respected journalist requires dedication and hard work,” she says. “By choosing to be in this profession, you’re setting yourself in the direct path of feedback—both positive and negative; some wanted and more unwanted. You have to make the best decisions you can at the time, stay true to who you are and think about if you want to be a one-hit wonder or legendary musician. It’s a combination of talent and integrity.”
SARA ON ST. LOUIS
“It was an amazing experience growing up watching my dad play baseball as a
Cardinal. The team’s history, the fans, all the great sports moments—St. Louis is the
best baseball city in America. And the Cardinals, it’s really a family. There are ushers that have been with the team since I was a baby at the old Busch. I love St. Louis; something always brings people back here. It’s the biggest small city in America. Everyone is connected somehow, it’s not six degrees of separation; it’s like three.”
The morning show comes with crazy hours. Sara plans to be in bed by 8 p.m., wakes up at 1:30 a.m., gets to the station around 2:45 a.m., and is on air by 4 a.m. But the upside down sleep schedule is one of the biggest benefits of the job—because it allows her to spend most of the day with her young son, Dax.
“The best thing about my hours is that my son is sleeping during most of them, so I’m not actually away from him that long. I get off work around 11 a.m., so I get to be with Dax all day. I don’t have to put him in daycare. And I get to put him to bed every night. My job allows me to spend so much quality time with him. And I wouldn’t want that any other way. He is my priority.”