A broadcaster, author, speaker and historian, Ken Zurski grew up in the Chicagoland area and went to Columbia College for broadcasting and journalism. After beginning his career as the voice of a sports and horse racing results phone line, he transitioned to radio when the Chicago all-news stations began doing traffic reports every 10 minutes, 24 hours a day. In the 1990s, he covered news and traffic on WLS-AM under the name “Grant Parke” and served as the airborne reporter for WBBM Newsradio 780 AM.
In 2003, Zurski moved to Peoria and started Traffic One, the area’s only full-service traffic reporting operation. Midwest Communications, then known as JMP Radio Group, was looking to start a traffic service due to the Upgrade 74 project and subsequent closure of the Murray Baker Bridge. He worked split-shift traffic until 2014, and now does morning traffic reports on WMBD, WIRL, The Mix and The Drive. This year marked the 17th anniversary of Traffic One… with another bridge closure.
Zurski released his first book, The Wreck of the Columbia, in 2012, telling the tragic story of the paddle steamer that capsized and killed 87 people in 1918—the worst maritime accident in the history of the Illinois River. That was followed by Peoria Stories: Tales from the Illinois Heartland in 2014 and Unremembered: Tales of the Nearly Famous & the Not Quite Forgotten in 2018, which won a Readers’ Favorite “Honorable Mention” award. He and his wife Connie live in Morton with their two children, Sam and Nora, and one dog, Molly.
- Favorite aspect of central Illinois: The mix of urban and rural sensibilities, and the history— especially the river towns.
- Nobody in my office knows… I have a tattoo, had my ear pierced, and can drive a stick shift. This will all likely get some airtime now.
- Famous person, dead or alive, I’d like to meet: Clarence Darrow, “the defender of lost causes.” I’d like to pick his brain.
- Who or what inspires you? My wife. She influences me every day in every way.
- What would you say to your 20-year-old self? Slow down and enjoy it more.
- Favorite writers: Walter Lord, Simon Winchester, Jon Krakauer and John A. Ferrell.
- What’s one thing you should throw away but haven’t? More like can’t throw away. My box(es) of air check cassettes from old radio shows. It’s like my job resume, only bulkier.
- Favorite sport to play/watch: Normally in the summer it would be the Cubs on TV, but this year it’s European football/soccer. I don’t like the artificial crowd noise, though.
- At what time of day are you most productive? Early morning. I like to work on my book before I go to my radio job, which is very early. A good way to start the day!
- What’s next? My fourth book is nearly done. I wrote most of it during the shutdown. It’s set against the backdrop of historically known events and filled with personal stories of fascinating figures and friendships and how they changed or influenced each other’s lives. PM