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Dean of Traffic Marbourg inducted into hall of fame

Thursday - 9/15/2011, 4:26pm  ET

A rare glimpse into the WTOP Traffic Center where Bob Marbourg only has time for traffic reports and callers -- and not interviews about prestigous awards. (WTOP/Jolie Lee)

WASHINGTON -- The WTOP listening area's dean of traffic has finally received the recognition all of his colleagues have long known he deserves.

Senior traffic reporter Bob Marbourg will join other icons of the airwaves in the Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Other inductees include Edward R. Murrow and American pianist Liberace.

"Nobody embodies what makes radio so great, so valuable and such a public service more than Bob Marbourg," says WTOP News Director Mike McMearty. "His mission is to make sure people get to work safely, and get home safely at the end of the night. That's it. Period."

Marbourg's distinguished career spanning more than 30 years at WTOP is gilded with moments of particular dedication, including the "Commute from Hell" last January when he worked from 1 p.m. until 4 a.m. the following day. Fueled on cases of Pepsi and breaks no longer than 10 minutes, he didn't rest until almost all of the stranded commuters made it home safely.

"Every day he thinks about how he can do the job better the next day," McMearty says. "Not only does he give you straight reporting and help you get home safely, but he'll also, occasionally, call somebody out."

Marbourg is not above directing personalized reprimands over the airwaves to commuters driving erratically, or public officials who set up roadwork that creates unnecessary gridlock.

Nobody knows more about D.C. Traffic issues, McMearty says, or is as willing to share them with you, "whether you want to hear them or not."

"All kidding aside, Bob is like an encyclopedia of knowledge in the newsroom," he says. "I couldn't be happier to work with him all these years and couldn't be happier he's finally been recognized for his outstanding work."

But for Marbourg, this is just another day.

Receiving awards "isn't what I do," he says, shrugging off any formal recognition, "it's getting the job done."

"Every day you try to do a better job, because it's not about us as broadcasters," he explains. "It's about those we serve. It's about the customers."

Everything that happens inside the WTOP newsroom should be thought of "from the standpoint of the people we serve," he says, for listeners and for advertisers. Marbourg consistently asks himself, "Are they getting their money's worth? And are our listeners getting something of value which gives them a reason to come back and listen to us and read what's on the website?"

He looks to NASCAR driver Mark Martin, who explains it best.

"When he wins a race, he says 'Look, it's a privilege to be able to drive this beautiful equipment in front of these fans, and without these fans I wouldn't be here and wouldn't have the opportunity.' He says 'I'm just grateful for what I've been given and for everybody who comes out."

"And those are the people I seek to serve," Marbourg says. "We have a heck of an opportunity, but we have an even greater responsibility."

Think you know what it takes to report on traffic in this area? Check out this footage of the traffic nerve center:

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)