University News

WIU Faculty Training Next Generation of Journalists

May 31, 2017


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MACOMB, IL – In an era where journalists are being accused of reporting "fake news" and media credentials are under attack, Western Illinois University is training the next generation of journalists with a solid foundation in reporting the facts about news as it happens.

As a result, the WIU Department of Broadcasting and Journalism is setting records with the regional, state and national awards students are bringing back to campus, many times after competing against broadcasting and journalism programs based at much larger schools across the nation.

For the department's faculty and administration, one of the biggest sources of pride is the community that has been built and mentoring relationships that have been created with students in the WIU program. From the first day they arrive on campus, students have opportunities to become part of a functioning news team in any way that interests them, from on-camera reporting to behind-the-scenes operations.

"At Western, there is a real opportunity for students to stand out and take ownership in the product we put out," said Broadcasting and Journalism Instructor Jasmine Crighton. "A lot of people are impressed by the level of news, production and real world experience we can provide. This serves as more than a college program; it's a real newscast."

Students in the department have the opportunity to work on NEWS3, a live newscast produced three times each week during the academic semester, as well as create sports productions, which air on ESPN3. The University also offers a campus-based FM radio station, WIUS-FM 88.3, also known as "The Dog," and the student-run newspaper, the Western Courier, which is published three times each week. All of the programming offers students the opportunity to work with current technology to complete real newscasts or print stories, based on student reporting that includes covering daily police briefings and weekly Macomb City Council meetings.

"The leaders in town know who my students are," said Crighton. "Students take the coverage of their beats seriously, and I like to think we are leading the pack on a lot of news stories in this area. We have 25 students in our production staff who run cameras and get video – they do it all and learn each aspect. We give them a really good experience; there are freshmen working behind the scenes, as well as anchoring, things you wouldn't see happening at other schools."

One of those students is Spring 2017 WIU graduate Redrick Terry, who won numerous broadcasting awards during his time at Western. Terry said he arrived on campus in August 2013, and was announcing high school football games just two months later.

"WIU's broadcasting program was so beneficial to me on a number of different levels," said Terry. "The students and faculty are people who all have your best interests at heart, and that shows in the hallways of Sallee Hall every single day. Opportunities to get involved begin as soon as you set foot on campus. I chose Western very early during my senior year of high school almost five years ago, and I wouldn't change that decision for anything in the world."


Part of a Team

At Western, students contribute to creating the newscasts as if they were working as reporters, producers and technicians for a local, regional or national media outlet. Several of the major awards the department won over the past year were for the student coverage of the deadly natural gas explosion in downtown Canton, IL, in November.

"Our students were on the scene quickly and were doing live shots from downtown and attending the emergency briefings," said Crighton.

Students also worked together during the November election to conduct interviews, update social media and do live reports.

"They weren't getting credit for it, and it wasn't a class requirement, they just wanted to do it," said Crighton.


Discover Broadcasting


WIU Broadcasting and Journalism Chair William "Buzz" Hoon said one way the department attracts new students is through the University's Discover Western events. WIU students present 10-15 minute mock newscasts so potential students and their parents can walk around through all aspects of the production as they are happening, including the studio and the control room.

"The students like to show what they can do" Hoon said. "Our students are our best advertisement. This experience gives potential students a visualization; they can see what it would be like if they came here. It also shows the parents that the students are doing everything."

Each semester, students audition to be part of the newscasts and are offered positions based on the qualifications they have developed. The walls of the WIU Department of Broadcasting and Journalism are lined with photographs of students who have graduated and moved on to media jobs in prestigious markets.

Spring 2017 graduate Emily Manley, of Highland, IL, recently began working at her "dream job" at KMOV Channel 4 in St. Louis, MO, after serving as the station's intern last summer. Manley also won numerous state and national broadcasting awards and scholarships during her time at Western.

"I wouldn't be sitting here without my education from Western Illinois University," she said. "I am beyond blessed to have worked with my professors and peers, who have become lifelong friends because of this department. The WIU Department of Broadcasting and Journalism will always hold a special place in my heart."

WIU senior broadcasting major Danny Frey, of Springfield, IL, who was also part of numerous awards this year, including winning a Students of Illinois News Broadcasters Association (SINBA) award for Outstanding Television Sports Reporting, said he also believes choosing WIU as his academic home was one of the best decisions he's made.

"Immediately, I was able to not only get involved, but feel like I was a part of a great group. I am confident that I would not have received as much experience or hands-on learning if I went anywhere else," he said.

Frey said his WIU experience has given him a variety of opportunities, including traveling to, and covering the appearance, of the Leatherneck Women's Basketball team in the NCAA Tournament this year.

WIU alumnus Chris Lovingood, a reporter at NBC2 News in Fort Myers, FL, also won numerous awards during his time as a WIU student, including being honored for his coverage of a tornado in Washington, IL. He said his time at Western was enhanced by the department's faculty who gave him the hands-on experience he needed for a career.

"I entered the workforce prepared for what was thrown at me; handling breaking news, interviewing public figures and meeting deadlines," he said. "I handled it well because of the tools the WIU broadcasting department gave me."

WIU students were finalists for about 30 awards over the past academic year and captured more than 20 awards including the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System national award for Best TV Newscast and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) Mid America Chapter award for Outstanding Newscast. For a complete list of awards, visit wiu.edu/cofac/bcj/award_winning.php.

Crighton said one academic challenge facing broadcasting students is to keep up with the "changing landscape of news," including learning to write in multiple formats.

"For a small University, we are doing really big things," said Crighton. "We basically give our students an on-campus internship, working as a professional, while here in school. I want to build a better journalist - that's what I am here for, if that means forging our own path, that's what we're doing."

For more information about the WIU Department of Broadcasting and Journalism, visit wiu.edu/bcj.


Posted By: Jodi Pospeschil (JK-Pospeschil@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations