University News

Broadcasting Preparing for Great Things

September 13, 2018

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From the Summer 2018 issue of Western: The Magazine for Alumni of Western Illinois University


By Jodi Pospeschil MA '15

When Western Illinois University Department of Broadcasting and Journalism (BCJ) Chair William "Buzz" Hoon '86 MA '91 takes potential new students on a tour of the third floor of Sallee Hall, he asks them if they are "ready to do great things."

On that same tour, they see current WIU students producing and anchoring their own newscasts in the campus production studios. The hallways are lined with photographs of program alumni who are working in industry jobs and progressing in their careers.

As broadcasting students advance through their academic careers at Western, the program is accumulating an increasing number of regional, state and national awards. Students are also graduating with impressive resumés that help them find careers in media markets, both large and small. The program offers students the opportunity to study sports and news broadcasting, and the WIU program continues to evolve by offering cutting-edge technology and unique opportunities to students beginning their freshman year.

"We are looking for new students to come into the program and have their own successes," said Hoon. "Students are motivated by seeing other students succeed, and they want to be a part of that. This business is a competitive one, so we are teaching students to build resources and portfolios so they understand the competition part."

This year, the program tallied a record number of nearly 40 award nominations, including:

National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) Mid-America: Crystal Pillar awards for Outstanding Newscast, Outstanding Serious News and Outstanding Light News (2017), and Justin Fitzpatrick, a junior broadcasting major, from O'Fallon, MO, won for the best Short Form—Non-Fiction entry, "More Than a Number: Sam Pryor's Story," and senior broadcasting major John Benedeck, of McHenry, IL, was awarded an honorable mention award in the Long Form—Non-Fiction category for "Hidden Pearl: The WIU Scuba Project." (2018)
Intercollegiate Broadcasting System (IBS): 10 national nominations
National Broadcasting Society (NBS): 14 national nominations
Broadcast Education Association (BEA) Festival of Arts: Award of Excellence
Illinois College Press Association (ICPA): Three awards
Students in Illinois News Broadcasters Association (SINBA): Nine awards

"State, regional and national awards and accolades are just one representation of success," said Hoon. "But this continued achievement gives our young people the confidence to compete against graduates from any other school, no matter the size or reputation. The BCJ faculty are providing our students with an education that truly prepares them for their futures."

Hoon said awards are just one aspect of skill measurement in broadcasting, and the fact that so many students move on to prestigious internships and jobs is the "key part."

As part of promoting student success, Hoon recently tasked WIU Broadcasting and Journalism Instructor Jasmine Crighton with guiding students in sending their campus work to state and national competitions.

"They are gaining experience, but the awards show they're getting the experience and they're applying it," she said. "We work in a very visual medium, so it translates well."

Hoon said encouraging students to compete against their peers at other higher education institutions shows them that someone outside the program recognizes their achievement level and what skills they've gathered as part of their education.

College of Fine Arts and Communication (COFAC) Dean Billy Clow called WIU's Broadcasting and Journalism program "nothing short of spectacular."

"Year after year, they bring home regional, state and national honors and awards, topping all other programs around," he said. "It is a credit to our exceptional faculty and students working together to create news, sports, digital and radio programming at the highest levels."

Discover Western – The Next Generation

When high school students visit campus to see the broadcasting and journalism program firsthand, Hoon said current students do a newscast demonstration to show what it's like to be involved in the program.

"We have students talk about their experiences and let them know what they would have the opportunity to do here," he said. "Our students have a stake in this. They need to know there are good people coming into the program because they are going to be working with them."

In the department's main office, there is a board of potential students who department faculty and staff stay in touch with to encourage them to attend WIU.

"We have interest from across the nation," said Crighton. "But, it's important to get more local people and those from the state of Illinois."

The program is also doing outreach work with local high schools, including Illini West in nearby Carthage, IL. The classes are being taught by program alumnus and current broadcasting and journalism instructor Casey Woodman '14 MS '16.

"Starting a partnership with Illini West High School, teaching a dual enrollment course, is a huge benefit to the Department of Broadcasting and Journalism," said Woodman. "I am extremely excited to focus on video production with high school students who are still deciding on majors and colleges that they might want to attend. This course will allow them to receive a basic understanding of video editing by producing content for WIU and for their community."

Anniversary Year

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the University's broadcasting program, and 2017 was the 25th year for sports broadcasting. One of the founders of sports broadcasting, Sharon Evans, former associate dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication (COFAC), said the program began with the broadcast of WIU women's basketball games.

"I am very proud of the students, faculty and staff of the Department of Broadcasting and Journalism," said Evans. "The broadcasting program has grown immensely in terms of quality students and quality programming."

In February, sports broadcasting students debuted a set of purple blazers to be worn on camera during sports broadcasts. The purple blazers, embroidered with the WIU sweep logo, were purchased with money raised by the department through donations, including a price reduction offered by John Nelson '82, owner of Nelson's Clothing in downtown Macomb.

Hoon brought the purple blazers to WIU after seeing a similar idea used for students at Brother Rice High School in Chicago.

Educational Opportunities

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, aka "The Dog," and the student-run newspaper, the Western Courier, which is published three times each week.
It was that opportunity, to get involved immediately, that brought freshman Devin Brooks, of St. Louis, MO, to Western to study broadcasting. Since coming to Western, Brooks has won a scholarship and talks to visiting high school classes about available opportunities.

"I wanted to get hands-on experience that will prepare me for my future," he said of his decision to attend Western. "Every day, as I walk through the broadcasting and journalism floor, the endless number of pictures along the walls featuring all the alumni inspires me to be where they are and gives me confidence on my road to success."

Alumni Successes

As the history of the department begins to grow so do the successes of alumni who have seen progressive successes in their careers.

WIU alumnus Chris Lovingood '14 credits the WIU Department of Broadcasting and Journalism for helping him advance from a television reporter in Ft. Myers, FL, to a weekend anchor in Pittsburgh, PA, beginning this summer.

"Working with Jasmine Crighton, Roger Sadler and Sam Edsall granted me the ability to learn what I needed to know in order to work in a competitive field such as TV news," he said. "Without the support of a staff, who encouraged student involvement on the twice-a-week newscast, I wouldn't know the foundation of being a news reporter. I'm appreciative of everything WIU taught me, and I look forward to hearing what other success stories come from the broadcasting department."

Brittany Baumann '07 is currently a news producer at KSTP-TV in Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN. She said the broadcasting faculty at Western taught her that "everyone, from the camera operator to the graphics department, editors and photographers, to the person cutting my paycheck are all important to the final news product."

"Western allowed me to fail within the confines of the academic world with professors willing to pick me up and guide me along the way, so I wouldn't fail in the real world," said Baumann. "To me, that's the Western advantage. Western taught me the work and life skills needed to launch my producing career."

Denise Hnytka '06 is an anchor and reporter for WQAD-TV in the Quad Cities. She called WIU's program "hands-on from the start."

"I was writing scripts, shooting video and anchoring newscasts from my freshman year on," she said. "Being allowed to explore all areas of broadcasting gave me a big advantage when it came time to look for internships. Professor Roger Sadler encouraged me to try everything, and be well-rounded. That advice still works in the professional world."

For more information about the WIU Department of Broadcasting and Journalism, visit

Posted By: WIU News (
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