University News

Forever Home: Emily Manley

March 2, 2020


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Video by Phil Weiss, BA '98, MS '17, University Television

NOTE: This is the eighth installment in a series, "Forever Home," which features video interviews with WIU alumni who have chosen to make Macomb (and/or WIU) their home after graduation.

MACOMB, IL – As Western Illinois University alumna Emily Manley mapped out her career path, she knew she would like to teach broadcasting after some time spent as a working journalist. What she didn't know is that just two years after her graduation, Manley would be back teaching and directing in the same WIU classrooms where she learned her early broadcasting skills.

Manley, a 2017 broadcasting and journalism graduate, began teaching news production and reporting classes and directing the student-run newscast on NEWS3 in 2019. She is the most award-winning student broadcaster in WIU history and is now taking her experiences in the journalism field in St. Louis, MO, Springfield, IL and Carterville, IL, and translating them into the classroom for WIU students preparing to enter the field.

With family roots in the Macomb community, returning to the city and to campus was an easy decision. It was her love of broadcasting that initially brought her to WIU.

"In fourth grade, they had us draw what we wanted to be when we grew up, and I drew a horrible stick figure with a microphone," she said. "Ever since then, that's all I wanted to be."

With a drive to be a journalist, Manley, a Highland, IL-native, said she always knew she would attend the University of Missouri. But a suggestion by her mother to visit WIU changed her path and she believes it enhanced her marketability as a job candidate.

"I lost that battle and my mom signed me up for a Columbus Day Discover Western," she said. "We ended up walking around the campus and I remember being like 'Okay, something is different here.' Buzz Hoon was a part of the Discover Western, who is now a big part of the College of Fine Arts and Communication, and he let me touch a camera. Inside of Western Hall, they set up the sports truck and they gave you a microphone and they gave you a script and they were like "Go ahead." I was shocked that I wasn't even a student here yet and they trusted me with their equipment. When we left Discover Western, mom was right – Western was the place I wanted to come because I got to touch the camera that day and the people here promised me that it was going to be hands on the entire four years at Western, compared to other schools that said, 'Guess what, you have to wait until you are a junior or senior to touch a camera.' That's why Western was actually the right home for me."

Manley said the WIU visit was a "game changer," because she is a hands-on learner who was excited about the opportunities Western presented a student entering college. While a student at WIU, Manley was part of the National Broadcasting Society, Students of Illinois News Broadcasters Association and the Illinois Broadcasters Association and took part in the leadership and news competitions of each organization. She also worked in multiple positions, including executive producer, in WIU's NEWS3 broadcasts.

"It was a great organization to be a part of," said Manley. "I do not believe I could have done any of the jobs I've had or had half the resume that I have without NEWS3 because of everything it had to offer and what it did for me as a journalist."

As the awards began to stack up throughout Manley's four years at WIU, she didn't realize she was becoming the broadcasting student who won the most state and national journalism awards in department history, including at least one that no WIU student had ever won.

"I was shocked – do you know all of the alumni that come from this department," she said. "That is something to be very proud of and I am to this day."

After graduating from WIU, Manley received her master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield in 2018. She covered the Illinois Statehouse through the program while working full-time as a producer and assignment desk editor and at KMOV-CBS in St. Louis, MO.

After getting her master's degree, Manley realized she missed her time as a reporter, and took a night-side reporter and fill-in anchor at WSIL-ABC in Carterville, IL.

While Manley was working in southern Illinois, the WIU Department of Broadcasting and Journalism was seeking to fill a broadcasting faculty position. Manley said she was not looking for a job when Hoon contacted her to see if she knew anyone who would be a good fit for a job. Just before the semester began, Manley's television station was bought out and she began to feel like the WIU position was a natural fit just as Hoon called her back a few weeks before the start of the semester.

"I believe the good Lord opens doors that you're supposed to enter – he gives you the right thing at the right time," she said. "I had about two days to put a syllabus together. Coming back to a place that had taught me so much was always in the back of my mind; I did not expect to do it so soon in my career."

She was very excited to come back and guide a television station that gave her so much and to use her academic and career experiences as a journalist in the field and in the classroom.

"When I went to go get my master's degree I knew I wanted to use it for teaching," she said. "I've always had that thought in my head and going back to Western would be so awesome, because the school and the department gave me so much. I had no journalism experience coming in to Western. My high school didn't have a broadcast program. The teachers made a big, big impact on me while I was a Western and in my head, I always was like 'I want to do that to another student. I want a student to look back and think Emily Manley did something for me…Emily Manley made me a better journalist.'"

Manley goes along with her students to cover governmental meetings and helps them consider all aspects of reporting the story from camera angles to story questions. Coming back to Macomb, Manley said the practice has helped her get reacquainted with local leaders and story makers. She said seeing the campus and the community through the lens of a faculty member has been heartwarming.

"Macomb is such a neat community," she said. "I made a goal of myself, because I love coffee, and what journalist doesn't, that every Friday I rotate where I get my coffee from in the city of Macomb. I keep it local."

Manley and her aunt also rotate Macomb restaurants on Wednesday nights to sample local offerings.

"This town has done a lot for me and I want to give back to the community in the sense of going and trying the local places, going and talking to the local business people, going to City Council, going to Dickens on the Square, or whatever fundraiser might be going on because the city of Macomb definitely knows how to keep people in this area and definitely knows how to continue its downtown development to keep people engaged, and continue to spend money and bring a bright light to the area."

When thinking of her return to Macomb, Manley said the word that comes to mind is "camaraderie."

"The people and the community members, the students; somehow, at some point through the year you get involved," she said. "Once you meet the people in town…the people in the town put a smile on their face. They want to meet you…they want to talk to you – they want you to come out and support the community. The people in the community support the Western like crazy. I think it's so neat that through good times, bad times, hardships, the University and the community have always had each other. Macomb seems to have those good-hearted people that know how to hold the conversation, that want to be in the community and support their community, while still having a good time and supporting their Leathernecks."

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