Capitol Broadcasting and WRAL-TV recently hosted a dozen minority college students for the 2018 CBC-UNC Diversity Fellowship. For the sixth year, CBC welcomed journalism students to this hands-on fellowship to work with WRAL-TV staffers to prepare them for a career in broadcasting. The 2018 program took place from March 14 – 18.
“The fellowship gives a diverse group of students a running head start to getting their first jobs,” explained WRAL-TV News Director Rick Gall. “They have voices and perspectives that must be heard in newsrooms.”
For five days, the 12 students from all over the country spend time learning from a variety of staffers at WRAL-TV, learning as much as they can about the broadcasting business. Students work with these mentors on everything from reporting to live shots to producing in the newsroom and more. They gather content they can use to secure future employment, leaving with stories to send to potential employers.
“We try to give them the true newsroom experience; right now, many of them have a week or two to turn a news package,” said WRAL-TV News Producer Stephanie Beck. “We show them what it means to make it happen in a day. We also give them a day in the classroom to learn the foundations of what they need to know in order to get that first job and thrive in it. I know that in my producing class, I give them ideas that they can grow into while they are in their first job.”
WRAL.com Managing Editor Alfred Charles helped mentor the students in aspects of digital media.
“I think a program like this is extremely important to help bring qualified minority students into the field,” he said. “They were able to participate in every aspect of news gathering and able to get hands-on experience that will serve them well when they begin their professional careers.”
WRAL-TV Vice President & General Manager Steve Hammel was the impetus behind starting the fellowship at WRAL-TV.
“Our industry must do a better job attracting minority journalists,” he said. “I think it’s our responsibility to proactively help the next generation of journalists. I am so proud of the students who have successfully been here and are now outstanding reporters and producers throughout the country. We keep track of those who have gone through the program so that we can consider bringing them back to WRAL-TV.”
Students from the fellowship have gone on to complete their degrees and find gainful employment in the broadcasting field.
“More than 70 journalists have gone through the fellowship and will help carry on Steve’s legacy in broadcasting long after he retires,” said Gall.
The 2018 UNC-Diversity Fellowship class included:
- Doni Holloway, UNC Chapel Hill
- Hannah Lee, UNC Chapel Hill
- Lex Juarez, UNC Chapel Hill
- Alexis Bell, UNC Chapel Hill
- Jasmin Adous, Virginia Commonwealth University
- Courtney Ciaban Tate, Howard University
- Elizabeth Del Carmen, University of Florida
- Liandra Larsen, University of Florida
- Alexa Lorenzo, University of Florida
- Bree Samani, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
- Christian Galeno, California State – Long Beach
- Elizabeth Suarez, The Ohio State University
“The participants in this program amaze me every year,” said Beck. “Each group seems to know a little more about where they want to go and what they want to do in their careers. They come to us for the tools they need to make their dreams happen, and extending their network among their peers.”
WRAL-TV Assistant News Director Aysu Basaran coordinates the program on behalf of CBC, while UNC School of Media and Journalism Lecturer Lynn Owens coordinates on behalf of UNC.
“So many people in the WRAL Newsroom took time out of their busy schedules to help these students achieve their goals,” said Basaran. “They didn’t do it because they had to. They did it because they wanted to. It really makes me proud to work in a newsroom investing in the future of the industry.”
Many WRAL staffers eagerly volunteer to help coach these young students.
“Having had some great mentors when I was young in the business, some right here at the Big 5, Jay Jennings, Rick Armstrong, Art Howard… it’s important for me to give back, return the love I was shown when I needed it,” said WRAL-TV News Photographer Richard Adkins.
Beck also cited mentors as making a difference in her life.
“This is a hard career to break into, and we all need help along the way,” she said. “When I was getting started, there were people who saw potential in me and helped me get my feet under me. It’s important to me to pay it forward to anyone in the next generation who shows that spark. It’s even more important to find those diverse voices who want to excel in news and give them the tools to get started.”
She continued, “I believe every newsroom needs an articulate voice of difference – whether that’s in age, race, religion, culture, ethnicity… you name it. A newsroom that’s truly serving its community needs to reflect its community.”
Beck strives to share her own history of knowledge with the students.
“Many of the students we bring into the diversity fellowship have a different background than we do, and likely will have a different background than the managers who hire them for their first jobs,” she said. “If I can take a few days to add to their experience and help them find the common ground they need in order to get hired – the knowledge, the terminology, the expectations – and that then allows them be the articulate voice of difference in a newsroom that needs it, then I’ve paid it forward a little bit more.”
Charles and WRAL-TV Social Media Wendy Gatlin spoke to the group about WRAL’s digital platforms and how newsgathering is no longer just about writing something for television.
“The news business – and those who strive to enter it — now has daily tasks that include writing stories for online posting, cutting video extras that will be shared on our digital platforms, looking at online metrics to gauge performance, writing/sharing posts on Facebook, tweeting developments/sharing updates in real time, taking photos from the scene and sharing them to Instagram,” said Charles.
The students get a real-life look at life in the newsroom and in the field, a different angle than what they experience in the classroom.
“These students are immersed in a week of reality,” said Adkins. “They face real deadlines producing real stories in real conditions. It is eye opening for many of them.”
As an award-winning and well-known and respected nationally, WRAL-TV is poised to help give these students a real education in top-quality news production.
“I also think having the resources of WRAL TV behind them in this type of program is very valuable because they get to see how the No. 1 station in the market operates and they should walk away with a sense of what their professional life will be in a few short years,” said Charles. “I can say without a doubt that all of the participants, in a few years, will look back on the WRAL diversity fellowship as a boost to their personal skill development and their professional careers!”
Beck says that she not only shares her knowledge with these students, but that working with them is a learning experience for her.
“They also teach me,” she said. “They are still learning ‘the rules’ of broadcasting, so they ask questions that are not hindered by the parameters we work within daily. They have ideas informed by their backgrounds, which is a combination of traits we don’t always have in this newsroom. It gives me time away from the daily deadlines to think about the big picture of where I see this industry going, where their questions fit in, and ways I can push to do things differently in my corner of the newsroom.”
Adkins is also inspired by what he saw in the 2018 Fellows.
“Working with these students gives me hope for the future of TV News,” he said. “These kids are good.”
SLIDESHOW: 2018 CBC UNC Diversity Fellowship
Thanks to WRAL-TV’s Aysu Basaran & WRAL-TV’s Richard Adkins for these capcom photos.