The Meek School of Journalism and New Media

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Meek School students find media mentors in Raycom execs

Posted on: April 4th, 2016 by drwenger
WLOX News Director Brad Kessie critiques the work of Breck Jones, a broadcast journalism major. Photo by Ji Hoon Heo, April 4, 2016.

WLOX News Director Brad Kessie critiques the work of Breck Jones, a broadcast journalism major. Photo by Ji Hoon Heo, April 4, 2016.

The Meek School of Journalism and New Media was proud to host eight executives from Raycom Media Inc. on Monday, April 4. Students had the opportunity to meet with the executives who reviewed their portfolios. They attended sessions focused on various media careers.

One of the nation’s largest privately-owned broadcasters, Raycom owns or provides services covering nearly 14 percent of the nation’s television households, with 62 stations in 20 states. The company employs more than 4,600 people in a variety of positions, and the executives gave students insight on the career opportunities that await them in media, as well as advice on how to break into the industry.

“It’s not just anchors and reporters like everyone thinks,” said Vicki Zimmerman, the Raycom Regional News Director, during a session on producing. “There’s opportunity everywhere–digital, production, sales, marketing, research.”

The executives encouraged students to consider a potential media employer based on the company and its values, and not just on the market size. Additionally, they gave honest advice about the workload and the pay of the news media profession.

WMC-TV News Director Tammy Phillips and WLBT News Director Hatton Weeks observe NewsWatch Ole Miss before offering a critique. Photo by Ji Hoon Heo, April 4, 2016.

WMC-TV News Director Tammy Phillips and WLBT News Director Hatton Weeks observe NewsWatch Ole Miss before offering a critique. Photo by Ji Hoon Heo, April 4, 2016.

“You need to be realistic,” said Tammy Phillips, News Director at WMC Action News 5 in Memphis. “You’re not going to start off with Tom Brokaw’s salary, and your first year is hard but will give you a lot of experience. You’ve got to be willing to work hard and care about your audience and, if you care about the work, it really is a lot of fun.”

The group advised students on careers within Raycom, noting the company is not only up-to-date on technology and offers opportunities throughout the nation, but also truly cares about its employees.

“If you have the vision, Raycom will help you achieve it,” said Zimmerman.

With the media landscape constantly evolving because of changing technologies, Brad Conaway, a regional director on the digital side, provided advice on some of those job options within Raycom that vary from the traditional.

“We’re really focused on finding out where the ideal place to engage with our audience is for every piece of news,” Conaway said. “Do we need to put this on Facebook, on Instagram, on live television, on our website?”

Conaway demonstrated the live analytics tools he uses to monitor online engagement and new mobile applications that allow journalists and producers to create news packages on the go.

In addition to the excellent advice for journalism students, the Raycom visit also opened the eyes of some students who had never considered a television career.

“The visit demonstrates that media companies also are interested in hiring professionals in marketing, public relations and advertising,” said Scott Fiene, director of the Integrated Marketing Communications program. “It reiterates the crossover between journalism and IMC that we have here. It’s a huge opportunity for our school and our students.”

Professor Deb Wenger, who organized the day’s events, says she felt it was particularly important for students to make connections with professionals who can help them grow into the careers they hope to have one day.

“These are busy people, but they are hugely generous with their time.  They’ve asked students to stay in touch and to treat them as mentors and, best of all, they actually mean it.”

Story contributed by IMC graduate student Jane Walton.