Media Pros Speak at BSU
Communications Dept. Hosts Media Day
By Kristina Rowley
Starting a career in the vast field of media has proven to be a difficult journey for most. Getting your foot in the door, and even continuing a career in media often means dealing with a cutthroat competitive market.
Even though the media are among the most powerful and influential forces in today's society, their companies are facing hard times. In light of economic strains that society has to deal with it is important for students to know that media jobs are becoming even more scarce and difficult to attain.
Students who wish to pursue a career in media have to face the facts, which can be discouraging. The Department of Communications at Bowie State University realizes the challenges that students must face and enthusiastically rose to the occasion to help its students.
The Department of Communications hosted Media Day on Feb. 19 in the Center for Learning and Technology. The event was coordinated by Prof. Karima A. Haynes in an effort to connect successful and distinguished media figures with communications students. The panelists were eager to inspire those in attendance by sharing their experiences and advice.
Dr. Otis Thomas, Department of Communication chairperson, opened the affair by noting that it was a special day for the entire campus of Bowie State University. Dr. Thomas said the media control interests around the globe and make it possible for the new president, Barack Obama, to stretch around the world to suggest this new world of change.
Dr. Thomas said The Washington Post stated that it would be hard for people to effectively find jobs for the next seven years. Dr. Thomas asked his 82-year-old mother what would she say to students to inspire them and she replied, "Tell them it is called survival."
Sharing his motivational story, Dr. Thomas related that while growing up in poverty his mother would always do what it took for them to survive. When Dr. Thomas dropped out of high school his father helped him to see that if he didn't learn how to use the pencil a man would be able to whoop his behind with it.
The panelists were there to reach the students, Dr. Thomas said, adding that he was proud to introduce to the audience some of the strongest minds in the world. Del Walters, a film producer, movie director, author, and television news anchor, and adjunct professor at BSU, was first to share his experience in the career of media that rewarded with 22 Emmy Awards.
Walters said that America is in an historic time from a communications standpoint where it is hard for students because the job bank is drying up. However, Walters stated that it is the best time to start a career in media. Even though it may not be lucrative, Walters said that it is the time to "reinvent yourself" as a journalist and pursue avenues on the web such as blogging.
The next panelist was Dwight M. Ellis, president and CEO of Dwight Ellis & Associates Ltd, a global media business and workforce development consultancy, as well as an adjunct professor at BSU. Ellis was also the first minority executive as vice president of the National Association of Broadcasters in 1980.
Ellis shared with everyone the importance in developing relationships at a time of stress and degradation of jobs like today. "What will help you is who you know," Ellis stated. "What will also help is mastering new skills that will help you survive while the media continues to converge."
Cheryl Hampton, a recruiter of broadcast and online staff for a newsroom of over 400 journalists at National Public Radio, said NPR is responsible for both national and international coverage. Hampton advised students to watch where media trends are going and stay on top of them. Online and multimedia are important to stay involved in and it is always important to intern.
Bruce Johnson, anchor for the weekend edition of 9 News NOW, winner of 18 Emmy Awards, shared words of wisdom next. Johnson has covered stories internationally in places like Moscow, Paris, Bangkok, Tokyo, Dakar and Haiti.
Johnson related that coming out of undergraduate school everyone wants to make money to pay bills but it is important to realize that establishing a career is more important. He told students that they will not make a lot of money at the start of their career, but if they work hard they can succeed.
Johnson also said that media companies are looking for MMJ's, mass media journalists who can do everything from reporting and recording to editing to save money. So it is important to learn different fields of communications today.
The next panelist was Marie Brown, a veteran news director at WUSA TV as well as an Emmy Award-winner and Bowie State University alum who now serves as an adjunct professor at BSU. Brown sympathized saying she sat in the same seats as the students today at BSU, not knowing what to do. Brown related that she started of working at Channel 9 for $13,000 a year. However Brown never allowed anyone to keep her down and she advised everyone to do the same.
Dion Haynes, who writes about regional economic and retail issues for The Washington Post's financial section, also participated on the panel. Haynes won awards from Scripps Howard and the Knight Center for working with a team in 2007 that wrote s multi-part series called "Fixing D.C's Schools." Haynes has pioneered a 20-year career in journalism covering groundbreaking experiences and stories such as the Columbine High School massacre and the Columbia space shuttle disaster.
Haynes said that with all the changes that have taken place in the media industry it is gratifying to see so many young people who are interested in communications. Communications has always been a very competitive business and it is even harder now with fewer jobs.
However, Haynes related that there are opportunities for young people to get a job. Developing communication skills as well as developing a specific expertise such as the economy or politics will help those desiring a career in print journalism.
Next to speak was Sandra Peaches, Executive Director of Prince George's County Community Television, or CTV. Peaches is a veteran television executive who started out as an attorney. Peaches was a former senior advisor to the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Prince Georges's County and a former Director of the Office of Citizen and Consumer Affairs.
Peaches stated that she is a jack-of-all-trades and a master of some. Peaches related that she too started out low but advised students to work hard, reinvent themselves, take chances, network, and be open to new ideas then they would be able to make it.
Antonio "The Cuban Cigar Smoker," who is a famous radio personality at 93.9 WKYS radio station, started his career as a student on WBSU-FM radio. The Cuban Cigar Smoker gave four rules of survival and success in the field of media: stay optimistic, ask questions, be hungry and be humble.
Antonio said that if you really want to do something you will do it for free until you can get where you want, and that is what he did for many years. Antonio advised that you should do anything it takes to get where you want as long as it doesn't degrade your family or yourself, and you should always want more then what you have.
The last panelist to speak was Ill Will, another famous radio personality from 93.9 WKYS radio. Ill Will related that he had been a student at BSU but did not finish due to serious health problems. Despite his health issues, Ill Will strived to make it to where he wanted to be, working for free and learning all he could. He said that even though it is extremely hard to become a radio personality these days he sees a lot of hunger in BSU students.
After the panelists spoke the members of the audience were able to ask questions. One question was how important is it to brand yourself, and how do you do so without narrowing yourself? Johnson answered saying do not pigeonhole yourself. Be able to do whatever the company asks of you and learn as many skills as you can. Johnson related again the importance of being a MMJ and reinventing yourself.
Another question asked was what do you look for in new graduates when filling positions? Haynes answered that in the print world it is the clips or samples of published work that is the calling card for graduates. Another way to stand out, Hampton said was to be an applicant who pays attention to their field, reads newspapers, listens to radio and watches the news.
After the questions all of the panelists were delighted to meet one on one with the audience members to answer more questions and network. Faculty and staff of the Communications Department at Bowie State University would like to thank all of the panelists who took time to take an interest in the students of BSU who are also very grateful for the experiences and invaluable advice shared.