NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Special guests Norm Hitzges and Donovan Lewis, cohosts on Dallas sports radio station The Ticket, recently videoconferenced with Stephen F. Austin State University mass communication students about career expectations.
The pair shared their knowledge and experience while answering student’s questions, which included how to adapt to an audience and finding new story angles in the midst of COVID-19.
SFA mass communication students are required to take a capstone course in broadcast. Due to the pandemic, the course was altered this spring to an online format, where special guests were invited to speak with students digitally about their careers.
Dr. Casey Hart, SFA associate professor of mass communication, said he followed the lead of several national television programs, like “Good Morning America,” in making the online shift.
“We transitioned the students’ assignments to take advantage of mobile technology that allows students to produce content where they are,” Hart said. “As online news delivery becomes more and more prevalent, it’s important that our students are experienced and comfortable working remotely.”
Hart also is leveraging his association with several of SFA’s successful radio/TV alumnae to help with the class. Natalie Haddad, associate producer for Fox 4 Dallas; Erika Bazaldua, anchor and producer for “Good Morning East Texas” in Tyler; and Hunter Sowards, anchor for KUSI in San Diego, California; have all participated in video conferencing with students during the capstone course.
“During this time of social distancing, I think it’s important to provide a way for students who are about to enter media to see how other journalists and media professionals are dealing with the COVID-19 situation,” Hart said.
For students, the opportunity to interact with peers has been a semester highlight. Korbyn Lee, a senior radio/TV major, said she appreciates the way her professors are working hard to help ensure students are getting the most from this unique situation.
“I think the most important part of talking with professionals is it makes you realize, especially in the field of radio/TV, everyone has to work their way up,” Lee said. “These mentors have discussed how every job is important, and in order to advance, you need to understand and have experience in a variety of areas within the profession.”
In addition to the broadcasting capstone course, Sherry Williford, mass communication instructor, has videoconferenced with Kara Sewell, SFA alumna and WFAA anchor, for her broadcast performance class. Sewell shared insight and experience with the students, giving them the inside scoop on what it’s like to be an anchor.
Other students said they have enjoyed meeting media professionals who have been an inspiration to them. For Collin Maxwell, senior radio/TV major, growing up listening to Hitzges and Lewis made it even more exciting to speak with them.
“These meetings allow us to hone in on what specific fields we want to work in upon graduation, and it gives us a chance to understand how our field truly works,” Maxwell said.