Wisconsin Broadcasters Association

Young professionals are making their mark on broadcasting in Wisconsin and the WBA is recognizing them.

The WBA Young Professional of the Year Award seeks to recognize young broadcasters who have made a significant impact on their stations and communities. A subcommittee of the WBA Board of Directors selected five young professionals to recognize in 2022, and one of those five has been identified as the “Young Professional of the Year.”

Two of the other honorees were identified in the last Wisconsin Broadcaster, Ben Brust and Naomi Kowles. The Young Professional of the Year will be announced in the May/June newsletter and awarded at the WBA Summer Conference on June 23 in La Crosse. The honorees will also be recognized at the conference.

Our next two honorees are Nick Tabbert and Sara Smith:

Nick Tabbert

Company: WQOW-TV

Position: Sports Director

Years at station: 1.5 (4.5 at WXOW/WQOW)

Started in broadcasting (year): 2014

How did you get into broadcasting? I had an interest in broadcast TV while in college at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, but I really got serious after an internship at WXOW-TV. Amy DuPont, who currently anchors at WKBT in La Crosse, was the morning anchor at the time. She pushed me to apply for the internship. By the end of the summer, I was convinced broadcast TV was the right path for me. If you want to go back to my childhood, I was the kid who created my own broadcasts in my head as I played basketball, football, etc. in the yard.

How do you view the role of young professionals in broadcasting? Young professionals mean everything to smaller market TV stations like WQOW. Not only are they sharing the top news stories of the day, they are innovating how TV stations reach viewers through social media and online platforms, which I feel is crucial for the industry moving forward.

What advice would you give to other young broadcasters? A few things come to mind. First, understand the importance of establishing and strengthening relationships. Your job will likely be more enjoyable and easier if you can connect with your sources. Sometimes the best stories come from conversations! Next, do not be afraid to ask questions or for advice from others. We all have so much to learn, and we all have our own strengths and weaknesses. Do not be afraid to ask other reporters, or even the meteorologist, producer, or director for insight about telling a story. Sometimes an outside perspective can help you tell a better story. Finally, I think this job becomes easier once you find your voice/the way you like to tell stories. It took repetition for me, but once I got comfortable, I found it easier to deliver highlights or script my feature stories. You should still strive to be creative, but having that ‘base’ is helpful.

What does the future of broadcasting look like to you? I feel the industry is going to continue seeing a change in how we deliver content to viewers and what we prioritize. It seems like every month, more and more people tell me they don’t watch the news or don’t have cable, so I am prioritizing my workflow to reach audiences on social media and online platforms before I finish writing scripts for newscasts.

I believe local journalism will always be relevant, but I am concerned about viewership numbers decreasing. I am striving to create unique local content that will engage my audience.

Sara Smith

Company: WITI FOX6

Position: Executive Producer, Special Projects

Time at station: 14 years

Started in broadcasting (year): 2004

How did you get into broadcasting? I originally went to college to become a teacher, but quickly realized that wasn’t for me. I started taking more communications and journalism classes. Eventually, I connected with a producer at the ABC affiliate in Green Bay (WBAY) and job shadowed her. I couldn’t get enough of the newsroom. I loved the urgency, the atmosphere, and the satisfaction of seeing my work on TV. I was hired as a full-time producer before I even graduated. Three years later, I moved to Milwaukee to start a job at FOX6 and worked my way from line producer to executive producer to the EP of special projects and overseeing the investigative/consumer units.

How do you view the role of young professionals in broadcasting? I see young professionals in broadcasting as those who should think outside the box and break the mold. Just because it’s been done one way for years doesn’t mean that’s the only way. Maybe that’s telling the story in a new way and not in the traditional ‘track-bite-track-bite’ sense.

What advice would you give to other young broadcasters? Be aggressive. Don’t wait for someone (a supervisor or colleague) to come to you. Instead, take the initiative and ask what else you can do or offer up that idea or suggestion. Ask for feedback and be okay with criticism. A good manager will tell you areas of improvement and help you get better. Your success is their success is the station’s success. Take chances. Many of my greatest career advancements happened because I said, ‘yes.’ At one point, I gave up a safer spot producing an established show and took on a newly-created program, even though success wasn’t guaranteed. The risk paid off and led to more responsibilities, eventually allowing me to manage a team.

What does the future of broadcasting look like to you? Interactive: I think so many people are consuming their news in ways other than the traditional ‘turn on the TV.’ There’s a big push to other platforms (YouTube, social media, etc.) and that’s where we’re sharing so much of our content. It’s exciting to see and our digital team works really hard (and diligently) to make sure our content gets into the hands of viewers.

Enterprising: Some of the best stories we do as a station come from ideas and angles that aren’t what just comes in a press release. It serves the viewers in your market to come up with stories and angles that are unique. Find that ‘character,’ work your sources, talk to neighbors. Chances are, those few simple things will help make your story that much better.

Entertaining: As a Special Projects EP, I have a (rather healthy-sized) place in my heart for longer-form stories. Stories that take time to develop, are shot beautifully, and edited with finesse. I think the viewers appreciate those types of stories from time to time – the ones that make you feel good and share some of the ‘good’ happening in our communities.

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