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.”

The three other honorees will be identified and profiled in this and upcoming WBA newsletters and 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 luncheon.

Our first two honorees are Ben Brust and Naomi Kowles.

Ben Brust

Company: ESPN Wisconsin / Good Karma Brands

Position: On-Air Host & Marketing Consultant

Years at station: Four years

Started in broadcasting (year): 2017

How did you get into broadcasting? I started in broadcasting in 2017 guest hosting ESPN Wisconsin’s morning show, Wilde & Tausch, with my current co-host Greg Scalzo. In November, I joined Good Karma Brands and ESPN Madison full-time. I started hosting Scalzo and Brust alongside my co-host, Greg Scalzo, the following spring. The show airs across ESPN Wisconsin every weekday from 4 to 6 p.m.

How do you view the role of young professionals in broadcasting? The role of young professionals in broadcasting is finding unique ways to entertain and engage their audience, while challenging the status quo and pivoting as consumption habits change. The things that listeners and fans are looking for when they turn on the radio now compared to 20 years from now will constantly evolve. In sports broadcasting, young professionals need to appeal to the sports fan that watches every single game, knows every stat, lives, and breathes the game, while at the same time reaching the sports fan who is a casual consumer.

What advice would you give to other young broadcasters? I would tell other young broadcasters to learn and involve themselves in as many different parts of the industry as possible. Learn how to produce and run the board, write copy, brainstorm different show topics and angles, build relationships with others in the industry, develop a social platform—be in as many places as possible, never say no to an opportunity, and be a sponge as you learn and grow in the industry.

What does the future of broadcasting look like to you? The future of broadcasting is moving more towards being interactive and fun. Fans and listeners turn on your station to be entertained, and it’s about ultimately continuing to find ways to be compelling, while driving audience and listenership. With the accessibility and convenience of streaming services and podcasts, younger generations are still using audio as an outlet to connect and be entertained.

Naomi Kowles

Company: WISC-TV, Morgan Murphy Media

Position: Lead Investigator

Time at station: 14 months

Started in broadcasting (year): 2018

How did you get into broadcasting? I took the roundabout: I majored in International Studies and went abroad after college to teach English in Mongolia for about 15 months, while doing graphic design on the side. It wasn’t until I returned and the publisher of a small local paper in northern Wisconsin approached me about a job that I gave journalism serious consideration. I covered city and county government as a freelancer for 10 months, then got a job as a full-time producer at a Wausau station in the fall of 2018. I missed reporting too much, however, and found myself on the station’s investigative team about six months later.

How do you view the role of young professionals in broadcasting? We’re here to learn from the veterans, while pushing the needle on accepted norms. I’m surrounded by talented and exceptionally sharp young journalists, both at my station and among my other broadcast and print colleagues, and I’m tremendously encouraged by the way we are challenging the industry to grow and adapt.

What advice would you give to other young broadcasters? Read. Listen. Learn. Repeat. And, no matter how many times I fail to learn this myself, don’t lose your identity or your personal life while serving up news to your community.

What does the future of broadcasting look like to you? I am passionate about deeply researched and sharply-reported broadcast journalism: the kind of investigative reporting that can’t be found amid the online rush of instant information, your local Facebook community scanner pages, or in the police incident reports. Our audiences are hungry for longform, beautifully told stories that share something about the world that couldn’t have been found anywhere else. Our communities need carefully told, deep-dive reporting that challenges the status quo and changes policy like never before. The future of broadcasting is depth—and adaptability.

Nominations for next year’s Young Professional Award can be submitted here. Nominations close Sept. 30, 2022.

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