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Broadcast Journalism Speaker Series Inspires Students

Marist School students have had the unique opportunity this school year to hear from a variety of successful broadcast journalism professionals through a new speaker series organized by media and broadcast journalism faculty member Mr. Scott Tufts. The speakers, who visit with students on campus as well as virtually, give details of their career, share advice, and answer questions, giving students a glimpse into the broadcast journalism industry and helping broaden their understanding of potential opportunities.
“I hope that by listening to the various speaker presentations students will be inspired and encouraged to learn more about the field of broadcast journalism,” said Mr. Tufts, who worked in the industry himself for more than 25 years before coming to Marist in 2022. “I also hope they gain perspective and realize that the skills and knowledge they are acquiring at Marist can serve them well if they aspire to journalism or broadcast careers in the future.”

The speaker series started on a high point with a visit from consumer advocate and money expert Clark Howard, whose brother and wife are Marist alumni. Addressing the students in an easygoing manner, Howard shared the trajectory of his broadcast career as well as words of wisdom with student and faculty attendees during a Friday activity period. His key advice included: always look to the future to ascertain where the opportunities are, there’s no one right path for a career in broadcasting, and information is the star because communication channels will change dramatically over time (think rotary dial phones to today’s iPhones, snail mail to today’s texting, and radio and broadcast TV to today’s plethora of podcast and streaming options). Most importantly, he counseled, “stand strong, stay strong,” telling students to stick to their principles and be someone people can trust, no matter what.⁠

Tufts involves his students as much as possible in the speaker series. For the Clark Howard visit, he asked Ana Sophia Riordan ’24, a member and technical specialist with the Marist Broadcasting Club, to introduce Howard. After Howard’s presentation, he graciously sat for an interview with Patrick Sheesley ’23, the editor of Marist’s school newspaper, the Blue & Gold. Read Sheesley’s story to learn more about the additional sage guidance Howard offered.

Next, the Marist Broadcasting Club enjoyed a visit with Brent Berkman, coordinating director at NBA TV/Turner Sports, a job that has given him the chance to be in the control room for some of the most amazing sporting events of our time. Berkman described the unparalleled camaraderie and energy of newsrooms and encouraged students to volunteer to get into the business as well as to use their phones to shoot, edit, and hone their craft as they learn. He closed his talk with a particular perspective on the field saying, “Journalism is the first draft of history. It’s a privilege to be a part of it.”

Students have been very receptive and excited about the opportunities to hear and interact with industry professionals. David Owens ’25 commented, “I have really enjoyed listening to the speakers Mr. Tufts has introduced to us. Each one of the speakers shared information that helped me to gain a better understanding of the broadcast journalism industry, which I hope to have a career in one day. I especially enjoyed hearing from Brent Berkman, as I aspire to be an NBA broadcaster. The knowledge that he shared about working in the sports broadcasting industry and how he built up to his current job has helped me gain an understanding of how to attain a similar career path. It was fascinating to watch a recorded video breaking down all that goes into a broadcasted basketball game—all the camera angles, graphics, audio, and how it all is put together for the viewers to enjoy.”

A visit with Julia Jenae from Court TV gave students an entirely different perspective. A legal correspondent, Jenae’s passion for law led her to get a juris doctorate and to practice law for more than three years before deciding to use her skills in journalism. She remarked, “There’s something about journalism that gets into your soul, and you can’t get rid of it.”

Jenae showed students her professional video reel and other clips from her career journey which has taken her through school, to local stations (where she earned multiple Emmy Awards), and on to television where she now travels across the nation reporting on the most critical legal cases of our nation’s dockets. She also enlightened students to her guiding principles symbolized by the letters REC: Respect, Empathy, and Commitment to Accuracy. Jenae emphasized that in the special niche of legal journalism, the most important part of her job is the extensive research that goes into every segment.

Additional speakers have included Jack Sadighian, a play-by-play announcer for the Mississippi Braves and collegiate events on ESPN+/SEC Network+, and Alex Wilson from The Weather Channel. Wilson encouraged students to “open doors and try different things” to discover what they might like. She also encouraged them to reach out to people because “the great thing about this industry is we all got here because someone helped us.” The success of Mr. Tufts’ speaker series shows that to be true as all the visitors have been more than generous in sharing their experiences and advice with Marist’s aspiring journalists.

Mr. Tufts has invited several more speakers to come to Marist before the school year is done, including, among others: Chief Judge Toddrick Barnette (the Hennepin County, Minnesota judge who gave approval for live cameras in the courtroom for the MN v Derek Chauvin case which resulted in the conviction of Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd); Court TV Anchor Vinnie Politan; broadcast make-up artist Mimi Humphries; television marketing veteran Scot Safon, and UGA broadcasting lecturer and former anchor at CNN International Ralitsa Vasileva.

While hearing from industry professionals helps students gain exposure to the various aspects of the broadcast industry—in front of the camera, behind the camera, in control rooms, newsrooms, and executive suites—Marist students gain practical knowledge, enhance understanding, and sharpen their skills through class projects. Mr. Tufts assigns them to write live broadcast scripts; to collaborate to build a live news show rundown; to pitch research, write, and edit both national and Marist-based news stories; to conduct interviews; to shoot original stories in the Marist broadcast studio; and to learn and execute operational roles in the Marist live control room.

Classroom learning and hands-on experience poise students for further study in broadcast journalism after they leave Marist, and the speakers serve to help students grasp the nuances of the newsroom culture, the potential job opportunities in the industry, and the evolution of the business. Overall, the perspective-broadening opportunities for students to meet people pursuing their chosen vocation in broadcast journalism allow them a chance to envision how they might use their God-given talents to lead and serve in the future.

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Marist is participating in this year’s #iGiveCatholic initiative on November 29 to raise funds for new production equipment to enable and empower broadcasting students to create engaging digital content to connect the on-campus Marist community with alumni, parents of alumni, and friends around the world. Advanced giving has already begun. Learn more and give on the #iGiveCatholic website.

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Marist School

3790 Ashford Dunwoody Road, NE
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An Independent Catholic School of the Marist Fathers and Brothers