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Local news surging with burst of young talent from the School of Communication

Jessica Mardian, a 2020 multimedia journalism graduate, is a producer at WDBJ-7. She’s one of a number of recent School of Communication graduates working in the local news industry in Roanoke. Photo courtesy of Jessica Mardian.

Reid Campbell was just beginning his job as a producer at WDBJ-TV in Roanoke when he was tasked with filling in for the 6 p.m. show. He managed the content, stacked the show, and then, in an ironic twist of fate, handed the rundown to anchor Robin Reed.

Just a few weeks earlier, Campbell had been a Virginia Tech senior handing in assignments to Reed, a professor of practice in the School of Communication. Now as producer, Campbell was giving the 40-year WDBJ veteran his assignment for the night.

“When he handed me my rundown and said, ‘Robin, here’s your rundown.’ I said, ‘Well, at least you turned your assignment in on time,’” said Reed with a grin.

The newsroom erupted in laughter. It was a harbinger for the smooth-sailing show that was about to take place with Campbell calling the shots behind the scenes.

“It was weird to go from ‘He’s my professor’ to now I’m telling him what to do,” Campbell said. “I’m speaking into his ear, telling him, ‘Hey, we’re going to cut this story. Hey, I need you to read this.’ It was weird being in charge of his anchoring all of a sudden, but it was cool. It was like ‘I made it’ a little bit.”

Campbell is just one example of a number of recent graduates from the School of Communication’s multimedia journalism program who have immediately launched into a career in the local news industry. Nowadays, while print media has taken its lumps, digital media in the form of the local news is still going strong.

The hiring practices within these television stations have changed, giving a priority to the young up-and-comers who are bringing a passion to the jobs they perform.

“Ten seconds out of college and we’re hiring them,” Reed explained. “That’s happening throughout the country.

“By all surveys, the local news continues to be a well-thought-of institution. If we’ve got young people coming out of college with enthusiasm and energy, I can only think that their ideas are the ones that are going to make this industry continue to roll at some level.”

Enter Alessandra Young onto the scene. Young, a 2020 graduate, is the nightside reporter for WSET-TV in Lynchburg, a position she began nearly two years ago when she was still a Virginia Tech senior. Her lively personality and on-camera demeanor — which she credits to developing in Reed’s Broadcast Performance class — makes her the ideal candidate for the role.

“The multimedia journalism major at Virginia Tech taught me my love for this. I walked in and never looked back,” Young said.

“Robin Reed was my professor in that class, and that was the first time that I actually sat down at a desk and read a prompter for the first time. I thought, I love this. This feels natural. This feels like something I would want to spend my career doing.”


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