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From the NBA: Mining a Future Generation of Broadcasters

The association has embarked upon a future talent initiative focused on high school students interested in broadcast

The author is president/executive director of the Nebraska Broadcasters Association. NBA commentaries are featured regularly at

If your engineer resigned tomorrow, do you have a list of capable applicants to interview? What if your traffic manager left? Your top salesperson? Your leading on-air talent?

NBA GMs and owners have cited the apparent lack of interest in our profession from today’s younger generations as something that literally wakes them up at night.

So what are we — as an industry — doing about this?

The NBA embarked upon a “Future Talent” initiative three years ago after a group of board and station members identified generating interest in broadcasting among high school (and eventually middle and grade school) students as a leading priority. The revelation was that if we’re not influencing a student’s interest by the time they’re in high school, we’re too late — their college or career plans will have already taken a different direction.

By no means have we “figured it all out” but we’ve made some encouraging inroads through a growing number of initiatives. We hired a student-run ad agency at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln to create a theme and website targeted at high school and middle school students. The site features video interviews with engineers, radio and TV on-air talent, salespeople and managers. Students at York High School in York, Neb., are about to begin a refresh and upgrade of the site’s content.

Classroom Visits. Using ChannelYou for content, we’ve asked our members to speak to area high school classes about broadcasting careers, armed with ChannelYou t-shirts, water bottles and bookmarks.

Nebraska High School Press Association. By contacting my own kids’ high school about our new initiative, I was introduced to the NHSPA, which has over 60 member schools with classroom and/or club activities related to journalism and yearbook. Some were already engaged in “broadcasting” activities and others were seeking to start. Door after door began to open as these NHSPA advisers have welcomed the NBA with open arms, leading to some of our other initiatives.

High School Media Conferences. Every fall the University of Nebraska at Lincoln hosts a day-long conference attended by nearly 700 high school students with interest in journalism and media. Students listen to a keynote speaker before attending a series of topic-specific workshops led by media professionals or college faculty. Before I discovered this event, it was dominated by newspaper and yearbook companies. We now co-sponsor the event, provide NBA members as guest speakers, and this fall, are paying to have Emmy Award winning TV news journalist Boyd Huppert of KARE(TV) in Minneapolis/St. Paul deliver the keynote address. Every spring, the University of Nebraska at Omaha conducts a similar event targeted to high school students from the Omaha/Council Bluffs, Iowa, area. Over 400 students attend this event and the NBA is proud to co-sponsor it and provide our members as guest speakers. Both events are critical recruiting platforms for the universities, which aligns perfectly with our overall “Future Talent” goal: build a pipeline of future broadcasters by getting high school students interested in a broadcasting degree and career path.

Summer Camps. The NHSPA has a summer workshop we sponsor with a video track that gives students experience in recording and producing feature-length pieces and newscasts. The students visit Gray Television’s KOLN/KGIN to meet station personnel and witness the preparation for an early evening newscast. The University of Nebraska at Kearney created the “Digital Expressions Media Camp” in 2016, drawing students from across the state for a week-long camp that provides hands-on experience with audio and video. NRG Media’s KGFW/KQKY/KRNY radio stations open their doors to the campers for a half-day workshop with more hands-on experience and interaction with station personnel. Sinclair’s KHGI(TV) welcomes the students ahead of a 6 p.m. newscast to witness the preparations and then sit through the inner workings of the live cast. The NBA provides scholarships to reduce the cost of attendance. The most popular activity at the UNK camp: being on-air live on campus station KLPR(FM)!

High School Adviser Workshops. Our involvement in these activities generated requests from faculty advisers across Nebraska, seeking guidance on starting or enhancing broadcasting curriculum. Last August the NBA produced our first annual High School Advisers Workshop, attended by 34 teachers from all across Nebraska. This one-day workshop was led by teaching peers and our second annual workshop is set again for August.

Awards and Recognition. We added a high school division to our annual Pinnacle Awards competition, culminating with our “best of broadcasting” awards banquet during our annual convention. It’s a pretty cool to see high school students — who are doing outstanding work — receive awards on the same stage as Nebraska’s broadcasting professionals. I also discovered that the Nebraska Scholastic Activities Association (NSAA) conducts an annual Journalism Tournament — with no broadcasting categories. Thanks to the friends I have made at some of the state’s high schools — and the NSAA — they approved the addition of broadcasting categories starting with the 2018 tournament.

Paid Internship Stipend. For years, the NBA offered a paid internship stipend for members who provide opportunities to college students. High school students are now eligible, too.

Many other state broadcast associations make a variety of efforts to get high school students interested in broadcasting and have been at it much longer than we have. They’re doing some powerful things — things the NBA will add to our array of related initiatives.

So the next time you have that “where is the next generation of broadcasters?” moment, contact your state broadcast association to learn what you can do to help mine future talent in your state.