October 23, 2006

River Region has new broadcast news director

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A new set and news director are helping raise the bar at River Region Evening News, the student-run television newscast at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The College of Mass Communication and Media Arts recently hired Jim Gee as news director. Gee built an extensive professional background in television broadcasting during the last 10 years, said Manjunath Pendakur, dean of the college.

Gee, who earned a degree in communications from Illinois State University in 1996, said he was excited to join SIUC's award-winning news broadcast.

"Throughout my career, the part I've always enjoyed most is working with young professionals and students," Gee said. "It's important that students get a good start in journalism because there are so many pressures and changes going on in the industry."

The program airs at 5 p.m. Monday-Thursday on WSIU-TV, and airs a three-minute update at 10:57 p.m. those nights.

Gee began his career in 1996 as a news producer and assignment editor at WMBD-TV in Peoria. In 1997, he moved to WWTV in Cadillac, Mich., where he served as assistant news director and later online managing editor. After three years, he next moved to WTVR-TV in Richmond, Va., where he spent a year as news producer before moving back to Illinois and working as executive producer at WCIA-TV in Champaign. He became news director there in 2003.

Gee serves as vice president of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association, where he gained more experience working with student broadcast journalists. He is the winner of several professional awards from the Illinois Broadcasters Association, including best live news coverage and best sportscast in 2006 and best early evening newscast in 2004. He also won a first place award from the Illinois Associated Press for best newscast in 2002.

Gee, who also will teach classes next semester, said he wants to focus on students' professionalism, serving viewers and basic journalism skills. The program also will look at doing more in-depth reporting, he said.

"This is such a great broadcasting program here at SIUC, so we're going to work on maximizing that," he said. "When the students leave here, they're entering an industry where no two days are alike. They'll need a good toolbox of skills to use everyday to make decisions and be good, responsible journalists."

The program also recently received a new set for the broadcasting team. KTVI Fox 2 in St. Louis donated the set, which includes two desks and a background piece. Gee said the set will help the broadcast in several ways.

"Putting our students in a professional-looking setting is a real advantage," he said. "We want them to concentrate on substance, but we don't want to shortchange them on how the set looks. It's a very functional set in that it allows us lots of options on how to present the news."

Lindsey Mastis, an SIUC alumnus, helped convince the station to donate the set to her alma mater while serving as an intern at KTVI.

Enhancing nationally recognized programs whose graduates are in demand in the job market is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.