Taylor Embracing Student News Director Role
By Pete Rosenbery
Facing difficult situations can test your mettle. For the award-winning River Region Evening Edition staff, that challenge is being met. The student-produced newscast, now in its 49th year, is utilizing a student news director for the first time in recent memory.
Jordan Taylor, a senior from Morton Grove, said he had no hesitation taking the post when the decision to have students oversee daily operation of the half-hour newscast was made. Budget cuts forced elimination of the paid professional news director position.
The show airs four nights a week on WSIU-TV Channel 8 during the spring and fall semesters. Between 60 and 80 students are involved in various capacities with the newscast.
“We wanted to make sure this program continues because it is very successful and it does produce a lot of great talent,” Taylor said. “Being in it for now my fourth year, I believed some things could be tweaked and some things could be fixed to make this a better environment and still be successful.”
Taylor is in charge of helping to set newsroom policy and overseeing students who work with the newscast. A year ago, Taylor, who is majors in radio-television with a specialization in production, supervised production for River Region Evening Edition. Since August 2016, he has worked at WSIL-TV, an ABC affiliate, where he directs the weekend morning show and operates floor cameras Monday through Wednesday.
Taylor gives credit to the work of Justin Broom, a senior in theater who is executive producer, and Justin Taylor Vessel, who is assistant news director.
“Without those two, a lot of this would not be possible,” he said. “They are both newsheads and they understand the final goal. That is all you can ask for. We are always on the same page; we are worrying about news and our staff.”
Richard Strong, a lecturer in the Department of Radio, Television, and Digital Media and faculty adviser, said he did not hesitate in the change to a student-news director format or in his decision to elevate Taylor to news director. Taylor, Vessel and Broom essentially are three managers, he said.
Joey Helleny, a senior lecturer and a faculty adviser, said Taylor is a “leader.”
“He’s not only interested in pushing the envelope and making the River Region program the best that it can be, but he will try new things and recruit new people and mentor those who are with him,” Helleny said. “He’s been involved both the production and performance side and the news side. He’s really an all-around player, and so it is easy for him to think about future growth because he’s done a lot of the different jobs.”
Taylor came to SIU Carbondale because of the production program. The newsroom experience has given him a greater appreciation for that side, as well. Taylor designed new weather graphics, is on camera as a weathercaster and operates cameras.
He got his start at 13 years old taping mats down for live televised programs at his church, New Life Covenant Southeast, where there are four live broadcasts streamed worldwide. He later moved to running cameras and directing.
Taylor values production as much as he values news judgement, which is a “rarity,” Strong said.
“Obviously his work at WSIL has been less in the newsroom as it has been in the production realm, but it gave him an outside eye that a lot of news people don’t get because they are stuck behind the assignment anchor desk or they are directing their whole career.”
Strong added that while there have been a few expected “rough spots” prior to the newscasts airing in September, “it has been equally as good as last semester.”