38th Annual Media Day inspires students

OBSERVER Photo by Mary Heyl. Erica Brecher and Andrew Baglini of WIVB Channel 4 News shared the challenges and rewards of TV reporting with aspiring journalists at Media Day on Wednesday.

“Be versatile; be passionate,” keynote speaker Sal Capaccio advised aspiring journalism students from five different area high schools who participated in the Western New York Student Press Association’s 38th Annual Media Day on Wednesday.

Capaccio, beat and sideline reporter for the Buffalo Bills and radio host at WGR 550, was one of several journalism professionals who shared real-life experiences with students at the all-day event hosted by SUNY Fredonia.

WNYSPA director Damian Sebouhian coordinated the event, which included approximately 100 students from Brocton, Dunkirk, Fredonia, Gowanda and Lake Shore high schools. He shared one of his earliest encounters with the media — a humorous childhood misadventure unexpectedly captured on film by a local reporter — before introducing OBSERVER Publisher John D’Agostino.

D’Agostino discussed the ways in which media consumption has changed since the early 1990s. “There was a discipline that you needed to have to consume news: there was a newspaper in the morning and the afternoon, television and radio,” he recalled.

“No internet or social media. You had to watch the news at specific times: 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. Radio news aired every hour.” He recalled the early 1980s and CNN, the first 24-hour news channel, which he said first drove his interest in news.

OBSERVER Photos by Mary Heyl. Sal Capaccio, beat and sideline reporter for the Buffalo Bills and radio host at WGR 550, is pictured here with local high school students who participated in the 38th Annual Media Day at SUNY Fredonia.

Unlike other media, community journalism — the “small town paper is a lot more accountable,” said D’Agostino. “It’s because you’re in the community every day. You know the people you’re talking to.”

He went on to share his experience reporting on the scene of the Dec. 10, 2018 police-involved shooting on Liberty Street in Fredonia. “I knew just about everyone I was talking to…I know the officer who fired the shot, I know all the people who were living around the scene.”

Students interested in TV news had the opportunity to hear from Erica Brecher and Andrew Baglini of WIVB Channel 4 News. Brecher recognized the role local reporters can play in their community, and what a rewarding, if challenging, career it can be. “It’s a good feeling when something you’ve done gets good results for the community you’ve written about and care about,” she said. “If all of those things are things you’re passionate about, maybe journalism or TV news is good for you.”

Baglini, too, recognized journalism as a public service industry. “We’re the eyes and ears of the community, of the region,” he noted. However, the job is certainly not without its challenges. Both Baglini and Brecher shared their early years in TV news after college, which involved demanding hours and weekend and holiday shifts for very little money. The couple, who are married, agreed: “Pay your dues and you’ll land somewhere you love being.” Both have been in Buffalo since 2014 and are happy to be serving the community in which they live. “If you can find somewhere you like living, this job will take you quite a ways,” Baglini said.

Throughout the morning, students attended workshops in the Williams Center on a variety of topics including advanced photography with Mark Mullville of the Buffalo News, radio broadcasting with Noah Maciejewski of Kiss 98.5, sports coverage with Braden Carmen of the OBSERVER, TV reporting with Mike Igoe, SUNY Fredonia journalism professor and former WGRZ reporter, and investigative reporting with Dan Telvock, also of Channel 4 News.

Capaccio discussed the non-traditional journalism jobs students may pursue, such as reporting for a professional sports team or working as a social media coordinator. “Learn everything!” Capaccio said of his most important piece of advice he gives aspiring journalists. “You can’t just think, ‘I’m only going to write, talk on the radio, or be in front of a camera’…Nobody is hiring anybody who does one thing anymore.”

Throughout the day, students participated in tours on campus. The afternoon concluded with a presentation of students’ best works, during which Sebouhian recognized submissions from each school’s student publications and/or websites.