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Communication Studies Department to host j-conference

Mazen Zia, Special to The Beacon

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The 18th annual Tom Bigler Journalism Conference will be held at Wilkes University on Friday, April 13, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

New York Times reporter Kenneth P. Vogel will be the keynote speaker for this year’s conference. Vogel has previously served as chief investigative reporter at Politico, as well as a correspondent for the Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre.

The purpose of the conference is to introduce current and prospective students to the world of journalism, as well as other related fields.

“Years ago, the conference focused only on journalism, but we’ve since broadened it to include more radio, television and public relations,” said Kalen Churcher, associate professor of communication studies and the conference coordinator.

The Bigler Journalism Conference is open to all high school and college students in the area.

Attendees will get a chance to acquire practical information from professionals, as well as discover different opportunities in each field. Different sessions included in the conference are industry professions, a theme discussion of what is considered news, and a workshop session.

“Students are always really enthusiastic; they’re involved and energetic,” said Dr. Evene Estwick, an associate professor of communication studies at Wilkes University.

Tom Bigler, for whom the conference is named, was a Wilkes University professor who held local positions in radio and television broadcast before becoming a professor of communication studies. His long and dedicated career in journalism warranted the naming of the conference in his honor.

Due to increased interest, the conference will be held in the McHale Athletic Center in order to accommodate everyone.

“With the new (media and) communications building, I especially expect there to be a higher turnout this year,” said J.M. Rey, a communication studies student and production director for 90.7 WCLH. “For the first time in forever, we are in a centralized location with new and beautiful technology for new and potential communications majors to enjoy.”

Students of Wilkes University will be able to come and go from each session as they please, but visitors were required to register online for each session.

In addition to Vogel’s keynote speech, there are three scheduled sessions for the conference, with various options for each. According to Churcher, students are asked to pick their top three choices and she tries to place them within their top two.

While two of the panels are more lecture and question/answer-based, there is also an afternoon workshop session where students can participate in hands-on activities pertaining to a variety of media-related career options.

“In some of the past years’ workshops, students actually created something,” Churcher said. “Sometimes, it was a public service announcement for radio or a brief television news package. Other times, students engaged in a sort of what-would-you-do ethics session.

“This part of the conference is really designed to get students thinking and acting about journalism and media.”

If students are interested in volunteering for the event, they can contact Kalen Churcher by email at kalen.churcher@wilkes.edu. Volunteers will help set up the event, as well assist in guiding attendees.

For additional information on Friday’s conference, contact Churcher at kalen.churcher@wilkes.edu.

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Communication Studies Department to host j-conference