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Journalism student Chelsea Insprucker made waves on-air with WILL

Alexis Georgiadis '13 JOURN
7/21/2011  9:00 am

The relationship between WILL , radio and television stations of Illinois Public Media, and the college allowed journalism student Chelsea Insprucker to become an employed journalist while still finishing her undergraduate degree.

“The best past of WILL is that it’s connected to the college, but also its own entity with staff that aren’t students, which makes it a very legitimate media resource,” Insprucker said. 

During the academic year, WILL has a number of students working in a variety of positions from general office help to marketing and new media internships. Students also work with the studio crew operating equipment. The station and the college have increased their collaboration over the past year, even producing a documentary made by Professor Nancy Benson and her class of graduate students.

However, Insprucker was not an intern, she was a paid employee.

She heard about the job during the fall semester. Internship coordinator Lynn Holley recommended her for the position, and she sent her resume and some sample work from JOUR 435 directly to Tom Rogers, director of news and public affairs for Illinois Public Media. Her first interview was by telephone and right after New Year’s she was asked to complete a news radio exercise.

“I had to compile a two-minute newscast from AP stories from Sunday morning, I was familiar with how to do that already,” said Insprucker.

When she returned to classes for the spring semester, she received a call offering her the position. Her first weekend back she completed two weekends of training, which included observing the newscasts. 

“My first thought was, what did I get myself into? Everything seemed elaborate and complicated, but I knew I would pick up on it,” said Insprucker.

Rogers, who interviewed Insprucker for the position, felt that Insprucker was more than ready to take on the challenge.

“She was a quick study. It takes a while to get into the habit of doing a newscast, but she’s got a unique perspective and is getting in a lot of experience before she graduates,” Rogers said.

Insprucker trained one-on-one with Jay Pearce, director of created content at Illinois Public Media, and learned step-by-step how the newscast worked. He made outlines so she could follow what needs to be done at every minute mark.

“She was a very quick learner. You never know what to expect, but it was clear right away that she was going to be able to handle it. When I listen to her on Sunday, you don’t have nervousness that she’s going to forget something,” Pearce said.

At first, she worked the boards while Pearce anchored so she could get used to the technical side of it. By February, she was on-air, running the show independently.

“It felt powerful to be in control for the first time,” said Insprucker.

Insprucker said her College of Media classes helped her greatly prepare for the position, especially JOUR 400 with Professor Holley, where she became familiar with re-writing scripts and JOUR 435 with Professor Ehrlich, where she learned how to re-write AP stories and work with radio.

“I know they’re teaching me when I’m in them, but I never thought they would be so vital to me doing my job. I already knew what I was doing when I got the news-writing exercise: how to determine what’s relevant for this area and how to make a story flow. I knew I would be able to handle this job because of how comfortable I got with radio newscasts in my class,” said Insprucker.

Chelsea found her biggest challenge was maintaining her confidence about applying her journalism skills when she realized that the news she delivered included stories many people listen to and depend on.

“This in turn became my biggest reward. I’ve pushed myself to keep with it and realized I have learned what I need to in order to be successful in broadcasting.” 

Insprucker maintained levelheadedness by thinking ahead of time about the script she assembled and by constantly looking at the clock to make she met her time requirements and the soundboard to anticipate which controls she must use at any given time.

The position enhanced her multi-tasking abilities and strengthened her ability to assemble a story piecemeal. When she made mistakes, she remembered a lesson she learned from tap dancing as a child.

“If you mess up, you keep going. No one will realize the mistake unless you acknowledge it. If I made a mistake in the studio, I moved on without panicking,” Insprucker said.

The biggest thing she’s learned is the value of good timing.

“In class, it’s easy to edit projects down to the right times, but it’s a whole different ball game when you’re actually on-air live. There are time deadlines and you have to meet them,” Insprucker said.

She also learned the importance of public broadcasting.

“It’s motivated me to become an advocate for public broadcasting and to try to get people to contribute to their local public media,” Insprucker said.

Through her work with WILL, Insprucker has solidified her desire to go into broadcasting.

“It’s about enforcing the fundamentals of storytelling and its value to people,” Insprucker said.

Pearce said that the end goal of employing students at WILL is helping them to transition into the job market.

“I think what we provide here for students is quality mentoring. I would encourage others to consider working with us. I’ll be sorry when [Chelsea] goes, I wish she was a sophomore. She has more than proven herself,” Pearce said.

Insprucker won in two categories at the 2010 Students in Illinois News Broadcasters Association awards: Outstanding Radio News Reporting and Outstanding Use of Sound.

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