Jason Britsch refers to himself as the “one-man band ” at KOSA CBS 7 in Odessa who has covered everything from City Council to wildfires.
“My favorite thing I got to do was live shots during large grassfires that threatened homes because that moment of having all that action going on while you’re talking was amazing,” Britsch said.
Britsch, a Texas State University alumna who graduated December 2010, grew up in Hondo, a town bordering San Antonio. After graduated with a bachelor’s degree in electronic media he drove out to Odessa and dropped off a stack of resumes -- only to hear back from the news director a few hours later. He was offered a job at KOSA CBS 7 as an on-air reporter.
Britsch recognizes that not all aspects of his job have been ideal.
“The worst story is anything that involves M-O-S's (man on the street interviews) because a lot of people hate being on camera,”he said.
Britsch is currently on-air talent doing sports reporting and anchoring. A couple of his most recent assignments have been covering the Dallas Cowboys training camp in Oxnard, California, and covering the Friday night high school football games. This has always been his passion.
“Any sports story I do blows away any news story ever,” said Britsch.
Britsch’s favorite professor was Larry Carlson, senior lecturer for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, because he felt Carlson best prepared him for writing in the professional world. Carlson remembers Britsch as an ambitious student who worked hard to improve. He said Britsch was the student who didn’t make repeated mistakes. Carlson knew he would be on of those students who would keep pushing until he got a job.
“He was a guy who wanted to learn and he did learn,” said Carlson. “He’s made a lot of strides, and I’m just proud for him.”
While Britsch was a student, he worked with Bobcat Update and Bobcat radio. He really liked the campus for its friendly atmosphere. Britsch has only one regret.
“If I could do it all over again I wouldn't have graduated so early and [I would have] live(d) in San Marcos a lot longer,” said Britsch.
You can follow Britsch on Twitter @txsthason.
After she graduated from Texas State, Holman's sister was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, so she, along with her parents, moved to Kansas in November 2004 to be with her sister. While in Kasas, Holman began a job as a reporter at a small community paper, and her sister won her battle with Hodgkin's disease.
“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” Jack Kerouac
The road represents an idea embedded deep inside all of us.
For many, it’s an opportunity to see the world you’ve only read about before settling down and starting a career. For a select few, however, there is no settling down. For these few, it’s a way of life.
In a new book “Roll On,” 2007 Texas State graduate Fred Afflerbach used his personal experience as a truck driver to pay homage to the trucker drivers of old, who only felt comfortable while on the move. It is Afflerbach’s first novel.
“It’s in your blood; something innate. Goes all the way back to cowboys, mountain men and explorers – put them in civilization and they’d be miserable,” Afflerbach said. “There’s always that restlessness with those people who don’t fit in. Truckers are those descendants. Those misfits I call them.”
Working for Allied Van Lines throughout high school, Afflerbach “got a little taste” of the trucker lifestyle, and once a week he would help the “old-time” truckers unload their rigs. Afflerbach said these truckers held an allure because they came from all over the country, and he hadn’t yet been outside of Texas.
“These rigs were awesome to me. We spent the day with them and their stories,” Afflerbach said. “That was the seed that was planted. I thought maybe I’d want to do that.”
After high school, Afflerbach came to Texas State University for a semester but decided that the timing wasn’t right for college.
“I wanted to be out there and see what it was like on the road,” Afflerbach said.
At 19 years old, he went to work for Bekins Van Lines, a moving company in Austin. Afflerbach spent three years, finding out what he was doing and giving himself time to save up for his own truck.
During summers at Bekins, Afflerbach hired his older brother Tom – who was in need of a summer job while in college.
“Fred was always determined and focused,” Tom said. “When he set a goal for himself, he would achieve it."
Afflerbach eventually bought his own truck. He made it six years living out of his rig, seeing the entire country, until he decided to settle down and have a family.
By 1984, Afflerbach was no longer living out of his truck and traversing the country. However, he remained a driver for the next 20 years, mostly doing day-trips in and around the Austin area.
“I’ve seen the long-term toll it takes on the drivers, the family and their kids,” Afflerbach said. “That’s what my story’s about.”
Afflerbach admits that on occasion he’ll slow down and admire a nice looking rig driving down the road, but fully understands that the life is no longer practical for him.
Growing up in a literary family and writing throughout his years as a trucker, it made sense that the void trucking left would be filled with the passion he had for writing.
“Trucking is a lot like writing, so it was easy to segue into,” Afflerbach said. “You have to have a good imagination and you have to be able to be alone for long periods of time.”
In 2004, Afflerbach enrolled in night classes at Austin Community College to improve upon his craft. He was still driving locally.
“There’d be times when I’d be driving a semi-trailer into an empty warehouse three blocks away. I must have been the only student driving an 18-wheeler to class,” Afflerbach joked.
Afflerbach attended class at ACC for a year, and then transferred to Texas State University.
Kym Fox, journalism professor at Texas State University, was impressed by Afflerbach’s willingness to learn and his ability to seek criticism so he could improve as a journalist.
“He was a fixture in my office,” Fox said.
Fox remembered one piece of work in particular when Afflerbach took the Pulitzer Prize winning editorial “Our Tom,” and made it his own by applying the concept of the editorial to a present issue.
“It came to him the way creative work comes to you. He had this spark and just went after it,” Fox said. “Eventually, the San Antonio Express-News ran it as a guest column.”
Afflerbach said that professor Fox helped him realize that he was indeed on the right track.
In 2007, at the age of 50, Afflerbach graduated from Texas State University with a journalism degree, and a minor in English.
Afflerbach went to work for a small newspaper in Marble Falls and then for the daily paper in Temple. While beginning his career in journalism, Afflerbach used whatever spare time he had to begin writing his novel.
“Roll On” is a cross-country trip from California to the East Coast and up to Boston. Afflerbach said once he got to Denver he knew he’d finish it. He described the experience of writing a novel the best way he knew how, with a trucking analogy.
“It’s kind of like driving at night with your headlights on. You can see only so far down the road, but you can’t see all the way,” Afflerbach said. “Just keep the headlights on and keep driving. You’ll make it.”
Afflerbach made it and, after sending out countless query letters, he finally got the response he was looking for a year later from the Academy Chicago Publishers – they responded, simply, we’ll take it.
Afflerbach dedicated his novel to his second wife, Diane, whom he met in a local gym eight years ago.
“I’m so proud of him,” Diane Afflerbach said. “It’s an incredibly exciting experience that none of us have been through before.”
It began as a kid, when Afflerbach looked up to the “old-time” truckers, the same way a kid today might look up to an athlete or a movie star. They were folk-heroes.
Writing about these truck drivers gave Afflerbach a chance “to give them their say and include them in American literature.” It also gave him a chance to reflect on his life on the road -- when he bought his first rig at the age of 22 and getting in touch with somebody meant stopping off at a pay phone.
Afflerbach said it was the time of his life and that it will always be with him because, like the misfits before him, it’s in his blood.
“I may have left the road,” Afflerbach said. “But the road has never left me.”
“Roll On: A Trucker’s Life on the Road,” by Fred Afflerbach, was published April 3, 2012 and is available at Amazon.com.
Samuel Cromley, a 2003 Texas State University graduate, works a packed 7-day a week dream job as an Assistant Video director for the Dallas Cowboys.
A football player in high school, Cromley tore his ACL three times. He remembers his Varsity football coach asking him to take over filming the games. Cromley said, “At that point I had never even touched a camera, but I ended up having a knack for it.” After graduation, Cromley worked for the University of Houston, Texas State University and Texas Christian University’s football programs in the video departments.
In 2007, Cromley was finishing up his season at TCU when he received a phone call from a vendor of the both the Cowboys and the TCU Frogs. He told Cromley that Robert Blackwell, Video Director for the Cowboys, had a position open in the video department.
“Without having to even say the Dallas Cowboys, I knew immediately what team he was talking about,” Cromley said of the call.
Cromley called Blackwell’s office the next day and after an initial interview with Blackwell, Cromley was invited to the Thanksgiving game against the New York Jets.
“I watched the game from the coaches’ booth.” He saw the Green Bay Packers game the following week where Blackwell hired him for the Assistant Video Director position.
In his fifth season with the Cowboys, Cromley keeps busy at work with preparation for each week’s game. On Tuesday, Cromley works on a DVD of plays from the opponent team of that week for the coaches to watch. Then he meets with Head Coach Jason Garret to create a 45-60 slide PowerPoint for the team meeting on Wednesday. Cromley said, “[Jason is] very detailed oriented with the message, so it takes some time.”
Wednesday is the first day of practice for the new opponent; Cromley transfers practice footage to the network system.
He said, “Each drill is brought in and intercut between our sideline angle and an end zone angle.” After practice, he searches for clips to use for the special teams meeting on Saturday night. Thursday he makes another PowerPoint with Head Coach Garret.
On Friday mornings Cromley is in meetings with the coaches and players helping to run the presentations he created earlier in the week. He also shoots practices. “I'm either in the tower or lift so I have to carry my camera and tripod out to the designated location.”
Whether it is a home game or away game, Saturday, Cromley is in charge of setting up equipment for the team meeting that night in their hotel. Cromley said if it’s an away game, after the meeting, “I might take up a little sightseeing.”
On game day, Cromley shoots the sideline angle during the game. “I have to get a shot of the scoreboard and then the play.” Cromley’s footage combined with the other cameramen’s footage is shared on a private network for NFL. The 31 other NFL teams have access to the footage.
Cromley is back in the office early Monday morning working on attaching data to the other games played around the league. If there is a win from the day before, he crafts another PowerPoint presentation of highlights and player recognition of those who did well in the game.
Cromley offered advice for student in the mass communications field: "Networking is the best thing you can do if you really want to be in this field.” He landed both his TCU and Cowboys job through mutual third parties. His next step to success is, “Once you're in a good situation, work hard and seize the opportunity.”
As a fan growing up and watching the Cowboys of the 90’s, Cromley said he hopes to be a part of a Super Bowl win for the Cowboys.
Sonia Díaz, BA 2006, joined Balsera Communications, an award-winning US Hispanic public relations and public affairs agency in Miami, Florida, in July 2011 as a Senior Account Executive. Most notably, Balsera Communications is recognized for its outstanding efforts during the Obama 2008 election, during which time, the agency spearheaded efforts to mobilize the Latino vote and brought the largest number of Latinos to the polls than any other election in the history of U.S politics. In her role, Sonia helps Balsera clients reach the U.S Hispanic community on issues that directly impact them through public relations and advocacy efforts.
Before coming to Balsera, Sonia was part of the travel and tourism team at Burson Marsteller Latin America where she helped lead public relations and branding efforts for the Costa Rica Tourism Board in the US and Canada. While on the Costa Rica team, Sonia led a digital campaign to raise awareness for shark finning around Cocos Island, which earned them an International Public Relations Award (IPRA) nomination. Additionally, Sonia managed and chose the content featured on "Save My Planet," a groundbreaking ABC LiveWellHD show that focused on the conservation efforts being led by the tourism industry in Costa Rica. "Save My Planet" went on to receive several regional Emmy nominations, including one for "Outstanding Educational Content."
In addition to U.S Hispanic and tourism campaigns, Sonia has done work in technology, consumer brands, corporate communications and B2B. Sonia graduated in 2006 with a BA in Modern Languages, as well as a Minor in Mass Communications. She is fluent in both Spanish and English.
Many grad students from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State move on to meaningful and diverse careers in the media, and an internship with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is no exception. SJMC grad alumna Melinda Urbina says that working for the NCI's Multicultural and International Communications branch in Rockville, MD promises to be filled with interesting and valuable learning experiences.
The branch Urbina works with is in charge of communications services and partnerships with foreign countries such as China, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay. It is also in charge of the Spanish versions of NCI's website, cancer publication of The Bulletin, and YouTube channel. And, the office is currently planning a training workshop/conference for Latin American journalists called Cancer Research in the Media. This workshop is being held in November in Mexico.
"It's interesting learning about all of the acronyms the federal government uses, and I enjoy spending time with other interns from my intern class," said Urbina.
"There are a lot of opportunities for professional development and everyone is very helpful and welcoming. The office is excited about me being here and is already putting me to work," she added.
Internships are a big part of the job discovery process, and they often help students discover their passions in the industry. For more information on internships, check out the Internships page of the SJMC site, or discover job and internship opportunities on the Facebook group SJMC Internships / Careers.
It’s a typical Wednesday night in San Marcos. About 20 people gather around in Cheatham Street Warehouse to get their chance in the Songwriter’s Circle. But there’s a different air in the room tonight. One songwriter gets on stage and delivers a song so heartfelt and poetic it leaves the whole room in awe and has owner Kent Finlay silently cheering inside for the future of the man on the stage. The song was called “Lost and Found” and alumnus Randy Rogers performed it for the first time over a decade ago while still in school. He exemplifies the idea that talent, drive and a good heart can take you places you never imagined.
“Randy has this song called ‘Lost and Found,’ and that was the song that really did it for me --that’s the one that made me call him aside,” said Finlay. “We went to lunch and I told him that I was really impressed with his writing and his sincerity when he was singing. I didn’t know if he had an interest in music as a career, but I thought if he did then it would be something I could help him with. So, I told him just to think about it and he called me back about two or three hours later and said ‘I’ve already got a guitar player.’ He was ready to go. He’s a great guy, really talented and a decent person. We’re ten years down the road now, and Randy is doing tremendous things.”
The Randy Rogers Band is composed of Rogers (lead vocalist), Geoffrey Hill (guitar), Jon Richardson (bass guitar), Brady Black (fiddle) and Les Lawless (drums). They met when Rogers was finishing college and since then have released five studio albums and two live albums. Their recent release “Burning the Day” peaked at number two on the U.S. Billboard Country Albums chart, and they have recently been nominated for the Academy of Country Music (AMC) Top Vocal Group award.
As a boy, Rogers dreamed of being a musician while singing in the choir of his father’s church. However, as an adult, he decided to put his focus on something else -- his education, a decision he certainly does not regret.
“I graduated in 2001 with a degree in mass communications with an emphasis in public relations and a minor in business,” said Rogers. “My first gig with the Randy Rogers Band wasn’t until Oct. 3, 2000, and I graduated in May 2001. I did that on purpose so I could finish school. Getting my degree was really important to me.”
Receiving his education at what was then Southwest Texas State was an experience that impacted the direction of Rogers’ future endeavors.
“If I would have gone to school anywhere else, I don’t think I would have had the opportunities I was afforded in San Marcos,” said Rogers. “It was a very credible outlet for my music that I’m very grateful for, especially Cheatham Street Warehouse and Kent Finlay.”
After Rogers got his band together Finlay gave him his own night. They played every Tuesday night and Rogers says that the rest is history. Still, Rogers continued to excel in his academics and found encouragement through a professor.
“Dr. Fred Blevens went out of his way to help me,” said Rogers. “He helped me juggle being in a band and going to school. He was a great mentor to me. They say from kinder to college there is always one professor that sticks out, and for me, that is Dr. Blevens. I made a friend in him, and I’m really grateful for that. He didn’t take it easy on me; he was really hard, and he pushed me to be the best that I can be.”
Blevens, who now teaches at Florida International University, said Rogers had a drive and determination he seldom sees.
“He was very smart, and could write extremely well,” said Blevens. “Most of all, though, he was not afraid to discuss issues and speak up in class. I always thought Randy would make a great journalist. He could connect dots and make sense of things. Though he wanted so much to make a career in music, he knew he had to finish his degree. It was not hard to invest in Randy because he knew the value in chasing a dream without ever worrying about catching it. He was a natural learner.” Blevens said that what’s special about Texas State is that students seemed very comfortable in school and in their relationships with faculty and staff. He said, despite inadequate resources in the past, students and faculty made wonderful things happen.
“The university environment nurtured that duality because many of us believed that chasing those dreams outside the school made better students in the classroom,” said Blevens. “Randy is a very good example of that.” Rogers said the staff was very liberal and gave him the opportunity to chase his dreams and finish college simultaneously. He said Texas State University is an amazing place to get a degree, and he is proud to visit and stay connected.
Even though Rogers had a foot in the door, it was still a climb to the top for him. He said the transition after graduation was not easy. He didn’t want a real job; he wanted to play music. He ended up working at Mail Boxes Etc. (bought out by UPS) for $7 an hour with a college degree and living on friends’ couches for a while.
“You have to grow up and make your own way,” said Rogers. “It was a big day when I could afford my own apartment by playing music, and I paid off all of my student loans by playing gigs.”
He found a way to push through with some helpful advice from his mentors. After Rogers’ first band fell apart he began talking about his next career, but Blevens convinced him to persist with music.
“I told him that he was far too young to worry about the next career and that he should keep playing until someone kicks him off the stage,” said Blevens. “I’m not sure he’d say that was important, but it sure seemed important at the time.” Finlay said Rogers adopted his slogan “The harder I work, the luckier I get” as well. Though Rogers said he got the best advice from Finlay when he advised Rogers to have thick skin and to always believe in himself, he took all of the advice and ran with it.
“We have been on ‘The Tonight Show’ with Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien and Letterman,” said Rogers. Those are extremes that I thought would never come true. Seeing your dreams come true is pretty remarkable.” After all of his success, Rogers remains humble.
“Our goal has been to write songs and make records and play live; that’s what keeps us going,” said Rogers. “I think we’ll all be happy if we can continue to do that.”
“I never thought I’d make it this far, let’s face it.”
Lauren Tuttle is a 2009 alumna of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She currently works at Wyatt Brand in Austin and wanted to talk about what she's been up to and give some advice to current students of the program. She was kind enough to stop and chat for a few minutes during Mass Communication Week where she spoke on the panel "Social Graces: Understanding & Communicating with Clients, Co-workers, Audiences & the Media."
1996 alumnus Brad Mays came to Mass Communication Week with his digital team from Fleishman-Hillard’s Global Digital Practice Group to talk about "Going Digital: Changes in the Advertising and PR Industry." Alongside Sarah Fulton, a 2009 alumna of the SJMC program, we got a chance to ask them about how our program helped prepare them for the "real world" and what advice they would give to current students.
Dale Blasingame, a current graduate student at Texas State University-San Marcos, was awarded his second Emmy for “Best Evening Newscast” at the seventh annual Lone Star Emmy Awards in 2009. Blasingame spent the past nine years as a producer at News 4 WOAI, where he won another Emmy in 2007 and earned a nomination in 2008. Before his career in television, Blasingame was a news anchor and sports reporter for KTSA Radio. Currently, he is a senior travel writer for The Hotel Guide, a travel magazine that is distributed to two million people annually. Blasingame completed his bachelor's in mass communication at Texas State in 1999.