An opportunity for Western Illinois University Broadcasting and Journalism alumni to gather during COVID-19 has transformed into a podcast highlighting their careers after college, hosted by College of Fine Arts and Communication Associate Dean William “Buzz” Hoon.

The first episode of “Alumni Chats” kicked off Jan. 19, and Hoon hopes the podcast will become a weekly production, with a new episode released each Thursday.

“I think this podcast really connects to University engagement,” said Hoon. “In December, we had nine broadcasting and journalism alumni on a call and it was such an outstanding success. I’m teaching a multi-media performance class this semester, but a podcast is not in my comfort zone. But this has made me realize that I need to try more things out of my comfort zone.”

William “Buzz” Hoon

One of those alumni who took part in the December Zoom session, is 2005 graduate Mark Moses, host of “The Mark Moses Show” in Florida. The podcast was born of a discussion between Hoon and Moses to assess the alumni gathering.

“He noted that we hadn’t had much time to talk,” Hoon said of the Zoom meeting. “He suggested I do some more one-on-one discussions.”

The first podcast guest is 2010 alumnus Joe Wagener, who is a photojournalist with WTTG-FOX 5 television in Washington, DC. He was working the day of the siege at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, covering former President Donald J. Trump’s morning rally.

WIU Television Director-Producer Phil Weiss, a 1998 and 2017 WIU graduate, helped Hoon develop a video introduction for his show, and helped with editing tips for how to turn a Zoom recording into a podcast.

“This is a chance to reconnect with alumni so they can see each other and I can catch up with them,” said Hoon. “It also provides current students with inspirational and aspirational advice about the careers they see for themselves. We have alumni who are willing to be mentors and I appreciate that they want to help current students see themselves in the same career paths.”

Week two will feature 2007 graduate Marissa (Harris) Isang, a special productions coordinator at WLS-TV in Chicago. This week, Hoon interviewed 1996 alumni Jeff Politsch, who is a producer for NASCAR Productions for the third edition of the podcast, and ESPN content producer Ashley Cushman, a 2004 and 2006 WIU graduate, is scheduled for the podcast’s week four.

Since word of Hoon’s podcast has begun circulating, he has been contacted by numerous program alumni offering to be interviewed for the podcast.

“I knew going in that there are only 52 weeks in the year and we have a lot of people out there who could be interviewed,” said Hoon. “I wish we could highlight each one because they are all great and we are very proud of where they are and what they are doing.”

To watch the first podcast, visit youtube.com/user/WIUBroadcasting/videos. For more information about the WIU Department of Broadcasting and Journalism, visit wiu.edu/bcj.

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Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since debuting at age 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. An honors graduate of the University of Southern California masters program, he has written over 50 books including the best-sellers The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone and We Are All Characters.