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The Evolution of WGSU News

by Daniel Parker on May 7, 2015

One of the most important aspects of radio is news. A high-quality radio station must have a high-quality news department, and if you're looking for a high-quality news department look no further than the news department of WGSU! News Director Jia Sha and Assistant News Director Buddy Phipps have been putting WGSU's news department back on the map, transforming the news from a branch of the SUNY Geneseo campus radio to a staple of the Geneseo community.

Jia Sha, a junior Communication major, has been part of WGSU since her sophomore year. Her journey with WGSU began when WGSU adviser and professor Mike Saffran promoted the campus radio in his Radio Production class, which Sha was taking. Sha was nervous at first, as she had a limited knowledge of music. However, she discovered the news department, and began working under Rebecca Fitzgerald (member of the Class of 2014), who was News Director at that time. Sha reported on news in regard to local and national sports, and her work was recognized when Fitzgerald recommended Sha to take over her position once Fitzgerald graduated.

"The news department was almost non-existent my freshman year," Jia Sha said. "It was dormant. Nobody was doing anything with it." Sha says things changed when Mike Saffran stepped in and led the department in a different direction, with senior managing editor of the campus newsaper The Lamron, Rebecca Fitzgerald, as News Director. Sha credits Fitzgerald and fellow senior member of the news department, Leah Freeman, as the students who got the news department on its feet and set the ground work for everything that Sha has done.

Sha has worked incredibly hard to ensure that Fitzgerald and Freeman's visions came true, as well as her own visions, including airing news every weekday at 5 p.m., releasing public affairs pieces, incorporating sports into broadcasts, and ensuring that the department serves the public interest. Sha also wants news anchors to be trained to be future journalists. "Not only do I want to do news, but I want us to have hands-on experience," Sha says. "I want us to go out there and get the news and be part of the community." Sha also hopes that WGSU News can be the premiere local news source. "We want to seek out news that isn't reported anywhere else. We want to be a dependable source of news for the community."

When looking for somebody to assist her in transforming the news department, Sha looked no further than senior Buddy Phipps. "I wanted somebody with enough maturity, wisdom, and experience to bounce ideas off of," Sha said. Phipps was part of WGSU staff the same time Sha was, and actually applied for the News Director position himself. Phipps was Sha's key staff and unofficial Assistant News Director, until Saffran decided to give him the title of Assistant News Director and a key to the newsroom. Sha added, "He's such a big asset to this department, and I truly appreciate his work here."

By the time Sha graduates, she wants to partner with outside news sources, make sure that the department is the forefront of media news on campus, and have WGSU News recognized as a legitimate, top-notch news department. She would also like members of the news department to have better resources and better opportunities as journalists.

The transformation of WGSU News into a reliable, professional news source won't happen overnight, but the amount of work and dedication that Sha, Phipps, and the rest of the members of the news department have put in have certainly made this transformation possible. "I know it'll be quite a bit before all my dreams and aspirations for this department are achieved," Sha said, "but I really wish when I come back for my twenty-year anniversary that it'll be a blooming success."