Nathan VickersApril 17, 2018
Nathan Vickers grew up in El Dorado Springs, MO, where his family runs a small farm. Currently, he is a reporter and multimedia journalist at KCTV5 News in Kansas City, MO. He shoots, writes and edits his own stories every day, covering everything from Royals baseball to city government and breaking news. Nathan enjoys bicycling, playing the piano, and reading in his spare time.
What year did you graduate and what was your concentration?
I graduated in 2011 with a concentration in Journalism.
What extra-/co-curricular activities did you do?
I stayed pretty busy. For four years I played on the football team (Offensive Line). My fifth year I decided to switch things up and ended up joining Franklin Street Singers. That same year I moved out to the University Farm residence, where I paid my room and board by feeding and caring for livestock. Throughout my time at Truman I also played French horn in some campus ensembles (I was a Music minor) and completed two different internships. The first was with KTVO, the local ABC affiliate, in 2009. It led to a part-time job at the station while I was in school. That experience helped me land an internship at the Late Show with David Letterman in New York City. That was a blast.
Did you go to grad school? If so, where? Was it immediately after you left Truman or did you wait? Why?
I attended graduate school at the Columbia University School of Journalism immediately after I graduated from Truman. It was an intensive, year-long Master of Science program. After I came home from the Late Show I wanted to get back to NYC. I applied to Columbia, given its worldwide reputation, and was accepted. It probably helped that I had built up a solid portfolio of student journalism, research projects, and clips from my time at KTVO. My professors at Truman did everything they could to help me prepare my application.
What was your first job after graduation?
After I graduated from Columbia my first job was at KOLR10 in Springfield, MO. I started out reporting for that station’s morning show and eventually moved down to Branson to take over a new bureau the station was starting there. Starting out in broadcast is tough, but it was a fun and challenging opportunity.
What work do you do/What are you doing now?
I currently work at KCTV5 in Kansas City as a multimedia journalist. It’s awesome. I tell stories every day. I shoot, write and edit almost everything I do myself. I cover every type of assignment, from breaking news and city government to features and enterprise stories.
How has your Liberal Arts/COMM education helped you?
Most of my colleagues from other schools graduate knowing the mechanics of journalism pretty well. They know how to run a camera, edit a sequence, write a lead sentence. I’ve always thought Truman’s program prepared me to look beyond the basic act of reporting information.
I think a liberal arts program forces you to look outside your comfort zone to examine the world around you. In the study of communication, this means examining media through various lenses of race, culture, gender and other identities. Truman emphasized critical thinking in nearly every class I took. That gave me an advantage in graduate school and in the working world.
Which class did you dislike at the time you took it, but now you’re grateful you took it?
Public speaking. I’m not a good public speaker. That class forced me to face that fear. Looking back, I think taking that class helped prepare me to stand in front of a camera. Another one that comes to mind is Geography. I think I didn’t appreciate the human element of that course enough at the time. I wish I could go back and take it again.
What was your greatest accomplishment at Truman?
I juggled a lot. I’m proud of being involved in a lot of varying (and often conflicting) activities and taking some classes totally unrelated to my major. I chose a liberal arts college so I could broaden my horizons. Truman helped me do that. There aren’t many places where a student athlete could play in the band. There aren’t many schools that encourage students to work outside their discipline to the extent Truman does. There’s no way I could have done that at a larger university.
Why is Truman a good place for a student to study?
For one thing, everyone else is studying. You’re surrounded by motivated students. It’s contagious. It’s a small campus, so it feels personal. I always found that professors supported my involvement in other activities. When I needed help their doors were always open.
What would you say a COMM student should absolutely do while at Truman?
ABSOLUTELY apply for an internship. It’s a competitive field no matter what you’re doing–broadcast, print, PR, social media, advertising–it is hard to work your way into this field without some entry level experience. Take care of that while you’re in school and it will give you a leg up when you’re seeking a job. I also have found that experience outside the class tends to make classwork more meaningful.
What advice would you give someone who wants to go into the same line of work as you?
First–Invest in yourself. Take the time to practice telling stories EVERY day. Make yourself write when you don’t want to write. Take meaningful pictures. Learn to shoot and edit video. Buy a camera or voice recorder if you need to. Take risks with your time and resources to advance your craft. The rest will follow.
Second–Study great storytelling and become a great consumer of news. Find trustworthy sources that you can rely on. Find great journalism that speaks to your soul and emulate it.
Third— Seek out mentors and ask them for advice. This one’s the hardest for me. The people who are pushing you are there to help. Lean on your professors, your bosses, your colleagues, your friends, and people you know in the industry when you reach the end of your rope or run out of ideas.
What do you miss most about campus/Kirksville?
I miss the people. I don’t get back to Kirksville as much as I wish I could.
What tag line would you create for the COMM department at Truman?
“Is that a rhetorical question?”
If you could come back to Truman and teach a class for a semester, what would be its title and what would it be about?
“Surviving your first job” – I’d focus on interview skills, making a reel, and maybe some more advanced shooting, writing and editing tips. We’d shoot some crazy standups. We’d talk about the day to day struggles of a reporter and how to move up the ladder at your news organization.
What did we not ask that you think is important for people to know?
Truman students put together some great content with the help of experienced and talented faculty. The COMM department, in my experience, has also been committed to helping students conduct their own research. I used my internship to kick off an independent study about political discourse in late night comedy. Use those resources at Truman and take advantage of the faculty there.