Behind The Newsroom: Bobby Stilwell, Digital Journalist

Today we chat with Bobby Stilwell, a Digital Journalist for News 19 (WHNT-TV) in Huntsville, Alabama.

What College Did You Attend? What Was Your Major/Minor?

Saint Louis University, Meteorology Major/Communication Minor.

Did You Join Any Frats or Clubs at College?

Too many to count — SLU-TV, The University News, KSLU Radio, Forensic Science Club, Photography Club, League of Laughter (improv comedy, think Whose Line), Food Advisory Committee.

Did You Have An Internship(s) While In College?

KSDK — Summer 2017.

What Was Your First Job In The Industry?

Current job — Digital Journalist at WHNT-TV.

Did You Have Any Other Jobs Before Your Current Job?

High School Videographer/Manager — Varsity Football/Varsity Boys Basketball, SLU IT Student Worker, Part-time Clerk @ Wood River, IL Public Library.

What Got You Interested In This Field?

As a broadcast-track meteorology major, I got heavily involved in campus media. However, I started to get into sports writing and general assignment reporting (knowing most meteorologists end up doing that in their first job).

Fresh off of my internship and ready to take on senior year, we end up getting protests and marches on and near campus following the grand jury acquittal of former STLMPD officer Jason Stockley. My instinct was to run *to* the breaking news and get on Facebook Live to cover the first draft of history in Midtown St. Louis. That story is the defining moment that began to push me away from meteorology and into storytelling.

Everybody has a story to tell — the hard part is telling it fully in under 90 seconds.

What Advice Would You Give Your College-Self About The Industry?

Web/digital is the future of the industry — having those skills is going to be a boon for you and making that switch away from weather is easier than you think.

How Do You Manage Your Stress & Anxiety?

Lots of strategy/RPG (role-playing) video games

- Civilization V

- Empire at War

- Knights of the Old Republic

Learning about and tinkering with virtualized Linux distributions/the UNIX command line on my Mac.

Volunteering around my church (largest in Alabama and one of the top five largest in the country).

What Do You Do For Fun?

Walk the neighborhood and get to know my neighbors, patronize local businesses and build connections with owners/managers (often leads to some of the best local stories), find opportunities to get creative with video editing and storytelling.

Where Do You See Yourself in Five to Ten Years?

Honestly, my dream in 5 to 10 years would be leading a digital storytelling unit in a top-20 or top-30 market such as Nashville, St. Louis, or Indianapolis.

What Do You Think The News Industry Will Look Like In Ten Years?

As I told a now-former coworker, “we already consume the news on our phones; it’s only a matter of time before we create the news there, too.”

In a lot of ways, I’m ahead of the curve — I already shoot all my web stories and on an iPhone and have been doing it since 2019.

Where Can People Follow You On Social Media?

Facebook

Twitter (most active)

Instagram

LinkedIn (not super active)

Anything Else to Add?

If I could write my platform as a journalist, it is this: “My stories don’t always get the most reaction on social or even win awards, but to me, it’s all about giving a voice to those who are usually voiceless in the world of over-the-air TV — that’s why I love web reporting.”

One story I did sticks with me — an interview with HEALS, Inc. Optometry Coordinator Kathy Henderson. She told me the story of a little girl who had been struggling in class, was diagnosed with ADHD and was about to be medicated. She came to HEALS, and during her eye exam, they found she had vision issues. She got a pair of glasses, and had no further issues. All of these services are provided free of charge to needy families across Madison County, Alabama.

At the end of the day, if I can help make our community a better place to live, I’ve done my job.

Online Portfolio / Muckrack (more up-to-date)

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