Breeze TV alumni land jobs at local news station WHSV | Culture

For many Class of 2020 graduates, finding a job in the midst of a pandemic wasn’t how they planned to start their careers. Journalism can be a selective and competitive industry, but while some have struggled with job hunting, JMU alumni Stephanie Penn (’20), Caitlin Piemme (’20) and John Kelly (’20) got jobs with local news station WHSV.

“I feel really blessed because I felt that a lot of my friends in the class of 2020, not just in journalism but in other fields, were really struggling because it was difficult to find jobs at a time when we are suffering. all as a country,” Penn said. “It’s been a crazy learning experience, and I feel so blessed to be working in a time when a lot of people are struggling.”

While at JMU, Penn and Piemme were freshman roommates. They both became interested in journalism through the SMAD program and later joined Breeze TV. Penn said she was involved in theater in high school and was used to being on stage and the camera aspect of being a reporter, but it wasn’t until she came to JMU and followed journalism classes that she was sure was the career for her. .

“I think the main reason I got into journalism was because I’m someone with a lot of interests,” Penn said. “I liked that journalism was different every day and that you learned different things from your interview subjects and world events.”

For Piemme, journalism is about telling people’s stories. She said she enjoys putting stories together and hearing what others have to say. After covering the Harrisonburg Puppy Mill protest, Piemme said she received a letter from a participant saying how grateful she was that WHSV was able to cover their story.

“I think giving people a voice and sharing what they have to say is really important,” Piemme said. “Especially now with everything going on, I think journalists are more important than ever because they cover the real stuff.”

While Penn and Piemme report for WHSV, Kelly works behind the scenes as a technical media producer. He is in charge of coding and producing the show, which begins at 5 p.m. and ends at 6:30 p.m. daily. Kelly was also part of Breeze TV and served as news director, which helped grow her love for journalism.

“I love telling stories and sharing experiences with people in all forms, and journalism is a great medium for that,” Kelly said.

Although the three JMU alumni are doing what they love, they entered the workforce amid COVID-19. Penn said the reports are the same, but there are fewer authorized employees in the building and everyone is distanced. Although the job was not quite normal, she said she was glad to have had the opportunity to go straight to a job when many 2020 graduates struggled to find one.

Kelly said working in the middle of a pandemic is exhausting, but working with people he knows makes things better. Kelly said he went from working with Penn on Breeze TV to now watching her report the weather to thousands of people every weekend.

Piemme said she and Penn often help each other with contacts and story ideas. She said she likes working with friends because it makes the job less stressful and she has someone to share ideas with.

“It’s really nice to have someone else struggling with you,” Piemme said. “We support each other, and it was really fun having someone. I think it takes a lot of the pressure off, just having a friend working with you, because you can always joke around.

While some students may be discouraged when seeking employment due to the pandemic, particularly in the already competitive field of journalism, Piemme said patience is needed. She also encourages job seekers not to be afraid to reach out to people, as it shows interest.

“Take every opportunity that comes your way to learn something new and do something new because one way or another it will make you a better journalist in one way or another,” he said. said Penn. “Take everything you get and do whatever you can to try to find opportunities to do something in journalism.”

Contact Morgan Vuknic at To learn more about the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the Culture Bureau on Instagram and Twitter @Breeze_Culture.