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Blake Haas: Thank You for letting me serve as News Director

Blake Haas: Thank You for letting me serve as News Director

Some of the wisest words I have heard while in college is that all good things must come to an end, but what those words didn’t say is that you will always have the best friends, memories, life lessons and family that will last a life time. Those words in some ways are true and in others are not; on one hand, those words are true because one good thing is ending – my career at WZND. On the other hand, those words are untrue because a brand new chapter is beginning.

Chapter 1: The first chapter of my story started when I was a young, immature freshman fresh of high school. To be honest, from playing music to just finding my niche in college, I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t know what that niche would be. Coming from a small farm town, any college was at least triple the size of my high school. I applied to several schools, including Lincoln College and Millikin University, but one university stuck out above the rest – Illinois State University.

But, as all good things come to an end, this one never began. I was not accepted to ISU my first time applying. After being denied to ISU, the next best option was Lincoln College where I found my love for radio. Finding out that people could actually hear you and get to know your voice was pretty cool. That was the point I knew radio was what I wanted to do. After graduating from Lincoln College with my Associates Degree, I knew that I wanted to continue my broadcasting career. That’s when I found WZND.

Chapter 2: During the summer of my Sophomore year, I obtained an internship at WJBC radio in Bloomington as a reporter. After my internship ended, I was quickly hired to continue working in the WJBC newsroom as a reporter and one of the main producers. After my first semester at ISU, I heard a voice on WZND that was purely professional and smooth; that’s when I knew I wanted to work at WZND. (This voice would turn out to be Lexi Landis currently one of my good friends and Program Director at WZND). I did not work at WZND my first semester of ISU because I was swamped with work at WJBC, but something felt empty, and I wanted to find and make friends.

On a cool, crisp evening I went to WZND’s general staff meeting to find out more information about WZND. I decided I would sign up for an interview. When I first walked into WZND, I was quickly met by Ashley Antonini, who would later become my best friend. Ashley quickly told me what she wanted me to do for the interview, and during the interview I performed a newscast in front of (News Director at the time) Louie Majchrowski. I was extremely nervous, although this was not my first time speaking in front of a mic. I thought that my audition was horrible. I remember coming back to my apartment after the audition thinking there was no way I was going to get hired. I wasn’t good enough. That Friday, low and behold, my name was at the top of the staff list. I was excited to start working as a news and sports reporter and I couldn’t wait for my first day.

Chapter 3:  At the end of my Junior year, WZND was looking for a News Director that had talent, showed promise and a was a hard worker. Louie pulled me aside and said, “Hey, I think that you are really good for this job and you show a lot a promise. You have to audition for it.” I didn’t think that I had what it took to be the News Director. I had a couple of ideas about what we could do to change some things, but I had no real idea what I was doing at the time. So I came back to my apartment, thought about it and decided to apply. What harm could applying do? Within the next few days, I was selected to be the News Director for the 2017-2018 school year.

Chapter 4: When I became News Director, I wanted our news to become the best, because as Ricky Bobby’s dad always said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” That was not the only reason why I wanted our news operation to succeed; I wanted each and every person on my staff to be the best reporter that they could be. I wanted to have as many stories as possible come out of the WZND newsroom, and we did just that. The WZND news team conquered and tackled stories that I never thought imaginable. From breaking news during shootings to covering local features, I have never been more proud of a group of people. They were all in it for each other. WZND is like a part-time job, except you don’t get paid. But there is a reward: having a group of best friends… family who will always do anything for each other.

We broke news this year on multiple stories, including a shooting in Normal, renovations coming to Redbird Arena, and flooding of the Rec Center. We will always be one family, in it for each other. Thank you to the staff of WZND for being there not only for me, but for each other, during easy and hard times. WZND has won 35 news and sports awards this year, including winning the best hard radio program in the state of Illinois. Many others from this year’s WZND news team have won state, regional, and national awards as well.

As the story of my thanks moves on, I would like to share a funny story of what happened in Las Vegas during our trip to accept the Broadcast Education Association’s Signature Station award.

Vegas: With tons of talent at WZND, we were able to win the Broadcast Education Association’s Signature Station award, given out annually to the best college radio station in the world. In order to go accept the award, 21 WZND students flew to Las Vegas to attend the BEA Convention and accept our award. Cold and bitter temperatures struck Bloomington-Normal that weekend while we landed in Vegas. It was clear skies and in the mid 80’s when we got off the plane. All 21 of us quickly got to the hotel and instantly wanted to soak up the desert sun in the pool. Media Business Director Deb Lesser quickly warned us to wear sunscreen. Being strong-minded, I thought I would be safe without it.

As I am writing this goodbye two months later, I still have a horrible tan line. In addition to the bad sun burn, I lost my wallet, including all of my credit cards, cash, ID and everything else I would possibly need. This happened less than 24 hours into our three-day trip. Let’s just say that trying to get back on the plane with no ID and going through TSA was not fun, but luckily I had my WZND family there to support me (and spot me money) during the trip.

Many thanks: When you move away from your hometown, you leave your parents and your family. What I didn’t know at the time is that I would find my second set of parents in Deb Lesser and Steve Suess. Deb and Steve welcomed me with welcoming arms and quickly became my school mom and dad. I will never forget what Deb and Steve have done for me, because without them I would not be where I am at today. They say you find professors in college that will touch your life, but what I found in college are two individuals who will support me and help me with anything and everything possible.

I would also like to thank Andy Olson and Ashley Antonini for being the best coworkers, friends and mentors that life has to offer. I will never forget the time that we spent working together covering stories and finding the best in each other. In addition, I would like to thank all of the WZND directors and my news staff for allowing me to be me and do all of the crazy news that we do. WZND has a bright future. Finally, I would also like to thank the Bloomington-Normal community for allowing me to deliver the best news as I possibly could.

Not the end: As graduation rapidly approaches, goodbyes will fill the air. Luckily for me, goodbye is just a see you later. I will be the Graduate Assistant for WZND next year as I continue my education studying for a Master’s Degree in Illinois State’s School of Communication. I will be teaching two courses, and I can’t wait to get started. After obtaining my Master’s Degree, I hope to run a college radio station and provide the same learning environment that WZND provided me.

In conclusion: I hope that during my time at WZND some of my stories have made you laugh, cry or be informed. If I just did one of those in my time as News Director, then I think I have done a pretty good job. I have poured my heart into being the News Director, and I hope that you thoroughly enjoyed listening to and reading my news coverage as much as I did delivering it. I will never forget what WZND gave to me, and I am very grateful to say that I am and always apart of the WZND family.

Thank you,

Blake Haas

Blake Haas

May 1st, 2018

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