BYU’s Department of Communications has one of the nation’s most renowned university journalism programs. For 50 years, students have come to BYU to learn how to become professionals in the field of journalism.
Rhonda Shelby is one of thousands of BYU broadcast journalism alumnae working professionally, utilizing her BYU education to be a weather anchor at Portland’s KATU-TV. She is now a local Emmy Award-winner and has more than 20 years of experience in the industry.
Shelby grew up in Moses Lake, Washington and after being encouraged by some of her friends she decided to come to BYU in 1982. She was a member of the Cougarettes and graduated in broadcast journalism in 1985.
After graduating, she was hired as a weekend producer for the Las Vegas NBC affiliate. Due to a decline in her mother’s health, Shelby moved to the Seattle area to be closer to her. She then took a job as an associate producer at KOMO-TV and during her five years there, she helped produce shows and special projects. While with KOMO-TV, Shelby and her colleague John Larson worked on a special project about faith healing.
“John and I worked on a news series about a faith healer who constantly came to the Pacific Northwest to do these gigantic seminars,” said Shelby. “I worked on finding people that he had met with the previous year. I did all of the investigative work, which included, finding them and pre-interviewing them. It ended up being a really powerful story about all these different people and what happened following their visit with the faith healer.”
Their work was a widely acclaimed and the two were awarded a local Emmy.In 1993, Shelby was hired on as the Community Relations Director for KAUT-TV in Portland. To her surprise, the director of the news department asked her to audition for the weather anchor.
“I couldn’t believe that she would ask me to audition but I knew that she was very talented at picking talent so I decided to audition,” Shelby said. “She told me that they were looking for someone with a great personality and who was familiar with the Pacific Northwest. I auditioned and they hired me.”
When reflecting back on her experience, Shelby says what makes the BYU journalism program special is that the learning track provides students with a well-rounded view of the world and the television business. Unlike other universities, students have the unique opportunity to work first hand on studio quality equipment. She also feels that the BYU Department of Communications has outstanding faculty.
“The teaching staff was amazing,” said Shelby.” “I still have professors that I keep in contact with now. They left lasting impressions on how to conduct myself as a journalist and a meteorologist.”
To anyone who is thinking about going to journalism, Shelby suggests that they students be passionate about journalism. Second, that they pray for direction of where to go and to be flexible because you never know where your career is going to take you. Lastly, she suggests that you set your priorities.
“In a business like this, you can get so incredibly busy and it can become difficult to prioritize the most important things in your life,” said Shelby. “I think that my greatest achievement has been that I am able to love and enjoy this work. But then I compartmentalize it and go home and I’m all a mom after that.”