Broadcasting grad following his storytelling bliss

By: Aaron Heimbuck

As one reads articles from the Tiger Hi-Line or watches videos from broadcast, one may notice that many of these students have a real talent for journalism, but, sadly, many of these students don’t plan to continue journalistic storytelling as they move forward in life.

Former broadcast student Jackson Skiles is an exception. Skiles has channeled his passion for entertaining through the skills he has learned from broadcast journalism. He said he hopes to continue developing these skills and use them to make a difference. Skiles still isn’t sure what he wants to do career wise yet, but with his combination of passion, creativity and hard work, he may be making waves sooner than one may think.

For him, the first steps toward reaching his goal have not been a straight line. First, he wrestled with what he wanted out of a career. Money, happiness, family and much more went into his decision making process. He has found a major that currently fits but has kept his mind open to several possible careers. His main objective right now is to do something that makes him happy.

On Nov. 20, he made the official switch to majoring in journalism and mass communication at the University of Iowa.

“I plan to study the basics of journalism: storytelling, interviewing, building an audience, maintaining credibility, etc., but I also want to really dive into how social media plays such a phenomenal role in the lives of millions. As for a career, I yearn for a fun work environment. Examples of people I’d love to work for are Vice.com or Buzzfeed or even just work for myself as a freelance worker.”

Skiles got a taste of what he wanted while creating his stories for the Hi-Line Online broadcast at Cedar Falls, but he wants to continue refining his skills in college and produce plenty of creations along the way.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say journalism is my passion. My passion is entertaining people by telling stories and through visual productions. At the same time, I feel as if I have to provide the masses with something, and that something could be news or even just random, yet interesting, stories. Just as a doctor aims to care for people, I aim to inform people. There are a lot of uninformed people in the world, and I think that’s because they find news boring. I want to change that.”

Before his experience with broadcast journalism at Cedar Falls, Skiles had a talent for storytelling, though he never thought he’d use it. He always loved being behind a camera … and in front of it too. He would make videos of all sorts and often involved his friends and family. When he heard about broadcast journalism, he thought it would be a great opportunity to have some fun and learn more about something he liked. Little did he know, it would spark a passion in him to make videos for more than just fun.

“I’ve always made home videos of which you can probably find on my facebook.  Going into senior year, I was making my own videos of like vacations and what not when I heard of broadcast journalism. This sparked my interest solely because of the video aspect, so I took the class. I put in countless hours of video editing. I worked with people I never had before. I made videos that had an impact on people, and it all paid off. I was fortunate to receive the award for videographer of the year in the state of Iowa, and from there on I knew I wanted to have a camera in front of me for the rest of my life.”

According to Skiles, one can learn a lot of things in Brian Winkel’s broadcast journalism class. Filming, editing, how to reach an audience, interviewing and much more. However, he took something far more important from room 208 his senior year. He learned how to work with others and better his content.

“Working with others hasn’t always been my first choice; however, broadcast was great at helping me overcome this. Broadcast also forced me to be a lot more open to criticism. Criticism can be worth more than compliments depending on the context. I’m sure I’ll have people in the future critiquing my work, so I’m glad broadcast was able to give me a taste of that.”

After graduation, Skiles was set to pursue his camera magic at the University of Northern Iowa, but after a semester in the program, he said he could tell that he wasn’t going to find what he was looking for if stayed in that program, so decided he had to make a change. He did not want to just go through the motions of college. He decided that the University of Iowa could help him reach that goal. It was a difficult decision to make considering everything he had known was in Cedar Falls. He didn’t want to distance himself from his family, friends, job, and hometown. In the end, he made a decision based on his best interest and what would help him to reach his full potential.

“I was originally all set to attend Iowa in the fall of 2015; however, I backed out because of other people, which I discovered was not a great choice. I stayed because I was afraid of losing my best friends, not seeing my parents and siblings, having to quit my job and a myriad of other smaller reasons. I saw second semester as my second chance, and this time around I made the decision based off of my own choice. I’m not doing this for anybody else. I’m doing this for me.”

Though it was hard to sacrifice his CF roots, Skiles said he is very excited to see what new opportunities Iowa had in store for him.

“I’ve only heard good things about Iowa, so I’m pretty sure they’ll be able to provide the right education for me. I’ve heard their video editing and production courses are great, so you could say I’m really excited to see what Iowa City has waiting for me.”

Skiles worked hard to produce quality videos and stories. While he is proud of the work he’s posted on YouTube and while working on the Tiger Hi-Line staff, it’s the connections he’s made with the students and teachers around him that he holds most dearly.

“It might sound cliché, but I’m most proud of establishing meaningful friendships with some people I had never really associated with, but, videowise, I’m proud of all my work. I wouldn’t put it up if I wasn’t happy with it. I try to only look forward, however, meaning that I’m always trying to grow as an artist and storyteller, so I don’t bother wasting my time dwelling on a video where I could have done something different. It’s up, and it’s done. On to the next one.”

Toward the end of his senior year Skiles had built up quite an impressive collection of videos. He knew he had done well. He earned his A’s. However, Skiles had not been aware that his efforts had earned him the prestigious award of Videographer of the Year. He will never forget the day Winkel called him to the center of the gym to receive his award.

“I was surprised, but I was more surprised when Winkel pulled Austin (Anderson, who won an award for Writer of the Year) and I out of the crowd during an assembly where he selflessly praised our hard work in front of the entire student body.  It was an incredible moment to share with him and Austin. I’ll never forget the day.”  

Many of today’s high school students had big dreams when they were little kids, but those dreams have faded. They wanted to be baseball players, singers, movie stars and even superheroes. Most teens have “grown up” and settled for a more reasonable goal; something more realistic. For Jackson, that kid-like dream is still very much alive. However, instead of giving that dream job a name, he gives it a description. He doesn’t have a specific career picked out yet, but he does know that it involves his love for the camera.

“I want to create the best content I can. I want to explore the world all while capturing it through a lens, and I want to make memories that I can share with my kids someday. I really can’t pick a specific career right now because life is a crazy ride. Maybe I’ll film for National Geographic, or maybe I’ll have my own business, or maybe I’ll get into actually writing for journalism. Who knows? I just want to create the best content I can.”

Reading about Skiles’ journey may inspire questions like, “Well, how do I do that? How do I find what I love and pursue it?” He’d say there is no secret formula. Everyone has to create his or her own path to success.

“Be open-minded. Chase any story you think is interesting and do your best job to accurately describe the story. Work hard and be prepared to fail because if you don’t fail, you don’t learn, and if you don’t learn, you won’t succeed. Just believe in yourself and look at the bright side in all situations. Be brave and don’t worry so much; we’re all trying this life out for the first time.”

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