Perspectives

WOUB Leads Sara Shookman Home


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Cleveland news anchor credits WOUB with putting her on the path to the WKYC anchor desk

ATHENS, OH – Sitting at the anchor desk at WKYC Channel 3 in Cleveland, Sara Shookman, BSJ ’09, is looking back at her career over the last decade and sometimes can’t believe all that has happened. When Shookman, who grew up near Cleveland, started pursuing a journalism degree at Ohio University, she didn’t even dare to dream that she could become the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. news anchor in her hometown. She said she wanted to be realistic. Now Shookman realizes she started on the road home the day she began working in the newsroom as a college student at WOUB Public Media.

“Now that I’ve been in the business for 10 years, and I see what news directors are looking for, they want the “easy button.” They want someone they can hire who can get the story right, get it done on time and is self-sufficient. They want reporters that find a way to get it done every day. I learned all of that at WOUB,” said Shookman. “I was getting that experience by doing it at WOUB. I stayed and worked for WOUB over the summer one year, and I’m so glad I did that. I didn’t take classes that summer. I just worked and got that experience daily. It was a real-world environment. We were putting on a newscast, Newswatch, every night. It was going on at a certain time, and if you were the lead story, your story had to be there. The professional staff helped students see how to do things every day and get it done. The repetition of doing it is critical.”

Sara Shookman sitting on WOUB Newswatch set
Sara Shookman anchoring WOUB’s Newswatch with Brody O’Connell

Shookman believes some young people choose to pursue a career in television journalism because they think it is glamorous. At WOUB, Shookman said she and her fellow students learned that there was an important job to do. They had a news service to provide to the local community, and it was something she took very seriously.

“The stakes were there because we were doing this live on television, and in Athens and throughout the region there weren’t many other local options for news and information, so you had to get it right,” said Shookman. “But you also had the room to make some mistakes, learn and grow. You were able to find your own voice while providing a critical service to the area.”

After Shookman graduated she got her first job as a multimedia reporter at WVLT in Knoxville, Tennessee. A fellow Ohio University graduate and former WOUB student helped her get in the door by showing her resumé to the news director. After working there for three years, Shookman was hired in Cleveland as a multimedia reporter and worked her way up.

“In the beginning, I did a lot of reporting in the Akron office for WKYC, and then I eventually started doing more work in Cleveland,” said Shookman.

Shookman got assigned to cover the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

“I learned so much from that experience, and I think it showed our management staff that I could do more,” said Shookman. “Eventually, I started anchoring the weekend morning show and reporting three days a week. Then I got an opportunity to fill in on the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts during the week when the main anchor had to take some time off. Four months later, the main anchor ended up leaving, and I was asked to fill in again. A few months later, I was asked to take the anchor role permanently, and that’s what I have been doing ever since.” She also covered the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Shookman has won a 2017 Emmy for talent. She’s also won four other regional Emmy awards and a regional Edward R. Murrow Award. Cleveland Magazine named Shookman one of the city’s most interesting people.

Shookman on WOUB news desk with group of students
Shookman along with entire WOUB Newswatch news and production team in 2009

Even though Shookman never expected to be able to do the job she loves in her hometown, she is very happy with the way things turned out. Shookman got married in 2017 and is expecting her first child in May.

“It’s great to be living near family and friends. I knew that I wanted to do this job, and I was willing to go wherever the job would take me. But, when it ended up working out that Cleveland was my best offer, it was serendipitous,” said Shookman. “It is pretty cool when your elementary school teachers can reach out to you and say they saw a story you did.”

When interns come to work at WKYC, Shookman says she always has the same advice for them.

“First I say, ‘Go to Ohio University!’ But if that can’t happen, then I tell them to make sure they get involved in news and reporting outside of the classroom at a place like WOUB,” said Shookman. “They need to do everything they can to get experience in, television, radio and online reporting. They also need to find internships and make connections with people working in the industry. It’s a very small business. So, they need to put themselves in the environment as often as possible to see the workflow along with the pressures and the demands that come with working in this industry. They need to really understand what that looks like day in and day out.”

If the intern asking for advice is already an Ohio University student, Shookman only has one thing to say to them.

“Proceed immediately back to campus and sign up to work at WOUB,” said Shookman while laughing. “That’s it. That’s all I need to say.”