COM Alumni Spotlight
Jeffrey Brian Rivenbark
Jeff Rivenbark interviews a paramedic in Charlotte about
emergency response times for an America Now story
Raycom Media & America Now
|Current Location:||Charlotte, NC|
What organizations/groups were you involved in while you were a student?
I was involved in Baptist Student Union, several UNCW theatre productions, and Dr. Tallant’s storytelling group. I also worked full-time during college so that left little time for a fraternity or other activities. Besides, I was on the four-year plan!!!
Did you complete a departmental internship? If so, please list your internship agency.
I started an internship at WECT in the news department, but it was not a good fit. I transferred my internship to Radio station WGNI and worked with Mark Boyer who at the time did newsbreaks in the morning. I won’t forget the morning I was interning at WGNI when news broke about Actor Brandon Lee being fatally shot on a movie set in Wilmington. It was a tragic story, but a great time to witness how the story was being covered.
How are you using the skills/concepts learned from your COM degree in your life?
After graduating from UNCW, I pursued a Masters Degree in Journalism at Regent University in Virginia Beach. (Coincidentally, I was in school there at the same time Richard Olsen was pursuing his Ph.D.) I graduated from that program in 1996. I volunteered at a public access station in Virginia Beach (VBTV) where I anchored a weekly public affairs show. I also interned for CBN News and worked as a reporter on a student news production (Christian World News) during graduate school.
My first paid TV job was at KQTV, the ABC affiliate in St. Joseph, Missouri. I started there in 1997 and was the weekday morning anchor. Desiring to move back to the East Coast, about two years later, I accepted a weekend anchor position at WNCT, the CBS affiliate in Greenville, NC. I was also a reporter three days a week. I was at WNCT when Hurricane Floyd devastated Eastern North Carolina with massive flooding. Our station won an Edward R. Murrow Award for our team coverage of this damage.
A few years later, I moved to Raleigh and worked as a Public Information Officer for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. I traveled the state and worked with local and national reporters on a variety of stories relating to immunizations and other medical topics.
Around 2011, I moved to Charlotte and worked as the Assignment Editor at the FOX affiliate. After two years there, I moved to News 14 Carolina (a Time Warner Cable operation) where I also worked as an Assignment Editor.
In 2005, I moved to WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte to work as the nightside Assignment Editor. Four years ago, I was promoted as the station’s Web Manager to supervise content on WBTV.com.
Last year, I transitioned to my current role with America Now. I produce segments for this national show and I also report on my own stories. I have been a Raycom Media employee for the last 7 years.
I am very blessed to have worked at five commercial television stations over the course of my 15-year career in journalism. I have never had any gaps in employment and have always acquired new skills with each new role. I feel my education at UNCW provided the foundational blocks for my career for which I am extremely grateful.
What are your proudest accomplishments since graduating from UNCW?
I have received numerous awards over the years, but the most gratifying part of my job is doing a story and having people stop me on the street, at church, or around town and then having them comment on something they learned from the story or how it has inspired them to take action or make a change in their life.
What advice would you give current COM majors?
I know it sounds trite, but be open to trying new things. For example, when I had the opportunity to take a Storytelling class with Dr. Tallant, I took it. I knew I didn’t want to be an educator, but I knew learning the ability to interpret words on paper and articulating those thoughts with the right inflection and emphasis on certain words or phrases would enable me to be a better storyteller with my journalism career.
When you’re in college, it’s so easy to think with a narrow focus. In other words, you may think you only want to do one particular occupation and nothing else. Once you get into the real world and do it a while, you may realize it’s not really what you want to do with your life. That’s why having a myriad of experiences and coursework in the field of communications will give you a broader scope of knowledge about things you can later draw upon should your career plans shift in any way.
Check out Jeff's story on organ donations by following the link below. This story aired last week on America Now!
Should you be an organ donor?