A senior from Western Illinois University is poised to do what has not been done before in the history of the INBA: Devin Brooks may win his FOURTH Scholarship this Spring.
There have been several two-time winners, but after his third win last April, Brooks moved into elite territory. He remembers his first win in 2018, as a freshman: “I was really surprised. I was shocked that I was chosen. Of course I hadn’t been a part of an organization like INBA before. Basically I just went in there trying to tell them that I’m in need, and at the same time, I’m dedicated to what I do. I actually enjoy being a journalist.”
For Brooks, being a journalist means being heavily involved at WIU’s News 3 during the Spring and Fall semesters, working part-time at Tri States Public Radio, and adding summer internships at WGEM-TV in Quincy and then WREX-TV in Rockford. For the most recent internship, he worked from home (in St Louis) as a web producer.
One of his main responsibilities was updating the latest local and state coronavirus numbers. “That task reminded me how important our job is to keep people informed with what they need to know on a daily basis.”
The pandemic has made for challenges at school too, but Brooks says it’s pushed him to get better at digging for story ideas. One story he’s covered at Western is the selection of a new president:
And one thing he’s faced as a journalist is racism. “I’m in a predominantly white community, and whenever I’m covering meetings or covering police briefings, when I’m the only black person in the room, I wonder ‘Are they really telling me the truth? Or are they giving me the runaround? Or treating white reporters differently than they treat me?’ But at the same time, I’m telling myself that I can handle this. I know what my job is. I know it’s worth coming to work and getting the information out to the public.”
Brooks credits his parents for his ability to stand up to discrimination, and his can-do attitude. They’ve been helping him aim for a career in TV news for a long time. He remembers first being attracted to microphones at about seven years old, then visiting the KTVI-TV studios and meeting the personalities. His mom would buy him books related to journalism and how to be a news reporter. He names KTVI’s Mandy Murphey and NBC’s Lester Holt as particular role models whom he’s watched and learned from. And he also credits his faculty directors at News 3, which have included Jasmine Crighton, Emily Manley and now Jessica Martin. “I think a lot of my directors have really kept my spirits up, you know, during the time of a lot of noise that we have going on.”
Now he’s serving as a mentor to younger students at WIU, who sometimes have a hard time covering race issues. “I know how they feel, but at the same time I also know how important it is to not give up and to fight for what’s right. It takes time for them to see it. We have to take breaks and we have to mentor each other.”