Emmy nominee John Paul inducted to the Hall of Fame

John Paul worked for WPGU during his time at Illini Media, and afterwards Paul has achieved many things such as getting his masters, becoming a lecturer and an Emmy nominee for co-producing “True illini Spirit.

Photo courtesy of John Paul

John Paul worked for WPGU during his time at Illini Media, and afterwards Paul has achieved many things such as getting his masters, becoming a lecturer and an Emmy nominee for co-producing ““True illini Spirit.”

By Rohit Jammu

John Paul, known lovingly as JP, started off with humble beginnings growing up in Peoria, Illinois. Paul would read the paper, walking from house to house before he delivered it. Although he didn’t know it at the time, he would later attribute this period of his life to be the inception of his interest in news and world events.

Now, decades later and after having been nominated for an Emmy and being inducted into the NATAA Silver Circle, Paul will be inducted into the Illini Media 2022 Hall of Fame. 

“I think I joined my very first semester,” Paul said. talking about first joining the WPGU. “At that point, there was a minor league station, called WDBS because it broadcast only to the dormitory.”

6 months later, he was kicked up to the FM station and although he wanted to be DJ earlier on, the recruitment system was an open house. He said there was a really long line to be a DJ, and a much shorter line to be a ‘news guy’ — so he got in the short line.

Paul joined the WPGU early on in college and stayed for his entire undergrad experience. He attended the University from 1972 to 1977 and graduated with a degree in radio-television, returning much later for his master’s degree before he took on the role of a lecturer.  

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    “I got my first job after I left WPGU having taken only one TV course here,” he said. So although he didn’t consider himself an expert at the time, after around 33 years in the TV industry, the Journalism Department at the University offered him an opportunity to come back and teach a class..

    During his time as a lecturer at the University, he said of the students he had about three quarters wanted to do television versus doing radio broadcasts. While Paul thought he had a ‘face for radio’ when going into the TV industry initially, he soon realized there was a little bit more to the cosmetic side of television which he didn’t appreciate at the time.

    “Part of what I used to teach was about the cosmetic and presentation side of broadcast, voice and television presentation skills, from clothing to makeup, to hair to mannerisms, kind of like you take in a speech (communications) class,” he said.

    Outside of his college experience and his time on TV, in 2008 he produced a documentary centered around Memorial Stadium — which was built about 100 years ago.

    As a part of the project, Paul said he really enjoyed the history and the research they did for the project. Of the things they discovered about the stadium’s history was that it is believed to be the only stadium in America where a baby was born.

    And while it’s easy to assume that a fan came in and delivered a baby it was actually the caretaker’s wife during the first year of the stadium — 1924.

    “She was pregnant,” he said. “There was a bad snowstorm. She couldn’t get to the hospital — so she delivered her baby at what is now the visitors’ locker room.”

    That little boy grew up, at least for the first 13 years of his life, at the stadium riding his bike around.

    Soon after, he got involved with the Emmy committee because of a colleague of his at the radio station back in college. Since his invitation, he has been on the committee heading the Education Committee. Part of his role includes giving scholarships and student awards to high school and college students from all over the Midwest.

    Paul was also part of a project called Revealing Romania in 2009 where one of the fellow professors did an international journalism class. She took around 10 selected students to foreign destinations to do international reporting.

    “She took you to places that had good stories to tell — historically significant places,” Paul said.

    The first year of the project was in Peru. Peru was rich and full of stories to tell. The students spent three weeks there and came back, wrote a lot of stories, did some radio stories and published all of it in a blog.

    Following his first trip to China in 2007, two years later, she took 10 students to Romania. Some of the stories there were about Romanian people, the gypsies and the Romanian economy. While other students covered different aspects of the country — Paul’s story was about the wine industry of Romania.

    “And when you do a story about the wine industry, you have to do a lot of research,” he recalled.

    After the Romanian trip, they made a stop in Italy — leaving Paul to conduct ‘comparative research’ on the Italian wine. 

    To Paul, the real skills that students learned to develop on these trips were figuring out how to do international journalism. In a place where you couldn’t talk the language, didn’t know about the money, setting up your story before you got there — all of it was part of the preparation process.

    After Paul retired in 2018, he served on the Illini Media Company board as well. He said that what he had hoped to do on the board was to provide opportunities to students to experience what he experienced 50 years ago.

    “To be able to try to write stories, to be a copy editor, to be an editor-in-chief, to be a program director, to be a news reporter, to be a DJ, to do sports, whatever it might be — that’s why IMC exists,” he said.

    “I just wanted to make sure that opportunity exists for students after me.”

    Having amassed this ocean of experience and knowledge, he said if anyone asked him if he missed teaching — he would say he didn’t miss teaching but he did miss working with students.

    Sitting down with them having a coffee or a frosty beverage to chat idly about their hopes, dreams, careers, realities, aspirations — there was nothing quite like it.

    I’d like to think that I’ve done that with a lot of students,” he said, thinking about encouraging their hopes and teaching them about the ins and outs of the industry.

    Paul said one of his goals when he was teaching was to bring the realism of the broadcast world into the classroom — to make the class experience as real as it would be if you just walked into a real newsroom.

    “I was a hard grader,” he said. “But I think their bosses grade harder than I ever did. So, I hope they remember me for it.”


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