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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                       10/18/2018

                                                                                                (By Lisa Garrett)

SENECA --- For many years, graduates of Tri-County Technical College’s Media Arts Production (MAP) program (formerly Radio and Television Broadcasting) predominantly worked behind the camera and microphone.  Often students’ internships at local TV and radio stations turn into full-time employment before getting their degrees.

The Internet changed the format and speed at which we receive information with folks getting their TV and radio news through 24-hour breaking newscasts and/or reading newspapers online or on their cell phones. 

Today, graduates still are getting jobs in traditional media but they also are working as spokespersons for school districts and government agencies and at hospitals, non-profits, churches, and businesses as videographers, graphic designers and freelance photographers.

Alumni and local media professionals Jimmy Watt, Riley Johnson, and Michael (Porkchop) Branch say as technology transformed, so did the way they do their jobs. Communication skills were re-engineered to conform to these new viewing and listening habits – and sometimes they reinvented themselves by pursuing new avenues in the multimedia arena.

Johnson was always interested in a career in communications, and after graduating from Seneca High School in 1985, he was awarded a football scholarship to Newberry College. “They didn’t have a broadcasting curriculum so I moved home and enrolled in Tri-County, which was the only school around with a Broadcasting department,” he said.  He thought he would earn some credits and transfer to USC’s School of Communications, but former RTV instructor and mentor B.J. Nash helped him secure a part-time job at WSNW in Seneca while in school and he decided to pursue the degree.  After graduating as the department’s top student in 1989, he still had thoughts of transferring. But his path changed when WESC in Greenville offered him a full-time job as 7-midnight announcer and later promoted him to the mid-day time slot.

Years later, Riley moved into advertising sales at WESC, and later at Entercom.  In 2003 he formed a real estate company that this wife now operates (Carol Johnson Real Estate). In 2010 he accepted the job as Events Coordinator for the City of Seneca, his hometown and place of residence.

In addition to planning, organizing, and advertising weekly events like Cruising on Main and Jazz on the Alley via social media, he is in charge of Seneca Fest, Fourth of July and 5K Run for the Green, along with scheduling guests for the weekly radio show Saturday Morning City Talk with Mayor Dan Alexander on 94.1 The Lake.

He still exercises his love for the medium by writing, editing, recording and producing commercials for the city and serving as a consultant to city departments to help them to determine the best possible way to allocate their advertising dollars.

“Everything I learned at Tri-County I still use,” said Johnson.

Watt also headed to Tri-County right after graduating from Seneca High School where he received the Roy D. Adams Scholarship.  He worked part time at WZLI in Toccoa before graduating as the department’s outstanding student.  Eventually, WZLI became Watt’s first full time job in the media, where he served first as a morning show producer and then transitioned into being an on-air personality.  He also was an on-air personality for WCCP radio in Clemson, WSNW Radio in Seneca and for 1070-AM in Greenville over his career, where he was also sports director at those stations.  He also covered college sports for several national radio networks during that time.  He has broadcasted High School Football games for over 20 years, most recently for WGOG in Walhalla.   

In 2000, Watt joined AirOne Live Traffic, Inc. and in 2001, he became the full-time traffic reporter for WYFF News 4.  He continued in that role as WYFF traffic reporter for Express Lane Traffic, Inc. beginning in March of 2004 where he also became involved in the sale of advertising packages for those reports.  He also hosted the Fifth Quarter Show for the Clemson Tigers Sports Network from 2013 – 2016 for Learfield and in 2017 for JMI Sports.  Watt, who has been involved in ministry work since 2005 and is an ordained minister, is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in religion online through Liberty University. 

In February of 2013, after almost twelve years as WYFF’s traffic reporter, Watt resigned and accepted the position as public information officer for the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office.  He serves as the official spokesperson for the office and is the liaison between the Sheriff’s Office and the media.  He issues press releases and updates the news section of the Sheriff’s Office website as well as the social media sites of the OCSO.  He also appears on radio and camera to discuss cases and department matters.  Watt is a Class Three certified deputy, a certification he earned through the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy.

“My media background allows me, in my present position with the Sheriff’s Office, to continue to use those skills I learned at Tri-County Tech and in my previous jobs,” said Watt.  “In a way, I am still a reporter, as I update on citizens of Oconee County on what their Sheriff’s Office is doing in the hopes of fulfilling Sheriff Crenshaw’s desires to be open and transparent and to keep them safe.”

Porkchop graduated from West-Oak High and headed to Tri-County on a Science Fair scholarship.  Initially the plan was to become a high school history teacher and defensive football coach but the rigors of Spanish 101 derailed those plans, he said.  His interest shifted to journalism and he entered the RTV program. “I fell in love with the department.  It felt like home.  It sparked an interest, and I’ve never left radio,” said Porkchop, who in 1998 received the department’s outstanding student award.

The day after graduation he went to work at WRIX where he worked in all capacities – from mid-day announcer to station manager. “It gets in your blood,” said Porkchop, who has remained in radio for his entire career.

In 2013 he left WRIX and headed to WLHR in Lavonia, Georgia, where he is operations manager and on-air personality from 6 – 10 a.m. daily. 

He also serves on the College’s MAP Advisory Committee.

The MAP program provides the basis principles that you need to do any multimedia job, they all agree, and credit instructors with preparing them to be versatile.

“Former Program Department Charlie Jordan and current Program Director John Woodson were very accessible, and their doors were always open,” said Porkchop, who didn’t hesitate when Woodson asked him to serve on the MAP Advisory Committee. “John explained that the committee meets and discusses changes in the industry and I would help to make recommendations to constantly improve the curriculum.”

One of the recommendations resulted in the program’s name change – from the longstanding Radio and Television Broadcasting to Media Arts Production to better reflect what today’s students are learning and doing in the workforce.

“I tell graduates don’t pigeonhole yourself into a broadcasting career. The role of media is expanding – technology changed but a Tri-County background helps you to jump in and not miss a beat,” said Watt.

Exactly, said Woodson, “The average business needs someone with the skills students acquire in our program.  They need someone to write ad copy and to produce educational and safety training videos for clients.  Churches need light and sound engineers for their services.  Companies need folks to create content and to design their websites.  There are so many ways to hear or see your message. Our grads are versed in all of these professional media,” said Woodson.

The College’s MAP program remains one of the few two-year broadcasting/media production programs in the nation.