Broadcast Alum Earns National Journalism Award

Steve YablonskiNaugatuck High School graduate Steve Yablonski began his college career as a theater major at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. At the time, he really didn’t want to go to college or even know what to study, but he gave it a try.

To avoid mounting student loan debt, Steve continued his studies at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury. Though he majored in general studies, he discovered an interest in journalism and broadcasting. He even landed an internship at MSNBC when it was located in New Jersey and drove there from Connecticut three times a week. A professor at NVCC suggested Steve visit Middlesex Community College in Middletown to consider transferring into their broadcasting program.

Steve said he met with MxCC professor Rich Lenoce, coordinator of the Digital Media Production programs at the MxCC Center for New Media. “At that moment, I knew Middlesex was perfect,” said Steve.

As Steve reflected on why he entered a journalism program, he said, “I remember sitting on my couch in the summer of 2006, and there was a war between Israel and Lebanon. I remember thinking, all the reporters are talking about is the political problems that led to the fighting. But what about the normal people who are living with air raid sirens going off all hours of the day and rockets landing in neighborhoods around the region. I knew I wanted to be there and tell those stories. That’s when I realized journalism was my passion.”

Steve attended MxCC as a full-time student while also working full-time. He said he appreciated the online classes during this busy time, but also cherishes the special friends he made with classmates and professors.

“Every professor I had at MxCC was amazing, especially in our department. But I really learned a lot from Patience Hettrick, who taught our final class before graduating. She was also he assistant news director at WFSB at the time, and I learned so much from her about the business. I will forever be grateful to her for her knowledge. She really helped launch my career,” said Steve.

Professor Lenoce recalls, “Steve came to Middlesex with experience in TV news, having done an internship with MSNBC at Joe Scarborough’s [‘Scarborough Country’] program. Immediately I could tell that Steve was intelligent, inquisitive and ambitious and would go far in the broadcast news and social media business. His success shows the doors that are open for students with the kinds of hands-on program Middlesex provides for those passionate about their work.”

In 2009, Steve earned his associate degree in broadcast communications from MxCC. He first worked as a web intern at WFSB in Hartford, just as the digital producer or digital journalist roles became more common in the industry. After covering several major, national stories (including the Annie Le murder; the trial and sentencing of the Cheshire home invasion killers; the Boston Marathon bombing; the mass-shooting at Sandy Hook, and countless snowstorms), Steve went to the powerhouse station in Boston, WCVB, to advance his career as a digital content producer. After about two years, he headed over to Boston 25 News.

At his social media producer job at Boston 25 News, Steve said he checks in with the TV and digital producers about the stories for the day. From there he works to figure out what elements can be beneficial to viewers, who is looking for extra content in web articles, or get creative and make some graphics and videos to push people to watch newscasts. He then works on strategic angles for target audiences based on geographic areas and/or specific interests that will most likely show up in someone’s social media feed.

“I like the rush of breaking news. Doing the same thing day after day can get boring, but working in news is great because things can change in a matter of seconds. You need to constantly be on your game to keep people informed about what’s going on in their neighborhoods, state, country and around the world,” Steve added.

2019 is a memorable year for Steve’s accomplishments at Boston 25 News. He and his team were recognized with two distinguished journalism awards, the Regional Edward R. Murrow Award and National Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Social Media for their coverage of a series of deadly gas explosions in Massachusetts last year. (Watch Boston 25 News Murrow award promotional video.)

“A few heavily populated communities in northeastern Massachusetts were told to evacuate immediately because homes and businesses were exploding and catching fire without warning. It was madness. No one knew what was happening at the time and no one had been in a situation like this before. [We] knew that our [regular] TV viewers were no longer in front of their televisions. They were watching live video in our app or Facebook Live. It was our job to relay important information to those viewers who would otherwise not know important safety information. Like where to evacuate to, how to manually shut off gas valves, and even how to know if their home was affected by color-coded tags the fire department was leaving on homes. We were on the air for hours trying to get important information out to people who weren’t directly affected and pushing people who were affected to our website, news app and social media accounts where they would find more important, potentially life-saving information,” explained Steve.

Steve has some advice for prospective MxCC students. He said, “It’s worth it, and you’ll get an amazing education at Middlesex. When you’re a senior in high school, figuring out which college to go to and what to major in can be really tough. If you don’t know right away, then don’t sweat it. You have plenty of time. I didn’t figure it out until my mid-20s. It took me a while, but I’m so grateful that I figured it out and got to work. You’ll know right away when you found what you want to be doing for the rest of your life.”

He said working hard is important during studies at Middlesex. “You’re heading into a college that cares about you and your future. You’re more than just a social security number to professors in your department. Because class sizes are much smaller than at other colleges and universities, it’s so easy to get the one-on-one time with your professors and advisors that you need. I appreciated that so much and treasure the friendships I made with my former classmates and professors,” added Steve.

Steve clearly appreciates his Middlesex education. “I will never forget the skills I learned that helped me get to where I am today. Without my time at MxCC, I don’t know where I would be today,” he said.

November 2019