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NBC News veteran Pete Williams returns to campus as JCU’s journalist in residence

Jasen Sokol
Editor-in-Chief Laken Kincaid smiles with former NBC correspondent Pete Williams and the crew at WJCU.

National award winning journalist Pete Williams continued his tenure as John Carroll’s journalist in residence last week, hosting multiple community wide events and mentoring young reporters on campus. These events included a Supreme Court preview for the upcoming judicial season, a livestream airing from John Carroll’s television studio on how to become an award-winning journalist and a session titled “An Evening with Pete Williams,” a speaker event where the retired NBC correspondent was interviewed by both an interactive audience and WKYC’s Russ Mitchell.

During his discussion on SCOTUS, which was moderated by political science professor Dr. Colin Swearingen, Williams answered various questions about the court’s upcoming docket, which will include cases on gun control, social media regulations and other hot-button issues. Along with an overview of the issues at hand, Williams also delved into what it was like to cover the Supreme Court and how it differs from other beats in government.

“The Supreme Court is not what you would call a source of beat,” Williams said during the event. ”NBC did not pay me to report just on what press releases came out of the Justice Department. The Supreme Court is right there in front of everybody.”

“The SCOTUS preview event was excellent and allowed the JCU community to learn about key issues facing the Court,” Swearingen told The Carroll News. “Pete’s knowledge and expertise on legal and procedural matters was evident from the start and his characteristic ability to distill complex information into digestible tidbits was refreshing. Moderating the event was a pleasure and I enjoyed not only hearing Pete’s synopsis of the Court docket but how he answered the questions posed by students.”

On Wednesday, Williams returned to the Donahue Auditorium where he answered pressing questions from both Mitchell and the greater John Carroll community. Throughout the conversation, Williams responded to multiple inquiries including how he started as a reporter, his stint as the Pentagon spokesperson under then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and what it was like to cover contentious stories like Bush v. Gore as well as the Boston Marathon bombing. For students in the audience, Williams also offered advice for breaking into and thriving in the journalism industry in uncertain times.

“Look, what we do for a living is not that complicated,” Williams said. “It’s the same thing you do when you come home and say to your sister, brother, mother, father, spouse, [saying] ‘guess what I found out today!’ That’s really what we do. You have to want to find things out and want to tell people about them and explain things.”

This “sense of curiosity” is something that the journalist highlights as imperative for students who want to report.

“To me, I can’t think of anything more rewarding than that,” Williams told The Carroll News. “I find it endlessly rewarding to find stuff out and then tell other people about it. It’s the telling part that is an art form. You develop the craft of writing, you develop the craft of visual or audio storytelling, that can be taught and that can be learned. But the curiosity part, you got it or you don’t.”

Along with these appearances, Williams also interacted heavily with students throughout the week, speaking with collegiates on a variety of topics including developing sources, current political affairs and strategies for preparing to apply for John Carroll’s Meet the Press Fellowship. Additionally, he guest lectured in two different courses for the week including Narrative Storytelling and Audio Storytelling and Podcasting, helping students craft their stories and polish their work.

“Having Pete Williams come lecture some of our podcasting classes was helpful for our upcoming projects,” Kaeleigh Patriski ‘24, a member of the Audio Storytelling and Podcasting course, told The Carroll News. “He let us bounce ideas off of him without judgment as well as guiding us in the world of broadcast ethics. Pete even gave us the opportunity to send him work we do in the future which is priceless.”

At the end of the week, Williams also took to the radio to host an hour of jazz music on WJCU 88.7 FM to celebrate World College Radio Day. From 10 to 11 a.m. last Friday, Williams played some of his favorite tunes with explanations of his music choices spliced in between.

“Having Pete Williams visit campus, class and the radio station was a great learning experience for all,” Zachary Sinutko ‘24, a student behind the board during Williams’ show, stated. “From sharing his knowledge on news to reminiscing about his college radio days, he helped strengthen our professional and educational careers and we can’t wait for him to visit again this spring.”

Pete Williams will be returning as John Carroll University’s journalist in residence during the spring 2024 semester on dates which have yet to be determined.

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About the Contributors
Laken Kincaid
Laken Kincaid, Editor-in-Chief
Laken Kincaid is the Editor-in-Chief for The Carroll News from Beckley, West Virginia. They are a senior at John Carroll University who is double majoring in political science and communications (digital media) and minoring in leadership development. Laken has written for The Carroll News since the start of their freshman year and has previously served as a staff reporter, campus section editor and managing editor of the paper. They have received 18 Best of SNO awards, a Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence award for Region 4 and two honorable mentions from the College Media Association. They have also been recognized by universities like Georgetown for their investigative reports. Additionally, they also write political satire for The Hilltop Show and feature stories on global poverty for The Borgen Project. In addition to their involvement with The Carroll News, Laken is involved with the Kappa Delta sorority, the speech and debate team, the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, the Improv club and other organizations. They also serve as the news director for WJCU 88.7, John Carroll's own radio station, and as the president for John Carroll's Society of Professional Journalists chapter.  Laken also started their own national nonprofit organization known as Art with the Elderly which they have won the President's Volunteer Service Award and the Humanity Rising Award for. When not writing, Laken can be found doing graphic design for their internship with Union Home Mortgage or working as a resident assistant and peer learning facilitator on campus. Laken also enjoys skiing and watching true crime documentaries. In the future, Laken hopes to become a political journalist for a national news organization or to be a campaign commercial editor for politicians. To contact Laken, email them at [email protected].
Aliyah Shamatta
Aliyah Shamatta, Multimedia: Visual and Technical Editor
Aliyah Shamatta is a senior from Parma, Ohio. They are a Communications major with a concentration in Digital Media and a double minor in Leadership development and Peace, Justice, & Human Rights. Around campus, you can find Aliyah being involved with WJCU as the Social Media Director, hosting their genre show “Do It For The B-sides”, and being a heights DJ. Other involvements include being in the Kappa Delta sorority, Orientation Leader, and a class of 2024 senator. From Halloween to horror, Aliyah loves anything that is spooky-related. Outside of school, you can find them taking daring adventures, playing video games, graphic design, and painting while watching the sunset. In their future, they want to work with companies' social media accounts and have a side broadcasting career.

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