When Executive Director Liz Spencer came to Naperville Community Television in 2002, the station had no local news program at all.
“It really struck me that the community could use a news show. It was just at that time we didn’t have the resources,” said Spencer. “And so as NCTV grew, so did our resources and so did our role in the community. So it really became evident that gee, we should be doing weekly news because we kept getting requests to do all these great events and there were little stories and we had no place to put them.”
Those stories would later find their place in a show called “Naperville Connection.”
The show’s producer, Lindsey Theis, first came to NCTV17 as a North Central College student.
Her knack for news caught Spencer’s attention and together, the two started a show that would connect residents with the stories and events of the week.
“Lindsey’s passion for the news was a driving factor for me,” said Spencer. “Because though I love the news and I am all about that, I’m a storyteller. So a storyteller kind of met a hard news junkie.”
Soon after, a small group of young, talented reporters fresh out of college joined Spencer and Theis to help develop the show.
”This small group of people that we had – if we didn’t have each and every one of them, the show wouldn’t be what it is today,” said Theis. “We were working probably 55 to 70 hours a week, trying to put that show together and have it be as good as we wanted it to be.”
“Naperville Connection” evolved with a new look and name, becoming “Naperville News 17” in 2009. But one thing has remained the same over the years – the experience reporters gain working on the show. From interviewing to editing, the skills learned here have proved invaluable for those who’ve left to enjoy success in larger markets.
Theis has gone on to become a video journalist at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia and is now a reporter for WPDE, the ABC affiliate in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Elitsa Bizios has reported in North Carolina and Springfield, Illinois since leaving NCTV and is now the lead anchor for the 5, 6, and 10pm newscasts at the ABC station down in Champaign. She says working in Naperville laid the foundation for her career.
“Working for ‘Naperville News 17,’ I was exposed to what Naperville is in my teens,” said Bizios. “I learned how a city runs, what it takes a town like Naperville to truly be second to none.”
Shortly after coming to NCTV as a sports reporter, Ben Hutchison also jumped on board with the news team. Now he’s the morning news anchor and reporter for channels 17 and 39 in Rockford, the city’s ABC and Fox affiliates.
“The value of NCTV and what you can do here is more immense cause it’s more hands-on,” Hutchison said. “If you were at a big TV station, you might get to conduct an interview but here you’re doing it all, you’re writing, you’re out there and then you’re editing your stories, you’re accountable for your own work.”
We said goodbye to Michelle Corless just left a few months ago when she left to take a job working as a multimedia journalist for the NBC affiliate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
“NCTV has definitely helped me get to where I am now,” said Corless. “At NCTV, I learned how to write scripts. I learned how to ask questions so I get the right sound bytes, I learned how to shoot my own video which is key to what I do right now because I only get a photographer who goes out with me maybe once a week or so so being able to shoot good video is really important.”
Wherever our reporters may have ended up in the country, they all say it’s their experience working in and for the Naperville Community that has helped shaped them into the storytellers they are today.
“Working at NCTV and doing so from the ripe age of 15, it truly became my training ground,” said Bizios. “If I had not interned and worked there, I can easily say I would not be where I am today.”
“It speaks volumes for the show to now be reaching its 300th episode and to continue to go on and be what it is in the community and also be a teaching ground for all this talent,” said Theis. “I have no doubt in my mind that one day I’ll turn on the Today Show and I’ll see someone that I worked with at NCTV.”
As for Spencer, seeing her reporters leave is often bittersweet.
“It’s like walking with somebody. Somewhere along the way we started out hand in hand and then some place along the line I let go of their hand and they start walking alone and doing well and doing better than I could ever imagine,” she said. “I’m always delighted and thrilled and proud. It brings me practically to tears to watch some of their stuff.”
Next week, we’ll bring you the top ten favorite stories from these and other past and present reporters for our 300th episode.
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