SMAD Spotlight: 2020 grad starts career with Va. Press Women Foundation award

Media Arts and Design

By Jessica Kronzer, staff writer

Five days a week, Peyton Kennedy, a ‘20 SMAD graduate, can be found reporting live in State College, Pennsylvania. In October, Kennedy began working as a multimedia journalist in the college town at WTAJ-TV 10, a CBS affiliate that covers 10 counties in central Pennsylvania. 

She also received the 2020 Agnes Cook Scholarship from the Virginia Press Women Foundation last fall. The annual scholarship is awarded “to outstanding college and graduate students who wish to pursue careers in journalism, public relations and other related fields.”

peyton-kennedy-grad2020-250px.pngKennedy moved from New Jersey to work at WTAJ. She said she was drawn to the city, in part, because State College has garnered national media attention for stories, such as hazing incidents at Penn State University.

“I was excited about the fact that I could stay in a college environment for a little bit longer and be surrounded by people my age, who may have common interests as me,” Kennedy said. “And [it’s] not too far from home either.”

During her second week on the job, Kennedy covered former President Donald Trump’s campaign stop and introduced herself to JMU alumnus and CNN journalist Jim Acosta, who is now a weekend anchor and chief domestic correspondent. Her first time going live with WTAJ was on Election Day in November. Drawing on her live reporting experience from Breeze TV, Kennedy interviewed voters at polling locations.

Kennedy double-majored in SMAD and theatre. Originally, Kennedy focused on acting as a theatre major, but joining Breeze TV ignited her passion journalistic storytelling. Kennedy worked at Breeze TV as an anchor and senior reporter on the weekly shows.

“I was really interested in how that (storytelling) can be used to help the community as well to share stories that bring light on what's happening locally and with our neighbors,” Kennedy said.

Outside of reporting on politics, Kennedy is interested in covering entertainment, including the visual and performing arts. She recently worked on a story about an audio-drama, similar to a podcast, that performs the play “Harlem Queen.”

“I still really worked on connecting with the artists in Centre County to see how they're working through it (the pandemic) and continuing to produce work,” Kennedy said.

During her senior year, Kennedy produced and anchored entertainment segments about both local and national pop culture news. She credits Breeze TV with preparing her for working at WTAJ.

“Just a chance to have that deadline and to get out into the community and make those connections and put together stories every week really gave me a better idea of what to expect in the real world,” Kennedy said.

After seeing a post on Facebook about the VPWF scholarship, Kennedy applied in February 2020, and the organization announced her win in October. Kennedy applied thinking she would be “a long shot” to win. The scholarship money was particularly helpful to Kennedy because she was an out-of-state student with higher tuition who worked two jobs while in school.

“Anything that came my way, in terms of scholarships was a great help,” Kennedy said. “And just the recognition for my work was also a big honor.”

Prof. Ryan Parkhurst, who advised Kennedy at Breeze TV and was her professor for video journalism, said Kennedy is “good at everything.” She has a talent for connecting with sources to make it easier for them to “come out of their shells,” he said.

“Peyton's passion and excitement and the effort she put in were the things that made her who she is today and made her what she will become in the future,” Parkhurst said. “[She’s] going to be a really wonderful asset to society, regardless of whether it's in broadcast journalism or any other field that she decides to do. Because when she does something, she dives into it.”

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Published: Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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