Retired Reporter Advises Student Journalists


Alyssa Blair, Editor-in-Chief


Ray Hershel talks to students about his 50 year career as a broadcast journalists.

On Thursday, November 15, the Terrier Times and the Terrier News classes received a visit from retired Channel 40 reporter Ray Hershel, a West Springfield resident who worked in broadcast journalism for 50 years. Hershel grew up in Western Mass and attended Chicopee High School. After graduating from Emerson College, he took a job at WHYN Radio in Springfield, MA. He began working there on April 15, 1968 as a news editor and reporter. Later in 1973, Hershel shifted gears and began working at the WHYN News Studio, which was later WGGB, and eventually Western Mass News. During his visit, Hershel discussed some of his career highlights in terms of stories he covered. “I became a reporter at WHYN Radio when there was a lot happening in our world,” Hershel said, referencing the Vietnam War and its protests, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and President John F. Kennedy. At the top of the list of career highlights is a report he did in his first year of television on the return of several hundred prisoners-of-war from Vietnam to Westover Air Base. His report went on to win the United Press International Tom Phillips first place award. Besides “all of the emotions” that he witnessed and shared through his story, it also sticks out to Hershel because it is was the first coverage of a major news story in his career. “I felt like a rookie in the World Series trying to hit it out of the park,” he described the feeling. Hershel also discussed the wide variety of places that his career has taken him to cover stories, which include Central America, Europe, and the Middle East. “This job has taken me so many places that I never would have gone if I wasn’t in the business,” and described his experience as a “journalistic magic carpet ride.” Besides his own experiences and career, Hershel shared other information with the group, including tips on interviewing and how to network and build your reputation. He stressed the importance to really listening when conducting an interview and being objective in his reporting. “I always try to treat people with respect,” he said. He also talked about the evolution of print and broadcast journalism with the changing technology, and how to navigate the stereotypes and problems that reporters must face on a daily basis. These include the importance of accuracy vs. speed in producing a story and bias in the media. “There is a difference between reporting and commentating,” he said. Now that he is retired, Hershel “never has trouble staying busy.” He fills his time by volunteering on the board of the Pioneer Valley Press Club and at Jericho, a program that helps people with disabilities and their families. He is also an active member at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in West Side. “This community has given me so much, and so I like to give a little back,” Hershel said. Following his visit with the students, Hershel traveled down to the Innovation Studio to participate in the Rotary Club Legacy Project, where high school students interview elder members of the community about their lives and achievements. “It was great to hear form someone who was once in our shoes,” said Katelyn Johnson, a senior and Terrier News student who attended the visit. “He really is someone who I look up to and I was so happy to meet him.” The visit from Mr. Hershel was a great way to expose journalism and video production students to a link between what they are learning and doing in the classroom and seeing it put to use in a real world setting.