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Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016

Sikeston man gets early start on career

Monday, December 19, 2005

Cody Alcorn, left, a WBBJ-TV reporter, interviews Dyersburg Mayor Bill Revell.
MARTIN, Tenn. -- Like some of his peers, Cody Alcorn arrived at the University of Tennessee at Martin undecided about his future. What transpired during the next four years could be a textbook case about how to focus on goals, graduate and then begin a career. Except that Alcorn, who graduated Saturday with a bachelor of arts degree in communications and a concentration in broadcasting, interned with a top-16 market station in Phoenix, Ariz., and then began working full-time at WBBJ-TV in Jackson while still in school.

"Everything has fallen into place when it needed to," said Alcorn, who completed the summer internship at KPHO-TV in Phoenix last summer and is the only general-assignment reporter for the WBBJ 10 o'clock news.

It was his interest in rodeo and the fact that several friends attended UT Martin that led Alcorn, a native of Sikeston, Mo., here. The campus was just far enough away from home.

"I looked around for colleges close to home. I had a lot of choices. I came and visited . . . and ended up really liking the campus. I'd always heard good things about the campus," he said. "Rodeo added to it."

Alcorn initially pursued accounting while continuing his interest in rodeo events with the UT Martin rodeo team for two years. He appreciates the rodeo program for the friendships he developed and the many lessons that made him more independent. He was not a scholarship team member, however, so when he transported his two horses and traveled with the team, it was at his own expense, including hotel, gas and entry fees.

"It was fun. We got to travel a lot," he said. "You're on your own. You manage your time, your money. I liked it. Rodeo teaches you to be independent. You learn responsibility and respect. I still rope . . . when I go home, just more as a hobby."

Alcorn, the son of Mary Lynn Alcorn and Denny Alcorn of Sikeston, has been involved in rodeos since he was 10, following his father and brother, who continue to "rope."

But when Alcorn decided to become a broadcast major, the time and money he spent on rodeo did not fit his new schedule or his career plans. He realized that he could not travel on weekends and devote the time he thought was necessary to broadcasting.

"It was a big decision," he said, but added, "I knew where I wanted to be. I set goals that I wanted to do, and rodeo, it just didn't fit in. It's something that I can pick back up down the road when I get settled."

Settled is not something that comes to mind when describing Alcorn or his schedule. Since September, he has worked five days a week at WBBJ, driving 100 miles a day to Jackson and back, after attending classes.

Following his first day of "shadowing" at WBBJ, he arrived for work the next day at 3 p.m. and was told he would be "live" on the five, six and 10 o'clock newscasts from the West Tennessee State Fair in Jackson. "It was pretty much a test. I was nervous, you could tell, but I knew where I was, and I said the right station."

Since that time, in addition to covering a broad spectrum of news, "I've gotten two breaking stories. I've made mistakes. You build on them. It's been an awesome experience."

Alcorn credits the UT Martin faculty and that summer internship in Phoenix in preparing him for his first paid broadcasting position at WBBJ.

"I owe a lot to the faculty," he said, adding that he developed good relationships with his communications professors. "They're there to help you in any way possible. I took my first mass media class, and I knew. It's something I've always liked."

Even though things have "fallen into place," Alcorn does not leave much to chance. In addition to broadcast skills, he gained experience as a Sikeston Standard Democrat reporter one semester. He landed the KPHO-TV position, an unpaid summer internship, and worked alongside students from New York University, Kansas State and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. The hours were long, but he did whatever needed to be done.

When he first called KPHO, a CBS affiliate, the executive producer he spoke to knew exactly where UT Martin was located, previously serving a stint at WPSD-TV in Paducah. "It's big time out there, and they knew our school." After signing a contract with KPHO, a No. 2 market station in San Francisco offered Alcorn an internship, but he honored his commitment to KPHO. "Coming out of college . . . it's all about hands-on experience," he said. "In this business, it's who you know, and what kind of impression you leave on them." With that in mind, Alcorn is tenacious about maintaining contacts and networking in the industry.

Alcorn said he will know when the time is right to leave WBBJ. "The opportunity knocked for them to put me on the air while I was still in my senior year in college." And, while he enjoys field reporting, his ultimate goal is the anchor chair. If the anchor chair is at a major network, so much the better.

"Realistically, when I get enough experience and the time is right, I could go back to Phoenix and stay there for a while."

But just awhile. "There are so many things you can do in this field. I want to travel; not stay anywhere too long. Opportunity knocks. I'm not going to let a lot of things stop me at this point."