News & Stories

Callie Starnes head shot
January 22, 2020

On the news fast track with Berry-built leadership skills

People who remember 9/11 know where they were and what they were doing on that fateful day. Callie Starnes ’07, then a junior in high school, was preparing to anchor closed-circuit morning announcements when the first plane went down. Tasked by her broadcast teacher to share the news with the school, Callie found her vocation and never looked back. Decisiveness and determination characterized her steady rise to the position of news director at WRCB-TV Channel 3, the NBC affiliate in Chattanooga, Tennessee—less than a decade after she graduated from Berry with a degree in communication (electronic media) and a minor in government.

“I felt drawn to journalism that day, but did not want to attend a big school,” Callie says. “Berry offered a communications scholarship and an opportunity for hands-on learning in a student-run television station my first year.” Callie rose to manage the on-campus television station, where she led a staff of 50 students. “This was my first taste of management of people and content,” she says.

While enrolled at Berry, Callie built her resume through a series of internships with radio and television stations. An internship with WSB-TV in Atlanta proved instrumental in launching her professional career. “I graduated on a Saturday and started the next week at WMGT-TV, the NBC affiliate in Macon, Georgia,” she says.

Callie spent a year reporting and anchoring at WMGT-TV before accepting a position at WRCB-TV, where she worked her way up through the reporting ranks and landed a position as an evening anchor. After a stint as a relationship manager at a Chattanooga public relations and marketing firm, Callie returned to WRCB-TV as the assistant news director. In 2016, she took on the role of news director, managing a team of 50 journalists and overseeing 38 hours of local news per week, plus all digital operations including the station website and apps. Along the way, Callie received industry accolades such as the Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for overall excellence and video reporting.

Leadership positions at Berry shaped Callie. She served as a co-head leader of Student Orientation Advising and Registration (SOAR), which welcomes new freshmen and transfer students to Berry. She also worked as a resident advisor.

“What I learned about leading, teamwork, citizenship and service helped mold me into someone that was not just knowledgeable, but was hirable,” Callie says, emphasizing that she learned from student leaders around her. “Now as a newsroom manager, I aim to hire Berry students when I get a chance because I know they too know what it means to work hard and be a good citizen.”

When asked about her favorite Berry experience, Callie says, “The people. I met my two best friends at Berry. Berry binds you together in special ways.” Faculty and staff continue to be mentors and have become friends over the years.

She adds that it’s important for today’s students to be present and participate: “Know that what you learn from one another is just as important as what you learn in class.”

Callie’s commitment to her profession is heartfelt, and she credits Berry with her success and outlook. “Journalism is so important, especially at this time in history,” she says. “ … I believe in journalism and its need to hold the powerful accountable and give a voice to all. I also believe in the mission Berry instilled in me to prepare for a meaningful life through education of the head, heart and hands. As a journalist, I am in a constant state of discovery. As a Berry graduate, I am not afraid to work hard and stay open to others in an effort to see the world through another lens. I am thankful for both experiences and the path they have led me to.”

Photo credit: Dan Henry

staff writer

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