Caleb Suggs, a junior at the University of Memphis, is a man of varied talents: executive producer of Tiger News, on-air personality for WUMR 91.7 FM, writer for The Daily Helmsman, videographer — and more. He recently gave VOICES ONLINE insight into his time at the UofM and his journalistic plans.
Question: First, tell us about your voice. It’s wonderful. Do stately voices run in your family? Do you sing, too?
Answer: My voice came out of nowhere, actually. No one else in my family seems to have one like it. It just happened one day in the seventh grade. I came to class one day and everyone was so shocked to hear this 12-year-old address the teacher like a 40-year-old man. Since then, it’s just gotten gradually lower and stronger with age, and it continues to make an impression on people (especially in high school). The funny part is, I rarely hear the bass in my voice myself. I just start talking and people are suddenly caught off guard, which always makes me kind of chuckle. The only downside to a low, resonate voice is I have to try really hard to articulate my words, and apparently whispering is something I just can’t seem to figure out. I sing, as well. I was actually a choir kid all through grade school, and I continue to sing at church now. I’m always put as a Bass 2 for some reason.
Q: Why did you choose to study at the UofM?
A: My decision actually became clear one day when my older brother, an alumnus and current graduate student, was giving me a tour of the campus. That’s when we came across the glowing hallway of the campus radio station, WUMR “The Jazz Lover.” When I walked in and saw the DJs playing that smooth jazz across the airwaves, I immediately knew that’s where I wanted to be. From there I connected with great people like Malvin Massey, WUMR’s general manager, and Drs. Roxane Coche and Joe Hayden of the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media, who told me about all the great opportunities in TV, print and radio that Memphis had for a student like me. The opportunities are what really drew me here, not to mention how close it was to home, my family and my friends.
Q: You have worked at Tiger News and WUMR and the Helmsman. Why did you choose journalism? What do you enjoy about it?
A: What put me on the road to journalism was my participation in my amazing high school television station, GHS-TV, as head anchor, a reporter and a voice talent. I’ve always had thoughts and ideas about getting into the television and film industry, but really getting a chance to experience it in a professional environment like Germantown High School really put me over the top. As a practical person when it comes to matters like these, I picked journalism as my major because of the wide skillset it offers (everything from writing and graphic design to announcing and videography) and the number of areas it allows me to branch off into. Plus, I felt GHS-TV really prepared me for the type of work that I do now and how to really manage it.
Q: Journalism is going through significant national turmoil with a loss of advertising revenue, closed newspapers, diminished public trust and President Trump’s claims of “fake news.” What is journalism’s future?
A: Looking at how technology and social media is growing and changing so rapidly, it’s hard to say what the future of journalism will be exactly. With everything nowadays being so fast-paced and instant, it’s not uncommon for stories to circulate and assumptions to made by the public without all the facts being present. I am happy to say that since I’ve gotten the chance to meet a lot of professionals in the industry, I have no fear that “fake news” will become the dominant voice of the people anytime soon. I’m also confident that broadcast and print journalism will be around for a very long time and also evolve to an extent, despite what many people may say.
Q: Student journalists on some university campuses face hurdles in access and recognition that professional journalists do not. What is it like being a student journalist at the UofM?
A: Being a journalism student at the UofM — a good one, at least — is not a job for the uncommitted or the light-hearted. It’s a lot of early mornings and late nights, hard deadlines and cutting time out of your schedule every week to interview someone or experience something. That being said, it can be one of the most fulfilling and interesting jobs around. After all, you get to tell the stories of everyone and everything on campus. You do that for a while and you’ll wake up one day as one of the most well-connected and informed students on what this school has to offer. You get to meet a lot of great people, experience a lot of great things and go to a lot cool places that most people on campus don’t even know about. Some days you walk away with another cool experience, and other days, you really get to help someone out. And hey, at the end of the day, it’s always a nice feeling to see your name next to an article and your face on a news report.
Q: If you could interview one person for Tiger News — anyone, no restrictions — who would you choose?
A: Definitely, Spider-man. It may sound a bit silly, but he’s had a big impact on my life and my imagination. Besides, who wouldn’t want to meet a real superhero?
Q: What has been your favorite class at the UofM?
A: My favorite class so far has to be a tie between Television News Producing and ST:Corp/Promo Video Production. Producing was awesome because I got to be in the campus TV studio and work to make Tiger News greater in a bunch of different ways, not to mention the amazing team of producers and technical crew I got to work with. I really liked Corp/Promo Video because I got a chance to make a whole new style of video I’ve never done before, and a lot of my work ended up being posted publicly, which really excited me. And again, I got to meet some awesome students and a fantastic professor in there, and we really got the chance to make some quality stuff.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: While I’d like to take some time at first to apply my journalistic skills as a television host and travel personality, my ultimate goal is to run the operations of my own television channel and studio. I’d like to take the creative route of my film and video studies and be a director, producer, writer and actor. I want to make television shows and films targeted at children and families that wows them and makes them smile, tells them that anything is possible, and above all, shows them light of the world.
Q: Best place to hang on campus?
A: My favorite place to hang out on campus after a long, hard day at work has got to be the Relaxation Zone in Brister Hall. It’s cool, it’s quiet, it’s relaxing and it’s got those massage chairs that move in just the right places.
Q: Can you teach others to copy your vocal style? Or are they just out of luck?
A: Sorry, it’s one of a kind.
— Phillip Tutor, CCFA media coordinator, email@example.com