By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Teran Powell is grateful. Teran Powell is creative. And Teran Powell is the first recipient of the Eric Von Fellowship.
In September 2016, Eric Von, a Milwaukee journalist and radio broadcaster passed away. To honor his legacy, the radio station, WUWM, created the Eric Von Broadcast Fellowship. It’s establishment in 2017, gave recently graduated journalism students the opportunity to gain firsthand experience on the waves of radio broadcasting.
Powell, who graduated from Marquette University in May 2016 with a journalism degree, received the call offering her the fellowship, after a series of interviews, on August 21, 2017. Her first reaction of shock quickly turned to excitement as her starting date drew nearer.
“Oh my god,” she said upon answering the phone, “This is my chance to prove myself to everybody.”
Powell grew up on the Southside of Chicago. As a child, she often found herself expressing her creativity through poetry and songwriting. In high school, a creative writing course steered her toward journalism. When it came time to apply for university, Marquette’s nonexistent application fee, appealed to her and in 2012 she started her freshman year. The added benefit is that it was close to home.
Through her schooling, Powell wrote for the Marquette Tribune, the Marquette Journal, and the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service. Her professors, like Barbara Volbrecht and her mentor, Herbert Lowe, helped her grapple with constructive criticism.
“It gave me a good starting point to be a journalist,” said Powell.
However, upon graduation, Powell discovered her experience wasn’t always enough and she struggled to find a full time job in her field. Even tually, she landed a gig at Fox 6 News, as a video editor on top of working retail at the Boston Store downtown. She felt disheartened after applying for jobs and not receiving a call back and questioned if she had made the right decision.
Then one day, Powell received an email from Volbrecht informing her about the recently established Fellowship program. Powell was intrigued. Her self-proclaimed infatuation with storytelling and writing made her a viable candidate. Although she didn’t have a lot of experience with radio, aside from a Writing for Radio class, Powell ultimately applied.
She went through several interview rounds, including one with Von’s widow, needless to say, she accepted the fellowship position, for which she is “forever grateful.”
“It’s important for people to know about this fellowship,” she said. “It’s important for me to be in this role because of the lack of black representation in newsrooms and news media.”
It’s been a little over a month since Powell started working. In that time, she’s expanded her skill set to include Adobe Audition and live radio broadcasting.
“I like to think this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” she said.
Powell feels a slight pressure to live up to Eric Von’s legacy, but she’s also inspired by the impact he had on communities in Milwaukee, his ability to tell a story straight and stories that matter. Like Von, Powell has a strong viewpoint on gun violence in the black community. As a reporter, she hopes to offer a different perspective on the topic, with a unique insider look as a member of the black community and her own losses due to guns.
She knows the people who honored and respected him, plan to support her. Furthermore, she understands the need for African American representation in the media for other young professionals, especially in Milwaukee.
Powell’s position as the first Von Fellow will last a year. She’s not sure what the future holds in store for her, but she’s grateful for every opportunity and her chance to stay true to her craft and prove herself to the world.
*In order to ensure the continuation of the Von Fellowship, please consider helping to fund it. Go to wnov860.com for more information on how to donate.
A word from Faithe Colas, Eric Von’s widow: “I’d like to thank the leadership and staff of WUWM Public Radio for creating the Eric Von Broadcast Fellowship. I’m grateful for their vision in creating an opportunity for future journalists to continue in the footsteps of my late husband, Eric Von. I’m also extremely grateful for the financial support of the WUWM Eric Von Broadcast Fellowship. Thank you, Chris Abele, the Milwaukee Links, Bader Philanthropies, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Julia Taylor, John Daniels, Don Rosette, SMG, the late ReDonna Rodgers, Michelle Bryant, Martha Love, Brad Lichtenstein, WNOV 860 AM, Sandra Robinson, George and Michelle Hinton, Wallace and Sandra White, Tammy Belton Davis and so many others for helping to launch the WUWM Eric Von Broadcast Fellowship.”