YSU Grad Shares Story of Hard Work, Luck to Become CNN Producer

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A lot had to go right for Lamar Salter to get where he is today, living out his dream in New York City as a producer for CNN.

He worked hard. He also got lucky. Out of the thousands of resumes submitted to NBC, someone “stumbled” upon his.

“They could have easily come across somebody else’s resume,” he says.

But it was his time working at The Jambar, the student-run newspaper at Youngstown State University, that he credits most with setting him on his current path.

“We were lucky at YSU that we could cover the real stories that matter to everyone,” Salter says.

Lamar will discuss his story and the impact working at the Jambar had on his life as part of YSU’s Alumni Lecture series Thursday night. The stream, taking place on the 90th anniversary of the newspaper, can be watched HERE

“I just wanted to be able to tell stories and talk about people that I met that were really interesting,” says Salter, who grew up on the south side of Youngstown.

While attending Woodrow Wilson High School Salter became interested in writing and a teacher encouraged him to dip his toe into journalism at YSU. He loved it immediately.

“The campus is so connected to the city,” says Salter. “So a story at the Jambar wasn’t just campus-related. Sometimes it was directly related to the city itself.”

Mary Beth Earnheardt, a professor of journalism at YSU and the faculty adviser for the Jambar, remembers Salter well.

“In all my time of teaching he’s the student who most reminded me of myself as an undergrad,” she says.

Salter would frequently visit Earnheardt during office hours to discuss journalism and his education, but he would also “goof off if he could,” she recalls. “There’s really a curious kid there. Journalists have to be curious.”

Salter took general assignments at first before becoming the arts and entertainment editor and eventually the managing editor, overseeing the website and design of the paper. It was under his watch that perhaps the biggest story he would cover for the Jambar occurred.

On Sunday, February 6, 2011, a 25-year-old student was killed and 11 others were wounded during a shooting at a fraternity house near the campus of YSU.

“As we started getting reports we realized this was a really huge deal,” says Salter.

At the time, The Jambar only published on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Jambar staff convened at the office and began working on the story, which ran in a special edition.

“That was when I realized the impact of journalism,” he says. “People were talking about this and we followed the story for years.”

The Jambar is also where Salter got his first taste of the changes that would soon become ubiquitous in the news industry. A writer at heart, Salter always envisioned himself as a print reporter who would eventually write for a magazine.

Then one day he was asked to take a camera with him on assignment to capture some video.

“I don’t think in this day and age it’s possible to just be a straight writer anymore,” says Salter.

Though he does think that writing is still the foundation upon which all other skills should be built.

“If you really want to be a journalist, who can get out there and do it in a professional manner, you’re going to need to have writing ready to go at some level.”

Salter graduated from YSU with a bachelor’s in journalism in 2011, and earned a master’s in English in 2013.

From there, he became a writer and producer at WFMJ in Youngstown before moving on to CBS News and NBC News.

Today, he is a producer for the digital productions team at CNN, where he works on the web series “Go There.”

“It’s kind of a deeper dive into some of the big global issues that we are facing now,” he says.

For students looking to pursue a career in journalism, Salter recommends taking advantage of every resource available at YSU and talking to as many people as possible.

“In whatever field you choose, it’s always going to be important to have a knowledge of the community around you and a willingness to be able to talk to someone and have them trust you,” he says.

But perhaps the biggest asset an aspiring journalist can possess, according to Salter, is passion.

“Really find something that you’re passionate about and that you want to learn about and take that passion and try to use it as the way you tell stories,” he says. “I feel like I’m doing something really important, and living out a dream I’ve always had, and it’s because of Youngstown State.”

For more stories on the local media landscape, check back to BusinessJournalDaily.com next week for Media Week as we dive into how the pandemic has changed news organizations, the future of local news and more.

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