After three and a half years at UT, Kylie Hubbard graduated early in December of 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, career experiences and contacts that would prepare her and propel her into her future career.
“I have been writing all of my life. … That always stuck with me as being something, not necessarily that I’m good at, just something I enjoy,” Hubbard said.
When she first came to UT, Hubbard thought she wanted to go into graphic design, but after a single semester in the program, she quickly changed her path to journalism.
During her first journalism course, Hubbard chose to complete her student media project with The Daily Beacon newspaper, and from there, she was hooked.
After joining the Beacon, Hubbard became an assistant news editor one semester later. She was eventually promoted to news editor and later applied for the position of editor-in-chief.
Hubbard held the job for three semesters, until she graduated.
“Once I got into journalism, I think I really wanted to tailor my focus on more of the lighthearted, good stories versus the stories you didn’t really want to read like death, or power outages, or water outages. Things like that that aren’t that fun to write about,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard was covering one such light hearted piece when she was pulled away to cover the most memorable and impactful story she encountered while working at the Beacon.
It was spring 2018, and Hubbard was covering UT’s annual outdoor concert, Volapalooza, when the Beacon’s managing editor texted Hubbard to let her know that a student, Tanner Wray, had passed away at Boxing Weekend.
The two then went to cover the vigil held for Wray on Pedestrian Walkway. The Beacon was the only news source present at the vigil, Hubbard said, and had to rely on rumors to get to the event.
Although the story was hard for Hubbard to cover, it also ended up being the most rewarding story and experience during her time at the Beacon, particularly because she was able to speak with Wray’s mother when he passed and again one year later, when the next Boxing Weekend was dedicated to Wray.
“I had the opportunity to speak to her about how that made her feel, and she remembered me. That was really powerful, that journalists are in these moments of true raw emotions for these people, and these people, in these moments, put a lot of faith in the journalists to tell these stories right,” Hubbard said.
She said that student media gives students “an ability to explore what you are interested in (in) an environment that doesn’t punish you for failing.”
“As a leader, I’m really appreciative of the opportunity to help others and learn from others, because I’ve taken that into my other positions in my freelance space,” Hubbard said.
In addition to writing and other skills that students can practice through student media, Hubbard said that the people she met at UT played important roles in her career and the opportunities available to her after college.
“I think that one thing we sometimes forget as students is that it’s not necessarily all about your classes, it’s about the connections that you make while you are in your classes,” Hubbard said.
One such connection is Caroline Jordan, who graduated from UT in May 2020 with degrees in journalism and electronic media and Hispanic studies.
“In my first ever journalism course, JREM 175, I sat next to Kylie, I think because we were alphabetized by last name. We were drawn to each other probably because of our color-coded notes, so from that point on we tried to take as many JREM courses together as we could, and she eventually got me to apply to work at The Daily Beacon,” Jordan said.
It was Hubbard who suggested that Jordan assume the managing editor position at The Daily Beacon during her senior year.
“More so than anyone I've ever worked with, Kylie has an admirable ability to both give you love and tough love at the same time,” Jordan said. “She always treated the Beacon staff as people and students first, and then addressed an area of improvement as an employee. Being a student herself gave her the right perspective to gauge if a writer was getting burned out from school, or if she needed to sit with them and talk about ways to grow as a writer on the staff.”
Hubbard, who still lives in Knoxville, now enjoys the flexibility of being able to create her own schedule. She works in the freelance contract space as a media professional, working mostly with startups.
“I still look back at the things I learned,” Hubbard said, “and I think I learned 75% of what I learned at college through the Beacon.”