Broadcast alumna finds success in perseverance

Managing Editor and Managing Editor

A recent University graduate, who now appears on a TV station reaching hundreds of thousands of viewers, credits her success to being a pest.

But before she landed the job, University alumna, Maia Belay, 23, found herself in a depressing position many college graduates experience.

“I foolishly didn’t apply for jobs after graduation,” said Belay, a 2011 broadcast journalism major. “I was discouraged. I cried a lot that summer.”

Her bedroom served as a job application assembly line, where she compiled more than 100 copies of her resume, references, cover letters and demo newscast footage. She would take the materials to the nearby post office daily, where friendly employees greeted her by name.

Although Belay’s applications spanned the country, she didn’t need to travel too far to land her first gig in Toledo as a weekend assignment editor and web producer at WTOL and Fox Toledo.

In less than a year’s time, she transitioned from a behind-the-scenes assistant to an on-air personality.

“I just kept trying my hardest to get better every day,” she said. “Anytime there was a job opening for a reporter, I was always talking to my news director. Looking back, I was probably a pest, but I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

Today, Belay covers news in Hancock County, including corresponding from Findlay, about 26 miles south of Bowling Green.

Impressed with her skills, channel executives promoted her to an editor who also takes photographs for weekend assignments.

“I just feel so lucky, so blessed,” Belay said. “I feel so young to be called a ‘success story,’ but I already have a job in my field, so that’s success, right?”

Participating in both on- and off-campus organizations and internships provided Belay the vital experience necessary to land a professional job.

Among her roles while a student: resident adviser, WBGU reporter, BG24 News director and National Association of Black Journalists President.

In addition to interning at WTOL during summer 2010, Belay also interned at a large market TV station in her hometown of Detroit.

“We always tell our students ‘those who get hired the fastest have extensive student-media experience,’” said Kathy Bradshaw, chair of the Department of Journalism and Public Relations. “Maia took advantage of every opportunity here. She experimented and took risks to learn, and when she did, she learned quickly.”

Belay’s peers also noticed her motivated work ethic.

“She was always trying to get better and I admire her dedication,” said senior Kaila Johnson, a broadcast journalism major who served as Belay’s vice president in the National Association of Black Journalists. “It’s inspirational to see someone make it that you worked closely with. It makes you feel anything is possible.”

In retrospect, Belay contemplates whether she could have done even more.

“I wish I would have done a third internship for more experience — something even bigger,” she said. “I can’t stress how important it is to get that hands-on experience, because that’s how you make connections and get jobs.”

Her advice to current students and recent graduates: apply early and often, stay persistent and seize as many internship opportunities as possible.

“Never give up on yourself, especially when you face rejection,” Belay said. “The only time you’ve lost completely is when you stop believing in yourself.”