NBC contributor gives broadcast, journalism students advice

Vaughn Hillyard speaks at Silverado High School


Anthony Azzo

Vaughn HIllyard from NBC addresses Silverado students

Kristyann Esteron & Emma Elias, Staff Writers

On Wednesday, Feb. 19, Silverado High School welcomed NBC News political correspondent Vaughn Hillyard to speak to CTE broadcast and journalism students. Hillyard spoke to students about his own journey through the broadcast industry, a journey which led him into joining the first broadcast news network in U.S history, NBC.

Hillyard is a political reporter for NBC News who has reported on the 2020 presidential election as well as other political and policy news from all around the country. He was in Las Vegas for the Nevada Dempcratic Debate that evening. 

Students at Silverado had the opportunity to ask Hillyard some questions in a Q&A session. Our students had some great questions which elicited advice on how to improve their interview skills as well as some inspiring words about Hillyard’s own experiences himself.

“Your voices and experiences are important,” Hillyard said. “Everybody’s got a story.”

 Journalism student Riley Hosmer (9) asked Hillyard for advice when asking questions.  He replied that one final question he always asks at the end of an interview is, “What else would you like to tell me?”  This usually gives the interviewee a chance to bring up things the journalist hadn’t thought of.

Hillyard shared his story about growing up in Arizona and not being at all qualified for the news. However, he tells us that he was resourceful and knew how to produce video, which then got him the job. He encouraged students to not let anyone tell you that you aren’t qualified enough or to give yourself a limit.

Hillyard’s favorite personal stories have been about agriculture because they taught something new and got him out into rural communities, talking to people directly affected. 

He also shared a story about being a teen editor. Hillyard was in a situation in high school when he and his journalism team decided to run a blank page as a sign that they were being censored. This caught the attention of his school district’s administration, including the superintendent and later, the Arizona press. Hillyard and his team fought hard for a story about standardized testing that was censored by the principal because teachers had expressed anti-testing views in the article. The student journalists eventually received “pro bono” (free) legal help. Eventually, the students won in court and were able to publish their ideas and opinions. 

Hillyard’s story served to illustrate the lengths journalists sometimes go through to finish the job.

“It’s my job to go and tell the world what they need to know about,” said Hillyard. “It’s my job to go and share their stories.”

Setbacks are always a thing in any industry. Apart from censorship, Hillyard also had to deal with criticism and biases. Hillyard informs students that your individual view/inception of a subject might differ from other individuals’ views. Hillyard prepares himself against biases in what he covers by being humble and upfront in what he doesn’t know.

“You get to know these people as human beings,” Hillyard said. “It’s about establishing the humanity and relationship within that initial handshake and interaction and working with good faith.”

After Hillyard’s speech, Video Productions student Griffin Garcia (12) had a chance to ask Hillyard a question as well as be interviewed on NBC news. Garcia was astonished he was on national TV. Garcia took this opportunity to talk NBC into giving him an internship.

“Overall, it went really well,” Garcia said. “It was really interesting to see someone who is in the field that most of us are going into and who is successful.”

Anthony Azzo
A student stands up to ask NBC correspondent Vaughn Hillyard a question in the Silverado Theatre on Feb. 19.