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Q&A: JEM Alumnus’ Work Featured on the Today Show

Journalism and electronic media alumnus Yuan Yue (C&I ’18) recently had his coverage of Americans being evacuated from the coronavirus outbreak in China featured on the Today Show.

More than 500 Americans have been evacuated, and, once back in the United States, spent 14 days in quarantine at military bases. As of Feb. 11, the death toll in China had surpassed 1,000.

Since finishing the communication and information master’s program in 2018, Yue moved back to his hometown, Wuhan, China, and started his own video production company. His company produces videos for international media outlets such as NBC, ABC, Great Big Story, and The Business Insider, along with organizations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Here is a quick Q&A with Yue about his time at UT and his current life and work in Wuhan.

Why UT?

UT has a great journalism graduate program and a great reputation. The professors are super supportive. The alumni network is great. Also, it’s affordable. And Knoxville is a wonderful place to study and live.

What is your favorite thing about East Tennessee/Knoxville? 

[Knoxville has a] beautiful landscape and super nice people.

Hobbies or interests? 

Hiking, marathon [running], and wildlife photography. But for now, I would say playing with my daughter is my new hobby.

What do you miss about home? Or what was most difficult when moving away?

I actually now live in my hometown. But whenever I am away, I miss the food and friends in my hometown and my family of course. Saying goodbye to my family was most difficult for me when moving away.

What do you currently do for work?

I run a video/documentary production company in Wuhan. We produce videos for international media outlets (such as NBC, ABC, Great Big Story, Business Insider) [and] organizations such as WWF. And, we provide local production services for international filming crews and journalists. We also produce documentaries.

What is your dream job?

A great documentary producer/director.

What are your post-grad plans?

I graduated in May 2018. After that, I worked for the UT System Office of Communications and Marketing as an intern video producer. Then, I came back to China in December 2018 and started my company in January 2019. Our company is still alive!

What was it like having a story on the Today Show?

It was awesome. I remember when the Today Show’s Al Roker came to UT for the Biggest Power T event in April 2017. That was the first time for me to have a close look at the Today Show. I felt they are very professional and passionate about what they are doing. And, it indeed is one of the most popular news shows in the U.S. So, once I knew that what I did will be on the Today Show, I was really excited and wanted to make sure everything went well.

How do you go about covering stories like this one?

I think my top priority is to make sure that I can get the critical footage for the story. We need to do a lot of preparation and research before we go out and shoot. For the evacuation story, I needed to know the whole plan of our subject, and how we can get into the airport and what camera I should use, a DLSR or just my phone? It turned out my phone was the proper one. 

So long story short, just do your homework and have a good plan, and then go for it.

Do you have a team or do you work alone?

In this particular story, I was working here in Wuhan alone, but I had support from the NBC team in Beijing, London and the U.S. We talked over emails and group chat on a regular basis. They did a great job in terms of planning, information gathering, and guidance.

How has UT helped you when it comes to covering such hot topic stories?

The UT journalism graduate program has great resources and faculty members – which is really helpful in terms of building a solid fundamental newsgathering or reporting skillset and confidence. What I learned at UT is not only how to report on the ground (for example, how to use a camera or record sound), but also a scientific way to do research and planning.

How do you feel the coverage of this particular topic is being handled in general?

First, I have to say, this topic is really a tough one to handle. Too much information and too little access. But in general, I can see many journalists are working really hard to report the issue accurately and to try to find different angles to tell.

Do you have any other comments on the matter that you want to share? 

Please be prepared because no one knows what’s gonna happen tomorrow.