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Veteran newscaster Nick Miller brings real-world experience to News22

New Mexico State University's News22 team shouted out, high-fived and congratulated each other as Executive Producer Sean Crowley announced that Stephanie Flores, a mass communications major and sports anchor, was one of the Society of Professional Journalists' top three picks for "Best Sports Report" in region nine. News22 also is contender for "Best News Cast" in the region.

Nick Miller standing in the News22 newsroom
News Director Nick Miller stands in the News22 newsroom where he guides and teaches New Mexico State University students how to produce a newscast. (NMSU photo by Harrison Brooks)

News Director Nick Miller enjoyed the excitement right along with them.

"We're optimistic about our chances of winning the top prize," Miller said. "It's a testament to some smart, dedicated and hard-working students."

Miller, a veteran newscaster and the former managing editor and anchorman for the NBC affiliate KTSM-TV in El Paso, was hired last fall to guide and teach the NMSU students how to produce an evening newscast. Broadcasting is part of the journalism program in the university's College of Arts and Sciences.

No stranger to awards, Miller has won 16 reporting awards during his 30-year career.

"Miller played a huge part in my being up for this award," Flores said. "He really encouraged me to get out and do sports stories with the community rather than just stick to NMSU. He found me the proper connections, and pushed me to get out there and expand my network in the Las Cruces Parks and Recreation Department."

Miller, 60, not only works with students to improve their stories, he aims to instill a critical ability -- to think like a reporter, a kind of instinct that goes far beyond writing, editing and shooting video.

"I tell them that reading the morning paper or getting the news in the morning should be as normal to you as eating breakfast," Miller said. "It should be part of your DNA that you keep up with things."

Miller not only gives his students the practical skills they need to succeed at commercial news stations but also shares his years of broadcast expertise, teaching students how to report the news in a way that people will want to watch.

"With television, your writing and the pictures have to go together," Miller said. "I enjoy showing them how to do that, how to transition from video to a sound bite. How to do, and how to place a stand-up in the story."

Miller first became interested in the news as a child. He remembers watching the Huntley-Brinkley Report, a nightly newscast on NBC that ran from 1956-70.

After graduating with a bachelor's in history from the University of Arkansas, Miller served as an officer in the United State Marine Corps for three years before returning to school to work on a master's degree. As a reservist in the Corps, he continued his commitment with monthly drills.

"One weekend, one of my sergeants brought along a friend of his who was the news director at a TV station in Ft. Smith, Ark.," Miller recalled. "I'd always been interested in television, I thought I could do it, and I told him that, and he said, 'well, send me a resume.'"

A few months later, Miller was offered a part-time job as a reporter and he's been at the news desk ever since.

"When I got started in TV I really intended to get a Ph.D. in speech and become a college professor, because part of the master's program there was that I taught basic speech, and I really enjoyed doing that," Miller said.

From Arkansas, Miller, who was awarded his master's in speech communication, worked as a weekend weatherman in Cape Girardeau, Mo. He was quickly promoted to weekend anchorman and eventually anchored the nightly news at 10 p.m.

He then headed to Huntsville, Ala., and anchored for a year before moving to Huntington, W. Va., for six years where he received a second master's degree in geography from Marshall University.

"I always wanted to go west, but as you can see where I was going, I always went east," Miller said. "So I started applying for jobs in the West, and El Paso made me the best offer."

In 2006 while working for KTSM, Miller traveled to Kuwait for 12 days with army troops from Ft. Bliss to report on the unit's preparations for the war in Iraq. He was the only journalist from El Paso at that time reporting on the war.

Miller, who has taught courses at the University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso Community College, said one of the biggest challenges for him with a younger generation is to instill an international perspective in his students.

"I try to get them to broaden their look at the whole world, rather than what's going on on campus and what's going on in their lives," Miller said. "I know it's a different time in a person's life, and not every college student is looking at world issues, but that's what I'm trying to get them to do."

"He continues to push me, more than I like sometimes, but that's a good thing, because he's preparing me for the real world," said news anchor Brandi Licon, a senior from Las Cruces who has been with News22 since she was in high school. "He doesn't let you settle and he makes you do other things that you may not have done if he wasn't there pushing you."

The news business has changed considerably since the days of the Huntley-Brinkley Report.

"Journalism has been on hard times for many years now," Miller said. "Every day you see an article about the coming demise of newspapers. They're still around, and I think that they will always be around, but they're changing. Everything is going right here, to the Internet."

Keeping up with that change, Miller said the news team recently started a website at KRWGNews22.com. There, the students post their stories along with the newscasts and various stories from the Associated Press.

The SPJ awards winners will be announced April 13-14 in Denver during the annual conference. Last year, News22 took home awards for "Best All-Around Television Newscast" and "Feature Photography." This time, Flores, whose little league flag football story was nominated, and 12 other team members will attend the event for the team.

"I worked at Channel 9 in El Paso for 17 years and some of the best young hires we ever made there came right out of News22, because they knew what they were doing," Miller said. "They had a leg up on a lot of other journalism graduates who didn't have this kind of practical experience."