Melissa Johnson (her on-air name) is well-known as a TV news reporter at WSFA 12 News (Facebook). She studied radio, television and film at Auburn University. Melissa graduated in 2009. In addition to her on-air reporting, she also writes for WSFA.com. Melissa lives in Montgomery, Alabama with her husband Adam Warnke. He graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Chemical Engineering. (All photo credits at end of story.)
"I grew up an Alabama fan (gasp!), but I had my heart set on going to Samford University. However, my best friend and boyfriend at the time (who is now my husband) were going to Auburn, so I applied there, too," said Melissa.
"My husband (who, again, was my boyfriend at the time) took me to my first Auburn game the fall of our senior year of high school. I had never been to a college football game before, and it blew me away," Melissa said. "Something about it just felt right, but how was I supposed to tell my family I was going to Auburn??
"As the spring of senior year winded down, I realized I was already subconsciously planning to go to Auburn. So, I just went with my heart and didn't look back. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I couldn't imagine my life if I hadn't gone to Auburn. The people I met and the experiences I are a large part of the person I am today."
"And, I have converted my entire family to Auburn fans! Well, except my Grandma. While she says she 'roots' for Auburn, she still likes telling me what a great coach Bear Bryant was," Melissa said.
At Auburn, Melissa was active in War Eagle Girls and Plainsmen, The Cater Society, Eagle Eye Television, SGA, and a member of Phi Mu social sorority.
Quite often, I've noticed that the bloggers we're profiling truly love what they do for a living. Melissa loves her job.
"I feel blessed to say my job at WSFA is the job I always dreamed of having. My job is about building relationships, writing, editing, and communicating for a living. A huge part of our job is writing and social media. In fact, your writing skills are just as important as your on-camera presence," Melissa said.
"For every on-air story I do, I write an accompanying web story. We also involve and engage our viewers on Facebook and twitter, asking them for Feedback and giving them additional information. I spend a large part of my work day interacting with viewers on my professional Facebook page, posting my story there, and looking into what they are talking about and what interests them," said Melissa.
"Contrary to what some believe, we come up with our own story ideas. It was the most difficult thing about my job when I first started. But you build relationships with people, gain contacts, and just become more aware of what is going on in your community - and that's what we write about. Questions I ask myself to find stories are - 'What are people talking about?' 'What is affecting a lot of people?' 'What is causing fear and concern for people right now?' 'What new thing has a lot of people excited?'."
"We also cover spot news stories like fires, shootings, and weather events, as well as planned events like Inauguration, court proceedings, etc. I also get to throw some fun stories in there like riding in a monster truck, going on a rattlesnake hunt, or finding out what is in fried kool-aid at the fair," said Melissa.
"What I love about my job at WSFA, is the results of our work are often very tangible. During our weather coverage, people have told us that our meteorologists saved countless lives, warning them of pending tornados. When we do a story about a park covered in trash, we usually do a follow up about city leaders seeing our story and cleaning up the park the next day."
"When we do a story about a mother of 10 who lost her home to a fire, we have a follow up about how many people reached out to help her after seeing our story. In breaking news situations, people turn to us to not only curb their curiosity, but find out information they're not able to find anywhere else. On election nights, we are the source for information, no matter how late we have to stay. While some days get stressful, you get to see first hand what impact a news organization has on a community. The stories we write make a difference," said Melissa.
There is another side to Melissa's life. The creative and crafty side and it has driven her to launch a new store, Wicks and Willow.
"My Etsy store and business Facebook page is called 'Wicks and Willow'. I sell handmade tea cup candles and other vintage inspired collectables and gifts. My husband and I love spending Saturday mornings scouring estate/yard sales and antique malls. I also have been making crafts for home decor and gifts since I was a child. So, I found a way to combine the two by making candles in vintage tea cups. It also doesn't hurt that I love social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.," said Melissa.
Wicks and Willow specializes in vintage tea cup candles made with all natural soy wax. They make perfect gifts, wedding favors, and unique home decor. I also sell antique Blue Ball Mason jars, some with flower arrangements. I update my store twice a week with new items...
At Wicks and Willow, Melissa tries "to make and sell things that I would want to purchase myself. I like to tell the story behind each tea cup candle. I use Facebook to promote my business, find new customers, and connect with the people who purchase or want to purchase my things. I try to respond to messages and comments right away; it's what people expect these days," said Melissa.
"However, I work to make sure I don't spam people with only promotion posts. People like to know the person behind the product, so I share a little about myself there as well. Etsy is a great forum to be able to reach people outside of your circle and outside of your community. It allows you to sell to people around the world, while making it easy for you to set up an online store."
"What I love about my Wicks and Willow business is the chance to combine so many things I love: antique hunting, crafting, and Facebook! I have a passion for creating things, and I love knowing that something I created will be something people put in their home or give as a gift to someone special," Melissa said.
Photos from Melissa Johnson Warnke: Top left, Melissa & Adam Warnke with their puppies; Next on right, Melissa & Adam's wedding; Next on left, Sally Pitts (AU Grad) and Melissa with National Championship trophy; Below videos on right, War Eagle Girls at game; Next on left, antique mason jar with hydrangea arrangement; Last on right, blue willow tea cup candle - both the mason jar & tea cup candle are from Melissa's Etsy shop.
Editor's Note: This series highlights students and alumni blogging.
Whether it be for personal pleasure or for work, the practice seems to be growing.
This has now become a five-week series.
~ Robert French