Catching up with ... Gary Burton Jr.

Gary Burton Jr. graduated from Maumelle High School in 2015 and then went on to Arkansas Tech University in Russellville.

Burton, an all-state football and basketball player for the Hornets, also played football at Arkansas Tech, where he was a defensive end and four-year letterman. He graduated in 2020 with academic honors and was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

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He’s now a nightside broadcast reporter for WJTV in Jackson, Mississippi and you can follow him on twitter @GaryB_WJTV.

Know a graduate of Maumelle, Maumelle Charter, CAC or from Maumelle and went to high school in Little Rock that you think would be a good subject for Catching up with …? Let us know by emailing arkansas@substack.com.

Below is a transcript of an email question and answer session with ArkansasNewsroom.com. The transcript has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

  • What are some of your favorite memories from your time at Maumelle High?

If I had to narrow my favorite memories down to my top 3, my order would be: 

  1. The chemistry we had on the basketball and football team. There was never a dull moment. My connection with all my coaches and teammates was like no other sports team I have ever been a part of. The best sports memory would be advancing to the State Championship game my senior year. That was such a special moment.

  2. Becoming student body president. This moment is one I will cherish forever. The whole school voted and to be chosen to lead the student body is still an opportunity I get goosebumps about.

  3. Speaking at my graduation. 

  • You studied journalism at Arkansas Tech, what inspired you to go that route?

I have always loved speaking and being in front of a camera and letting my personality shine. 

With journalism I can do both and make an impact by telling people stories and relaying information they need to hear. 

  • How did playing football at Tech prepare you for your career choice?

Sports in general has taught me so many lessons. I have been playing football and basketball since I was 5 years old.

At Tech, football was an eye opener to the real world because college football felt like a job instead of just playing a game I love. 

Scholarships are earned and not given, and work had to be put in to maintain your scholarship.

I have always been a hard worker but the level of dedication you need to be a college student athlete is major, and that dedication has transitioned over into my career. 

I am forever grateful for my time at Tech and playing for the Wonder Boys. 

  • Did you intern anywhere while a student and how did that prepare you?

I honestly don't feel I'd be where I am in my career if I wasn't for my internship at FOX 16 and KARK 4 in Little Rock. 

I interned there during the summer before senior year at ATU, and I learned so much by shadowing some amazing talent in the news business. 

I don't want to name drop but from the anchors to the photographers, everyone was so willing to spread knowledge in to me and I was happy to soak it in like a sponge.

My internship was the first time I had seen the real day in the life of a reporter. It was so fast paced. 

When I went back to school my senior year, I was a completely different student because I was filled with so much professional hands-on experience. And that was just the beginning. 

  • Is Jackson your first full-time stop?

Yes.

  • Jackson is a decent sized market, 97 [Designated Market Area], for a first stop. What do you think played a role in landing that?

Jackson is the perfect fit for me as my first stop. I have made mistakes and grown tremendously from them since I started in September 2020. 

If it wasn't for the man above, I wouldn't be here. 

A big role in me landing this job is a professor of mine at Arkansas Tech by the name of Christie Kellar.

I told Christie during senior year that I was applying for jobs in the 150 and below markets. She pulled me to the side and basically made me aware of the talent she saw in me. 

I sold myself short, but it was Christie who gave me that boost to believe. 

  • I know that typical or normal really isn’t a thing in broadcast but could you take a reader through what a day might be like for you? By this, I mean what’s your schedule. Do you ever anchor, or do you always do reporting? Do you have to shoot your own video or does your station have photographers, etc?

I am a nightside MMJ [multimedia journalist] reporter and when I am needed, I will fill in as sports anchor. My shift is 2 p.m. to 11 p.m.

 As an MMJ, I am required to shoot my own interviews, live shots, and video and edit my stories. Unless it is a severe weather day, it isn't as bad as it may sound. As an MMJ I get to bring my vision to life, which is great. 

  • What has been one of your favorite things to report on, so far?

The Oxford Regionals at Ole Miss. I decided to wear a Razorback hat and ask people to chant WooPig Sooie. That day was the definition of having fun at work.

And I am in love with feel good stories. One of my favorite stories that I have told so far is when Michael Jackson came to Jackson. 

A man that has a passion for Michael Jackson and can dance and dress like him travels from state to state and does street performances. 

His message to the people he comes across is BE YOU. Sitting down and talking with him was special. 

There have been countless stories that I'll never forget but his determination to spread love and make people smile stuck with me. 

I think it stuck because that is the mindset I have with telling stories. 

Talking about crime, covid-19, etc. are automatic stories in the news business. 

Nothing is more special than sitting down with someone and talking to them about what's in their heart

  • How often do you get back to Arkansas?

About once a month since I am only about five hours from home. The odds of me having the luxury of being this close to family isn't ideal in this career so I'm taking advantage of it. 

I have a small family with a 3-year-old nephew and seeing them is special every chance I get. 

  • Anything else you’d like to add?

I lost my dad in 2018 and he didn't physically see any of my adult accomplishments. 

I'd just like to highlight that none of this is possible without the lessons my dad and amazingly strong mother and big sister has instilled in me. 

Also, I am so thankful for everyone that has played a role in my life. Whether it was a massive or tiny encounter, it was impactful.