Waco Independent School District will soon be looking to fill a void left by the departure of Bruce Gietzen and his booming broadcasting voice heard during school board presentations and press conferences.
Gietzen, who started as the district’s spokesperson in February 2016 after leaving his position as longtime Channel 25 KXXV news anchor, is stepping back into a newsroom.
Starting Aug. 7, he will become Baylor University’s new director of student publications, overseeing the the Baylor Lariat, the yearbook and Focus Magazine. He'll also be expanding the college’s video and broadcasting opportunities, he said.
The move will be the second administrative change for Waco ISD’s new superintendent, A. Marcus Nelson, who started in June.
"Mr. Gietzen has established himself as one of our top community leaders, and in his outstanding career as a TV anchorman and in his service to the Waco Independent School District as the director of communications," Nelson said. "We certainly have mixed emotions about his decision to pursue a professorship at Baylor University. We're happy for him and excited for the students of the school of journalism to be able to learn from someone who has such a depth of experience, but he has made a tremendous positive impact on the Waco Independent School District."
Gietzen said Baylor officials reached out to him about the position in March, and his move does not come as a result of the district’s new leader.
“Dr. Nelson coming made the decision even more difficult because I’m excited about seeing his plans for the district,” Gietzen said. “He has some great ideas in store. He tried to convince me to stay, and I really enjoyed my year here. The opportunity at Baylor was too good to pass up.”
Gietzen taught as an adjunct professor for five years before going to Waco ISD and, with more than 30 years as a broadcast journalist, his resume made him the best candidate, said Sara Stone, Baylor’s Journalism, Public Relations and New Media department chair.
“His overall skill set is first-rate,” Stone said. “His decades in the news business first and foremost made him very attractive, and the second reason we were particularly interested in having him join the department was because of his experience in broadcast (journalism).”
Gietzen spent time covering the Houston Astros and Rockets, developing pieces for ESPN, Home Sports Entertainment, MLB Productions and NBA Entertainment.
He also spent a short stint as a marketing executive in Georgia and Washington, D.C., before coming to Waco as an anchor in 2003.
With limited resources and no broadcast studio, students have been working diligently to develop an online broadcast presence the past four or five years, Stone said.
They also have a segment on the city’s cable channel. But the school is ready to take things to the next level and find better ways to compete with other Big 12 universities, she said.
And with the journalism industry in a constant state of flux and full of ever-changing platforms, she wants students to know how to do it all before they graduate, she said.
That includes everything from shooting photos and video, to writing print-based articles to producing their own news segments, she said.
Gietzen said he will enjoy teaching in a classroom setting and that he often mentored young reporters at Channel 25.
“The newsroom is the extension of the classroom, and after more than 30 years in the media there’s plenty of stories to tell,” he said. “I think the business is evolving to more digital and mobile apps, but you still have to know how to write, still have to know how to recognize news value and develop sources and be a good storyteller. That’s not going to stop.”
Gietzen will also help the Baylor Lariat transition from a four-day-a-week print publication to two days a week in print with a daily online presence, Stone said.
“It’s a changing industry, but I certainly don’t think it’s a dying industry,” Gietzen said. “Our job is going to be to prepare these students to get a job. I know too many directors who would hire young people who can do those things.”
Gietzen’s departure won’t impact Waco ISD’s plans to renovate the Waco High planetarium, he said. Spearheaded by Gietzen, the district has been trying to raise between $700,000 and $800,000 since last fall to renovate the facility that has been closed for more than 20 years. Depending on some pending donations and pledges, the district will be two-thirds of the way to its goal soon and will form a committee of external and internal representatives to push for the rest, he said.
Gietzen will also remain active with Waco ISD’s Education Foundation and Waco ISD’s H-E-B Celebrity Cookoff, which he helped establish in 2006.
Whether as a spokesman, a volunteer or just as a supporter of public education, Gietzen’s time with the district has been a huge asset, Waco ISD Board President Pat Atkins said.
“What I’m going to miss the most is his almost strategic depth and thoughtfulness when it comes to conveying the district’s message,” Atkins said.