Tom Bigler Journalism Conference

2024 Tom Bigler Journalism Conference

April 26, 8:30 a.m. - 1:45 p.m.
Karambelas Media and Communication Center, Wilkes University

The Tom Bigler Journalism conference invites local high school students to explore the field of journalism. The conference is sponsored by the Wilkes University Communication Studies Department.

The deadline to register is April 17.

Register for the 2024 Tom Bigler Journalism Conference


8:30 - 9 a.m.


9 - 9:20 a.m.

Conference WelcomeStudents will split up into groups at this time.

9:25 - 10 a.m.

Session AStudents will be asked which panel they wish to attend.

10 - 10:45 a.m.

Keynote SpeakersKeynote speakers: Aimee Dilger and Kelly Dessoye, Emmy-award winning journalists and founders of Focus Journalism.

10:45 - 11:15 a.m.

Journalism Awards

11:25 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Session BStudents will be asked which panel they wish to attend.

12:15 - 1:40 p.m.

Split SessionsSplit sessions. Conference attendees will be split in half with half going to lunch and half participating in a hands-on panel. Groups will switch after 40 minutes.

1:45 p.m.


Keynote Speakers

Aimee Dilger & Kelly Dessoye

Aimee Dilger and Kelly Dessoye, Emmy-award winning journalists and founders of Focus Journalism, a hyper local visual news organization currently reporting in Northeastern Pennsylvania through photojournalism and documentary film.

Dilger and Dessoye started the investigative newsroom in 2021 to report on underrepresented people and topics while acting as a resource to the people of Northeastern Pennsylvania. As Focus they've garnered seven Mid-Atlantic Regional Emmy Nominations and two Emmy wins as of 2023 and have scooped up numerous honors from the NPPA and NETA respectively. Dilger has been working as a photojournalist in Northeastern Pennsylvania for over 20 years and is currently a stringer living in the region while Dessoye has been working in film for 14 years, making the switch from commercial film to journalism in 2021. Focus reports are personal, nuanced, and intimate portrayals of individuals living in Northeastern Pennsylvania that aim to cover all people who call Northeastern Pennsylvania home and the issues critical to them.

Tom Bigler Journalism Competition

Wilkes University is proud to offer the Tom Bigler Journalism Competition in conjunction with our annual conference. Our goal is to recognize outstanding writing, photography, design/layout and production among student journalists.

To submit an entry, please complete the online entry form below. The submission deadline is April 15 at 11:59 p.m.

Submit a Competition Entry external website

You must be logged into a Google account to use this form. If you do not have access to a Google account, please email


Overall Award

Recognizes newspapers (online and print) and broadcast programs.

Spotlight Award

Recognizes the outstanding newspaper (online and print), publication, website and/or broadcast that is either new or recently changed.

Individual Merit Categories

Recognizes individual reporters. Categories are listed on entry form.

Each school may submit no more than two individual entries per category.

Young Journalist of the Year Award

Teachers may nominate students for the Young Journalist of the Year award. More details are listed on the entry form.

Adviser/School Award

Based on all entries received, judges will award a Top Adviser and/or Top School award to the adviser or school that best exemplifies the ethics and dedication to journalism that Tom Bigler possessed.

About Tom Bigler

Tom Bigler profile picture

Not many people could say they have worked for five radio stations, three television stations, a newspaper, a university and served in World War II under the United States Army Air Force. Tom Bigler could, and his professional experience surely supersedes just about anyone else's in the Wyoming Valley's journalism community.

Over the years, Bigler held many positions in the local media. He worked in radio in Hazleton, Newcastle and Washington, PA. In 1948, Bigler advanced to news director of WILK-AM radio. When WILK-TV was formed in 1953, he became the news director for both the WILK radio and television stations. In 1962, Bigler took on news director at WNEP-TV for four years. In 1966, he was the incoming news director and vice president of news and public affairs for WBRE-TV, where he worked for 20 years.

While in the television business, Bigler won numerous awards from the Associated Press for Outstanding Editorial Writing and Outstanding News Broadcast. In addition, Bigler won the Silverblatt Award, Thaddeus Stevens Award from PSEA, Friend of Education, Distinguished Citizen Award from the city of Wilkes-Barre, Ethics Institute of Northeast Pennsylvania Achievement Award, and the Family Service Associated Community Service Award.

In 1986, Bigler became a professor of communication studies at Wilkes University under the Tom Bigler Endowed Chair in Media. He also began writing a weekly column for The Times Leader. While at Wilkes University, Bigler taught journalism and ethics courses, was faculty adviser to The Beacon, Wilkes University's student newspaper, and started an annual high school journalism conference. Bigler retired as a professor emeritus of communications in 2001 but continued to teach part-time at Wilkes University. Upon his retirement, Dr. Andrea Frantz, associate professor of communication studies at Wilkes, named the journalism conference in Bigler's honor. During his time at Wilkes University, Bigler was a mentor and friend to both students and faculty.

Though Bigler was a busy man, he still found time to do what was dearest to his heart- community service. Bigler was involved with more than 20 different community and professional based organizations. He co-founded Leadership Wilkes-Barre, where he became a member of the board and acted as a mentor. He served on the board of trustees for Family Service Association, the board for the Greater Wilkes-Barre Association for the Blind. Bigler was a board emeritus member for the Osterhout Free Library.

Bigler died in March 2007 after battling heart-related health problems. For a new generation of journalists, Bigler serves as a model of media and community service. Through his service, the Wyoming Valley has greatly benefited. Bigler was an inspiration to all journalists, students and local citizens.