Robby Thomas (ABJ ’04) is the vice president and general manager of WIS-TV, a television station in Columbia, South Carolina, affiliated with NBC.
Born and raised in rural Nahunta, Georgia, the work ethic Thomas learned on his family’s farm helped him graduate magna cum laude with a degree in advertising from Grady College, where he also anchored the student-produced “Georgia Gameday” for two seasons and spent all four years working for UGA Public Affairs Broadcast Video & Photography. Thomas remains involved in the University of Georgia Mentor Program and as an unapologetic fan of Georgia football.
Following is a brief interview with Robby Thomas.
Grady College: What are you hoping to contribute to the Grady Alumni Board during your time of service?
Robby Thomas: I am enjoying a very rewarding career in local media. I think my experience in the industry for which Grady is working to prepare students gives me valuable insight into the ways we can ensure they achieve the best possible outcomes. Specifically, I majored in Advertising and aspired to work in New York City after graduation. I did that, but decided shortly afterward that NYC was not my long term desire. I only learned later that essentially every local television station in the country has a marketing and creative services department that is its own internal ad agency. I’m passionate about helping students understand the infinite pathways that can exist for them to pursue their goals if they’re open-minded.
GC: What does being a graduate of our College mean to you?
RT: It connects me to a network of tens of thousands of alumni who will immediately take a meeting with me based on our shared experience. Beyond that powerful network advantage, it also gives me great personal pride to have been a part of one of the country’s top programs.
GC: What advice do you have for today’s Grady College students?
RT: “There’s a difference between compliant and committed.” It’s a Kirby Smart quote from a couple of seasons back, but I loved it because it’s a reminder that you have to be willing to commit to a standard of excellence. If it comes easy and cheap, you appreciate it so much less. If you’re just going through the motions, you’re not going to excel. It takes a strong work ethic and professional discipline to truly earn success. Look for the ways you can make a positive impact, and make it. Get after it.
GC: What experience during your time at Grady College had the biggest influence on where you are today?
RT: I’m where I am today because of Georgia Gameday. After a few of my friends dared me to try out my sophomore year, I wound up earning a seat on the anchor desk for my junior and senior years. My peers and those experiences helped expose me to professional interests and opportunities I may have otherwise never discovered. In fact, it was my Georgia Gameday co-anchor Jessica Foster-Bonner who recognized my voice on my resume reel when her news director was reviewing tapes for an opening with WMBB News 13 in Panama City, Florida, where I got my start. She vouched for me. I got the interview and ultimately the job.
GC: What modern challenges would you like to see current students and recent College alumni solve?
RT: Today’s changing media landscape creates all kinds of challenges as it relates to earning the attention of the audience. We see an entire generation of journalists entering their professional careers who have been bombarded by social media’s influencer culture and never really had the same relationship I had with some of the world’s most trusted media brands. Clicks and likes have been over-valued. Misinformation and disinformation are clear and present threats to our democracy. Artificial intelligence introduces new ethical considerations that will greatly impact journalism as a profession. But, technology also presents more opportunities than ever for our citizenry to be informed, prepared and connected. We can empower communities like never before.
GC: What is your favorite place on campus and why?
RT: Walking South Campus. It has changed dramatically since my time in Athens because of the demolition of my dorm, the old McWhorter Hall, but I like to walk those streets remembering my days as a work-study student for UGA Public Affairs’ Broadcast Video & Photography division in the Georgia Center. I worked all four years with that team and it played as pivotal a role in my development as Grady College.