A Superstar on the Rise: William Turkington (2)

William Turkington was a student of my JOUR330 (Newspaper and Magazine Feature Writing) class for spring 2017 semester. In this class, every student must report and write one query letter and more than 10 feature stories in different genres. Each story must not exceed 500 words. Then the student must expand whatever story of their choice into a polished, ready-for-publication long-form magazine article of 1,200 to 1,500 words.


Students from my feature writing class pose in front of the department Wall of Fame. William Turkington stands in the back row, second from left. Photo credit: Provided by Yong Tang

Turkington came to my attention because he is a superstar on the rise.

Like me, Turkington is an immigrant. He came from Malaysia and is a sports broadcasting major at Western Illinois University (WIU) Department of Broadcasting and Journalism. The seemingly taciturn young man can speak English, Mandarin, Malay, Penang Hokkien fluently. I once chatted with him in Chinese in front of the whole class. No one in the room understood what we were talking about. His mandarin fluency really surprised me.

What surprised me most are his reporting and writing abilities. Actually he is one of the best student writers I have ever taught since I came to WIU six years ago. I am not saying his writing is perfect. Like most students in this class, he often fails to describe what main characters look like and at times cannot resist the temptation to take sides in the story as if he were an editorial or commentary writer. Except that, his reporting was very thorough, his observation was very insightful, and his writing was nearly impeccable. After reading his feature stories, I can’t help crying, smiling, laughing or wondering how powerful words still are in this world increasingly dominated by excessive video images and superficial information graphics.

I believe Turkington will go far. He will probably become another alumnus-turned Pulitzer Prize winner (already four Pulitzer Prizes are proudly associated with our great department). Or he will probably become another alumnus-turned Emmy Award recipient (already four Emmy Awards are proudly associated with our department).

With his permission, all William Turkington’s assignments written for my feature writing class are published here in installments. You had the chance to read his full-length first-person story yesterday. Hope you will enjoy reading the following today:

  1. Business Story: The YouTube Marketplace

Syllabus instruction:The challenge when writing a good business story is to avoid falling into writing a lackluster feature about what a business sells, makes, or provides. These stories are boring. Unfortunately, writing an interesting business feature is difficult because the business owner is worried about hurting his image and he is not required to provide you with any information. The best approach is to focus on an employee or the owner. Look for a timely or unusual angle—a reason for writing the story about that particular business at that particular time. Remember to mention any competition that business might have so the piece isn’t so one-sided and to avoid giving the appearance of giving the business free advertising. Also be wary of ad representatives at your magazine or paper trying to place stories with you for their clients!

By William Turkington

Imagine being at home, sitting in front of the webcam of your computer all day, doing what you love. Sounds like a Sunday, doesn’t it? Well, in the new digital world we live in, it’s becoming a reality for many. You might now think I’m talking about unemployed college graduates who are living in their parents’ basement. Quite the contrary. In recent years, the occupation of professional Youtuber is becoming a realistic goal for many creative content creators all across the globe.

Business story

Photo credit: The YouTube logo

Meet Adam Filipiak. A 20-year-old freshman who hails from Warrenville, Illinois. Filipiak’s YouTube channel, Hockey Dolphin, is centered around comedy. “I mostly do comedy stuff with the occasional music mashup,” said Filipiak. One of those mashups went viral for Filipiak, but quickly landed him in hot water. “I did a mashup of Taylor Swift’s ‘bad blood’ and ‘we are never getting back together’ and got six-hundred-thousand views out of it,” said Filipiak. “What I didn’t anticipate was the legal battle I had to deal with from the copyright issues. I won’t be making those mistakes again.”

Filipiak has been working on his channel on and off for 2 years now and has gained a modest 317 subscribers. He operates the channel’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitch pages, all with the same name.

When asked if this was something he wants to do in the future, Filipiak responded with a strong “yes.” “If possible, I want to be doing this full-time,” said Filipiak. “Creating humorous content has always been a passion of mine, and seeing Youtubers make a living off of what they do really inspires me to pursue this as a full-time job at some point in my life.” PewDiePie is currently YouTube’s biggest star, creating humorous content centered around video games. The Swedish sensation nets $12 million a year from his channel. Yes, $12 million.

YouTube is currently undergoing a massive transformation in terms of ad revenue. The Wall Street Journal recently ran a hit-piece citing that big-money advertisers on YouTube like Cola-Cola were seeing their ads go to Neo-Nazi channels, a claim which has largely been proven false.

Regardless, due to the sudden massive loss of ad revenue, YouTube has cracked down on any kind of perceived “controversial” topics like race, religions, and politics.

Filipiak is very concerned that YouTube’s restructuring of its community guidelines will negatively affect him. “I don’t think they should be cracking down on content creators like that,” said the worried Filipiak. “Everything is going to offend somebody, so what?” Filipiak said that if they continue to curb perceived “offensive” content, YouTube won’t be the place it once was. “At the end of the day, if YouTube keeps going down this path, we all lose. The content creators, the viewers, and the YouTube owners too.”

Filipiak’s ambition to become a full-time Youtuber is a good reminder to us all that the market creates odd and satisfying jobs every now and then. It’s all about finding your niche. So the next time your parents chastise you for sitting at home and watching too much YouTube, let them know that they should choose their words carefully, because they might be eating them sometime in the future.

2) Hobbyist Story: Gaming in the 21st century

Syllabus instruction: Lots of people collect things—sometimes to extremes. A collector who has the biggest or best or most unusual collection of something can make for a good story.

By William Turkington

If you were to tell your parents you wanted to play video games for a living 20 years ago, they would have hastily checked you into a mental institution. And rightfully so. Today, that possibility is as real as Trump is our president.

Meet Randy Turkington, a young man from Penang, Malaysia, who loves to play League of Legends. He loves it so much that he has logged over 4,000 hours of game time. That’s half a year of clicking buttons on your computer, without any sleep in between.

Hobbyist story

Photo provided by William Turkington

Turkington got into League of Legends because he was introduced to the game by his friends, and it didn’t take him long to excel at it. “I thought it was a cool game, it allowed me to always have something to do in my spare time and it brought me closer together with my friends,” said Turkington. The team quickly rose in the Malaysian rankings and found themselves in the national tournament and taking home gold in year one. With the tournament being new, each team member found themselves taking home around 1,000 Ringgit ($250).

After finishing first in the country in May of 2014, he and his teammates got back to work to repeat as champions. The team went 14-0 in the regular season but fell in the finals. They ended up taking home around the same amount of money due to increased prize pools. “We played astonishingly well that season but didn’t game plan well enough for the final,” said a nostalgic Turkington. “I just wish that we could have that match back.” The pain from losing that final was tattooed into Turkington’s face, even though it has been well over 2 years since that crushing defeat. That would be his last ride with the team as he moved to America a couple of months later to pursue higher education.

Globally, League of Legends is exploding in popularity. The platform has over 100 million monthly players. And America, the sports giant of the world, has taken notice. Universities are now offering League of Legends scholarships as athletic scholarships. The Big 10 Network now airs their League of Legends games. Yes, the Big 10.

After coming to Western Illinois University, Randy’s hunger for League died down a little bit. Nevertheless, he played in the Collegiate Star League for one semester and helped WIU finish second in the division. He also won a tournament hosted by the Macomb eSports Association which was sponsored by Buffalo Wild Wings. “It was great getting to play League in America,” said Turkington. “I honestly thought my playing days were done when I left for university, but it’s great to see so many platforms to play again around the here because I love representing Western Illinois.”

At one point, Turkington was ranked 6th in the country on the Shyvana champion. But even with that success, he is unlikely to pursue a professional future in the game. “I think it’s great but I don’t see myself going pro,” said a humbled Turkington. “I think it is best that I focus on getting my Psychology degree right now instead.”

Randy Turkington’s story gives us an insight into how much League of Legends and professional video-gaming in general have exploded. What was once a fantasy, is as real a possibility now as becoming a professional athlete. What interesting times we live in.

3) How-to Story: How to Save A Life

Syllabus instruction: The interview with an expert or group of experts who tell the readers how to do something difficult is a common theme in newspapers. These type of pieces are usually timeless features but can be pegged to a season, such as talking to experts about how cutting your own Christmas tree can save money and how to do it.

By William Turkington

It’s 3 p.m. on a sunny June afternoon. Your kids are having fun in the backyard splashing around in the pool and playing catch. You’re sipping a lemonade and reading the paper, reflecting on the chaos around the world as your spouse is taking advantage of the clear skies and getting a tan. The day is going smoothly and you’ve not a care in the world. In the blink of an eye, it all goes wrong. Your daughter yells out for help as she notices her brother, Chase, lying face down in the pool and not moving. You’re now in a medical emergency, something many people experience everyday – but yet, we have no idea how to handle it.

Mary O’Brien is trying to change that. She volunteers for Western Emergency Medical Services and as a resident assistant, has put on programs to increase knowledge on how to respond to emergency situations before professional help arrives. She is a certified first-responder on the WEMS main crew and only receives financial compensation if she gets a call while on the clock.

How to story

Photo provided by William Turkington

O’Brien has stressed several specific medical situations that are fairly common when talking about responding to medical crises. Of those regularly mentioned are responding to seizures and giving CPR. According to Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy, 3 million Americans are currently diagnosed with the condition, so this condition may easily effect you or somebody you know one day.

If untrained, O’Brien says, do not touch somebody who is seizing. “You could end up hurting them if you don’t know what you’re doing,” stresses O’Brien. “The most you should do is put a pillow under their head.” Seizures usually last 5-10 seconds and if it goes any longer than that, that’s when you should be calling for help. O’Brien also warns that people who have just got done seizing, may experience some loss of memory. “They’ll enter the postictal stage and most of the time forget that they even seized,” said O’Brien. “They can get aggressive sometimes too. Just try to calm them down, be understanding, and ask them simple questions to jog their memory.”

When we think of CPR, we usually think of dramatic Baywatch scenes where the lifeguard tries to resuscitate an unconscious patient. While this scenario is not unlikely, it tends to take away the seriousness of the emergency. So, O’Brien wants you to know how to do it right. First, check for a pulse. Just in case it wasn’t clear, only administer CPR when there is no pulse present. “Don’t try and get a pulse reading from their neck, that can freak people out sometimes,” warns O’Brien. “Just touch the part of their wrist under their thumb, that should give you a clear enough reading.” O’Brien advises you to do 30 chest compressions for every two breaths. Keep your fingers locked, and push down with your palm.

Emergency situations are real and happen to people every day, all over the world. The least you can do for you and your family is to be ready to respond to them. When your son Chase is lying face down in the pool, will you know what to do?

4) Number Story: Macomb Munchies

Syllabus instruction: This is a kind of feature that focuses on interviewing experts on a certain topic and pegging a number to the story, such as a city’s five deadliest intersections or a feature on a city’s 10 best pizza places.

By William Turkington

Friday night. You arise from your well-deserved, comatose-like nap after a long week of class. You reach down from your elevated residence hall bed for your phone. It reads 7:15 p.m. “Damn,” you say to yourself as you realize that the dining halls around campus are now closed. You have a long night of partying ahead and need to get food before you proceed with your drunken endeavors. Where do you go? In a survey conducted in the Corbin-Olson dining hall, 40 students were polled on which restaurants they prefer to frequent around Macomb. The results were averaged and are as follows.

Coming in at number four on the list is the Mexican restaurant, El Rancherito. The establishment, which is located on West Jackson Street, is commonly referred to in student circles as “El Ranch,” very creative, I know. El Ranch serves up great tasting authentic Mexican cuisine from tacos and burritos to beans and rice. And for those who are of age, their great margaritas. Allison De Carlo, a junior graphic design major rated El Ranch as her number one choice. “I’m a big Mexican food person so El Ranch was love at first sight for me here,” said De Carlo. “Oh, and their margaritas are pretty bomb.”

Number three on the list is Yummy Chen’s. Yummy Chen’s is an Asian themed restaurant that serves mainly East-Asian and Southeast-Asian cuisine. Anything from sushi to mochi ice-cream and green curry to kung pao chicken is served at the restaurant which is located next to the McDonald’s on West Jackson Street. Chance Waddell, a junior history major, loves getting sushi there during lunch time. “I just love sushi, man, I don’t know what else to tell you,” joked Waddell.

Runner up on the list in a close call is chain restaurant Buffalo Wild Wings. Student traffic is greatly increased at “B-dubs” when there’s a major sports event going on. B-dubs is a national franchise that is famous for their multi-flavored wings. If you’re feeling adventurous, give their blazing wings a go. Bring milk. Softball player Amanda Manton rated B-dubs number one on her list. “I go to B-dubs with my teammates after training and long road trips to just chill out, eat, and watch a game maybe,” said Manton. “Garlic Parmesan is the way to go, by the way,” said Manton regarding one’s choice of wing flavor.

And coming in at number one is…Chicks! The hip, locally owned restaurant has one thing that a vast majority of their patrons want. Lips. Chicken lips. Now, if you’ve never been to chicks before, this may be a little confusing. Chicken lips are merely large-sized chicken strips dipped in house-made “lip sauce.” Olson resident and broadcasting student Dave Young is in love with their signature dish. “When I go to Chicks I don’t even need the menu anymore, I know what I’m getting,” said Young. “Lip fries. Every time. Never fails.” Lip fries are chopped up lips with waffle fries topped with cheese and your choice of ranch dressing or bleu cheese. Bleu cheese. Every. Time.

Number story

Photo provided by William Turkington

So if you ever get bored of dining-hall food, which is understandable from time to time, check out these restaurants and see what you think of them. The four restaurants not only serve great food, but are excellent places to meet fellow WIU students whom you might not typically see. The next time you oversleep dinner, you know where to go.

5) Overview Story: Drive Sober, Or Get Pulled Over

Syllabus instruction: This is a feature in which you take some kind of national or state statistical information, such as number of missing children or the meth epidemic in rural America, then bring it home to your community by interviewing local people affected by the problem or involved in solving it or dealing with it.

By William Turkington

It’s Friday night and you’re out at the bars with some friends. You make the questionable decision to drive there because of the bitter cold weather. Now it’s 2 a.m. and the lights at the Forum come on, time to go. You’ve had 3 shots of tequila and a couple drinks that you can barely remember. They call alcohol “liquid confidence” for a reason. Your friends ask you if you’re sober enough to drive back. You don’t want to disappoint them or seem “weak” so you say yes. Within two minutes, lights are flashing behind you and your life is changed forever.

Overview story

Photo provided by William Turkington

The United States, like many other industrialized countries in the world, has a drunk driving problem. The statistics are so staggering that they seem made up. Get ready. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014 alone, 9,967 people were killed as a result of driving under the influence. That’s the equivalent of the entire city of Macomb when school isn’t in session. Every. Single. Year.

And just in case you’ve been living under a rock, I’m here to tell you that Western Illinois University has a huge drinking problem. According to Business Insider, WIU ranks number four among American universities for drug and alcohol arrests per 1,000 students. That’s right, there are over 4,000 institutions of higher education in this country and we’re ranked fourth. At least we’re good at doing something – right?

I chatted with a WIU student who had previously received a driving under the influence (DUI) ticket. He agreed to share his experience and offer some advice but respectfully declined to be named. So, for the sake of this article, we shall refer to him as John Doe.

Doe was in a situation which is all too common here, at a friend’s house drinking with his car parked outside. “I was at my buddy’s place and was just going to have a couple beers, you know, but of course two beers turned into like six,” said Doe. “But the dorms were only a couple of blocks away so when I had to leave, I figured I could get there no problem.”

Doe got into his car to drive home and sure enough, with the dorms in sight, he was pulled over by the Office of Public Safety (OPS). “They asked me how much I had to drink and I told them like six beers,” said Doe. “I wasn’t sure if it was going to be enough to get me a ticket but the test had my BAC at 0.11%.” A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of anything above 0.8% is illegal in all 50 states.

“Just don’t do it, man,” warns Doe. “It’s not worth it.” If you’ve been drinking, Doe’s advice is to just walk home or call a sober friend. “Macomb’s a small place, man, you can walk to pretty much anywhere or just take the drunk bus,” advises Doe.

Not only will drunk driving land you a fat ticket like it did Doe, it can also hurt future employment opportunities and may get you or somebody else killed.

Somebody in America dies as a result of drunk driving every 53 minutes. Don’t let yourself become a statistic.

6) Profile Story: Michael Sam

Syllabus instruction: You can profile just about anyone or anything, although it is generally about a person. Usually, you pick someone interesting or who has done something interesting. You set up an interview with the subject, research the person, interview him or her, and talk to others who know the person. If the subject is uncooperative, then interview tons of people who know the person and write a story based on their views of the person. In this kind of story, you should paint a word picture of the individual that lets the reader know more about the person and how he or she acts, looks, sounds and thinks.

By William Turkington

Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in American professional sports. Bill Russell was the first professional black head-coach. Billie Jean King empowered countless female athletes. Now, it was time for the sports world to meet their next trailblazer. In the 2014 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams would draft Michael Sam, the sport’s first-ever openly-gay athlete. However, Michael’s sexual orientation was far from his only obstacle to success.

Michael Alan Sam, born and raised in Hitchcock, Texas, was born into a family of eight children and a dad who wasn’t around a lot. Tragedy struck the Sam’s multiple times in Michael’s childhood. His siblings Chynelle and Russell died when he was just a child and another brother, Julian, disappeared in 1988 without a trace.

Profile story

Photo provided by William Turkington

Michael did not play sports as a child because his mother was a Jehovah’s Witness. That changed in Junior High when his father convinced his mother to let Michael have a chance at football. “The only good thing my dad ever did was convince my mom to let me play sports,” said Michael. Despite excelling quickly, Michael “had no intentions of going to college and playing football” at the time.

It was in high school that Michael started being attracted to men. He first thought that it was a phase and so tried to experiment one summer. His conclusion? “Yupp, pretty damned gay.” Later in high school came the “proudest moment” of Michael’s life. He walked across stage with his high school diploma, making his mother burst into prideful tears.

After accepting an offer from the University of Missouri to play football, Michael honed his craft for four years in route to becoming SEC defensive player of the year. Earlier in his senior year, Michael ‘came out’ publicly for the first time in the Tiger locker room. “Hi, my name is Michael Sam, I’m a sports management major, and I’m gay,” said a proud Michael.

With the resume that Michael had compiled at Mizzou, most experts had him going in the 2nd or 3rd round of the NFL Draft. Michael was instead drafted in the 7th round by the then St. Louis Rams. During the televised broadcast of the draft, Michael kissed his boyfriend when hearing the news. The picture of them kissing went viral, to which Michael sarcastically retorted “who the hell was I supposed to kiss?”

Michael was cut by the Rams before the season started. The Dallas Cowboys picked him up on the practice squad briefly before cutting him as well. Michael hasn’t been in the NFL since. The former SEC Defensive Player of the Year was now unemployed.

Michael couldn’t help but wonder if he’d made the right decision coming out. A phone call from a teammate’s cousin would end all doubt in Michael’s mind. His teammate’s cousin told him that Michael had saved her life by coming out in public as she had attempted suicide twice as was not going to do that again because of Michael’s courage. After receiving that phone call, Michael was engulfed by sadness, then later, rage. “I detest bullies more than anything,” exclaimed a visibly emotional Michael.

Michael has since decided to step away from football permanently and help the world in whatever way he can. He is currently travelling the country speaking about his experiences which will undoubtedly touch the lives and many young children like his teammate’s cousin.

When presented with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award during the ESPY’s, an elegantly dressed Michael said “I didn’t think I deserved it.” We, the compassionate world, respectfully disagree, Michael. You earned every bit of it.

7) Unfamiliar Visitor Story: Mali to Macomb

Syllabus instruction: These “stranger in a strange land” pieces can be enlightening because you can offer a glimpse into a local problem, culture or event. If the visitor is available for an interview, his or her perspective can help readers understand their world better. These stories might include talking to Basque students at a local university about their perspective on terrorism following a recent bombing in Spain that broke a ceasefire between Basque separatists and the government.

By William Turkington

Four flights. 5,500 miles. A new culture. A new home. That’s what biochemistry major Kadidia Samassekou had to deal with in order to begin her pursuit of higher education.

Samassekou, who hails from Mali’s capital city of Bamako, first got a taste of American life when she arrived in Colorado Spring’s Colorado Siva Charter high school on an exchange program in junior high. “It was great getting to see America for the first time that way, especially in Colorado because it’s so beautiful there,” said a reminiscent Samassekou. “The schooling experience was great as well because I got to leave my country at such a young age to experience a different school system.”

Unfamiliar Visitor

Photo provided by William Turkington

Samassekou had a brief stint at the University of Kansas but because she was living with her brother at the time, she “did not feel like I was in college.” Soon after, she transferred to WIU and has loved her time here. Samassekou had already learned English growing up but was not used to some of the slang used in the United States. “My freshman roommate did a great job at teaching me slang and terms that I did not know existed,” recalled a jovial Samassekou. “It’s crazy to look back and think how much American pop culture I’ve learned in such a short time.”

Western Illinois University put in place great programs and organizations to help Samassekou assimilate well to American life. She is currently the president of the International Friendship Club and a member of the African Student Organization. “The organizations on campus have really been great for me,” said Samassekou. “They have allowed me to connect with many people who share the same experiences as I do and allow me to speak the three languages I do constantly.” Samassekou speaks fluent English, French, and Bambara which is a local dialect.

The Center for International Studies here at WIU has a tremendous International Neighbor program. A Macomb native, Paula Rhodes, was paired up with Samassekou. Rhodes meets with Samassekou every fortnight or so just to touch bases. She likes to bring Samassekou around town to places like Walmart and the bowling alley. Rhodes also took Samassekou to Springfield once to the Lincoln Museum, to Samassekou’s great joy. “She feels like my American mom,” said Samassekou with a smile.

The one struggle Samassekou faces on a daily basis, is food. When she lived in the dorms, she absolutely dreaded dinner. “I’m just not a fan of the food here, I’m sorry,” said Samassekou with a laugh. “I can’t do burgers and sandwiches and pizzas all day every day, it’s just not for me.” Now that Samassekou is living in an apartment, she regularly cooks simple African cuisine to appease her homesickness. “I cook a lot of rice, this unique peanut butter sauce I like, and croissants and crepes for breakfast,” said Samassekou.

Samassekou will be getting her bachelor’s degree next semester but will be returning for Graduate School here at WIU. She wants to get some working experience here as a biochemist before returning to Mali. “I want to go home not because I dislike America, I actually like it a lot, but because I miss the familiarity of home,” said Samassekou. “And you can’t replace that.”



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s