2021 Tom Bigler Journalism Conference
The 2021 Tom Bigler Journalism Conference will take place virtually over Zoom. You will receive a link to the conference upon registering.
Please note: We know Zoom fatigue is real. We have embedded short breaks in between panels so you can grab a snack, use the restroom or just move around a bit!
Zoom Conference Room Opens
To avoid delays, please display the Zoom name you registered when you enter.
During this break, there will be pre-recorded content in the Zoom room. You may want to use this time to grab lunch. Please be sure you re-enter Zoom by 12:25 p.m.
Keynote Speaker Sarah Baxer
Keynote Speaker: Sarah Baxer
Registration for this year's conference is now closed. Please contact Dr. Kalen M.A. Churcher at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
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 download the entry form below.
Entries must be received by April 22, 2021 to be considered.
All entries should be emailed to or mailed (emailed submissions are preferred) to:
Overall Award and Spotlight Award
Recognizes newspapers (online and print) and broadcast programs.
Individual Merit Categories
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.
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
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.