Helping her hometown understand the world
Broadcast journalist began her journey at UC Clermont
Becca Costello’s path to on-air reporter for Cincinnati’s WVXU started as a young child — sledding down the hill behind the University of Cincinnati Clermont College.
Costello’s current role at the National Public Radio-affiliated station marks the latest stop on a journalism journey that began when her own world was still quite small — as a former homeschooler and Batavia High School student enrolled in the College Credit Plus program at UC Clermont.
“I always loved campus. Between sledding there in the winter and the Calico Children’s Theater performances, I was familiar with the college before I ever started classes,” Costello recalled. “I liked how small it was; it felt like the exact right size. There was always free food somewhere.”
Familiar faces made UC Clermont feel like a second home, too — Costello’s mother, Melissa Costello, and sister attended classes at the same time. In fact, during one particular semester, all four Costello sisters and their mother attended classes on various UC campuses.
“Our living room looked like a dorm room,” said Melissa, who eventually transitioned from Clermont to UC’s College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services to earn her bachelor’s degree in teaching. She is now an elementary gifted intervention specialist in Monroe, Ohio.
Mother and daughter worked together at the former UC Clermont Learning Center too, offering peer tutoring to fellow students. (Today, the college offers students tutoring services through The Learning Commons at UC Clermont.)
“I helped Becca get her job at the college,” said Melissa. “My husband was taking temp jobs, and we all worked to support the family. She was hired, then she kept getting promoted and became my boss. Becca is brilliant.”
After completing two years of college courses as a junior and senior in high school, Costello transferred to the now-defunct Cincinnati Christian University to earn her bachelor’s degree in biblical studies, with a minor in communication arts. However, she kept her ties to UC, continuing to work as a supplemental instructor and taking a few classes on campus. After a year post-graduation spent working in the administrative offices at CCU, Costello felt the pull of her longtime love of journalism.
Growing up, she was a reporter for her 4-H club and spent free time writing books. While at UC Clermont, Costello was editor of the student newspaper, The Lantern, and had work published in the college’s East Fork Literary Journal.
“I did my first real journalism at Clermont,” Costello said. “Those experiences helped prepare me for my future.”
Lantern faculty advisor and English professor Phoebe Reeves also nurtured Costello’s natural knack for storytelling.
“Phoebe helped develop my love of writing,” Costello said. “Her classes had a big impact on my worldview and taught me to ask questions in new ways. She helped me figure out that I wanted to write about things that matter — whether in journalism or personally.”
Costello soon decided to move to Bloomington, Indiana, to earn a master’s degree in journalism at Indiana University. She landed a full-time job after her first semester, at the NPR-affiliate in town, just as then-Indiana Governor Mike Pence was announced as Donald Trump’s running mate.
“It was trial by fire,” said Costello, who ran the digital side of the newsroom. “I worked from my cell phone while driving on vacation when Pence was announced as the VP candidate. It was exciting, chaotic.”
After finishing her degree, Costello moved to the newsroom of an NPR- and PBS-affiliate station in Nebraska, crafting stories for both radio and TV. Then COVID hit, and her news team scrambled to create a daily TV program to keep the public informed on the pandemic; Costello sometimes anchored the show. “I’m proud of the work we did there while making sure everyone was safe and not exposed,” she said. “Everyone pulled together and pulled off some really important reporting.”
I did my first real journalism at Clermont. Those experiences helped prepare me for my future.
Becca Costello UC Clermont alumna, NPR-affiliate reporter
With each move, though, Costello kept her eye on Cincinnati, hoping to eventually make her way back to her hometown and family. When an opening for an on-air local government reporter opened in January at WXVU, she jumped at the chance. Currently, she is part of the WVXU team working on the “Trust in Local Government” series, an initiative that more closely examines Cincinnati politics, including the recent allegations of corruption at Cincinnati City Hall.
“I think people want to understand how the world works and the policies that affect them,” Costello said. “But people are incredibly busy. I feel lucky to be paid to help our audience understand the larger world.”
Today, Costello feels as if she’s come full circle in an adventure that started on a hillside campus in Batavia.
“Even my experiences at UC Clermont that had nothing to do with journalism helped me get where I am today,” Costello said. “I remember every class at Clermont. I kept all my papers and assignments. There are lots of amazing things happening there, and I would tell current students not to treat their time on campus as just a jumping-off point or transition to something else; look for the ways you can grow as a person.”
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