Doda Lulgjuraj is an Executive Producer for Channel 4 WDIV in Detroit, and an alumnus of the MSU StratCom program, graduating in spring of 2021.
His passion for local news goes back to his involvement in his high school's radio TV program in Warren, MI, where he hosted a morning radio show before school with classmates.
Both of Doda’s parents are immigrants from Albania, so the European work ethic he explains is part of his DNA. With being one of five children, financial freedom and being close to family were important driving factors when it came to thinking about his future.
“I majored in broadcast and minored in journalism at Central Michigan University,” said Lulgjuraj. "Back then I thought I was going to work in radio, and it wasn't until my brother advised me to take a TV-producing elective class that my mind switched."
Growing from within
Doda started his producing journey in Toledo, OH right after college before he made his way back to Detroit.
You had to work in a smaller market before you could work in a larger market in this industry, he explains.
“It is not very common to be able to work in your hometown in this industry,” said Lulgjuraj. "Our company has a culture where we value 'growing from within', and so I first started at WDIV as a part-time associate producer and made it clear that I wanted to be here for the long haul."
He put in hard work from the start by working midnight, weekend, and holiday shifts no one wanted to build his experience and gain more opportunities that came his way.
“It was hard at the time to see my previous roles as steppingstones to where I’m at now, so I do make sure to pay it forward to a lot of our younger journalists, so they know all the late nights and early mornings are part of the process,” said Lulgjuraj.
Setting himself apart
Getting a master’s degree was something Doda always knew he wanted, but the question was when?
"Coming off of my undergrad degree I was schooled out," said Lulgjuraj. "In this industry, I felt the two years it would take me to get my master's was two years I could be getting real-world industry experience."
But after a couple of years, he started to see big changes in the industry, digital coming more into focus, and he wanted that skillset to set him apart.
“When I came across StratCom, I asked a lot of questions,” said Lulgjuraj. "I think I followed up two or three times because the program just felt too good to be true.”
Lulgjuraj shares how going back to school as a full-time working husband of two children was no easy feat. A newscasting schedule also doesn't follow traditional working hours, most weeks were a bare minimum of 45 hours just in the building, with on-call weekends, etc.
He learned how to utilize every free minute he had to obtain knowledge and keep up with assignments. Doda shares Audible became a great way to do the readings during his commute.
“I think the best part of StratCom is that it puts the student and their schedule at the forefront of the program that is being built,” said Lulgjuraj. “Because of this, I never felt like I couldn’t do it.”
The importance of local news
“Local news is extremely important to local communities because we are often the first call someone makes when they are dealing with a crisis or tragedy,” said Lulgjuraj. “We are the voice for the community because we are also the people living in that same community.”
WDIV-Local 4 received the coveted 2022 Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Newscast for their coverage of the Oxford High School shooting.
“I don’t think I can ever top that accomplishment for the rest of my career,” he says.
He explains how they were recognized for their thoughtful approach in providing context, and clarity and sharing how the community was coming together to grieve and heal after the shooting.
An unquenched thirst
Doda is currently working on Ph.D. in Strategic Media at Liberty University.
He shares how the StratCom program and going back to school made him realize that he had this unquenched thirst for knowledge and continued learning.
“My children are my biggest motivation every day,” said Lulgjuraj. "What I'm trying to pursue on my Ph.D. journey is setting up all of our kids for success when it comes to how they are consuming media and misinformation."
He’s not sure if he’ll work in news for the rest of his life, but he says he’ll be in some facet of journalism, whether that’s in the classroom teaching the next generation, or a digital journalism-based endeavor.
But whatever he does it’s bound to be impactful.
Doda with his two sons at MSU's Graduation.