Jason Piscia, digital managing editor of The State Journal-Register, has been named the new director of the University of Illinois Springfield’s Public Affairs Reporting master’s degree program. He will replace longtime director Charles N. Wheeler III, who recently retired after leading the program for 26 years.

“I’m honored and humbled to have the opportunity to lead the program that jump-started my career,” said Piscia, a 1998 graduate of the Public Affairs Reporting program. “PAR means a great deal to me personally. I’m looking forward to building onto the program’s rich history by guiding students toward fulfilling careers in journalism.”

Piscia, who lives in Springfield, has worked at the SJ-R for 21 years, starting work there immediately after earning his master’s degree from UIS. He began as a reporter covering crime, city government, state government, business and higher education. In 2005, he was promoted to digital editor, in charge of managing the newspaper’s website. In 2015, he was named digital managing editor, second in command in the newsroom, directing coverage for both the SJ-R digital and print editions.

“We are excited to have Jason Piscia on board to lead this signature graduate program at the University of Illinois Springfield,” said UIS Chancellor Susan Koch. “Public Affairs Reporting grads from UIS include a host of award-winning journalists and, with Jason’s leadership, I’m confident the PAR program’s outstanding reputation will continue to grow.”

Piscia says one of the main reasons he wanted to lead the Public Affairs Reporting program is to help better train reporters in today’s new media landscape.

“I’ve been on the front lines as newsrooms have weathered numerous changes and challenges,” he said. “One thing hasn’t changed, however. Journalism needs solidly trained reporters who can fairly and accurately report the big stories in a way that will connect with readers and viewers to help them understand the world around them.”

In his role at the SJ-R, Piscia has helped to mentor and ultimately hire several Public Affairs Reporting Program alumni.

“I know first-hand the value this program has to news organizations, especially those in Illinois,” he said. “On their first day of employment, PAR graduates are ready to contribute hard-hitting work that makes a difference.”

The PAR Program was founded in 1972 by the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon. PAR is a one-year, professionally oriented master’s degree program designed to prepare its graduates to become working reporters covering public affairs. The program has two main components, instructional classes and a six-month internship working as a full-time reporter for a news organization at the Illinois State Capitol.

Piscia, who also holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Illinois State University, is expected to officially start in his new role on Aug. 5.