A decade ago, Simeon Lancaster was an unassuming 14-year-old beginning his exploration of journalism at ThreeSixty. Ten years later, he is an associate producer of the nationally televised Under-Told Stories.
About his early days at ThreeSixty, Lancaster said, “I was sort of a timid kid on the dark streets of downtown, but I did it. I only remember one of the guys I talked to (on that first assignment). But it was a big lightbulb moment for me. It was this super nondescript guy at a bus station. I was looking for anyone, and he looked friendly enough. He was a migrant laborer working up here who was sending money back to his family.”
Four years at ThreeSixty sparked Lancaster’s passion for journalism.
“ThreeSixty took me seriously when I was 14, they let me start doing very serious stuff,” Lancaster said.
“Before I even knew about underdog stories, I wanted to do this kind of work, I wanted to do international stuff, and I wanted to keep chasing that,” he added. “My passion started with realizing that no one is boring.”
By the time he graduated from high school, Lancaster had won the 2013 ThreeSixty scholarship to study communication and journalism at the University of St. Thomas College of Arts and Sciences.
During his years at St. Thomas, he learned video production skills, spent a semester in Morocco paired with a local reporter and eventually became the director of TommieMedia, the student-run media organization.
Arriving back on campus after his semester in Morocco, Lancaster said, “I saw the Under-Told Stories nameplate by an office in the hallway, and I was like, ‘What the heck? That sounds like something right up my alley.’ I went in – they’d been on campus a couple of months – and I just asked them if they had any internships, student work or anything.”
“Not at the time,” Lancaster said, “but the next semester they made an internship and gave it to me because I kept bugging them. I loved the work from the first second … and I learned a lot of things on the fly.”
As his senior year of college drew to a close, Lancaster asked his boss, Fred de Sam Lazaro, whether there was any chance of continuing to work at Under-Told Stories after graduation. It turned out to be good timing because a new production assistant job was posted, and he beat out several other candidates.
The internship led to a full-time position with Under-Told Stories – a partnership of the “PBS NewsHour” and St. Thomas – and eventually a promotion to full-time production assistant, then associate producer.
Lancaster’s work has taken him as far afield as India for stories on environmental issues and Cambodia for stories on orphanage reform, landmine disposal and sand mining in the Mekong River. Those stories and many others have been nationally televised on the award-winning “PBS NewsHour,” seen locally on TPT, Channel 2.
During the recent unrest in the Twin Cities following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, de Sam Lazaro and Lancaster were on the street for days (and nights) on end, with their reporting a regular feature of “PBS NewsHour.”
“It was a surreal assignment,” Lancaster said, “and not just because my hometown was the epicenter for a global movement. This assignment put me on the same streets where my journalism journey began more than a decade ago.”