2019 Grady College faculty and staff recognitions

Grady College celebrated excellent work from faculty and staff with a May 1 reception and awards announcement.

Kate Fortmueller, Kim Landrum, Jonathan Peters and Kirsten Strausbaugh were named outstanding teaching faculty for their respective departments.

“Winning departmental teacher of the year is no small feat at Grady College, which abounds with excellent instructors,” said Grady College dean Charles N. Davis. “It’s why we are here at the end of the day, and each of these teachers sets a high standard in and out of the classroom.”

  • EMST teacher of the year Kate Fortmueller.

Fortmueller, assistant professor of entertainment & media studies, teaches media writing and media studies. Her research focus is labor in the media industry.

Landrum, public relations lecturer, teaches graphic communication and helps students develop skillsets using the Adobe Creative Suite.

Peters, assistant professor in journalism, teaches communication law and policy. He is also the press freedom correspondent for the Columbia Journalism Review.

Strausbaugh, senior lecturer in Advertising, teaches advertising message strategy, campaigns and graphics communications.

The Darwin Davis Award established by Dean Emeritus Cully Clark and his wife, Mary, was announced. It recognizes a member of Grady College’s faculty or staff whose work reflects the dedication and friendship that best capture the spirit of Grady.

Keith Herndon, director of the Cox Institute and Morris Chair in News Strategy and Management, was honored as 2019 recipient of the Darwin Davis Award.

Michael Cacciatore, assistant professor in public relations, was recognized with the Roland Page Award given to outstanding graduate faculty.

The Vera Penn Award is given annually to an exemplary member of the Grady College staff. The 2019 winner of the Vera Penn Award is business manager Terri Baker.

The Joyce Burton Award for excellence was presented to Anne Hurne, student affairs professional in the graduate studies office.


Himelboim named the Thomas C. Dowden Professor of Media Analytics

Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication has named Itai Himelboim the Thomas C. Dowden Professor of Media Analytics. Himelboim is an associate professor of advertising and director of the SEE Suite, the Social media Engagement & Evaluation lab.

“Dr. Himelboim, one of the world’s leading experts on social media analysis, will take the Media Analytics program at Grady College to new heights as the Thomas C. Dowden Professor,” said Charles N. Davis, dean of Grady College. “The demand for students trained in media analytics grows daily, and we’re listening to industry demand in expanding our work in the field.”

As Dowden Professor, Himelboim will direct research on social, political and economic issues involving media, and social media in particular. These subjects align closely with his areas of study and teaching, which focus on the role that social media, including Twitter and Facebook, plays in news, politics and international communication. Applying network analysis, Himelboim examines the network structures that are formed when users interact on social media, including the emergence of information echo chambers and the diffusion of content within and across these communication silos.  His work also studies influential users, emerging communities and the impact that news media plays in these interpersonal communication spaces.

“In this big data era, media analytics is more important than ever for students, faculty and the industry,” Himelboim said. “I am thrilled and humbled to hold the Thomas C. Dowden Professorship in Media Analytics, and I look forward to continuing the work of making Grady College a leader in media analytics research and education.”

Himelboim joined Grady College in 2008 and teaches undergraduate and graduate courses including “Social Media Analytics, Listening & Engagement,” “Network Analysis of Social Media” and “Insights & Analytics,” among other courses.

Himelboim teaches in the SEE Suite, an analytics lab that he directs.

In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Himelboim also directs the SEE Suite, overseeing the analytics lab where students examine large, cross-platform social media data through a variety of software, like Crimson Hexagon.

He is a prolific contributor to academic journals including the “Journal of Political Marketing,” “Computers in Human Behavior,” “Social Media + Society,” “Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly,” “Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication” and “Communication Research,” among others. He is also a co-author of the forthcoming book, “Analyzing social media networks with NodeXL: Insights from a connected world (2nd edition)”.

Himelboim frequently speaks at international conferences and universities, as well. Some of his recent talks include “Social Media Analytics for Communication and Marketing: From Big Data to Actionable Insights” at National Chengchi University in Taiwan, the workshop “Network analysis of social media: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and semantic networks” at Hong Kong City University, “A Network Approach to Viral Advertising: The role of traditional influencers, new influencers and low-influencers,” at the American Academy of Advertising conference in New York, and “Understanding Social Media Conversations via Clusters in Social and Semantic Networks” at the University of Amsterdam.

.Himelboim earned his doctorate degree from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Minnesota. He has a master’s degree in political communication and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Tel Aviv University.

The Dowden professorship was created in 2007.

Tom and Wendy Dowden at Grady College’s Centennial Celebration in 2015.

“While the original goal of the Dowden professorship was to explore the emergence of new media, the growing emphasis on media research and analytics is a new and important discipline in the field,” Dowden said of the new appointment. “I look forward to Itai’s involvement and contributions in this area under the aegis of the Dowden professorship.”

Dowden, a Grady College and UGA alumnus (ABJ ‘62; MA ‘64 in political science), is a pioneer in the cable industry, as well as founder and director of Dowden Communications. He is an emeritus chairman and member of the Peabody Board and emeritus UGA Foundation trustee. He received Grady’s John Holliman Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1990. He has been a generous supporter of the college, and has been committed to the development of the Graduate Certificate in Analytics program, with its focus on audience research and media innovation.

Ann Hollifield, who retired in January 2019, was the inaugural Dowden Professor.


Students learn and travel the world through Global Grady 2019

Grady College students are experiencing some of the world’s most renounced media, film, and communications through Global Grady 2019. Grady Newsource is publishing stories learned through international study abroad trips such as this piece from Munich’s Documentation Centre. Continue to check their site for the latest stories. Here is a look at social media from Global Grady 2019.


Grady College faculty member studies media consumption

The following was written for UGA Columns and UGA Today.

As a faculty member, Bart ­Wojdynski derives satisfaction from seeing the switch flipped within the minds of his students.

“I love watching students develop interests they didn’t know they had,” he said. “My goal is to try to meet students at the intersection of what they want out of a class and where they might want to go in the future.”

Coincidentally, that is exactly what happened to him in a research methods class at the beginning of his master’s program that led to his career. The lightbulb moment happened when he realized he would not have to choose between being a journalist or a social scientist, but instead could study the social science of how people understand journalism and other digital media.

Since then, Wojdynski has been on a fast track, teaching digital design and media research classes while conducting experiments to understand the role of design and attention in how consumers’ attitudes are shaped by media content. In ­addition to the ­coding classes where he teaches journalism students content creation in HTML, CSS and JavaScript, he also teaches courses in data visualization, digital media design and media psychology.

Whether he is teaching a traditional in-person class or one that’s online, a format he has worked with since his first faculty position at Virginia Tech, he said he feels fortunate to be teaching classes in his wheelhouse.

Much of Wojdynski’s research involves conducting eye-tracking studies on digital news and advertising, which follow and measure how people view on-screen information within fractions of a second. He was first exposed to eye tracking in 2008 while at UNC assisting a faculty mentor with a grant exploring how online news consumers used content like story carousels, audio slideshows and homepage hyperlinks. The main goals were to establish how readers recalled content and whether they were persuaded.

Wojdynski maintained an interest in eye-tracking research throughout his doctoral program and his two years as an assistant professor at Virginia Tech, but it wasn’t until he started teaching at the University of Georgia that he was able to conduct his own eye-tracking research and work with doctoral students on their own projects.

Wojdynski said that the move to UGA was appealing not only because of the reputation UGA has, but also the strong communication research and Ph.D. program at Grady College. The fact that Grady was willing to investigate what would be involved in establishing an eye-tracking lab was an added benefit.

With support from the college and university, Wojdynski started the Digital Media Attention and Cognition Lab in his first semester at UGA. Since then, Wojdynski has been mentoring doctoral students in designing media research experiments in a highly collaborative, teaching hospital-type environment.

Wojdynski, who was recently promoted to associate professor with tenure, is equally energized by using his research and that of others to inform his teaching.

“I try to show my students how humans look at content and what messages they come away with,” he said. “Whether I am teaching designers, writers or videographers, I hope they come away from my class with the desire to bring a little more of a human-centered, evidence-based perspective to the content they create.”

Peabody win comes full circle for Grady College alumnus

When Randy Travis (ABJ ’82) was a Grady College journalism student, he took a class called “History of Program Ideas,” taught by Worth McDougald, director of the Peabody Awards from 1963 to 1991. Each class period was spent analyzing a different entry from the vast Peabody archive — all exhibiting the best in storytelling techniques.

“If someone had told me 39 years ago, that one day, a story that I had a hand in would be in those archives with all those shows I listened to, I would have said ‘you’re crazy,’” Travis said, with a combination of humility, shock and pride in his voice. “But, they put me on the path of storytelling…that’s what that class did for me.”

On May 18, Travis, a reporter for the investigative team from WAGA Fox 5 Atlanta, will accept the Peabody Award for investigative journalism for a series that aired in 2018 called “$2 Tests: Bad Arrests.” The 78th Peabody Awards ceremony takes place May 18, 2019, in New York City.

“I have been fortunate to win awards in my career,” Travis said, “and, they are always thrilling, but this is the cream of the crop. This is an award that you dare to dream about.”

The series examined inexpensive drug tests used by many police departments during traffic stops. The tests are designed to analyze substances found in cars and determine whether the substance is a narcotic or not. The problem is that many tests are returned with false-positives for harmless everyday items like headache powder, cotton candy and vitamins. Citizens were arrested, creating chaos in their lives, time in jail, lost jobs and tarnished reputations…all based on information that many times was false.

When Travis suspected that this was not an isolated incident, he and the I-Team investigated whether these false-positive results were a trend. Over six-month period, the team submitted FOIA requests and researched incident reports indicating a drug test came positive for illegal drugs. After reviewing more than 1,000 records from police precincts, sheriff’s offices and other law enforcement agencies in Georgia, the investigators found at least 145 cases were false-positives and resulted in arrests based on these drug tests. Travis said that number is conservative because that number doesn’t include reports that were restricted and were not reviewed.

As a result of this investigative report, changes are being made in the law enforcement process: “The most encouraging result we have seen from our investigation,” Travis said, “is that police departments now are not accepting the results of these tests as gospel. They are using them as just one of many tools to decide if someone should be arrested.”

Randy Travis (l.) and Ashlyn Webb (second from right) are joined by Dale Russell, senior investigative reporter, and Mindy Larcom, producer for the FOX 5 I-Team after the series won an award from the Atlanta Press Club in April. “Randy Travis, Dale Russell, Dana Fowle, and the FOX 5 Atlanta I-Team are truly my role models. Having the chance to intern with such phenomenal investigative reporters was an honor. ” (Photo: Courtesy of Ashlyn Webb)

Many law enforcement agencies have stopped using the kits entirely or they are waiting to arrest a suspect until after the confirmation of the questionable substance is returned from the state crime lab.

There are other impacts of the report, as well.

Just as McDougald set Travis on a path of storytelling that eventually led to this Peabody Award, so did Travis have an impact on the education of two Grady College students.

Ashlyn Webb (AB ’19), a third-year journalism student, spent the summer of 2018 interning for the Fox 5 I-Team, and Sidney Shadrix (MA ’19), spent a week shadowing for the I-Team. During the time Webb and Shadrix were with the I-Team, they worked on the “$2 Test” series, gathering, following up and analyzing the police incident reports. In addition, Webb interviewed some of the victims in the report.

“I really appreciate assistance of the interns,” Travis said of the Webb and Shadrix. “We really are a team and it was great to have the interns as part of our team for this significant project. They were a second and third set of eyes that helped us find stories to tell the story

For Webb, interning at Fox 5 was a growth experience where she could apply lessons learned in class. Lessons including accessing records, analyzing data and fact checking from Information Gathering class and how to file FOIAs and open records requests discussed in Communication Law were used day to day last summer.

“Having the chance to work on this Peabody-Award winning investigative series with Randy Travis and the FOX 5 Atlanta team was an opportunity of a lifetime,” Webb said of the group that continues to mentor her even after internship has ended. “It’s even more rewarding to see the story that I had the privilege of contributing to is making a difference locally, nationally, and now, even internationally.”

View a special presentation of “$2 Tests: Bad Arrests” here.

Peabody Citation for $2 Tests: Bad Arrests

In a prime example of the ripple effect of excellent local investigate reporting, reporter Randy Travis delves into the reliability of drug-testing kits, known as “$2 Tests,” used by police around the country as a quick, cheap way to analyze suspicious substances in the field. Despite warnings of the tests giving false positives, dashcam videos show how police regularly relied on them to arrest individuals for everyday items such as headache powder, vitamins, or cleaning supplies. The coverage led police departments to drop the tests and compelled professional associations to educate law enforcement, prosecutors, and public defenders on the fallibility of the tests.

Executive Producers: Eric Ludgood. Associate Producers/Producers: Mindy Larcom, Aaron Willen, Randy Travis. Writers: Randy Travis. Editors: Randall Rinehart. Reporters: Randy Travis. Photography: Aaron Willen.


College news editors invited to leadership and management seminar at UGA

Applications are now being accepted for the 24th annual Management Seminar for College News Editors July 28-Aug.2, 2019, at the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. Each summer, 50 top editors representing colleges and universities from around the country sharpen their leadership, management and multimedia skills at this seminar taught by leading industry professionals and educators.

Editors spend the week networking and sharing their best coverage in an idea exchange. MSCNE participants travel to Atlanta to meet with reporters, editors and producers at CNN and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. They also visit the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

In addition to sessions on editing, leadership, management, news judgement, press freedoms and visual journalism, new this year will be a session on mental health and trauma journalism. Editors also will gain hands-on multimedia experience through a simulated breaking news event with UGA Police and Emergency Management.

Sponsored by the James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management & Leadership, the program was created by former UGA journalism professor Conrad Fink to train the news industry’s next generation of leaders. Camayak is also a sponsoring organization.

Would you like for your editor to attend MSCNE19? Media advisers may apply now on behalf of their news organization to reserve a space. Class size is limited.

Registration for MSCNE19 is $400, which includes five nights double-occupancy lodging for student editors in Athens, most meals and four days of intense training in Athens and Atlanta.

To apply, complete the Adviser Registration form. Learn more about MSCNE here.

‘Another Angle’ accentuates the positive

Preparing students for the real world of journalism often includes assignments of breaking news, or stories of conflict and strife. Seldom is there time to cover the positive side of news, but for a group of Grady College students, they are making the time by volunteering to cover another angle.

“Another Angle” is a broadcast that showcases the people and places of Athens-Clarke County and provides students an opportunity to stretch their reporting creativity through more upbeat and positive features than is traditionally found in a news format.

The news magazine broadcast is produced by a volunteer group of 15 to 20 students and includes features ranging from profiles of a dancing garbage man and Tyche’s, a role-playing game store in Athens, to football players supporting a local non-profit and an entire episode saluting the music scene in Athens.

“I love the production skills involved with positive news,” said Sam Daniel, who created the vision of ‘Another Angle’ and serves as one of the show’s co-executive producers. “Each episode has been a learning experience.”

Daniel, a third-year journalism student, was inspired by the second and third hours of the “TODAY Show,” a program with which he says he is obsessed and that he will be an intern for this summer.

Daniel pitched the idea to Dodie Cantrell, a journalism instructor and producer of Grady Newsource, a half-hour news program. After a little coaxing, Cantrell became a supporter of the project and a mentor to Daniel as he put the show together. With Cantrell’s blessing, Daniel recruited volunteers, some of whom were already involved with Grady Newsource, and some who were beginning their broadcast education as a way to get plugged in before the capstone Newsource course.

While Daniel manages the staff and decides which stories will air, Brittany Carter, journalism master’s student, serves as the other co-executive producer and writes the content.

Using the platform as a way to learn and be creative are the reasons that Carter is involved with the show.

Sam Daniel provides direction to Sara Bertolini during the filming of “The Music of Athens” episode.

“We try to break the boring mold of the news, while following the basic tenants of journalism,” Carter said. “I hope it is strengthening the community to have all positive news.”

Lucia Vereen, a fourth-year EMST student who serves as a production manager, also appreciates the freedom of the feature stories reported in “Another Angle.”

“’Another Angle’ allows us the flexibility to do stories that are more fun,” Vereen said. “The platform encourages us to try something new. Plus, I have learned a lot about Athens.”

Jenna Maddox, a third-year journalism major, likes the fact that it is a smaller group involved with this production versus other student productions. “Since there aren’t as many people involved, it makes the duties and responsibilities more important.”

“Another Angle” produced four shows during the spring semester, with plans for more episodes next fall.

Spring 2019 graduates encouraged to write own narrative at Grady College Convocation

Pictures from the Spring 2019 Grady Convocation can be viewed on the UGAGrady Flickr galleries:

Spring 2019 convocation candids

Spring 2019 convocation graduates:

Spring 2019 convocation ceremony

Nearly 500 undergraduate and graduate students were eligible for graduation from Grady College this semester, many of whom were recognized at the Spring 2019 Convocation ceremony on May 8, 2019, at the Classic Center.

Twenty-six graduate students graduated from Grady College, including two Ph.D. graduates. The approximate number of undergraduates who were recognized included 140 students with an advertising degree, 145 with a degree in public relations, 110 from the journalism program and 75 from the entertainment and media studies department.

Dean Charles Davis presided over the ceremony, providing an overview of Grady’s accomplishments this past year and commending the students for their hard work, passion and academic excellence.

Jonathan Wegman, charge to candidates, at Grady College Convocation, Spring 2019. Video: Jim Black and Dayne Young

Jonathan Wegman (ABJ ’04), the head of customer experience and strategy at Twitter, delivered the convocation keynote address and charged candidates to have courage to rewrite rules, pivot to new strategies and write their own personal narrative.

“When you make a mistake or your role changes, know that you hold the pen,” Wegman said. “You can write your own narrative. I am excited for this group to rewrite what is next.”

Lauren Diaz, distinguished senior speaker, at Grady College Convocation, Spring 2019. Video: Jim Black and Dayne Young
The distinguished senior speaker, a student chosen based on an audition among the graduates for the spot, was Lauren Diaz, a journalism major with a minor in sociology. She spoke on the journey her and her fellow students have had at Grady, and how it aligns them for next adventures.

“We are destined to succeed,” Diaz said. “We have each other. Most importantly, we have the help of our advisors, professors and mentors who saw our potential from the start.”

Lauren Izzo (ABJ ’05, MA ’07), vice-chair of the Grady Society Alumni Board, concluded the platform of speakers by welcoming the students to the alumni ranks of the college.

“You never know where your Grady connections will lead you,” Izzo said.

View the Spring 2019 Grady Convocation in its entirety on the Grady College Facebook Page.

Video recap of Grady College Convocation, Spring 2019. Video: Dayne Young

Seven Winners of Peabody Futures of Media Awards announced

The Peabody Media Center has named seven winners of this year’s Peabody Futures of Media Awards for outstanding digital storytelling released in 2018. This year’s winners include: digital journalism exploring ethical questions about society’s treatment of sex offenders, immersive experiences into the Dutch drug trade and artifacts in British museums; virtual reality experiences about complex family relationships and dealing with loss and grief; and innovative, interactive storytelling on gaming platforms.

Established in 2015, the Peabody Futures of Media Awards (FOMA) celebrate the spirit of innovation and the most powerful narratives in an ever-changing digital landscape. The awards are curated and judged by 14 Peabody honor student fellows under the guidance of the Peabody Awards program, based at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

“Peabody recognizes the importance of identifying narratives that capitalize on the affordances of digital spaces,” said Jeffrey Jones, director of the Peabody Media Center and executive director of the Peabody Awards. “These are stories told in new and powerful ways that exemplify the exciting possibilities across media platforms.”

FOMA winners will be recognized during the 78th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony on Saturday, May 18 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City.

The Peabody Futures of Media Awards are (in alpha order by category):



Created by Beth Schwartzapfel and Emily Kassie for The Marshall Project in partnership with Longreads

A combination of journalism narrative, video, photo essays, and interactive maps and graphics tells the story of sex offenders in Miami-Dade County who are homeless as a result of increasingly restrictive housing and registration laws. As an ambitious digital journalism endeavor, the piece compels the reader to confront the tensions between moral judgment and basic humanity. www.themarshallproject.org/2018/10/03/banished


“The Industry: Mapping The Dutch Drug Economy”

Directed by Mirka Duijn for the Submarine Channel and VPRO

Taking interactive to a comprehensive level, “The Industry” allows users the unique experience of exploring nearly every aspect of the Dutch drug economy through a series of 3D models and interactive graphics that reveal hard facts and shocking figures. The experience offers seemingly endless places to discover and layers of information to uncover. https://theindustryinteractive.com/home


“BBC Civilisations AR App”

Produced by Nick Hanson for BBC Civilisations AR, BBC R&D, BBC Arts and Nexus Studios

An augmented reality app from the BBC allows mobile users to search and find answers to fundamental questions about human creativity. From Egyptian mummies to Italian paintings, Native American masks to Pakistani sculptures, more than 40 artifacts come to life in the palm of the hand, allowing users to access and explore these historical treasures at their own pace and locations. www.bbc.co.uk/taster/pilots/civilisations-ar



Written by Illya Szilak; Designed/developed by Cyril Tsiboulski

A four-episode cinematic virtual reality experience uses actors, panoramic photographers, and volumetric technology to bring to life the LGBTQ story about a complex relationship between a devoutly Catholic mother and her gay son who died of AIDS. A vital narrative about memory, belief and imagination, “Queerskins” represents an era that rightfully demands diversity and understanding between people. www.queerskins.com


Return of the Obra Dinn

Created by Lucas Pope for 3909 LLC

Players who climb aboard the titular ship in this video game are tasked with solving the mysterious disappearance of the ship’s crew and passengers. With stunning and distinct visuals, players use the Memento Mortum pocket watch to return to the moments before a crew member’s death, creating a unique narrative experience one step above similar games. https://obradinn.com



Directed by Aaron Bradbury

A grief-filled journey through the mind of Lisa Elin after the loss of her husband, Erik Craighead, involves a series of interviews in a beautiful, multi-narrative VR experience. Set within a black void, fragments of their life together materialize while subsequent viewings offer journeys through Lisa’s memories, sharing the highs and lows with viewers as only brilliant VR can. http://vestige-vr.com/



Created by Bernie Su and Evan Mandery for Twitch

The first scripted series developed for the gaming platform Twitch focuses on Sophie, an artificial intelligence robot created by Dr. Matt Lin. Interactive elements and live-streaming capabilities allow viewers to engage with the characters and alter the narrative through polls, Q&A, and comments, pushing the boundaries of the format by allowing audience members to shape the series however they see fit. www.twitch.tv/artificialnext