Former and current Grady faculty contribute to new crisis planning tool

If the past two years have proven anything, it is that crises can strike at any moment. 

That’s why Ann Hollifield, professor emeritus and former Thomas C. Dowden Professor of Media Research at Grady College, was inspired to assist in the creation of The Media Resilience Scanner, a comprehensive online crisis preparation, management and recovery tool for news organizations and journalists around the world. 

The tool, now available for free online, was recently released by the German media development organization DW Akademie, which is part of Deutsche Welle, a public service broadcaster and strategic partner of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. 

“The Media Resilience Scanner is designed to help news organizations prepare for a variety of crises that may disrupt their operations when journalists are needed most,” Hollifield explained. “The scanner also helps news managers prepare to financially survive the aftereffects of crises. Finally, it can be used as a staff training tool, particularly for journalists who will be working in the field under crisis conditions.”

The tool guides media professionals step by step through the process of evaluating and planning for risks, managing crises as they occur and addressing residual risks to news media viability that may occur in the aftermath of a disruption. 

Screenshot of crisis categories from the Resilience Scanner website.
Users can pick from a set of crises categories to design their plans.

By answering a series of questions, users can build their own crisis plans for a wide range of categories, including “basic planning,” “natural and human-made disaster” and “digital threats,” among others. At the end, the tool creates a customized crisis preparation and management plan as a downloadable PDF.

“The scanner was developed based on interviews with more than 30 news executives and journalists around the world, who have steered their news organizations through a variety of crises, including Nobel Laureate Maria Ressa,” said Hollifield. “Academic research on crisis management was consulted, as were multiple other sources of expertise. The scanner reflects best practices and suggestions from news professionals who have lived the experiences.”

Hollifield went on to explain that Dodie Cantrell-Bickley, senior lecturer in journalism, as well as Professors Emeritus Michael Castengera and David Hazinski, all contributed directly and indirectly to the research she did for this project, as did the many years of international collaborative research projects she worked on for the Cox Center. 

Grady College researcher presents ideas for news media sustainability at Global Media Forum

Ideas for creating news media sustainability around the globe were the focus of an interactive TED-style presentation given by Grady College faculty member Ann Hollifield at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany, last month.

“Media viability in many places will depend upon developing ‘resource models’ rather than ‘business models,'” Hollifield told attendees at the session.

Hollifield was a featured speaker and discussion leader in the IdeaLab session at this year’s Global Media Forum. The IdeaLab discussion, titled “Money Talks and Media Development Should Listen,” examined creative approaches to building media organizations able to produce high-quality journalism in differing types of media systems and under different economic and press freedom conditions.

The Thomas C. Dowden Professor of Media Research in the Grady College, Hollifield has previously worked as a consultant for DW Akademie on a project DW Akademie led to develop globally useable measures of media viability. Based on that and related work, Hollifield and her DW Akademie colleagues have published several collaborative works on global media viability.

That research identified seven resource categories critical to news organizations’ ability to sustain the production of high-quality journalism, Hollifield told the session. Those are: a dependable revenue source; a content niche for which there is audience demand; audience attention to the news organization’s content; the ability to deliver content to users where and when the users want it; the ability to attract and retain qualified content producers; a legal regime that supports press freedom; and access to basic production inputs such as electricity, the Internet, or other materials required for content production and distribution by a particular new team.

Hollifield told participants that there were some indications in the research she had done that media viability might be achievable with different combinations of these resources. In other words, it might be possible in the digital era to produce and sustain high-quality journalism by substituting more of some types of resources for resources the news organization didn’t have and couldn’t get.

“The challenge then becomes what resources, and how much of each resource, will produce viable, quality journalism under different sets of conditions,” Hollifield said.

During the discussion that followed her remarks, participants from news organizations from a number of different countries said attracting and keeping experienced journalists was one of their biggest challenges. “As soon as we really have them trained, someone else hires them away,” one attendee commented.

The IdeaLab presented ideas for achieving media viability from four presenters. Daniel Blank, country representative, Ghana, for DW Akademie, discussed innovative strategies for financial management and marketing for news groups, while Nigel Mugamu, chief storyteller for 26Chat in Zimbabwe, and Rohit Singh, director of programs and partnerships for Gam Vasni in India, shared best practices for media viability that they had developed through their experience launching media startups.

The 2017 Global Media Forum was the 10th annual conference organized by Deutsche Welle, a German Public Service Broadcasting organization that produces news and information in numerous languages for distribution around the world. Deutsche Welle’s foundation, DW Akademie, is one of Germany’s largest media non-governmental Organizations (NGOs). DW Akademie supports media-development and journalism training projects in developing countries around the world.

The theme of this year’s Forum was “Identity and Diversity.” More than 2,000 participants from 70 countries traveled to Bonn for the Forum, which was held June 19-22.

Grady College hosts sixth annual Media and the Public Sphere International Conference

Updated Nov. 22, 2016

The University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication hosted the Thomas C. Dowden International Conference Media and the Public Sphere: Empowered Audiences in the Digital Age Oct. 20-22, 2016.

“We were thrilled to welcome to Grady some of the nation’s leading experts on media analytics,” said Ann Hollifield, Thomas C. Dowden Professor in Media Research at Grady College. “Our panelists discussed the challenges of understanding audiences and advertisers in this digital age and how that impacts media content decisions, audiences and the media’s role in the public sphere.”

Panelists included Eric Bruce, research director, WSB-TV, Atlanta; Billy McDowell, vice president of research, Raycom Media Inc.; Howard Shimmel, chief research officer, Turner Broadcasting; Steve Walsh, executive vice president, Local Television, comScore Inc.; and Reid Williams, senior director for analytics, Gannett.

Tom and Wendy Dowden

More than 50 scholars from UGA, the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration in Romania, the University of Florida, University of Tennessee and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, among others, presented papers and discussed their research. “The focus of the discussions was the media’s changing role in society in an era when technologies enable audiences to choose, produce or avoid media as they wish,” Hollifield said.

In addition to the researchers and industry experts who came to UGA to present papers, several dozen graduate and undergraduate students in the Grady College sat in on the conference’s plenary panel discussions of media analytics as well as on some of the research paper presentations.

The James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research—an outreach unit of the Grady College—partnered with the Institute of Communication at University Lyon 2, France, and the Center for Communication Research at the National University for Political Studies and Public Administration, Bucharest, Romania, in organizing the conference. It was the sixth annual conference on the topic of Media and the Public Sphere.

This year’s conference honored Thomas C. Dowden, a Grady College and UGA alumnus (ABJ ‘62; MA ‘64 in political science) and a pioneer in the cable industry.   Dowden has been a generous supporter of the college, and has been committed to the development of the graduate Media Industry Research program, with its focus on audience research and media innovation.

“Our conference theme this year—Empowered Audiences in the Digital Age— both honors and reflects the contributions Tom Dowden has made throughout his career in expanding the opportunities for public dialog by expanding the number and range of the channels of communication through which that dialog takes place,” Hollifield said in her opening remarks for the conference.

Grady College hosted Media and the Public Sphere: Examining the Challenges in the New Communication Landscape in 2013.