Cox Institute adds new directors, initiatives to benefit students and industry

A new organizational and leadership structure will expand the training mission of the James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership.

The Cox Institute, which operates as a unit of the Journalism Department at the University of Georgia’s College of Journalism and Mass Communication, will offer expanded skills development and training opportunities programs for students and professionals through the newly-restructured Journalism Innovation Lab and Journalism Writing Lab.

The Cox Institute’s Journalism Innovation Lab will assume operation of the Digital Natives program, which brings UGA journalism students with digital news expertise into Georgia newsrooms to help local journalists and news organizations accomplish specific digital goals.  This program was launched by Dr. Amanda Bright, a member of the journalism faculty, who will continue to manage this project along with other digital innovation initiatives to develop the products, practices and people of journalism’s future in a new role as Director of the Journalism Innovation Lab.

“I’m thrilled to be able to create a space where students and professionals can collaborate and innovate toward the next iteration of journalism,” Bright said. “The Journalism Innovation Lab will be committed to encouraging students to think boldly about where our industry should go next, while meeting specific needs in the field to serve our audiences and a functioning democracy.”

The Cox Institute’s Journalism Writing Lab will expand its scope by operating the Covering Poverty project, which was relaunched earlier this year by students funded through a Scripps Howard Foundation grant. This fall, the project will recruit a new group of students and alumni to work in partnership with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Athens Banner-Herald.  Lori Johnston (ABJ ’95, MFA ’17), a lecturer in the Journalism Department who oversaw the relaunch of Covering Poverty, will become Director of the Journalism Writing Lab. She will continue to manage the Covering Poverty project along with other content initiatives.

“I am thankful to the Cox Institute for being forward-thinking and for the relationships we have established with these important media outlets, and others to come,” Johnston said. “I look forward to guiding students as they report, write and produce meaningful stories about issues, people and places. They will deepen their reporting abilities and delve into the craft of storytelling and service journalism to help newsrooms tell these stories now, and then take those newfound skills into their careers.”

In addition to the new structure and projects housed in the Journalism Innovation Lab and the Journalism Writing Lab, the Cox Institute will continue to provide students with leadership training opportunities through initiatives such as the Levin Leaders Program and skills development opportunities through a variety of fellowship programs.

“We are enhancing the core of what the Cox Institute has built over three decades to make our programs an even more integral part of the journalism education our students receive,” said Dr. Keith Herndon (ABJ ’82), whose title will change from director to executive director of the Cox Institute as part of the new leadership structure. “Adding two respected colleagues in Amanda Bright and Lori Johnston to our leadership is a win for the Cox Institute and for the students we serve.”

The Cox Institute was established in 1990 by the late Conrad Fink, a legendary journalism professor, as the Cox Institute for Newspaper Management Studies. Its current name was adopted in 2014 to reflect the news media’s digital transformation. The Institute honors the late James M. Cox Jr., who headed Cox Enterprises and Cox Broadcasting Corporation from 1957 until 1974. Its primary funding is from the Jim Cox Jr. Foundation.

Faculty Profile: Amanda Bright

Amanda Bright has always wanted to make an impact on her community, but over the years the impact—and the community—have expanded.

“I have always craved to have more impact,” Bright said. “I want to change people’s lives in a tangible way, and I want to do something to forward my community and not just be in my community.”

It’s for this reason that Bright started out as a community journalist, pivoted to teaching community college and high school journalism classes and now teaches digital journalism at Grady College.

Bright explained further: “Journalism and education—these are my two halves—and I am fortuitously positioned in this moment because I love the intersection of these two subjects. I think, legitimately, what’s going to make our society progress is an intentional focus on how to improve both of these areas and how they intersect.”

One way Bright is moving the communities of Grady College and UGA forward is by channeling her passions into classes that teach students multiplatform journalism, digital design, storytelling and how to be part of the solution.

“Part of my draw to solutions journalism is that idea that we should not just be about reporting all the problems, but also rigorously reporting on what people are trying to do to solve those problems and whether or not it’s working.”

She also teaches students, both journalism majors and non-majors, how to be digital citizens through classes like “Media Savvy: Becoming Digitally Literate.” Diving into topical issues like misinformation, filter bubbles and conformation bias, Bright teaches her students where to find accurate information and how to process it in an ethical, responsible way.

Bright was hired to not only teach but to also bring coherence to the various products of Grady Newsource, the capstone class for journalism majors, along with reporting from various other courses and programs. Bright used her vast knowledge of website design to direct the overhaul of the Grady Newsource website, social media accounts, digital newsletters featuring the week’s top stories and a soon-to-be released app that was created in conjunction with the college’s New Media Institute. The goals are to educate the capstone students in multiplatform reporting and also to invite the community to engage more with Grady Newsource.

“I am so invigorated that we have this space with Grady Newsource and we have new students every semester that have ideas and are willing to try new things,” Bright explains. “There is nothing more exciting than a blank check to innovate. That’s what keeps me going.”

Professor Amanda Bright talks with a student in the Grady NewSource studio.

Bright, who was named Journalism Teacher of the Year last year at Grady College, has made a big impact in a short time not only on the student community but also in the Georgia newspaper community, too. Earlier this year she directed the inaugural group of Digital Natives, an outreach project with the Georgia Press Association. The project paired student journalists with community newspapers to tackle specific digital goals. The students helped the newsrooms with projects like setting up Facebook and Instagram accounts to report news, incorporating infographics and video into news content and teaching how Google analytics can inform website decisions. The program was highly lauded by all involved and plans for the second year are already in motion.

It’s projects like Digital Natives that give Bright satisfaction she is in the right place at the right time bridging journalism and education.

“Journalism as a vocation is one of the most important things we can do,” Bright concludes. “It helps communities locally and globally ­. Its purpose of informing people so they can make good decisions is so mission driven, and training the next generation of journalists is important work. I cannot think of a better way to spend my time.”


Editor’s Note: This article was written for UGA News and can be found on the UGA News website.

 

New class teaches digital literacy tools to combat information disorder

A new Grady College course is equipping students with skills needed to discern between truth and misinformation when consuming digital media.

“Media Savvy: Becoming Digitally Literate” is an online summer class taught by Amanda Bright, academic professional in journalism.

“Current events are creating this course,” Bright said. “Although misinformation is hardly new, the current trends with media manipulation are sophisticated, which means we must become more media savvy.”

The course is a real-time case study as much of the discussion revolves around the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 elections and nationwide protests about race and inequality.

“We are in a moment where this misinformation conversation is not just useful but essential,” Bright said.

Amanda Bright teaches the course. She was the 2019 journalism teacher of the year.

The first words of the course syllabus are: “Clickbait. Deepfakes. Disinformation, Bias, Hoaxes. Fake News.,” giving the 25 enrolled students an immediate glimpse at the subjects examined in the class.

Bright refers to digital literacy as the tools needed to distinguish truth amid information disorder.

“If people do not have correct information, they cannot make correct decisions,” said Bright.

Students are becoming familiar with resources designed to help journalists earn trust such as First Draft and Trusting News, both organizations with prior partnerships with Grady College. The course introduces terminology, context, tools and techniques to develop media literacy and understand the role of journalism in society.

“Hopefully by the end of this class, I hope you can feel like you can have constructive conversations with the people in your life that you may feel like are off-base on this topic,” Bright tells her students in the class’ introductory video.

Many Grady College alumni volunteered their knowledge and time to help students in the class. Meredith Anderson (ABJ ’01) from WRDW, Ivan Aronin (ABJ ’86) from Main Strett News, Chase Cain (ABJ ’05) from NBCLX, Lisa Fu (AB ’17) from FundFire, Daniel Funke (ABJ ’17) from PolitiFact, Randi Hildreth (ABJ ’12) from WBRC, Linda Hurtado (ABJ ’89) from WTVT, Robert Hydrick (ABJ ’84) from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety  Stephanie Gallman Jordan (ABJ ’02) from CNN, Joshua Ninke (ABJ ’11) from KBTX, Maddie Ray (AB ’19) from WXIA, Casey Rose (AB ’09) from WHAS, Kelsey Russo (ABJ ’19) from The Athletic, Sheeka Sanahori (ABJ ’06) from Lonely Planet, Sydney Shadrix (MA ’19) from KLTV all offered to be interviewed by students. Each student is paired with a professional to have a wide-ranging conversation about how journalists fact-check and build trust with audiences.

After being equipped with digital literacy skills, students are charged with analyzing a digital media content for their final project. They are asked to explain their findings, recommend steps to improve understanding for the audience and predict what should happen next in digital media verification.

Grady College welcomes four new faculty for start of 2018-19 academic year

Grady College is pleased to welcome four new faculty members to its team starting in the 2018-19 academic year.

Amanda Bright joins Grady College as an academic professional in the Department of Journalism and will be working closely with Newsource and its digital communications, including the launch of a new website this fall.

Bright has an extensive background in journalism and digital communications. Over the past several years, she has worked as a journalist, photographer, editor and designer for a variety of newspapers, newsletters and online publications. Most recently, she was the media content coordinator for Indiana State Online, managing all of the social media accounts for the Indiana college including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and designing digital news publications for students and faculty. While at Indiana State, she earned a Ph.D., focusing on post-secondary education with a media/journalism emphasis. Bright has also served as education editor for MediaShift, writing content for online and digital newsletters, and as assistant editor for Innocent Words Magazine, a magazine and record label based in Oakwood, Illinois.

Bright has served as a journalism instructor, most recently at Eastern Illinois University, and a yearbook advisor. Bright served as the social media director and website co-administrator for the Illinois Journalism Education Association for the last four years. In addition to her doctorate degree, Bright holds a master’s degree in English from Eastern Illinois University and a bachelor of science degree in news-editorial journalism from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Alexander Pfeuffer joins the Department of Advertising and Public Relations as an assistant professor of advertising. He will teach AdPR research, and advertising and communication management.

Pfeuffer has recently earned a doctorate degree in mass communication from the University of Minnesota. His dissertation studied the impact of sponsorship disclosure in electronic communication. While at the University of Minnesota, he was a teaching assistant for a variety of classes including information for mass communication, media planning, and advertising and society. He also served as a research assistant for Jisu Huh (MA ’00, PhD ‘03). He was the recipient of the Ralph D. Casey Dissertation Research Award in 2017.

Pfeuffer has spent time teaching abroad, as well, teaching English and communication at the Julius-Maximilians-Universitat in Wurzburg, Germany.

In addition to his studies at the University of Minnesota, Pfeuffer has a master’s degree of communication management from the Annenberg School for Journalism and Communication from the University of Southern California and a bachelor of arts degree in communication from George Mason University.

Glenna Read joins AdPR as an assistant professor of advertising teaching media strategy.

Read comes to Grady College from Indiana University where she earned a doctorate in mass communication. She has a minor from IU in psychology and her dissertation was a blend of both areas of study focusing on social identity in advertising.

While at IU, Read taught courses in programming strategies and creative advertising.

Her research has focused on the effects of video games and violence, gender ambiguity in advertisements and facial electromyography, among other subjects. She won the Best Research Paper recognition for a graduate student in 2018.

Read has a master’s degree in experimental psychology from Appalachian State University and a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Georgia State University.

Sabriya Rice assumes the role of Knight Chair for Health and Medical Journalism directing this respected graduate program.

Rice has spent more than 15 years as a reporter covering health care, science and medicine. For the past two years, she has worked as the business of healthcare reporter for the Dallas Morning News, writing about trends in the health care industry. She also served as the quality and safety reporter for Modern Healthcare Magazine for two years, focusing on topics of quality and safety. Visual storytelling and graphics are important aspects of her multi-media features.

In addition to reporting, Rice has been a director of media relations for the American Cancer Society and a writer/producer for CNN, working with CNNHealth.com, Sanjay Gupta and Elizabeth Cohen. Her focus on healthcare storytelling began with a three-year job as producer and on-air reporter for Quest Network Blue Zones, a project in Greece and Costa Rica telling stories of longevity and high life expectancy.

Rice is on the board of the Association of Health Care Journalists and is the recipient of several fellowships including the MayoClinic-Walter Cronkite Medical Journalism Fellowship awarded this past May.

Rice has a bachelor of arts degree in film and television from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree in communication studies from the University of Miami.