Jonathan Peters named Department of Journalism Head

Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication proudly announces Jonathan Peters as the new head of the Department of Journalism.

“I am delighted that Jon is joining the leadership team,” said Charles N. Davis, dean of Grady College. “Jon is a Russell Award-winning teacher and an internationally renowned First Amendment scholar, making him a well-rounded choice to lead our journalism department faculty and curriculum.”

Jonathan Peters talks with a student at his Teacher of the Year reception in 2019.
Jonathan Peters talks with a student at his Teacher of the Year reception in 2019. (Photo: Sarah E. Freeman)

Peters, an associate professor who holds an affiliate faculty position in the UGA School of Law, specializes in communication law and policy. His research focuses on internet companies and decisions made about content they host. Peters also studies how economic, political and technological changes affect modern journalism.

His published research has appeared in the Berkeley Technology Law Journal, the Harvard Law and Policy Review, and the Federal Communications Law Journal, among others.

“It’s an honor to be entrusted to serve the department and I am grateful for the opportunity,” Peters said. “I’m thankful, too, to have such a terrific model in Dr. Janice Hume. She has been an outstanding chair, and I’m relieved she’ll be just down the hallway to answer the dozens of questions I’ll have (and that’ll be only the first day).”

Peters assumes leadership for the Department of Journalism on August 1 when Hume assumes the role of associate dean for academic affairs for the College.

In addition to his teaching and research, Peters serves as the press freedom correspondent for the Columbia Journalism Review. He has written about legal issues for EsquireThe AtlanticSlateWired, NBC News, and CNN, and has been interviewed on related topics by The New York TimesThe Washington PostVanity Fair and NPR, among others.

Peters is a volunteer First Amendment lawyer for the Student Press Law Center and the ACLU. He has also testified in litigation as an expert witness on media law, and he has conducted legal seminars for dozens of news organizations, including the radio program “This American Life” and the podcast “Serial.” In 2020, Peters consulted with the Uzbekistan government as part of a United Nations program focusing on how the government can strengthen public access to the nation’s judiciary as well as public trust in it.

In 2021, Peters was honored as the Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, UGA’s highest early-career teaching honor, and was recognized in 2019 as the Journalism Teacher of the Year at Grady College.

“My colleagues are the absolute best,” Peters continues. “Every one of them has helped me—in different ways—become a better teacher, researcher, and human being. And our students are phenomenal. They’re smart and conscientious, and they’re so creative and curious. They demand your A-game as an instructor and advisor. All of which is why I’m excited about my new role.”

Peters has a B.S. in journalism from Ohio University, a J.D. from Ohio State University and a Ph.D. in journalism from the University of Missouri.

Jonathan Peters presents on media freedom to court officials and journalists in Uzbekistan

Jonathan Peters, an associate professor of journalism who holds a secondary faculty appointment in the School of Law, regularly provides counsel and commentary on First Amendment issues in America. His expertise on the subject has made him a sought-after scholar around the world.

On December 3, 2020, Peters delivered two presentations to Uzbekistani journalists and court officials, including members of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan, about rights of access to United States courts and how U.S. journalists cover legal issues.

Peters was invited by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) because of his related work in the United States. His presentations were part of a larger project called the “Rule of Law Partnership in Uzbekistan,” whose purpose is to strengthen public access to the nation’s judiciary as well as public trust in it. The project is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“I was excited to be part of the event, and I was grateful for the chance to work with UNDP and USAID,” said Peters. “Their officials were helpful and supportive, and it was so interesting to learn from them about Uzbekistan—and to contribute to their efforts to strengthen public trust in the judicial system there.”

His primary message was consistent with a lesson he tries to impart to all of his UGA students: that journalism and law must make constant collaboration a priority to coexist productively and in service of democracy.

“There has to be a regular effort to reach across the differences in habit and philosophy that separate journalism and law,” Peters said. “This is really important because each profession can be so absorbed in its own ends that it can lose sight of the other.”

After his presentations, Peters fielded questions from the Uzbekistani participants, allowing judges and journalists alike to gain insight into American media and legal processes. The journalists, for example, asked about how best to explain the law’s complexities. The court officials, meanwhile, asked about media credentialing and whether U.S. judges are able to comment publicly on their rulings.

Uzbekistan is experiencing what Peters describes as “significant democratic change,” and his conversations with the court officials and journalists there made even clearer to him the strong relationship between open courts and a well-functioning democracy.

“That relationship is essential to the goals of political accountability and knowledge discovery and to the achievement of a dynamic civil society,” said Peters. “The rule of law is preserved partly by public knowledge of court rulings and activities.”

Peters encouraged judicial transparency and media access to courts, because news coverage of trials and the law can provide a critical service for citizens both factually and emotionally.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has empha­sized repeatedly the historical importance of public trials and has reasoned that openness improves the functioning of a trial and has therapeutic value,” Peters said. “As the Court once put it, public trials provide ‘an outlet for community concern, hostility and emotion,’ and they educate and enhance public acceptance that justice is being done.”

The seminar with Uzbekistani officials and journalists is the latest international consultation for Peters. He is a regular participant in the U.S. Department of State’s Edward R. Murrow Program, through which he has trained journalists from dozens of countries in media-freedom principles. He has also consulted for European intergovernmental organizations on press rights at protests, and last year he completed a research project to inform the drafting of a United Nations Human Rights Committee document interpreting the right of peaceful assembly.

 

 

Grady College Conversations podcast: Jonathan Peters

Listen to this episode on Apple PodcastsYou can also hear it on Spotify. Learn more about Grady College podcasts here. 

Jonathan Peters, assistant professor in journalism, joins Dayne Young on Grady College Conversations. He teaches communication law to students across the college. In this episode, Peters discusses the rights of journalists when covering protests in public areas. Peters talks about his background and what first interested him in communication law. He explains how his classes transitioned to online instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, Peters chats about the 2020 election and what trends are emerging from a legal standpoint.

New faculty join Grady College

As the fall semester begins, Grady College is pleased to welcome four new full-time faculty members.

The new faculty include:

  • Anne Gilbert, assistant professor, Department of Entertainment and Media Studies
  • Booker T. Mattison, assistant professor, Department of Entertainment and Media Studies
  • Taylor Cole Miller, assistant professor, Department of Entertainment and Media Studies
  • Jonathan Peters, assistant professor, Department of Journalism

Anne Gilbert

Anne Gilbert researches media industries, transgender, technology and audience cultures. Prior to Grady College, Gilbert was a postdoctoral teaching fellow at the University of Kansas. She is currently writing a book about the San Diego Comic Con and its position in contemporary culture.

Gilbert earned her doctorate in media studies from Rutgers University, her Master of Arts in cinema studies from New York University and her Bachelor of Arts in film and media studies, and comparative literature, from Washington University (Missouri).

She will teach Media and Technology (EMST 3290) and Elements of Narrative (EMST 3510) in the fall.

Booker T. Mattison

In addition to his work as a professor, Booker T. Mattison is an author and filmmaker. Mattison was the screenwriter and director for the film adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s story “The Gilded Six Bits,” which aired on Showtime.

In 2011, he released his second novel, “Snitch,” which received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly. Mattison’s debut novel “Unsigned Hype” was nominated for a South Carolina Book Award in the Young Adult Category. He is currently working on his third novel “Friendship Village.”

Prior to Grady College, Mattison taught at the College of New Rochelle, Brooklyn College and Regent and Hampton Universities.

Mattison received his Master of Fine Arts in film and television from New York University and a Bachelor of Science in mass communication from Norfolk State University.

Mattison will teach Screen Writing (EMST 4110) and Video Production (EMST 4250) in the fall.

Taylor Cole Miller

Taylor Cole Miller is a professor of media and cultural studies and he specializes in television studies, digital and new media and issues involving women’s and gender studies. Miller has written several articles for The Huffington Post and the American Film Institute film files.

He earned his doctorate in media and cultural studies from the University of Wisconsin, a Master of Art in radio, television and film from the University of Texas, a Bachelor of Science in journalism and mass communication from University of Kansas and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from the University of Kansas.

Miller will teach two sections of New Media Production (NMIX 4110) through the New Media Institute this fall.

Jonathan Peters

Jonathan Peters joins Grady College with an affiliate position with the School of Law. He specializes in communication law and policy, with a special emphasis on how internet companies make decisions about the content they host, as well as how new media are reshaping the gathering, production and distribution of news and information.

In addition to teaching, Peters serves as the press freedom correspondent with the Columbia Journalism Review and the First Amendment chair of the Civil Rights Litigation Committee of the American Bar Association.

Prior to Grady College, Peters was an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Kansas.

Peters has a doctorate degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, a Juris Doctor from Ohio State University and a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Ohio University.

This fall, Peters will teach Communication Law (JRLC 5040) and Reporting and Writing Across Platforms (JOUR 3190).