#ProfilesofTenacity: Sailor Betts

Third year journalism student Sailor Betts has dreamed of working with organizations like ESPN and NBCU ever since she was little. Now, she is making those dreams a reality, working as a spring 2023 ambassador for On Her Turf (NBC Sports) and as a freelance utility/parab for ESPN. Throughout her time at Grady, Betts has been able to connect with and draw inspiration from peers, alumni and mentors.

What does “tenacity” mean to you?

I think there’s a misconception that tenacity is achieved in solitude. But, we learn how to approach adversity best when we collaborate with those who have backgrounds and experiences that differ from our own. To me, tenacity means approaching situations of adversity with energy, empathy, and inclusivity. The people who inspire me most radiate those three values. I’m beyond blessed to work, learn, and laugh with the people of Grady who do just that.

Betts smiles with other members of the DiGamma Kappa executive board after the 2023 DGK Winter Banquet. (Left to right: Julianna Washburn, Michael Doti, Sydney Hood, Harper Blankenship, Sailor Betts) (Photo/submitted)
What or who has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA?

Beyond the classroom, I could not be more grateful for the people I’ve met through my involvement with Grady Newsource, DiGamma Kappa, and UGA Miracle. I’d like to give a special shoutout to Harper Blankenship, Sydney Hood, Michael Doti, and Julianna Washburn. During my time in Grady, I’ve had the privilege of working alongside these four on the DiGamma Kappa executive board and within several other Grady organizations. All four of them are graduating this May (don’t remind me) and they will truly be so missed. I’m so proud of their continued growth and I have no doubt that their professional journeys beyond Athens will exceed every one of their expectations. I also could not be more excited for DGK’s group trip to New York City later this month!

Who is your professional hero?

Overall, it’s 100 percent my Mom. She changes lives for the better every day through her work as a physician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. From day one, she has shown me what it means to lead by example. She also taught me that female representation in the professional world shouldn’t be an act of charity. Rather, it should be all I ever know. I aspire to be half as cool as her one day or, as my Boston-rooted family may like to call it, “wicked smaht.”

Betts smiles for a picture with Kevin Schatell (ABJ ’16) outside the PAF during the Grady College 40 Under 40 festivities. (Photo/submitted)

Within broadcasting specifically, Grady alum and Today show producer Kevin Schatell has truly been an incredible mentor and role model ever since my emails closed with “Pre-Journalism Major.” I’ll never be able to thank him enough for his support of my journey from those initial emails to now fulfilling my lifelong dream of working with the NBCU family.

In a broader sense, this may seem like an unusual answer but Jimmy Fallon is one of the first people that comes to mind. I grew up spending countless hours watching those Studio 6B curtains swing open. I’ve held a lifelong admiration for how Fallon and the Tonight Show team have created a down-to-earth and often humorous platform for both guests and fans to share stories that they may not have shared otherwise.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to other Grady students?

I’m a firm believer that no workplace is complete without laughter. Know your role and responsibility, but don’t take yourself too seriously to where you limit your ability to connect with Grady’s extraordinary students, mentors, and educators.

Why did you choose your major?

I have been incredibly blessed with the opportunity to travel with my Mom and little sister to 6 continents, over 35 countries, and all 50 U.S. states. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from our experiences while traveling, it’s that everyone has an incredible story. Regardless of background, financial status, age, social circle, or hometown, everyone has at least one of those stories that can make your jaw hit the floor. But, not everyone has access to a platform to share that story. With a career in broadcast journalism, every day is a new opportunity to create those platforms for stories that may not have been shared otherwise.

What are you planning to do after you graduate?
Betts smiles on Dooley Field after covering Georgia Football’s 2022 G-Day spring game. (Photo/submitted)

After I graduate, I hope to be working in an on-camera reporting or hosting role for a broadcast and/or digital platform. More importantly, I hope to be part of a workplace founded upon those three core values of energy, empathy, and inclusivity.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

The golden rule to treat others as you would want to be treated can often sound like a broken record. A re-phrasing I’ve grown to appreciate is to treat everyone as if they may be going through something privately. People can be terrifyingly good at hiding what they’re going through. In other words, changes in someone’s mental health are not always reflected in their physical appearance. It’s important to check on all of our loved ones, regardless of how their mental health may appear at the surface. Approaching every interaction with courtesy and empathy under those assumptions can mean more than you know.

What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?
Betts gives two thumbs up in front of an ESPN bus while working with the network for the NC State @ Clemson college football game in October 2022. (Photo/submitted)

Those full-circle moments are my absolute favorites. This is still so surreal to say. But, in the past year, I’ve spent a summer working in a Cincinnati newsroom that first inspired my pursuit of a career in broadcasting, worked with ESPN on the sidelines of top college football and NFL matchups, and received an email invitation to join the NBCU family during a secret santa party with hometown friends. That email is up there in the greatest Christmas gifts I’ve ever received. Growing up, those kinds of opportunities were among my wildest professional dreams. I’m forever indebted to the people of Grady who have made those moments possible at such an early stage in my career. I could not be more excited for what’s next!

Where is your favorite study spot?

Right here in Grady College, of course! I especially love working alongside fellow Grady students in the Newsource newsroom/studio and on the fourth floor near the sports media department offices.

What is one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?

I sometimes prefer to go by Captain.


#ProfilesofTenacity: Julianna Washburn

Fourth year journalism major Julianna Washburn has always had a passion for writing and telling stories. Through her work as the recruitment manager for The Red & Black, not only is she able to write amazing stories herself, but she also gets to help other aspiring journalists share their work with the world.

Why did you choose your major?

I have been in love with writing ever since I was eight years old — no joke. Come high school, I was drawn to the one newsroom in the building. I loved the blackboards that lined the walls with sporadic chalk writing, the fast-paced energy and the stacks of newspapers everywhere. As I grew older, I truly began to realize the impact that journalism makes on the world. That’s when I knew that there was nothing else I would rather be a part of than journalism and inevitably selected it as my major in college.

Who is your favorite Grady professor and why?

There’s no way I can just name one! Dr. Assmann, Dr. Lough, Dr. Chiles and Dr. Peters are just a few professors that have made huge impacts on me. I’ve noticed that I refer back to the material I learned from each of these professors when I’m out in the field. Not only that, but they’ve made changed me personally. Dr. Assmann is sort of a mentor to me and always will be. She motivates me and makes me want to be a better, more hard-working journalist.

Washburn smiles with friends and co-workers at The Red & Black’s end of year banquet. (Photo/submitted)
What or who has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA?

The Red & Black Newspaper. No doubt about it. It’s basically my whole life (I’m joking) but seriously, I’ve found a home within the words I’ve written for that publication. The people I’ve met through reporting and the people that contribute to the production of The Red & Black have impacted me in a way that I can’t describe — even as a writer. Every time I think about the late nights I spent at the newsroom to edit the Thursday paper or the early morning I spent immersed in reporting on the half marathon in Athens, my heart jumps just enough to remind me of how much love I’ve had for my time there.

What are you passionate about?
Washburn interned at KXAN News in Austin, Texas during the summer of 2022. (Photo/submitted)

I am passionate about telling stories. I absolutely revel in the process of asking one thousand questions, hearing others’ stories and getting to use creativity to put those stories into 1,000 words or less to share with others. This is how I knew I was meant to be a journalist. I found that every time I engaged in this process, I would get so lost in it. Hours began to feel like minutes and minutes like seconds. Every time I finish a story, I step back and feel so much joy in what I’ve been able to create.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to other Grady students?

This is easier said than done but it’s crucial: do your best not to compare yourself to others. Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It is so true. Throughout college and my internship, I found myself comparing my work to the work of others and it did nothing but make me feel completely disappointed in myself. Everyone has their own, very different path to success and it’s important to focus on yours and be proud of all that you’re doing. Side note: it’s also so important to be proud of others and their successes. Don’t forget that!

What are you planning to do after you graduate?

I plan on going straight into the journalism field either working at a broadcast studio or writing for a publication! I’ve been waiting for what seems like forever to be fully immersed in the journalism field and I truly cannot wait any longer!

Washburn interviews Mary Whitehurst for a story she wrote about what kind of options pregnant people have now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned. Whitehurst is the executive director of The Source, a crisis pregnancy center in Austin, Texas.  (Photo/submitted)
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I see myself being intertwined in a community, reporting on the stories within it. I hope I am lifting up diverse voices and stories that otherwise wouldn’t have been heard or seen if I hadn’t reported on them. I see myself on the job, interviewing and moving with excitement during the day, then typing away at night to get my stories in. I see myself coming home at the end of the day feeling elated, fulfilled and ready for the next story.

What motivates you?

When people tell me that a story that I worked on impacted them in some way. Whether it be a message from a source I spoke to for the story or someone who read it, it always means the world to me to get a message like that. That’s what the stories I work on are meant to do — teach people, impact them, create change. When I get a message like that, I know I’ve done my job and it motivates me to do even better work on the next story.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Unashamedly be yourself. Quirks and all. It’s easy to feel like you should have a certain image in order to get a job or fit in but really, you will end up where you’re happiest by being yourself throughout the entire journey in getting there. Not only that but you will leave your unique mark on people by being completely yourself. That being said, explore who you are. Go to therapy, journal, relish in alone time. You are with yourself for your entire life so it’s important to become best friends with that person and to show them some love!

Washburn poses for a picture with her Red & Black co-workers during their annual flag football game. (Photo/submitted)
What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?

My biggest accomplishment this past year has been serving as the Recruitment Manager for The Red & Black. R&B helped me become the journalist I am today and it means the world to be able to help others take their first steps in their journeys there. It’s also very rewarding to be able to see the accomplishments of new recruits and to help bring more journalists into this world! We need them!

Black History Month Alumni Profile: Angelique Jackson

Angelique Jackson (ABJ ’12) is a senior entertainment writer for Variety. She previously worked at Entertainment Tonight, where she was awarded two Daytime Emmy Awards as a segment producer. During her time at Grady College, Jackson was a reporter and anchor for Grady Newsource, a member of the Student Alumni Council and a participant in the Cannes Film Festival Study Abroad Program.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

This month is a celebration of all we’ve achieved as Black people, but it shouldn’t be the only celebration. In some ways, I feel like this month serves as a reset – a chance to check in as a community to focus on the future and what hurdles we can overcome next. It’s a moment to take inspiration from those past accomplishments and to use those lessons to build something new.  

Explain a challenge that you had to overcome in your professional career.

The greatest challenge I’ve had to endure in my career was learning to advocate for myself. In school, when you make good grades or put forth a lot of effort, you’re likely rewarded without having to ask. But in real life – and especially in journalism – it’s imperative to promote your work so that your effort cuts above the noise. While your good work will build your professional reputation, there is something to say for engaging with your audience and with your bosses to make sure that people know the effort that you’re putting in.

What classes at Grady College did the most to prepare you for your career?

Newsource was the best preparation any journalist could ask for. I’m always surprised to learn that other journalists in my orbit didn’t have the experience of performing every newsroom duty while still in college. From the first time I transcribed an interview to the moment I stepped onto a red carpet or produced a news segment (live or otherwise), I’ve used the skills that I was taught in those classes about reporting, writing stories, editing, anchoring and more. 

What clubs and activities did you participate in at UGA and Grady that were instrumental to your success as a career professional?

During my tenure at UGA, I was a board member for the Student Alumni Council. That experience taught me so much about the University itself, but it also provided great networking training. As an SAC member, we established relationships with people of all ages and from all sectors of industry. As journalists, relationships are everything and networking is key to that success. Getting the best interviews requires publicists and subjects to trust you and your reporting, and a big part of building that rapport comes from being in the right rooms and knowing how to get there. You never know who you’ll meet that will help you land that next job or bag that exclusive interview!

How has your field of study changed since you were a Grady student?

Broadcast journalism is no longer solely about TV. With the rise of multimedia platforms and social media as a journalism tool, plus the public’s ability to use it and serve as citizen journalists, the definition of “news” and how to get it has expanded — for better or worse. I like to think it’s for the better, not only because it broadens access to the field, but it also stretches the journalists’ imaginations, urging us to think outside of the TV box when it comes to best reaching their audience.

What does the recent movement to continue the fight for racial justice mean to you personally and professionally?

Personally, every day since June 2020 has been trying – but, if I’m honest, living as a Black person in America is trying most days. But we find joy each day, despite it all. Professionally, the recent movement has allowed me to find a way to use my work to fight for racial justice. As a writer and reporter, I’m able to frame the narrative about us as Black people with an emphasis on our humanity and a broader view on what makes our culture distinct, unique and not monolithic. This is a moment when we have the microphone and it’s imperative that we not waste it. 

What advice would you give to young students of color who will soon enter the workforce?

Embrace everything that makes you, you. Embrace your culture, your heritage, your hair, the color of your skin and bring them to your work. Those elements of your personal history and the experiences that you’ve had because you’re a person of color — both positive and challenging — will prove valuable in your reporting because they inform your point of view. Don’t suppress those parts of yourself or allow others to persuade you to do so. We as a journalism community need your voice, but the public that you’re serving needs your perspective even more. Use your lens to tell our stories. 


Hispanic Heritage Month Alumni Spotlight: Ashley Soriano (AB ’19)

Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of spotlights highlighting the work of some of our alumni in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Please watch for more profiles in the weeks to come.

Ashley Soriano is a multimedia reporter for Fox News based in Las Vegas, Nevada. She graduated from Grady College with a journalism degree in 2019. Previously, Soriano worked in Laredo, Texas, for a year covering immigration and politics for KGNS-TV. On campus, Soriano was a Grady Ambassador, formed a chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and was a Yarbrough Fellow in Communications.

How does your Hispanic and/or Latin heritage influence your work? 

I moved to Laredo, Texas for a variety of reasons, but two of them stick out. One, to be around the Hispanic community, because growing up in Georgia, I was not around people who shared similar cultural experiences. So in my adult life I wanted to at least have that a little bit, and I definitely did. It helped me grow, you know, being around people who only speak Spanish but you’re in the United States and seeing people cross over the border, just to come work but they live in Mexico. It really shaped me, even just living there for a year. 

I was doing immigration stories almost every day, and I’m still doing immigration stories, so to be able to understand the culture to an extent, and to live on the border, I feel like you’re able to cover that community a little more thoroughly, and you’re able to connect with them and have them open up with you. I had to get interviews in Spanish in addition to my English interviews every single time I went out. To be able to have that ability to speak to someone in their language is very important, and the story might not have gotten done otherwise.

What classes at Grady College did the most to prepare you for your career?

I hated Grady Newsource for the first two and a half months, and I almost quit. I tried it out, stuck it through and ended up absolutely loving it. So if it’s challenging to anybody in Grady Newsource or, you know, whatever Grady students are doing and something’s challenging for them, it’s just going to make you a better person, a better journalist. Just stick with it. You hate it now, but you might look back and think that was the greatest decision you’ve ever made. And it absolutely was, joining Grady Newsource.

Soriano poses at the Hoover Dam while on her first assignment for Fox News.
Explain a challenge that you had to overcome in your professional career. 

A big challenge is viewer feedback and criticism when it’s not constructive — people are mean. They point out what you’re wearing, if you’re not wearing enough makeup. They don’t even know your work at all, but they ask you, “Oh, are you going to make me look bad?” We constantly have to defend our profession and our work, and I work so hard. I’m so passionate about what I do, I love what I do and I make sure what I do is fair, as fair as it can be. So you just have to develop a thick skin and your work will speak for itself.

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?

It just means celebrating a culture that is so important to the fabric of American society. We contribute a lot to society, and it just means that we’re getting recognition for that. And coming from a Hispanic background, statistically and historically, minorities go through certain struggles, whether it’s socioeconomic struggles or something else. It just means a lot to be able to bring light to my culture and to feel that shared experience with other people.

What advice would you give to young students of Hispanic origin who will soon enter the workforce?

It’s so extremely cliché, but believe in yourself, and keep working at something. If you are rejected, that’s okay because it’s going to open another door for you. At the time, rejection might seem like the end of the world, but it happens for a reason. When you’re about to give up, something is just going to happen, you’re just going to see why you were rejected so many times and those opportunities are going to come flooding in. So don’t let it get you down, just keep working hard, reach out to as many people as you can and establish connections. Don’t burn bridges. I mean, this industry is all connected. Whoever you meet in college can help you grow after college and years down the line.

Grady InternViews: Hallie Turner

This is part of a series where we ask Grady College students to describe their summer internship experience.

Briefly describe your internship and responsibilities. Graphic saying Turner is a journalism major working as a Congressional Intern and Radio Intern at both Congressman Austin Scott and Joy FM Radio out of Washington, D.C.

This summer I was blessed with the opportunity to obtain two internships. For the first seven weeks of the summer, I was a Congressional Intern with Congressman Austin Scott in Washington D.C.  I lived right across the street from the Senate, and I enjoyed an easy commute. My day would start with the typical intern duties of making sure the office was set and ready for the day. Then I would turn on the phone lines for the countless calls that I would answer to converse with constituents of the eighth district of Georgia. While the phone rang throughout the day, I also had many press projects. Depending on what event and or holiday we would have coming up, I would design a graphic for it. After the congressman finished speaking with the press, I would clip the interviews and send them over to our Press Secretary to post to our social media platforms. Once that was complete, I would go through and do our Press Memos. This included research of all the articles that were posted in the last 24-48 hours that mentioned Congressman Scott, the Georgia Delegation, health, agriculture and economic development that was occurring in the district. If there was something pressing that week that needed to be sent out for immediate release, I would sit with the Press Secretary and craft a press release. For the second part of the summer, I am an intern with The Joy FM radio station. I am looking forward to this opportunity and building on my reporting skills. A typical day is sitting on the radio segments that go live throughout the day. 

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

The biggest challenge I faced was giving myself grace during a learning experience. I tried many new things for the first time, and it was a challenge at times to feel like I wasn’t meeting my own expectations. Luckily, I was blessed with the opportunity to be surrounded by leaders who were invested in my professional growth. 

How do you feel that Grady has prepared you for tackling the job?

Grady emphasizes the importance of industry experiences. It’s known worldwide that Grady graduates are recognized for excelling in their field. For me, I view this internship as a first step in my own professional journey towards success. My Grady course work has prepared me to be a versatile communicator. These various skills allowed me to be an asset in my congressional office this summer. 

What is the most memorable experience you have had during your internship? 

My most memorable experience would have to be the day that the Legislative Assistant asked me to design a new graphic that would go on our one-pager letters. It was because of the skills I have learned in Grady and through Dr. Kyser Lough that I knew exactly how to design something that was eye catching, professional and efficient for our office. I was excited that my design would be on display and meaningful for the eighth district of Georgia

What is your advice for other students looking to take on a similar role?

Step out of your comfort zone and don’t let the location of an internship avert you from tackling the opportunity of a lifetime. You never know where it may lead you. 

What lessons will you take back with you to Athens in the fall?

I have learned about the significant relationship between the politics and the press. I now have a reinforced perspective of the importance of public service and my desire to give back to my community through meaningful communication.

Black History Month Alumni Spotlight: Christine Sperow (ABJ ’98)

Editor’s Note: This is the final post in a series of spotlights highlighting the work of some of our alumni in celebration of Black History Month.

Christine Sperow (ABJ ’98) currently works as a news anchor for Fox 5 Atlanta. Before arriving at Fox 5, she was an anchor at WBTV in Charlotte, North Carolina, KLTV in Tyler, Texas and WABG in Greenville, Mississippi. She graduated from Grady College in 1998 with a degree in journalism and was a member of the UGA women’s volleyball team. She is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and National Association of Black Journalists. Her work at WBTV earned numerous Midsouth Regional Emmy Awards, RTDNAC Awards and NABJ Awards.

Explain a challenge that you had to overcome in your professional career.

One challenge I faced before my career even started, was not being able to break into the news business upon graduation. I had it all planned out in my head: finish up my final Grady requirement completing the Communication Law course, walk the stage, get my ABJ degree, then I would land an on-air job by summer! Everything happened… except the latter. I labeled and mailed resume tapes (I’m dating myself – yes, I literally mean VHS tapes) to stations all over the country and didn’t even get a call back. Reality set in and I quickly learned this was going to be a grind. I decided to take a job at one of the local radio stations in Atlanta. I never imagined starting my career in radio but committed to learning about the industry – not only the on-air side but also the business side, working as an assistant to the sales manager. After three years of working my way up the ladder, I decided to give it another try finding a job as a reporter. At this point I was three years removed from graduation and didn’t have “fresh” material to send to news directors. So I recorded myself reading news copy in one of the radio station’s audio booths, I taped a black and white photo of myself on each CD (so the hiring manager would know what I look like) and prayed someone would be inclined to give me a chance. I later received a call from a news director in Greenville, Mississippi. I was so excited to get a call back! I drove 420 miles to the interview, accepted the job offer and left the big city of Atlanta for market 186 to become a bureau reporter for WABG-TV. The rest, as they say, is history! December 31 of this year will mark 20 consecutive years in the business for me.

You can watch Christine at 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Fox 5.
What clubs and activities did you participate in at UGA and Grady that were instrumental to your success as a career professional?

I have fond memories of working the production side of the Newsource student broadcasts at Grady College. The hands-on experience was so valuable because we all got the opportunity to play different behind-the-scenes roles. I was technical director, camera operator, audio operator, production manager. Back then b-roll was edited on tape. I remember loading and cueing up the tapes, waiting for my cue from the director over headsets to play the video. I could remember larger-than-life David Hazinski supervising the whole process of marrying the responsibilities of the broadcast journalism majors and telecom majors to put on an error free newscast (or as close to error free as possible). It was very rewarding to see a newscast come to life from start to finish. At UGA, I was also juggling being a student athlete as a member of the women’s volleyball team. I learned a lot of life lessons through athletics: work ethic, overcoming obstacles, humility, having the right attitude, achieving goals. Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) was also time I would look forward to on Sunday nights. Growing up in the church and having this outlet to fellowship with other believers was truly a blessing. College could be a confusing time as you’re navigating through your walk with Christ, expectations of the world and what your future will be after college. FCA was a great opportunity to be around college-aged peers who are going through similar experiences while being reminded God is in control. 

What does the recent movement to continue the fight for racial justice mean to you personally and professionally?

Personally, we are forever indebted to those who came before us. Those who bravely and, in many cases, risked or lost their lives to speak out against injustices and inequality. I don’t take lightly the fact that I stand on the giant shoulders of civil rights leaders and those who caused “good trouble” to speak to the conscience of our society. My station recently highlighted the work of one woman who didn’t sit back quietly but spoke up back in the 1960s about the lack of Black journalists on air at the very station I work for today in Atlanta. Xernona Clayton’s words opened the eyes of the news executives back then to make a change. In 1967 that change would begin with executives giving Ms. Clayton her very own television show. Today, black women including myself anchor several of the high profile newscasts here at Fox 5 Atlanta. Dr. King rightly said: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Seeing the recent movement and reckoning here in America, the diverse faces of people marching peacefully on behalf of Black and Brown lives was so inspiring. Change is going to take all of us. No matter our backgrounds we must all speak up. 

How has your field of study changed since you were a Grady student?

The internet and social media! No question. When I graduated from Georgia in 1998 the new trend gaining hype was this thing called Hotmail. You can send someone a message electronically and they would receive it almost immediately! (So what was I supposed to do with my pager?) Fast forward to today, my, oh my, how things have changed with the advancement of the internet and social media. Today people aren’t just getting their news from the television. The first place we go to now to get information is the internet, and we’re likely picking up our cell phone to search online — not the remote control.  It was in the 2010s when television stations really started incorporating the social media and internet element into the news business. As reporters and anchors, we had to learn a new skill set to reach a digital audience.

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Willie Daniely

Why did you choose Grady and your course of study? 

I have always been a naturally curious person, asking a lot of questions about any and everything as a little kid. As I grew older it just seemed to naturally evolve into me wanting to be a journalist. In ninth grade, my mom told me about a summer camp at Grady, now the Media and Leadership Academy, where I could learn about broadcasting, and the rest is history.

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you?

To me, having tenacity is being determined to accomplish your goal, whatever that may be — being able to think outside the box, adapt and persevere to finish.  

What has been your proudest moment in the past year?

Last summer I got my dream internship in New York City with NBC. Unfortunately, the world had different plans and I was not able to go due to COVID-19. Although I didn’t go to New York, I had a virtual internship, and it was great to achieve something that I had been working toward for so long.

Where is your favorite place on campus?

One day I stumbled upon the Jackson Street Building and thought it was the coolest building on campus. I love walking through the studio and seeing all the work that the landscape architecture students have done. 

What is your most memorable Grady experience? 

My most memorable Grady experience has to be during my first summer as a high schooler. That week was my first glimpse into Grady, and I fell in love with the college. It was such a fun time, it was awesome to get familiar with many of the faces that I would encounter as a student. 

What is your favorite app or social media channel?

If I have to choose, I probably spend the most time on Twitter.

What are you passionate about?  

A few of the things that I am most passionate about are traveling, social issues and politics. Any chance that I get to travel I always jump at it. Being a young Black man in America, my attention is automatically drawn to social issues and combating inequality, which resulted in me developing an interest in politics. 

What or who has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA? 

The staff at Grady College. If the people who work in Grady had not been so welcoming, interesting and beneficial to me, I would not have chosen UGA.  From my time as a camper, all the way to now as a senior, they have always been there to help in any way they can.

Who is your professional hero?

Don Lemon. Being an aspiring journalist, Black man and advocate for social justice, Don Lemon has served as a fantastic role model that I aspire to have a career like.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?  

The best piece of advice I have ever gotten is to keep an open mind about everything.  I credit my parents for giving me this mentality that keeps me from passing judgments before I try things. That mindset has also helped open doors for me. 

What is an example of a time you used your studies and skills in a real-world experience?

I have been lucky throughout my time at Grady to be given many opportunities to apply what I learn in the classroom to the work I produce. To commemorate the 60th anniversary of desegregation at UGA, I was given the chance to interview Charlayne Hunter-Gault, one of UGA’s two first black students. Being a Black student at UGA, that will always be an interview that I look back on with pride. 

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I enjoy watching movies. Out of all the films I have ever seen, my favorite movie is and forever will be “Speed Racer.”

What are you planning to do after graduating? What is your dream job?

After graduation I plan to pursue a career in broadcasting. My ultimate career goal is to be a news anchor.

What has been the hardest part about adjusting to COVID-19 in your life as a student and future professional?

That hardest part of adjusting to life in a world with COVID-19 has been making lasting connections. I have been given networking opportunities and internships that are virtual, but it is harder to connect with someone through a screen. It takes a lot more intentional effort to connect with others.

#GradyGrit: Meet Alexandra Rios

How did you choose to study Journalism?

I wanted to be a journalist since day one, never wanted to do anything else. People, places and ideas fascinate me. I am curious about the world: how people think, why they think the way they do and meeting people where they are. Journalism has always been important and is even more important today.

What are you passionate about?

I am always excited to see what other people are excited about. I want to tell stories: document people’s lives and tell stories that will illustrate what it is like living in this time.

What skills will you take away from Grady?

Before Grady, I did not know how to shoot on manual. I never had a story published or studied aboard. I learned all the fundamentals in class, but outside of class is when I put all my tools in my toolbox in practice. I shoot, edit and write all on my own, and it’s all because of Grady College.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from a mentor or instructor?

The difference between an ordinary person and an extraordinary person is the extra. Be intentional in everything you do and are.

What is your favorite quote and why?

I would not be the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication if it was not for my parents. My mom always told us, my four siblings and I, “Siempre hagas lo mejor que puedas y dios se encarga de todo lo de mas,” which means, “Always do your best and God will take care of the rest.” She says, it is sad to know that you can do something, but you don’t. Similarly, my dad says, “Hazlo que queries ahacer, pero hazlo,” which means, “Do what you want to do, but do it.” He has told us to never wait until tomorrow to do what you can do today. I always think about the sacrifices my parents have made for my siblings and I to be brought up in the United States. To be able to speak English, attend the best college in the country and live a life I do not deserve, I can never thank them enough.

Who is your professional hero?

Hasan Minhaj—not a journalist, but super close to being one—is my hero. The amount of research he does for the jokes he presents is impressive. Minhaj is a comedian and has won two of our very own Peabody Awards. He is super authentic and funny. The ability he has to get people to listen is the kind of skill student journalist and professionals, I think, strive to receive. The voice he gives for Muslims and minorities is the same voice I want to give to Latinos and minorities. Check out Hasan Minhaj’s remarks at the 2017 White House Correspondent’s Dinnerif you want to see what I am talking about.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

India, without even giving it a second thought. I am in love with the people, culture and, yes, the food! In fact, I have thought about going vegetarian multiple times now. On top of that, most of my diet is now vegetarian or, at least, it’s more plant-based than it has been in the past. I have also participated in religious celebrations, like Holi (Festival of Colors) and Diwali (Festival of Lights). I have even created a video for Holi as a Grady class assignment for Professor Shumway’s advanced video journalism class. I love everything Bollywood: the music and movies. Cricket is not that bad either. I have been learning the language for the past year now, and I am most excited about being able to speak Hindi to native speakers one day.

Editor’s Note: Some of the above answers have been edited for length and/or clarity.

For other installments in the #GradyGrit series, visit the #GradyGrit page.

New Grady Newsource website, G-Span elevate visibility of student journalism

Grady College students have two new innovative outlets to publish their work. Grady Newsource, the journalism capstone class and news organization covering northeast Georgia, has launched a new website to publish content from student journalists and provide an interactive look at the journalism process. Accompanying the site is G-Span, a 24/7 television station operated out of Grady College that broadcasts throughout campus and the Athens area.

“G-Span provides Grady College with a wonderful vehicle to air programming produced by students throughout the College,” said Charles Davis, dean, Grady College. “In the future, you’ll see the channel used increasingly as a platform for innovation and experimentation, as well as a home for all sorts of events across campus that our Grady Productions students record and edit. It’s a wonderful new experiential playground for us.”

G-Span can be seen on University Cablevision channel 15 and Charter cable channel 181. It will serve as a platform for student productions, informative lectures, and meaningful University of Georgia events. G-Span currently broadcasts Grady Newsource at 5 p.m., Monday and Wednesday during fall and spring semesters. It also airs Grady Sportsource on Fridays in the fall.

Student journalists publish their work digitally on gradynewsource.uga.edu and select articles feature annotations through which reporters will reflect on the newsgathering process and further explain the decisions behind their reporting.

“Being transparent about what we do as journalists is very important,” said Janice Hume, the Carolyn McKenzie and Don E Carter Chair for Excellence in Journalism, and head of the Department of Journalism.

Innovation, learning and service to the local community are core principles of the Grady Newsource mission.

“We, as journalists, need to increase credibility with our audiences,” said Amanda Bright, an academic professional in journalism at Grady. “We are in a place at Grady College where student journalists can try new things, think outside of the box and see what works.”

All measurable audience statistics have increased as the website content has been revamped. The average visitor to gradynewsource.uga.edu is on the site for four minutes, a 75% increase from early 2018.

“We have an opportunity to work on a converged system and learn how to best reach audiences with important news stories on a variety of platforms,” said Dodie Cantrell-Bickley, Grady College journalism lecturer.

The website collaborates with The Lead podcast, a show from the James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism that examines the ever-evolving nature of journalism. It also features work from health and medical, sports journalism and photo journalism programs.

The site invites guest curators from journalism organizations to highlight outstanding pieces. Hume was the first guest curator.

“Curation serves two purposes,” Hume said. “It allows the audience to potentially get a look at a quality story they might have missed. Also, it is recognition of students for their hard work.”

Hume says the website launch is the culmination of a four-year process at Grady College to revamp curriculum as the journalism and broadcasting departments merged to create a digital-journalism first product.

Future plans for the website include a social news desk to best integrate social media with the site, weekly e-mail newsletters and collaboration with Grady College’s New Media Institute to develop a Grady Newsource mobile app.

Grady College will celebrate the Grady Newsource website and G-Span with a launch party on Nov. 9 at 1:30 p.m. in Studio 100.


WUGA Day at Grady marks milestones in public broadcasting

Radio broadcast journalists offer advice to students


The value of radio broadcasting was celebrated Aug. 29, 2017, at Grady College in observance of the 30th anniversary of WUGA-FM and the 50th year of public broadcasting.

WUGA Day at Grady, hosted by the James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership, kicked off with a live recording of GPB’s “On Second Thought” with Celeste Headlee in Studio 100. Special guests Steve Inskeep, host of NPR’s “Morning Edition,” and Marilyn Geewax, NPR senior business editor and economics correspondent, lectured in classrooms later in the day.

“Celebrating WUGA’s 30th birthday was a way for us to reflect on the importance of public broadcasting and to demonstrate for our students the role it plays in our media landscape,” said Keith Herndon, director of the Cox Institute, who coordinated the event.

WUGA general manager Jimmy Sanders said the station appreciates its partnership with Grady College.

“Dean Charles Davis, the faculty and students of Grady have provided support in so many ways,” Sanders said. “Grady interns are always talented, enthusiastic and they have a great work ethic.” He added: “Overall, Grady College helped make our anniversary events even bigger and more significant by hosting these events. We greatly appreciate Keith Herndon’s leadership in working with us as we brought GPB’s ‘On Second Thought’ broadcast to Grady. The show taping went very smoothly and I know our broadcast audience was excited to hear this statewide program originating from Grady.”

Celeste Headlee, host of GPB’s “On Second Thought,” interviews guests during a live recording of an episode at Grady College.

The studio audience watched as Celeste Headlee maneuvered between three segments: an interview with members of the legendary Athens rock band Pylon, a discussion with Marilyn Geewax about the economy through the lens of recent jobs reports, and a debate with Athens-area stakeholders—including students—about how to handle Confederate symbols locally and nationally. (The hour-long episode aired Wednesday, Aug. 30, and is available online.)

Following the recording, Headlee spoke to the audience about the preparation she puts into each show, which includes researching, drafting questions for each interview and creating a story arc in her mind.

“If you’ve done your homework enough, you can actually respond to (the interviewee),” she said. “You’re kind of hoping they are going to say something surprising, because that’s what makes an interview interesting. But when they do surprise you, sometimes you have to throw out that thing in your head, what you’re intending to say, and really listen to what they’re saying.”

Headlee also recalled a time when someone walked out in the middle of an interview, and she had to remain professional and composed.

“If you’re going to ask somebody tough questions, you need to be polite, you need to be respectful and you need to be right—your facts need to be straight,” she said. “If you are that, and (the interviewee) is behaving badly, let the chips fall where they may. People will hear it.”

Already in town for another event for WUGA’s anniversary, Steve Inskeep offered advice to students during a visit to Barry Hollander’s Information Gathering class. He emphasized the value in researching stories in-person and not just online.

NPR’s Steve Inskeep speaks with Grady students following his lecture on WUGA Day at Grady.

Inskeep also encouraged students to be creative with their approach when confronted with challenges on the job, like someone who doesn’t want to talk with reporters.

“Some of the best reporting you may do is when someone refuses to talk with you,” he said. “In those cases, the story is yours instead of them telling you what they want to.” Inskeep advised that reporters should research the closest approximation that they can when someone doesn’t want to talk and to “ask questions around the margins.”

Inskeep challenged students in interview situations to let their minds go quiet and figure out what is actually being said.

“You need to see what is in front of you instead of what you expect to find,” he said. “Don’t just go looking for the soundbite.”

Inskeep concluded his talk by encouraging students to write as much as they can and to be willing to look for stories where others are not looking.

Closing out the day, Marilyn Geewax told students in Keith Herndon’s Managing News Organizations class they should expect to work long, often difficult, days at the onset and throughout their careers in media. Gaining hands-on experience through internships is a good way to prepare, she noted.

“If you really want a top-level journalism job in today’s pace, you have to start young, learn all you can and stick with it,” Geewax said. “It really is a matter of capacity for pressure.”

View more photos from the day in the gallery below.

WUGA Day at Grady