Kate Hester is a second-year graduate student, studying journalism with an emphasis in innovation and leadership. During her time at Grady, she’s been involved as a graduate assistant for the James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership. Hester was a 2022 fellow for the Cox-SABEW program, and she is a teaching assistant for JOUR 3030: Media, News and Consumers. She was awarded a Cox Institute Leadership Medal at the Levin Leaders dinner earlier this month. Hester’s most memorable Grady experience was studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark – where she was a teaching assistant for the travel writing course.
Why did you choose your major?
I chose journalism because of the possibilities. There is so much room to be creative, and the opportunities are endless. Not many majors have that same depth of opportunity.
What is your most memorable Grady experience?
Studying abroad in Copenhagen! This past summer I was lucky enough to be the teaching assistant (TA) for the travel writing course in Copenhagen,Denmark. We spent a month over there and had such a blast! It was the best experience, and no job will ever top it!
Who is your favorite Grady professor and why?
My favorite Grady professor is 100% Dr. Herndon. He opened my eyes to the magic of innovation and offered me the chance of a lifetime to go to graduate school and be his graduate assistant. I have had so much fun working with him these past two years of graduate school.
What does tenacity mean to you?
To me, tenacity means strength. It means that no matter what, no matter how many times you get knocked down for forced to change directions, you keep moving forward. You do not worry about the things you cannot control; you just keep doing the next right thing.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I have no idea where I will be in 10 years, and that is so exciting! I cannot wait to see what the future has in store.
What motivates you?
Right now, my students. Being a TA is so much fun and I love getting to interact with my students each week. They have been the best part of this year.
Who is your professional hero?
I could never pick one professional hero over another, but I do have a slight obsession with female-owned businesses.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
My mom sends me inspirational quotes via email about once a week. I keep my favorites as sticky notes on my desktop. The one I keep going back to is this: “Don’t worry about the next week or next month or next year. Just do the next right thing and keep doing the next right thing.”
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about supporting small businesses. If someone is brave enough and smart enough to strike out on their own, I want to do what I can to help them find success.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I am a freelance artist! I do mostly pet portraits right now, but with my own little spin! I love to paint and hope that love never goes away.
Kamille Whittaker (MFA ’21), the managing editor of Atlanta Magazine and co-founder of the award-winning, community-led journalism project Canopy Atlanta, is the 2023 Industry Fellow with the James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership at the University of Georgia.
Whittaker will spend her time as Industry Fellow interacting with UGA student journalists through classroom lectures and the Cox Institute’s extracurricular programs. She also delivered the keynote address at the Cox Institute’s Spring Leadership Dinner on March 2.
“UGA students have never disappointed when it comes to how they show up in the world, and that’s just a testament to the great training at Grady as it is right now, so it can only get better,” Whittaker said. “I’m just excited to be able to add to that polish.”
Keith Herndon, executive director of the Cox Institute, said students are excited for the opportunity to work with Whittaker.
“Our students love it when working professionals invest some of their time to be part of our programs,” Herndon said. “We’re thrilled to have Kamille Whittaker as our Industry Fellow this year and we welcome the enthusiasm she is bringing to this role. It’s great to have her back on campus working with our students.”
Whittaker graduated from the Grady College of Journalism Mass Communication’s M.F.A. program in Narrative Nonfiction in 2021. She graduated from Howard University, where she studied political science and journalism, in 2005.
At Atlanta Magazine, Whittaker leads production of the monthly print issues and edits the magazine’s arts and culture coverage.
Whittaker is also the training director for Canopy Atlanta, where she teaches Atlanta residents what she described as “Journalism 101” — interviewing, writing, fact-checking and media ethics. This training equips residents to write stories about their communities and the issues they’re facing. Additionally, Whittaker has worked with students at Mercer University since spring 2021 as an instructor for the school’s online writing lab.
“I just think it’s important to constantly be putting back into the pipeline, and investing time and energy and resources, especially with the changing industry,” Whittaker said.
As a journalist who has experienced the news media’s shift from print to digital, Whittaker is eager to mentor students during a time she considers to be another pivotal juncture in the industry. Now is the time for journalists to find new ways to serve the communities they cover, she said.
“It’s a critical time for journalism,” Whittaker said. “It is a public good now more than ever, and I’m just hopeful that students . . . recognize that moment and just dive right into it.”
Whittaker’s journalism career has roots in the Black Press — one of her earliest industry roles was interning for Black Voice News in her hometown of Riverside, California. She later worked as a national correspondent for the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA). She has carried her dedication to the Black Press throughout her career.
“The historic Black Press is the voice for the voiceless — they often reported on things that mainstream media just did not report,” Whittaker said. “[Black newspapers have] just such a significant presence, and that’s why I will always stay connected to that.”
Whittaker has also held positions with Heldref Publications (now Taylor & Francis), The Washington Post in conjunction with Newsweek (formerly WPNI) and The Liberator Magazine. She worked for the Atlanta Tribune magazine for 12 years before joining Atlanta Magazine in January 2021.
Previous Cox Institute Industry Fellows were Ken Foskett, former investigative reporter and editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Richard Griffiths, former vice president at CNN; Marilyn Geewax, former senior editor with NPR; Amy Glennon, former publisher with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution; and Nick Chiles, a Pulitzer-prize winning reporter and best-selling author.
Before classes began this semester, 14 journalism students spent the first week of January innovating with newsrooms across Georgia. Some students created newsletters, some developed existing social media accounts, and others focused on video storytelling. All of them left an impact on local news organizations as they helped them achieve digital goals and develop new audiences.
Students spent a month preparing for the program, working with newsroom leaders to determine their goals. Preparation included creating a detailed weeklong plan for the students’ week on-site with newsrooms, which began Jan. 2.
Dr. Amanda Bright, who leads the program, said the program’s purpose is to pair UGA journalism students with news organizations across Georgia to accomplish specific digital goals.
This was the third year of the program. Thanks to the support from Richard T. and Deborah H. Griffiths, Bright said the program has expanded through the years from eight students to 14. Since its beginnings, the program has expanded to include broadcasters in addition to print organizations – this year, 2 broadcasters participated. Five newsrooms returned to participate from previous years.
This was the first year that the majority of the students were able to work on-site. Bright said the relationships between the newsrooms and the students have improved since the program’s start.
“We have gotten better at understanding how to communicate what we’re trying to achieve both to newsrooms and to students,” she said.
Bright said the most rewarding part of the leading this program is both seeing the students build their confidence, while also knowing that the newsrooms are gaining new strategies and knowledge built specifically for them.
“When I get evaluations or I get contacted by these newsroom leaders, they are always universally pleased with the work that the students do,” she said.
“Those comments and those conversations are just so heartening for me because I love community news. I believe in it more than just about anything else, and I want to help it,” Bright said.
Fourth-year journalism student Katie Tucker spent the week at The Northeast Georgian in Cornelia and its sibling paper in White County. During the week, Tucker created new content for the newsroom’s Instagram and Facebook accounts, created templates for best social media practices, and developed an analytics sheet for the newsroom staff to track their monthly analytics.
“I feel like so much of my journalism career has been during covid, and so everything’s virtual,” Tucker said. “Having that physical newsroom space where I can walk over and talk to someone and share ideas and get immediate feedback is something I’ve never had.”
Tucker said having this experience in a physical newsroom allowed her to realize she prefers working in-person instead of working remotely, which is helping her now as she searches for jobs.
In addition to helping the newsroom with digital goals, Tucker helped with stories during her week on-site at The Northeast Georgian. She took photos of Piedmont University President Marshall Criser while reporters were interviewing him, which ended up being published in the paper.
“I think that was the most valuable thing I could’ve done,” Tucker said.
Lu Warnke is a third-year journalism major who spent the week at Connect Savannah. Warnke helped the newsroom restructure their Trello board and created a new calendar system to plan content.
“They just transitioned from a primarily print publication to a digital-first one, so I hope I gave them some tools to look ahead and re-orient their thinking towards digital,” Warnke said.
“I really loved being able to make a tangible difference in a newsroom. Local newsrooms are vital to connecting and informing people, so to help an organization further that mission also meant a chance to strengthen a whole community,” Warnke said.
Asya McDonald’s spent the week at The Current in Savannah, teaching the journalists how to edit video both on their phone in iMovie, and on their laptops and Adobe Premiere Pro.
“While I was at The Current, the staff raved about all the things that they had learned and how excited they were about video production for their print stories. Adding the element of video was something that was going to be new for their audience, and hopefully garner them additional audiences,” she said.
Shannon GaNun of The Current in Savannah referenced Asya McDonald’s help in incorporating video into their storytelling.
“Asya worked with everyone in our organization one-on-one to teach us how to make and edit videos,” GaNun said. “We were very impressed with Asya’s skill set and professionalism.”
“The most rewarding part of participating in the Digital Natives program is being available to be hands on with industry professors to see if their field of journalism is the path that I want for my future,” McDonald said.
Video was an area of interest and desired growth for many newsrooms this year, Bright noted.
While specific goals for each newsroom differed, Bright said a goal across the newsrooms was audience growth, especially among younger audiences.
“To me, it’s about finding the right path – and it’s different for every newsroom, but they all want new audiences,” she said.
Looking forward, Bright hopes the program will expand. She’s considered doubling the number of students and news organizations involved, and going beyond state lines.
“It’s just about making sure that we don’t grow beyond our capability to do a really good, quality job,” she said. “We’ll have to get the support to make that happen.”
News organizations and students interested in participating in the 2024 program can learn more on this page. Applications will open in October 2023.
Editor’s Note: This is part of our six-part series highlighting stories produced by Grady College in 2022. The features include stories in each of the following subjects:
Research & Expertise
Service & Partnerships
This is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but instead highlight a sample of just a few of the hundreds of stories about accomplishments by our students, faculty/staff and alumni. We invite you to visit our Grady College News page for a full list of features posted in 2022.
Cox Institute launched a new Certificate in News Literacy
Grady lawn renovated, renamed Schnitzer Family Media Lawn
UGA MFA Film program enriches its story
Grady College is constantly growing and improving to better serve our students and greater Grady College community. Here are a few college headlines of note from 2022:
Grady lawn was renovated and renamed Schnitzer Family Media Lawn: Over the summer, Grady College’s lawn was improved, expanded upon and renamed, thanks to a generous donation from the Schnitzer family, celebrating Lauren Schnitzer (AB ’21), who graduated last year with a bachelor’s degree in public relations. The new lawn, which features an ADA accessible pathway, an outdoor classroom and much more, was celebrated on Friday, September 23.
Listening to audiences, engaging younger users and creating brand cohesion — these were goals UGA journalism majors accomplished during the launch of our innovation teams and fellowship programs.
These Journalism Innovation Teams and Fellows, based out of the Journalism Innovation Lab of the Cox Institute, create industry partnerships to bring emerging ideas and practices into Georgia news organizations by allowing select students to work at a precise and strategic level on innovation in today’s newsrooms.
Georgia Association of Broadcasters Innovation Fellow
Funded by the GAB, our innovation fellow worked with Habersham Broadcasting. This locally owned and operated set of two radio stations — My Country 99.3 and 107.7 the Breeze — serves a large audience in northeast Georgia, and its leadership wanted to begin to reach a younger demographic through its digital products. UGA journalism major Ashley Balsavias worked with Habersham to grow and engage younger listeners through the My Country 99.3 Instagram page, creating strategies for that platform, cross-promoting to the station’s app, and creating a best practices guide for future use.
Georgia Association of Broadcasters Innovation Team
A team of journalism majors — Victoria Gospodinov, Lily Baldwin and Haley Roberson — worked with Salem Media Group of Atlanta for our GAB-funded innovation team. Operating on the goals of increasing engagement and growing audience demographics, the team did audience research, created a robust brand style guide to improve digital product coherence, and crafted a forward-thinking content strategy for influencers, concepts and campaigns to continue diverse growth in both listeners and digital platforms.
UX Research Innovation Team with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The success of the Unapologetically ATL email newsletter, a product of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was the focus of study for a UX research innovation team made up of journalism seniors Maddy Franklin, Ally Gray, Nimra Ahmad and Yana Obiekwe. Through analytics, quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews with audience members, the team found what specific elements were contributing to the newletter’s strong performance, so that these could be employed with other digital products. Also, a few future recommendations for growth were presented to capitalize on what audiences prefer in the niche news product.
GaNun served last fall as the editor-in-chief of The Red & Black, an independent student newspaper covering the University of Georgia and local Athens community. Last spring, GaNun was also chosen through a highly selective application process for membership in UGA’s chapter of Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honor society.
The Cox Institute expects GaNun will tap into both her student media and campus leadership experiences in her role as host of a podcast about leadership in the news industry.
“I think conversations about leadership rather than lectures about leadership are always a better way to go. As is with most things, people don’t really like being lectured at in most cases,” GaNun said. “But I think that a two-way conversation through audio makes it really accessible for people and they can kind of relate on a way more personal level.”
GaNun recently completed a study abroad at Oxford University as part of UGA’s program there. Before returning to Athens in the fall, GaNun will intern for NPR’s business desk in Washington, D.C., and will gain valuable experience in audio and digital storytelling before taking over The Lead’s microphone.
The Lead podcast explores the intersection of journalism and leadership by interviewing news media leaders. Previous seasons have featured veteran and emerging professionals, including Pulitzer Prize and Peabody Award winners, best-selling authors and other prominent journalists across all platforms.
“The Lead . . . has a really great goal. I think that the media industry and journalism can feel very daunting if you’re trying to enter it, especially if you don’t have maybe parents who are journalists or family friends who are journalists — I don’t really know anybody who’s a professional journalist. So I think making that more accessible to people is a really, really great goal,” GaNun said.
GaNun said journalism students should care about hearing from media professionals, and is looking forward to finding and interviewing guests who will connect with The Lead’s journalism student audience.
“I think that professionals are so helpful for telling you their story and how it worked out for them. And that can also be helpful if they tell you their roadmap to where they got to today,” said GaNun. “I think it can be very helpful for people trying to figure out their way in life and in the industry.”
Before serving as editor-in-chief of The Red & Black, GaNun worked in student recruitment for the newspaper and served as a reporter, city news editor and news editor. She also interned for The Current, a non-profit news organization in Savannah, Georgia. In addition to her journalism major, GaNun is pursing a degree in international affairs and a minor in French. She is also in the university’s Honors College.
“We’re looking forward to Jacqueline bringing her keen intellect to The Lead podcast. Her perspective from student media and as an overall campus leader will be invaluable to the work we do on the podcast,” said Dr. Keith Herndon, executive director of the Cox Institute. “We’re also eager for her to bring the new skills she’ll acquire on her NPR internship this summer into the host’s role.”
GaNun’s fall start marks 13 seasons of the podcast (each semester is a season). She succeeds Kyra Posey, who was the show’s host during its past two seasons. Daniel Funke launched The Lead in fall 2016 and hosted seasons one and two. Seasons three and four were co-hosted by Nate Bramel and Noelle Lashley. Charlotte Norsworthy then hosted the podcast for four seasons, before turning the microphone over to Caroline Odom.
Why did you choose Grady and your course of study?
I began my college career as an International Affairs major in SPIA. History, English, political science and economics had always been my favorite subjects, and IA seemed to bring it all together. But as an avid news consumer with a penchant for writing, I realized there was more I wanted to do. Grady allowed me to join a field with colleagues who have goals beyond themselves. I knew it would give me the leeway to find my passion and the opportunity to write with purpose.
What does the word “tenacity” mean to you?
To me, tenacity is a willingness to leave your comfort zone to get what you need, whether in your personal life or professional pursuits. In journalism, it’s not backing down in the face of authority. It’s being dogged, nosy and courageous. In life, it’s sticking to your values and reaching for your goals no matter the obstacles.
What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about improving public debate through good journalism. I think the best reporting keeps important issues centered in our collective consciousness and directs attention to topics that might otherwise fall through the cracks. We need to have more fact-based debate in all aspects of American life, and I’m excited to contribute to that throughout my career.
What or who has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA?
The Red & Black. After joining in fall 2019, I immediately found a group of people who both supported me and created the environment of healthy competition that shaped me as a reporter. Over two years of reporting and editing from contributor all the way to managing editor, I honed my writing, fact-finding and storytelling skills. It was the real-world experience I needed to feel confident in my abilities as a professional journalist and leader.
What has been your proudest moment in the past year?
In March, I presented original research at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s Midwinter Conference. The idea originated in a research theory class the previous fall, and I developed my topic and method alongside Dr. Karin Assmann. Focused on the rhetoric of Fox News’ Sean Hannity, I found the data needed for the project, learned to use a new analysis software and wrote a lengthy paper that was accepted by the AEJMC. Despite taking the non-thesis route in my graduate program, I’m excited to leave with a tangible piece of scholarship. My goal is to submit the finished article for publication in a political communication journal.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor, mentor or family member?
Find something interesting in every assignment. Even if you’re covering what seems like the driest beat in the world, there are always people, trends and storylines to keep you and your audience engaged.
Who is your professional hero?
A few people come to mind. As exemplars of my first journalistic passion – sports writing (specifically baseball) – Tony Kornheiser and Jeff Passan are at the top. Their reporting chops and undeniable style continue to inform my approach to writing. I also greatly admire CNN’s Clarissa Ward and NBC’s Richard Engel. They’re in the most important places at the most important times, and I hope to emulate their unflinching courage to whatever extent I can. And if I had to throw in a historical hero, it would have to be Edward R. Murrow. Aside from the obvious reasons, who doesn’t want a catchphrase?
What are you planning to do after obtaining your degree?
I plan to hit the ground running as a reporter. With experience in sports, news and features, I’m excited to get started and adapt to new challenges.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
It might surprise people that I make music – sort of. I play the drums, can strum a guitar, and I’m oddly decent at composing piano music, which I’ve translated into a few songs. Some are on SoundCloud, and some are just for me.
Where is your favorite place on campus and why?
The Founders Memorial Garden on North Campus is and always will be my favorite spot. It was my between-classes refuge freshman year and continues to be a peaceful place when I need some quiet time in nature.
Team members Sophia Haynes, Cassidy Hettesheimer and Gabby Vitali, all journalism majors, created and tested a product called j-notes, which improves news literacy and relationships between audiences and journalists by lifting the veil on how reporters make decisions and cover stories. This web-based design allows for short-form, embedded videos from the journalists themselves that walk the audience through how a story was covered and why — to increase trust in the news.
“The journalists can explain why they decided to write something a certain way, how they found a piece of information, or show a video from the field,” the team said in their presentation. “The goal of j-notes is to build connections with journalists, increase transparency, and help audience members feel confident in knowing what to look for in trustworthy journalism.”
The team started in fall 2021 with the creation of this research-based concept. Then, they developed a wireframe and made a brief presentation for RJI judges, who moved their team to the second round, where they built the product and tested it with audience members through in-depth, qualitative interviews. Then, the team created a final presentation for a panel of judges.
WATCH: View the final presentation for the UGA Journalism Innovation Lab Team:
On March 21, the UGA team was one of the top six finalists for an awards ceremony, which also included teams from the University of Oregon, University of Missouri, Ohio University, University of Florida and Purdue University-Fort Wayne. University of Florida took the top prize, which was $10,000.
Even though the UGA team didn’t place in the top spot, Vitali said she gained experience she wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else.
“It was amazing to work with others with the same goal in mind and to bounce our ideas off each other in a productive way,” Vitali said.
According to Cassidy Hettesheimer, the process wasn’t without its challenges, but was ultimately rewarding.
“The process of brainstorming, creating and gathering feedback pushed us to be creative, collaborative and decisive,” Hettesheimer said. “I learned a ton participating in the RJI Student Innovation competition that will hopefully help shape how my teammates and I look at journalism in the future.”
Sophia Haynes said she had an eye to the future of journalism as well, as she did research and the wire-framing process in creating J-Notes, which she believes has a real application in news organizations.
“Hopefully, this idea doesn’t just stop here,” Haynes said. “I love the concept of short-form videos to engage readers in stories and to answer potential questions that may arise while reading.”
Dr. Amanda Bright, director of the Journalism Innovation Lab, said she could not be more proud of the team and what it accomplished in this first-ever endeavor.
“Our three team members were thoughtful, reflective and so professional throughout the process — from the conception of the idea through to the final presentation,” Bright said. “They truly created a product that would be a benefit to any newsroom to create stronger ties and trust between journalists and audiences.”
Bright said the Journalism Innovation Lab plans to create another team and enter the RJI competition again next year.
The Cox Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership at the University of Georgia will launch a new academic Certificate in News Literacy during the Fall 2022 semester.
The certificate, which will be open to all majors at the University, will require 12 credit hours to complete. The required courses will explain the functions of the news media, journalistic responsibility and ethics as they prepare students with insights and tools for identifying misinformation and falsehoods increasingly found in our media marketplace.
“Our democratic society needs as many people as possible — citizens as much as journalists, educators, and other professionals — to wade into the digital world equipped with training that will prepare them to recognize the difference between truth and falsehoods,” said Charles N. Davis, dean of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. “This certificate is an important step we are taking to teach university students how to discern credible information through critical examination of the news we all consume.”
“We couldn’t think of a better time than National News Literacy Week to unveil this exciting new certificate and to emphasize the important role we expect it to play in news literacy education,” Herndon said. “We are eager to meet with advisers and faculty across the university in the coming weeks and months to explain what this certificate will mean for our students.”
The Cox Institute intends to use resources and expertise from the News Literacy Project as part of the program’s curriculum.
“Mis- and disinformation are designed to appeal to our innate cognitive biases and vulnerabilities, and young people are often uniquely susceptible to misjudging the credibility of the information and sources they encounter in their daily lives,” said Peter Adams, the New Literacy Project’s senior vice president, education. “This program is an important step in acknowledging the obligation we have to prepare and empower the next generation as they build lifelong information habits and important civic dispositions.”
Students across the university will be able to enroll in the Certificate in News Literacy through the Athena system beginning in the Fall 2022 semester. Once enrolled, students must complete four classes including an introduction course, two intermediate courses and a capstone course. For more information on the specific course requirements and additional background information about the certificate, please visit the Certificate of News Literacy webpage.
Herndon will serve as the certificate’s director and Charlotte Norsworthy, an instructor in the Cox Institute, will serve as the program coordinator. For inquiries, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Cox-SABEW Fellows for 2021 are: Michael Banks, Ansleigh Edwards, Thomas Ehlers, Jessica Green, Kate Hester, Carah Jones, Jamie Miller, Emily Petraglia, Spencer Pipkin and Haley Roberson.
The Cox-SABEW Fellowships were created to recognize students who have engaged in financial journalism and business education through class assignments, student media and professional internships, or for those looking to launch their financial journalism journey, said Dr. Keith Herndon, executive director of the Cox Institute.
Herndon, a former business journalist, said the objectives of the program are to explain financial journalism and introduce students to career opportunities in the field.
“Through this program I have learned not only some of the basics of business . . ., but also how to write about business in a way that is easy to understand and shows how it touches our everyday lives,” said Kate Hester, who completed her bachelor’s degree in journalism and is now in her first year of a master’s program.
The 2021 Fellows are participating in the College Connect program, a personal finance writing workshop, which will pay them for producing and publishing personal finance stories for the SABEW website. SABEW operates the College Connect program through a sponsorship from the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE).
Additionally, the Fellows have engaged in virtual discussion sessions with previous students in the program who are now professional financial journalists. The Fellows also attended SABEW’s virtual conference held this year October 12-14.
Hester said the networking events gave her and the other fellows opportunities “to talk with business journalists and learn more about the field.”
This year’s group marks the ninth year of the Cox-SABEW Fellowships. The program started in 2013 and has recognized 53 participants including this year’s fellows.
“SABEW continues to be one of our premier training partners and we are so appreciative of its support along with the financial backing from NEFE,” said Herndon. “The news industry faces many headwinds, but success by any measure requires training our next generation. This important industry-academic partnership is vital to that mission.”