#ProfilesOfTenacity: Michael Banks

Why did you choose Grady and your course of study? 

I would not be in Grady had it not been for an early pandemic existential crisis in Spring 2020. I realized one night that I wanted to explore my passions for multiculturalism & storytelling while gaining some of the hard skills only a Grady degree could provide. Some of my most inspiring friends and peers at UGA were already in Grady, and having conversations with them about how positive their experiences had been really reinforced the idea to take a leap of faith and pursue a degree in journalism. 

What are you passionate about? 

In one world, multiculturalism. I’ve always had a curiosity for the world to gain a deeper understanding and empath for people across cultures. I’m thankful that I’ve gotten to take that a step further to interact with important groups on this campus to advocate for DEI initiatives, and that passion has led me to gravitate toward stories in culture that elevate diverse media perspectives and creators.

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

I’ve walked away from every interaction with a professor in the journalism department changed for the better, so it’s hard for me to just cite one as having the biggest impact.  Two student mentors of mine are Willie Daniely and Lauren Swenson, both of whom were students in Newsource my first semester volunteering, and both taught me so much from their experiences within the college and how versatile a Grady education can be.  

What would people be surprised to know about you? 

I used to be an open-water swimmer and with plans to swim the English Channel after graduation, but some of my fitness goals changed. I’m also a classically trained singer. 

What is your most memorable Grady experience? 

I got to attend a special screening of the 60th Anniversary of Desegregation at UGA documentary that was entirely reported on, filmed and produced by Grady students. I was awe-inspired to see journalism that was elevating such an important story in Athens and UGA history, and I walked away excited at the endless possibilities and ways I could use my Grady education. 

What are you planning to do after graduation? 

I would love to work as a communications associate internationally or for a global-oriented brand or company. Digital Design with Amanda Bright has also been my absolute favorite class at UGA and exposed me to technology and its applications to journalism, which has led to my interest in product design as a career that combines my journalism education with a role in the tech industry. 

What is your favorite app or social media channel and why? 

Spotify! I have a very diverse music taste and the way their user experience is set up makes it very easy to explore artists outside of the U.S. and outside my typical genres. I also love when design meets technology, so Spotify Wrapped is so cool to me in that it takes people’s data to create fun, engaging and digestible data visualizations on people’s listening experiences. 

Where is your favorite place on campus and why? 

The Hall of Nations in Memorial Hall! There’s something kind of awe-inspiring getting to study under so many national flags. The Office of International Student Life and Pride Center are also located there, and they do some critical work and put on beautiful programming to support students across backgrounds. 

Who is your professional hero? 

Too many. In broadcast, Seth Doane or David Muir. Doane is a CBS foreign correspondent based out of Rome, and Muir is the ABC World News anchor. Both are journalists whose careers have been shaped by international experiences and coverage of international topics. 

What has been your proudest moment in the past year? 

I was fortunate enough to represent the College on UGA’s Homecoming Court! So many of my family and friends came out to share in that experience with me, and getting the opportunity to walk my mother on the field is once in a lifetime. It was a testament to my hard work in my time at Georgia and reminded me I have stellar people in my corner.

Grady Society Alumni Board Profile: Stephanie Gallman Jordan

We are grateful for the support and enthusiasm of our Grady Society Alumni Board members. This series profiles members of the alumni board who make a positive difference in our College.

Stephanie Gallman Jordan graduated from Grady College in 2002 with degrees in Telecommunications and English. After driving a big rig across the country for CMT, Jordan joined CNN, where she has been a tour guide, writer, assignment editor and producer.  Currently, Jordan is a Special Events Producer, covering the network’s biggest editorial events like the 2016 and 2020 Republican National Conventions, the 2017 Solar Eclipse and too many presidential summits, debates and town halls to count.

What advice do you have for today’s Grady College students?

My advice to Grady students is to never stop learning. Stay curious about people and the world. Surround yourself with interesting people and experiences that challenge you. Create a life that makes you happy inside your guts and not just because it gets you likes on social media.

Jordan interviews actor Tony Goldwyn at the White House Correspondents Dinner.
What experience during your time at Grady College had the biggest influence on where you are today?

Writing radio commentary and recording it for broadcast on WUGA and writing a full length film script are two Grady assignments that I was consumed by, in the best way. I would lose track of time working on them — something I never thought was possible for a school assignment. I fell in love with and grew confident with my storytelling and knew it was how I wanted to make a living.

Looking back at your time at Grady, is there anything you wish you had done (classes you had taken, skills you would have liked to have learned, clubs to be involved with) that would help you with what you are doing today?

I wish I would’ve gotten involved in Grady Newsource. I’m not sure what I was thinking or how I talked myself out of it, but the program is just so impressive and produces the best of the best in broadcast news. There was quite a bit of a learning curve I had to climb when I finally decided to lean into my love of news and join CNN.

What is your favorite place on campus and why?

Without question, North Campus.  I love its history and how little it has changed in the 20 years since I was a student. The grass stays green year-round and regardless of how many people are there, it always feels peaceful and serene to me, especially considering its juxtaposition to the lively downtown scene.

How has your field changed from your graduation to now?

Two words: Social. Media. Social media has changed how we tell stories and how we consume them — literally anyone with a phone and a Twitter account can call themselves a journalist.  While this has made finding stories and content easier, it has made vetting those stories and content even more challenging. Just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t make it true and it’s imperative that journalists go beyond what they see, beyond what the loudest voices are screaming to really get the full context of what’s happening.

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Henry Queen

Why did you choose Grady and your course of study? 

The Grady Sports Media program initially attracted me to UGA. Growing up an Auburn fan, I might not have given UGA a second thought without it. I remember going on a tour with assistant director Carlo Finlay and being blown away. He recommended I join The Red & Black my freshman year, and the rest is history.   

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you? 

Keeping sane during the last year is tenacious in and of itself. We’ve endured a lot, but that doesn’t mean we should ever let go of hope, gratitude and empathy. To me, tenacity means holding onto those qualities even when it’s most difficult. 

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I’m a childhood cancer survivor!

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about learning new things and restoring shared narratives within our local communities. I want to tell stories that unite more than divide. Sports are an incredible opportunity for that. They’ve been a lifelong passion of mine, but for reasons that have changed. As a kid, I memorized baseball statistics and idolized the game’s best players. Now I see sports (along with music) as one of the best ways for people to connect with strangers. It’s rare for that many people to gather as one, especially in our sprawling, car-dependent cities. Coming out of the pandemic, I expect people to be hungry for that connection.

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

Getting sick on the way to Super Bowl Media Day. I’m prone to motion sickness, and the ride to Atlanta with my classmates wasn’t fun. But I ended up doing the interviews, making photos and writing two stories in time for that afternoon’s deadline.

What is your favorite app or social media channel?

Twitter, but only because I can curate my own feed. That power scares me. 

What has been your proudest moment in the past year?

When two people independently took my Twitter recommendation and ate at Groove Burgers on the same day. I’m always happy to spread the good word.

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

My friends. Aside from the great times and personal memories we’ve shared, they’ve also meant a ton to me professionally. My storytelling skills were drastically improved by interacting with people outside the journalism bubble.      

Queen interviewed football players as a part of the Super Bowl LIII Media Day. (Photo courtesy of Henry Queen).
Who is your professional hero?

I have so many. Some of my favorite sports journalists include Mirin Fader, Wright Thompson, Howard Bryant and Joe Posnanski. My favorite magazine journalists are Ed Yong, Tom Junod and Chris Jones, although he is now a screenwriter. But that brings up a good point: I admire storytellers of all mediums. I take inspiration from filmmakers, podcasters, YouTubers and songwriters. There is so much good stuff out there.  

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor, mentor or family member?

My mom told me recently that nothing is permanent. I think that’s an important lesson from the pandemic and something to keep in mind going forward. Savor everything you have while you have it.  

Where is your favorite place on campus?

I’m going to be cliché and say North Campus. It’s so beautiful, especially this time of year. 

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Kyra Posey

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor/mentor/family member?

In my capstone course in the fall of 2020, Professor Dodie Cantrell-Bickley told us to try our hand at multiple platforms in order to tell our stories — video, audio, data journalism, etc. She said that we should try these even if we had never before because, as she said, “the weakest muscles need to be exercised.” She repeated this a few times in the semester, and it’s something that really encouraged me to try new ways to tell stories. In my career after graduation, I think I’ll always remember that it’s okay to try new things, even if it’s scary!

Why did you choose Grady and your course of study?

I knew that I wanted to be in the field of journalism when I entered college, and I knew that Grady’s program had produced many success stories. I was inspired by my upperclassmen friends who said the professors at Grady were some of the best they had ever had, and I could tell I would have an incredible support system here. It turns out that they were right — my faculty mentors have come from the school, and I’ve been able to hone in on my journalistic skills under their advice and leadership.

What is your favorite app or social media channel?

My favorite app is definitely TikTok. So many incredible stories can be told on that platform, and it’s so addicting.

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

My most memorable Grady experience was studying abroad at Trinity College in Oxford, England. Ivanka Pjesivac was our professor teaching international communications, and while we were there, we were able to visit London’s CNN Bureau and the Reuter’s Institute in Oxford. Learning about international communications and speaking with some of the best in professional communications was an incredible hands-on learning experience, and it really opened my eyes to the global news flow. Professor Pjesivac really prioritized telling us about global communications across multiple fields (advertising, entertainment, journalism and more), and I’m not sure if I ever would have chosen a course like that unless I had studied abroad. Plus, I made some of my closest friends there.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I only have one kidney that was removed when I was 4 years old, and because it was removed when I was so young, my other kidney grew twice the size of a normal adult’s kidney. It’s a super kidney!

What has been your proudest moment in the past year?

In fall 2020, I placed third in the Associated Collegiate Press’ Multimedia category for my work on The Red & Black’s podcast, “The Front Page.” I covered a week of protests for racial justice happening in Athens last summer. I worked really hard on that podcast and that episode specifically, and I was so glad that this important story was recognized.

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about storytelling, and I want to apply my skills to support compelling narratives. This can really be seen in how I’ve applied my skills to my work throughout the years — I moved from reporter to podcast producer to social media editor at The Red & Black, where I learned how my skills could support the organization I worked for. Now, as CNN Audio’s marketing intern, I’ve learned how to use marketing and my communication skills in order to support world class storytelling. Plus, you can always find me listening to a podcast or reading through the headlines. I love consuming stories and great journalism!

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

The Red & Black has had the biggest impact on my life during my undergraduate career. It is truly the best place to hone in on your journalistic skills. While Grady’s courses provide essential training, having the ability to work in a professional newsroom is invaluable. I was able to find out what I was truly interested in when I moved up from contributor to a member of the editorial board. I eventually pitched, produced and marketed The Red & Black’s podcast “The Front Page,” and talking about that experience led me to a role at CNN Audio. I now hope to pursue post-graduate opportunities in podcasting and radio. If it weren’t for The Red & Black, I’m not sure if I ever would have discovered this interest.

Where is your favorite place on campus?

North Campus is my favorite place on campus. When it gets warm, my favorite thing to do is get milk tea from Bubble Café downtown and study on the North Campus lawn. After I leave Athens, it’ll definitely be the thing I miss the most.

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

The hardest thing about COVID-19 has been everything being virtual. Last semester, I had major Zoom fatigue, and I found it hard at times to stay motivated. However, something that has been an upside to this virtual environment is that you can really connect with anyone in the world! I’ve been able to network with people in New York, and at CNN, I frequently network with people that I might have never met if the internship wasn’t virtual. 

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Sydney Dangremond

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you?

To me, tenacity is holding on when it would be easier to let go. Holding onto loved ones, holding onto the truth, holding onto our humanity, holding onto hope. I think the past year has served as a case study in tenacity for all of us. For a year now, without reprieve, the hits have kept on coming and weighing on our collective conscience. The ability to move through hardship, listen and learn from experts, have empathy and not become numb to the world is an incredible expression of tenacity. 

What has been your proudest moment in the past year?

Finding out I had earned a staff position at The Red & Black was probably my proudest moment this year. I was still relatively new to the paper, but had already fallen head-over-heels for the work, the people and the culture. Finding out that the feeling was mutual was really wonderful. Since then, I’ve had the honor of covering some of the biggest news stories, from the Senate runoff to the insurrection to the Wall Street squeeze. I’ve loved every minute.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I’ve been a member of the Save the Manatee Club for 15 years. I did a report on them in second grade and immediately fell in love. Spring semester freshman year I had the incredible opportunity to swim with the manatees in Florida on a trip with the UGA Outdoor Recreation Center. Seeing them in the wild was definitely a high point of my college career. 

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

Studying abroad at Oxford University completely changed my life. Not only did I get to study at one of the best universities in the world, but I also made the most incredible friends who I know I’ll stay close to for the rest of my life. 

What are you passionate about?

I love to learn, and I love to tell stories. These passions have taken many forms from curating a TEDxUGA talk to writing for The Red & Black, but both have allowed me to expand my knowledge and perspective and tell important stories to a broader audience. 

Who is your professional hero?  

I don’t know if I have any heroes, but I have a great professional respect for people who have a gift for storytelling. From Aaron Sorkin and Jon Meacham who inspire to Tina Fey and David Sedaris who elevate humor with their intelligence, and Jonathan Goldstein who is sentimental but never cloying, to Roman Mars who can make the most mundane seem fascinating, there are a number of great storytellers I admire.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor, mentor or family member?

Growing up, my mom told me that no matter how you squeeze an orange, the only thing that’s going to come out of it is orange juice. It’s made me consider my reactions and view them as a display of who I am rather than a result of anyone else’s actions. This advice has saved me from many a misguided text or tweet. 

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

By far the most bizarre part of starting a new job during the pandemic has been the formation of relationships entirely over the internet. I’ve made friends and communicated regularly for months with people I’ve never seen in person. Slack, you are both my enemy and my lifeline.

What is your favorite app or social media channel? 

Lately, my favorite social media has been Twitter. Obviously, I enjoy the jokes and memes, but I also think it’s a great place to join conversations about the news. Yes, misinformation is a major issue on social platforms, but sometimes I think seeing people’s reactions to the news can be just as informative as the news itself. At their best, Twitter and other platforms have opened the door to broader conversations and unique perspectives on the issues facing the world. 

Where is your favorite place on campus?

I’ve always been a sucker for the lawns on north campus, but even more so since COVID-19 struck. Over the summer, lying out on north campus, enjoying the weather and doing classwork was my favorite way to feel connected to my community in a time of significant isolation. The lawns have also provided a safe way to spend socially distant time with friends and for that, I am so grateful. 

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Tylar Norman

Tylar was recently awarded $1,000 from the Taylor Maggiore Fund. Read the full profile here.

What are you passionate about?

One thing that I am really passionate about is telling the stories and increasing visibility in the media for those in underrepresented groups, such as minorities and women. As a Black woman, I often reflect on how important it is to have representation because I did not see a lot of that growing up. Seeing other women, especially minority women, work in a field that was not very diverse a few decades ago always reminds me to keep going and to remember to make more room at the table for other women. Going into the media field, I recognize the need to continue to uplift and advocate for the voices of minorities, make others more aware of the role we play in society and give back to these groups that have shaped my identity.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I have had my own YouTube channel for about two years!

Why did you choose Grady and your course of study?

I still remember the first time I toured Grady back in April of 2017. I got to see the Newsource studio, hear about the Grady Sports Media program and walk through the halls that would come to shape a big part of my experience as a student at UGA. I chose Grady because the college immediately felt like home before I even got my official acceptance letter. I came into UGA wanting to major in journalism and thinking that I wanted to work in the sports media field. However, I had no idea what direction to go in at that time. Grady College and the Grady Sports Media program have offered me so many opportunities and real world experiences over the past four years that have helped me to find my niche within the journalism field.

What has been your proudest moment in the past year?

Having the opportunity to interview and moderate a conversation with Monica Pearson, the first woman and first minority to anchor the daily evening news in Atlanta, for UGA Grady students.

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you?

When I think of tenacity, I think of the word determination. It is continuing to be strong, to persist and to keep moving forward no matter what life throws your way. It is to not worry about the past or the future, because you know that you are strong in the present and have the confidence to handle the challenges and difficulties that you may face everyday.

Where is your favorite place on campus?

The Founder’s Garden in North Campus

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

Upon graduation, I want to obtain more internship experience working in sports media before I begin applying to jobs. Although I am very open to any opportunity in this field, my dream job is to one day work as a digital content creator for a team or for a sports network, as well as helping to run that team’s social media and help with digital marketing initiatives.

Who is your professional hero?

It’s a tie between Maria Taylor and Joy Taylor

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor/mentor/family member?

My mom always tells me that I am capable of doing anything that I have my mind set on. This advice really helped to shape my thought process on the advice that I have further received throughout my college career: Apply for everything, even if you don’t think you are qualified. Getting out of my comfort zone and thinking on my mom’s advice that I am capable always helps me to keep pushing forward.

What is your favorite app or social media channel?

TikTok can always put a smile on my face, but I love Instagram for content creation as well.

Black History Month Alumni Spotlight: Christopher A. Daniel (MA ’07)

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

Christopher Daniel works as a journalist and instructor of multimedia and digital journalism in the Department of Mass Media Arts at Clark Atlanta University. He enjoys writing about popular music and culture, civil rights and education. He has freelanced for publications including HuffPost, The Hip Hop Enquirer, Atlanta Magazine and CBS News, and his work has been recognized by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and NABJ.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month gives the country and even the world an opportunity to really celebrate the contributions and the blood and the sweat that Black people have given to this nation, and to the world at large. It’s a moment for us to really look into all the different areas and genres in which Black people have made certain strides, whether it’s in the arts or in the sciences or in education or entertainment. So I think it is an interesting time for us to be able to celebrate our history, but it’s also just a moment for us to dig deep and try to find those narratives that we haven’t heard before and those moments that can enlighten us and shine a really bright light on things that improve our human condition. Black History Month is a combination of us celebrating the contributions to our nation and just our culture, but also really digging deep to find the stories that we haven’t heard.

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

I think one of the biggest challenges that I’ve overcome specifically as a Black journalist is getting editors to understand certain things culturally that need to be articulated in writing. Especially over the last few years, now we’re getting to a point where things have to be a little bit more transparent and things have to be a little bit more reflective of the communities that we serve. A great deal of what I’ve spent a lot of my career doing is educating people and educating editors on the ways in which Black communities live. Why does a certain song make sense, or if we go to the barber shop, what sort of resonance does the barber shop have on Black men and us being able to relate to one another? I’ve written about our culinary traditions and our literary canons and what they mean to the larger conversations about uplifting humanity or raising awareness. 

One of the biggest gifts that I’ve been given — because I don’t really look at it as a challenge, I look at it as a gift — is being able to expose people to the ways in which they need to understand humanity better and to really do their jobs better. When we tell stories about underserved or marginalized groups, I bring in a strong sense of pride and humanity to those narratives and really show people that the way in which they perceive Black people and Brown people is not the way the nation sees it. And it’s been a lot of fun doing those stories and really being the voice for my community.

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

The first time I had a 9000 level class, there were maybe four people, and I was the only Black student and I was the only master’s student in the class. We took this class in the Peabody office, so you look around and you see all these posters of “MTV Unplugged” and “The Simpsons” and “Roots.” When I was in that class, I did a presentation on “The Boondocks,” which was at the time a big show and it was one of my favorite shows on TV. Everyone in that class was a white Ph.D. student, and even the instructor, Horace Newcomb, had no clue what I was doing. I just remember getting all of these questions from Newcomb and I had no clue why I was getting interrogated like that. But literally, probably a week or two weeks after this presentation, I was on MySpace, and I will never forget this. Aaron McGruder, who created that show and the comic strip, was on his MySpace page and posted a quote that said “Hot damn, I just won a Peabody Award.” That showed me the power of the influence that I had and kind of what my voice was meant to do.

Daniel was inspired by Charlayne Hunter-Gault to attend Grady College for his master’s degree.

I had what I call the holy trinity in Grady. This was Dwight Brooks, Andy Kavoori and Nate Kohn; those three were my thesis committee members, and Brooks was my thesis chair. And of course, my thesis was on southern hip hop music through the prism of hip hop publications. Doing something at the time that really wasn’t heavy in higher education and now you’re seeing classes on hip hop, on Outkast or on southern hip hop music in general, and using autobiographies as textbooks now. So to be able to come, you know, maybe 13-14 years later and seeing how we’ve really advanced in terms of the sort of material that we’re using in the conversations that we have. That really lets me know that those two years that I spent at Grady College was a monumental time to really move that needle, and doing this 60 years after Charlayne Hunter-Gault integrated Grady and the University of Georgia, really to me, is a big deal, and that’s what makes me proud to talk about this. The one person that helped to integrate and desegregate that program is someone who inspired and motivated me to make the decision that I made to go to Grady.

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

I feel as though what has to happen going forward so it’s not performative, that it is genuine, is you have to make sure that students are having these conversations in the media courses that they take. And yes, it’s going to be uncomfortable, but imagine how uncomfortable it is being in the newsroom or going in the community and having to write when there is a protest or someone died or something crazy happened that made national news. Literally turning your classes into incubators and making those spaces where you can have conversations about race and have conversations about sexism, so that once there is a moment where they are assigned to do those stories in the future, they know best practices and how to approach those topics so they’re not uncomfortable with it. I think we have to really do a better job at turning our educational spaces into practices, and optimizing opportunities so that when these larger issues come up in the future because those editors and those writers who are having these problems now, they were students too at some point. We just have to do a better job at really having those hard dialogues and creating tough love out of that so that things can be better.

It’s going to take a village for us to really do those sorts of things voluntarily so that we can make the necessary change that has to happen. But if you want to be a journalist especially, it does start with doing the homework. I would like to think that people that want to do those stories and win Pulitzers and win Peabodys and more awards down the line, that they are taking upon themselves the initiative to do the legwork on the ground as students so that they can morph and matriculate into those spaces where they are the productive citizens doing the necessary work. Even when things are quiet, you still have to be very vocal about what needs improvement because things won’t change if you won’t voice it and put it in people’s faces. You’re doing something that helps the larger community change the nature of what’s going on. 

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

When we were in school, Facebook was the new thing. And that’s the platform that everybody was using to promote events on campus. If people had potlucks on the weekend, that’s what they used; somebody had a birthday party, that’s what they used. I honestly don’t think people figured out at the time that you can literally use that to disseminate news. Now when you go online, Twitter is the number one way that a lot of young people get their news. You know people have breaking news on TikTok, they’re breaking news on Clubhouse and panels and things of that nature, so the way that social media and digital media have really become virtual news hubs. Now social media is the wire service. 

Another way the industry has changed is we have more spaces where we’re getting opportunities. In those days, internships created pipelines for how students would get their way into ESPN, Bloomberg, and the PR agencies and CNN.  A number of opportunities that I’ve received as a journalist have been because someone sees a tweet. It’s totally leveling the playing field so that we don’t have to look to the more arcane old school ways. It’s actually keeping things a little bit cooler and making things a little bit more laid back to where we don’t have to be so formal all the time, which I think is really a good deal. You’re allowing people who really have good voices and have the education to not necessarily be so uptight about getting their voice out to the world. It’s allowing us to be who we are, and I think that’s probably the biggest blessing that’s changed in time since I’ve been in school. We just have to be very diligent about making sure that when we get students in those moments where they can sell themselves on those platforms, they know that the stuff that they’re putting out there needs to have a certain look to it so they can get the moment in the sun that they’re looking for.

New program brings journalism students, Georgia newsrooms together to achieve digital goals

When initial discussions began about creating a new program called Digital Natives at Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t factored into its launch. Despite the unforeseen challenge, program director and academic professional Amanda Bright and eight students jumped into action.

Digital Natives was developed in conjunction with the Georgia Press Association. The program pairs UGA journalism students with local GPA member newsrooms to help them accomplish a specific digital goal, from improving social media to experimenting with video production. 

“Once I heard about the program I was absolutely in,” Bright said. “I know that [newsrooms] need that support, and who better to give that to them than boundless energy college students?”

For 2021, eight students were selected through an application process that highlighted their abilities and interest in community journalism. The newsrooms also completed an application that determined their digital needs, willingness to work with the students and ability to follow through on what they learned. Students were matched with news organizations based on how well their skill sets would meet the newsroom’s needs.

The students spent a month preparing for an intensive week with their newsrooms. They consulted with editors and publishers about their digital goals and prepared a community audit that covered demographics, economic outlook, government, local competition and an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. 

Starting on Jan. 4, they implemented their weeklong plans to teach the newsrooms using guided practice, feedback and independent practice resources that they made themselves.

The students created synchronous and asynchronous video tutorials, how-to guides and presentations to explain how to get the most out of digital tools like Instagram and Facebook and develop strategies for optimal use based on the newsroom’s goals.

Senior Alexander Merritt worked with his newsroom, Hometown Headlines, to design infographics to embed in their digital content.

Fourth year Alexander Merritt said Grady Newsource prepared him to confidently work with Rome-based Hometown Headlines editor John Druckenmiller.

Merritt and Druckenmiller worked together to include more infographics in daily content, learn to manage and track a Google analytics page for the website and make a YouTube channel.

“Everyone’s thinking of the CNNs and the Wall Street Journals, you know those kinds of big name jobs, but we forget to understand that local journalism is just as important and those jobs are still good jobs,” Merritt said.

The program is designed to enrich the learning experience for both the students and newsrooms, and that sentiment was especially clear for third-year student Livia Geiger. Geiger’s parents own The Herald Gazette in Barnesville, and even though Geiger is a marketing major in the Terry College of Business, she was able to work with her parents’ newsroom.

“My parents kept referring to themselves as ‘dinosaurs’ and they truly didn’t know anything about Instagram,” Geiger said. “I had to create a Google Drive for them and show them how to post on Instagram. I also was able to level with my parents more because I didn’t have to worry about stepping on anyone’s toes.” 

Kate Hester, a fourth-year student from Monroe, Georgia, said the most rewarding part of the program was looking at the Instagram page of her newsroom, The Hartwell Sun, before and after she arrived. By the end of the week, they were implementing what she recommended. 

“It’s nice that both parties got a new perspective,” Hester said. “When you’re teaching someone else, that’s the best way to learn. I realized how much I really did know about my field and what I needed to improve on in my field.”

The feedback from the newsrooms and the GPA was extremely positive. 

“On behalf of the GPA Board and the Georgia Press Educational Foundation Trustees, yes, a truly amazing report and program. We owe a huge thanks to the Dean for spearheading it and to Amanda for taking it and running with it,” GPA Executive Director Robin Rhodes said.

Bright remains optimistic with Digital Natives’ success and growth in a post-COVID-19 environment. 

“I hope one of the outcomes is that more students decide intentionally to do local journalism,” Bright said. “We have now an established understanding that local news is imperative and crucial and it also needs assistance.”

Grady Digital Natives was modeled off a similar endeavor called Potter Ambassadors at the University of Missouri, where Charles Davis was a professor before becoming dean of Grady College.

If member GPA newsrooms have any questions about the application for the 2022 program, please email Amanda Bright at amanda.bright@uga.edu.

Editor’s Note: This feature was written by Megan Mittelhammer, a 2021 Yarbrough Fellow in the Grady College Department of Communication. She was also a participant in the Digital Natives program.

New class teaches digital literacy tools to combat information disorder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.