Cox Institute launches 2nd year of Digital Natives Program

Digital Natives, part of the Cox Institute of Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership’s Journalism Innovation Lab, is launching its second year of bringing UGA journalism students with digital news expertise into Georgia newsrooms for one week to help local journalists accomplish specific digital goals.

For this 2022 cohort, the Georgia Press Education Foundation has joined forces with the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, thanks to a generous gift from Richard T. and Deborah H. Griffiths, to expand the impact to 15 media organization/student pairs.

The following is a list of students and newsrooms in the state of Georgia who will be served by this program this year:

  • Alex Anteau — The Oglethorpe Echo, Oglethorpe County
  • Lily Baldwin — The Hartwell Sun, Hartwell
  • Michael Banks — The Newnan Times-Herald, Newnan
  • Hunter Beasley — Rome Radio Partners, LLC, Rome
  • Haley Chambers — The Oconee Enterprise, Oconee County
  • Mikaela Cohen — The Northeast Georgian, Cornelia
  • Liset Cruz — WTOC, Savannah
  • Sarah Donehoo — The McDuffie Progress, Thomson
  • Carlie Gambino — No Walls TV, Tucker
  • Olivia Gauthier — WTOC, Savannah
  • Troyce Grant — The Post Searchligh, Bainbridge
  • Allyn Haynes — Cordele Newsmedia, LLC, Cordele
  • Laura Lenz — Jacobs Media Group (WDUN/WGGA/AccessWDUN.com), Gainesville
  • Erin Kenney — The Dallas New Era, Dallas
  • Breianna Smith — WRBL News 3, Columbus

The digital transition continues to be challenging for community journalism for reasons ranging from funding to time to expertise. Digital Natives will help bridge this gap by allowing digitally savvy journalism majors to research and prepare training for newsroom staffs regarding a variety of digital tasks like optimizing social media, creating digital content on various platforms, and experimenting with new technologies, as well as audience engagement, help with disinformation, and Trusting News concepts. Students will also benefit from learning from these organizations by spending a week in a working newsroom environment.

The program for 2021-2022 will run on site from Jan. 3-7, 2022, during the last week of UGA’s winter break. Georgia news organizations were chosen through an application process, and two organizations are returning from the 2021 program, which is one of the goals of this endeavor to build long-term and mutually beneficial relationships with Georgia news organizations. The students will receive $1,000 stipend for their preparation and weeklong training; food, travel and lodging will also be covered.

The director of Digital Natives, Dr. Amanda Bright, is also a faculty member at the College of Journalism and Mass Communication at UGA and will train the students before they start their week in the Georgia newsrooms.

“We were thrilled that we can be physically on site in the newsrooms for this second year of Digital Natives,” Bright said. “And, thanks to the generous support of Richard T. and Deborah H. Griffiths, we are nearly doubling the impact of the students’ digital knowledge for newspapers, radio stations and TV stations across the state of Georgia.”

For more information, contact: Dr. Amanda Bright, amanda.bright@uga.edu.

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.

Digital Natives program to connect digitally-native students with Georgia newsrooms

The deadline for student applications has been extended to Nov. 8, 2020.

Grady College and the Georgia Press Education Foundation have joined forces for Grady Digital Natives, a new and innovative program that connects college students and Georgia news organizations. The online Grady Digital Natives program will connect UGA journalism students with digital news expertise with Georgia newsrooms to help local journalists accomplish specific digital goals.

The digital transition continues to be challenging for community journalism for reasons ranging from funding to time to expertise. Grady Digital Natives will help bridge this gap by allowing digitally savvy journalism majors to assist with a digital task like optimizing social media, creating digital content on various platforms or experimenting with new technologies. Another potential goal could help with audience engagement and Trusting News concepts.

“Through the Digital Natives program, these college students will bring their skills into our community newspapers to help advance the paper’s presence in the ever changing digital world,” GPA Executive Director Robin Rhodes said. “GPA is grateful for Dean Davis bringing forth this amazing program to our members.”

Due to COVID-19, students for 2020-2021 will not be on site at news organizations, but they will create and present a webinar that will introduce a digital tool or process to meet one targeted goal for the news organization. The webinar will move step-by-step through the philosophy, technology and process, and it will show how journalists in the newsroom can enhance as well as sustain this new opportunity. This will be accompanied with a written report and a follow-up Zoom conference to address any questions.

The program is expected to launch in January 2021.

Georgia news organizations will be chosen through an application process. Grady College and GPEF will provide a stipend for up to eight Grady College students to assist the local news sites.

The director of Grady Digital Natives, Amanda Bright, is a faculty member at Grady College and will train the students before they start their week within Georgia newsrooms.

“This program is going to be mutually beneficial for students and local newsrooms,” Bright said. “Whether it’s starting an email newsletter, diving into Facebook groups, telling stories through web-based interactives or creating a codified social media strategy, Georgia news organizations will tangibly benefit, while our students will gain the knowledge and experience from those doing the important work of journalism each day.”

Georgia news organizations interested in participating should apply by Nov. 1, 2020. Grady College journalism majors who want to apply to be Grady Digital Natives should apply by Nov. 1, 2020. For more information, contact Grady Digital Natives Director Amanda Bright (amanda.bright@uga.edu; 217-549-9821) or GPA Executive Director Robin Rhodes (rrhodes8738@gmail.com; 770-454-6776).