Keith Wilson awarded Sundance documentary grant

Keith Wilson, a lecturer in the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies, was named recipient of a grant from the nonprofit Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program.

The fund offers non-recoupable support for nonfiction projects that continue to elevate and advance cultural dialogue and break new ground in creativity and innovation from filmmakers with a distinct voice and vision, and a meaningful connection to the work they create.

Wilson is the producer of the film, “I Didn’t See You There,” a documentary about a disabled filmmaker who launches into an unflinching meditation on freakdom and (in)visibility when a circus tent goes up near his apartment. The film is directed by Reid Davenport.

“Receiving this grant is transformative for our project,” Wilson said of the grant. “Securing funding for independent, artist-driven documentary work is always an uphill battle, so the financial piece of the award is greatly appreciated.”

Wilson was named a 2021 Sundance Creative Producing Fellow for the same film project earlier this year. The Fellowship included participation in a week-long Producers Summit, as well as year-long mentorship, creative support and networking opportunities with industry professionals.

“In many ways, the intangible support the Sundance Institute has provided us in the form of mentorship, professional development, and access to industry networks, have been even more essential than the finances,” Wilson added.  

The Documentary Fund supports the work of nonfiction filmmakers from around the world. The fund has been a critical force in supporting work that has expressed the world in creative, complex, and provocative ways, and has created cultural and social impact around some of the most pressing issues of our time.

A total of $600,000 in unrestricted grant support has been provided to the projects in various stages of production and distribution, including eight in development, eight in production, three in post-production, and one in post-production and impact. The projects’ subject matter feature topics of disability, feminist history, globalization, grief and loss, and housing inequality, among other areas. A complete list of recipient projects can be viewed here.

Grants are made possible by The Open Society Foundations, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Kendeda Fund.

This cycle, eight out of the ten U.S. films granted are helmed by at least one BIPOC director. This statistic reflects the fund’s commitment to emerging artists whose voices have been historically marginalized in hegemonic Western societies.

“With this expansive cohort, the Documentary Film Fund is holding true to its commitment to independent storytelling. As we celebrate 20 years of funding hundreds of films, these films are a tangible representation of all that we stand for and value,” said Carrie Lozano, Sundance Institute, Director of Documentary Film Program and Artist Programs.

Jeong-Yeob Han partners in grant funded by Office on Violence Against Women

Jeong-Yeob Han, director of the Strategic Health and Risk Communication certificate, joins Joon Choi, an associate professor at the School of Social Work, in receiving a two-year, $477,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women to address domestic violence in the Asian immigrant community.

Known as Korean Americans for Healthy Families, the program will seek to change norms around domestic violence in that community, striving to both prevent domestic violence and expand access to needed resources and services for immigrant survivors of domestic violence.

Han said the project will increase scientific understanding of the effectiveness of culturally specific and technology-informed strategies to change community norms.

“It has the real potential to reduce the disparity of accessing resources and services for Asian victims of domestic violence by identifying barriers and facilitators to access the criminal justice system and get valuable services,” said Han, an associate professor of advertising.

This community-level intervention effort features two components — a virtual simulation training along with in-person workshops to better equip faith leaders who assist Asian survivors of domestic violence, as well as a communications campaign focused on strengthening community attitudes that both condemn domestic violence and facilitate access for survivors to necessary services.

Han is an expert on the implementation and evaluation of communication campaigns and will increase the amount of information to the immigrant Asian community members and survivors in the metro Chicago area. The multimedia campaigns will involve daily newspapers, radio and television and will be supplemented by promotional materials displayed at local stores and a social media campaign partnering with a local agency.

Choi is the principal investigator and Pamela Orpinas from the College of Public Health serves as a co-investigators.

 

Michael Cacciatore awarded $2.5 million grant for research

Funds from the U.S. National Science Foundation support research for PBS TERRA, a science-themed hub on YouTube

Michael Cacciatore, co-director of the Center for Health and Risk Communication at Grady College, has been awarded a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning program.

The funds will provide research for PBS Digital Studios’ TERRA, its science-themed hub on YouTube, as they launch a new slate of STEM content.

Dr. Cacciatore is a co-principal investigator for the grant that also includes Dr. Sara Yeo of the University of Utah.

The grant from NSF will support a two-pronged PBS initiative to create STEM-related, short-form videos and conduct follow-up research to better understand how and why these videos attract underrepresented groups.

“Dr. Cacciatore’s work exemplifies the very best in collaborative research on issues of great importance,” said Charles N. Davis, dean of Grady College. “It’s a reminder that all grant-funded research contains a communicative element, and that Grady College faculty can help design and implement rock-solid empirical studies of message design and effectiveness.”

Cacciatore explains that PBS not only wants to expand its audience with new and underserved audiences, but the organization also recognizes the importance of bringing research into decisions so they are informed by data. He expects part of the research to focus on the role of humor in communicating science, an area PBS already utilizes and that Cacciatore studies.

“For me, this project builds naturally from a lot of the work I’m already doing on humor as a tool for science engagement,” Cacciatore, an associate professor in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations, said of the three-year grant. “At the same time, this project places more of an emphasis on the practical side of things. We’ll have a chance to collect data, analyze the underlying trends in that data, and then see our work influence the content PBS is producing.”

Cacciatore is excited to work with content producers like PBS.

“From an institutional perspective, I love the idea of PBS, arguably the most important provider of educational programming, partnering with UGA, the birthplace of higher education. I think it’s a perfect marriage,” Cacciatore said.

Currently, YouTube’s most popular STEM creators are disproportionately white and male, and viewer data and PBS surveys suggest that Black and Hispanic viewers, as well as women overall, are underrepresented in audiences for STEM content online. With support from the NSF grant, PBS Digital Studios aims to remedy this by expanding PBS TERRA to new, diverse audiences, and examining its impact.

Specifically, PBS Digital Studios plans to launch new series and create special episodes for existing series that explore STEM through a variety of lenses, including humor and popular culture. These STEM series will feature underrepresented voices, especially Black and Hispanic science communicators, in front of and behind the camera and seeks to broaden the audience for STEM content online.

“With the help of NSF, we hope to inspire the next generation of scientists by offering diverse and educational programming in a new way. At PBS, we are committed to presenting viewers with topical content that they cannot find anywhere else— and PBS TERRA is a perfect example. This is incredibly important work, and we are excited to innovate with STEM content and study the impact this content has within underrepresented communities,” said Sylvia Bugg, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming at PBS.

The research will be used to show how these groups search for and engage with content related to science, technology, engineering and math. Cacciatore and Yeo will also test hypotheses on the effects of STEM videos featuring scientists and experts that are women, Black and/or Hispanic presenting science content in a variety of ways. A goal of the project is to measure audiences’ attitudes and engagement with science as well as their perceptions of scientists.

The NSF’s AISL program seeks to advance new approaches to and evidence-based understanding of the design and development of STEM learning opportunities for the public in informal environments; provide multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences; advance innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments; and engage the public of all ages in learning STEM in informal environments.

Knight Foundation announces funding for UGA project supporting research on internet governance

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation recently announced a $25,000 investment to support a University of Georgia project studying the application of First Amendment and due process principles to nongovernmental digital platforms and services.

The project will bring together the expertise of Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication Associate Professor Jonathan Peters, School of Law Brumby Distinguished Professor in First Amendment Law Sonja R. West, and School of Public and International Affairs Assistant Professor Jason Anastasopoulos.

“I’m excited to be part of this interdisciplinary project exploring how First Amendment principles intersect with private digital information platforms,” said West, who holds a joint appointment at Grady College. “Our marketplace of ideas is changing, and there’s growing uncertainty around how best to protect and foster our First Amendment tradition on these platforms. As a group, we’ll seek to shape the relevant principles and norms, with a focus on due process principles and the protection of high-value expressive content.”

Peters, who holds a courtesy appointment with the School of Law, said the project’s topic could not be more timely. “It’s increasingly clear that digital platforms have some responsibility to protect free expression, and our work will explore that responsibility using First Amendment and due process principles. I am grateful for the Knight Foundation’s support and the opportunity to work with terrific scholars who are also kind people,” he said.

Anastasopoulos added that social media has ushered in a new era of news consumption, production and censorship that is just now beginning to be understood. “I’m incredibly excited to be working with my colleagues on this project which will help us better understand the nature of due process in online platforms,” he said. Anastasopoulos is also an Adjunct Professor of Statistics and an affiliate of the university’s Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

The UGA grant is one of 20 projects that received $1.7 million recently from the Knight Foundation to focus on research to inform the public conversation on current issues in technology policy, including free expression online and the scale and power of digital platforms. These grants, which come amid growing debate over technology’s role in our democracy, will help ensure that society is equipped to make evidence-based decisions on how to govern and manage the now-digital—and increasingly privately-owned—public square.

The awards mark the culmination of Knight’s $50 million commitment to catalyze new research to inform how technology is transforming our democracy. Knight’s overall investment has led to the establishment of new research centers at five universities around the country, and it is supporting a range of ongoing research at a growing network of institutions of higher learning, independent research organizations and policy think tanks focused on understanding technology’s impact on democracy and helping to inform solutions.

“As we proceed from a pandemic to an election, everything about technology is getting bigger: the companies, their role in our lives, and the debate about how to manage what we say and do online,” said Sam Gill, Knight’s senior vice president and chief program officer. “From COVID-related misinformation to labeled posts by the president, it’s clear that we need to chart a path forward about how to best protect democratic values in a digital age.”

Scripps Howard Foundation awards grant to fund Cox Institute’s reporting project

The Scripps Howard Foundation has awarded a grant to the James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership for a poverty reporting initiative.

The grant of $7,500 will fund the Cox Institute’s plans to use reporting on poverty as the topic for its student projects in the Fall 2020 Journalism Innovation Lab.

“The coverage of poverty and underserved communities touches communities and news organizations across the country. This program can provide students with meaningful experiences, lead to excellent journalism, and serve as a model and resource,” said Dr. Battinto L. Batts Jr., the director of journalism strategies with the Scripps Howard Foundation.

Keith Herndon, director of the Cox Institute, explained the funding from the Scripps Howard Foundation provides a new path for continuing a Covering Poverty online initiative that began more than a decade ago.

The work to update content, create original new content and relaunch the Covering Poverty resources will be done by a team of six journalism students under the direction of Lori Johnston, a lecturer in the Department of Journalism.

“I look forward to this tremendous opportunity to engage motivated, creative and talented journalism students who will explore innovative multimedia approaches, newsgathering techniques and storytelling on a meaningful real-world project,” Johnston said. “With the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 election and social issues, there has never been a better time to equip journalists to report about underserved communities.”

The students will be selected for the Journalism Innovation Lab through faculty nominations early in the Fall semester. The selected students will receive Cox Innovation Fellowship scholarships for their participation in the program.

The original Covering Poverty project launched as a website in 2009. It was created with a grant awarded in 2008 by the University of Georgia Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach, sponsored by the UGA Research Foundation. John Greenman, professor of journalism, emeritus, and Diane Murray, director of alumni relations and outreach, directed the program. Upon Greenman’s retirement in 2015, Murray continued to direct the program. Carolyn Crist (ABJ 09, MA ’14) started with the project as an undergraduate honors student and later was administrator of the website.

Since its inception, Covering Poverty provided reporting resources to more than 500 journalists annually who were covering poverty and related stories for news media organizations ranging from local newspapers to network television.

“We are very appreciative of the Scripps Howard Foundation for recognizing the importance of this resource and for providing the funds needed to continue it in a meaningful way,” Herndon said. “We are eager for our talented students under Lori Johnston’s leadership to once again provide this resource for our industry peers.”

Johnston also assisted the Cox Institute with the grant application process, which was led by Matt Pruitt, Associate Director of Foundation Relations in UGA’s Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations.

Grady Sports Media students mentor high school students in sports broadcast program

The allure of a Friday night for teens and young adults is palpable.

It’s a time to celebrate the end of a long week, hang out with friends and anticipate the weekend ahead. Fridays in the fall also include the social experience that is high school football.

For a group of Cedar Shoals High School students and Grady Sports Media students this fall, Friday nights are an opportunity to come together and dedicate their time toward new skills that could become future careers—sports broadcasting.

The opportunity comes courtesy of “The UGA-Grady High School Sports Broadcast Program.”  Grady Sports Media faculty members created the program after receiving one of the University of Georgia’s New Approaches to Promote Diversity and Inclusion Grants earlier this year. The grants are intended to support the recruitment, retention and success of underrepresented, underserved and first-generation students at UGA.

Cedar Shoals student Jordan Dulcio frames his shot during the football game. Photo: Miranda Daniel

The sports broadcast program pairs high school students with Grady Sports Media students in an intensive training and on-the-job learning experience. Since the beginning of the school year, Grady Sports Media students have traveled to Cedar Shoals a few times a month for after-school training sessions focusing on all parts of sports broadcast journalism, from producing and camera work, to play-by-play announcing, building in-game graphics and tracking game statistics. Friday nights are spent in the stadium press box where the high school students, under the leadership of the college students, practice what they have learned by producing a live broadcast of Cedar Shoals football games.

The dedication that these students have put into the program with the hours of after-school training and the five-hour or more time commitment on Friday nights is the most impressive part of the program according to Marc Ginsberg, Cedar Shoals journalism advisor.

“College students on a Friday night hanging out with a bunch of high school students? That’s awesome. If the Grady Sports students weren’t invested, then my students wouldn’t be invested.”

That is testimony to the early success of the program.

The High School Sports Broadcast Program

“We are grateful that this idea we’ve had in our minds for a while is coming to fruition because of this grant,” said Vicki Michaelis, the John Huland Carmical Chair in Sports Journalism and Society and the director of Grady Sports Media.

“The goal is to make them feel that UGA and Grady College are very accessible for them as they continue down their academic career paths.” — Carlo Finlay, assistant director, Grady Sports Media

All UGA undergraduates are eligible to apply for the six-course Grady Sports Media Certificate program, which launched in 2014. The Grady Sports professors have noticed that students who graduate from resource-rich high schools, many with their own sports broadcast programs, have an edge in experience and overall awareness of possible career paths in sports media. They want to bridge that gap for students from under-resourced and underrepresented communities.  Coupled with the fact that Grady Sports Media educates students for an industry in need of a diverse workforce, they saw an opportunity.

“From a system that’s feeding into our program, to a system that we are feeding into, we saw a real need to have this connection,” Michaelis said.

Michaelis and Carlo Finlay an academic professional and assistant director of Grady Sports Media, are using the grant to develop training modules and to buy a two-camera, high-definition broadcast kit that Cedar Shoals High School will be able to keep.

Journalism students volunteering for the UGA-Grady High School Sports Broadcast Program try out the equipment for the first time. Photo: Vicki Michaelis

They have also enlisted the help of other strong partners such as the NFHS Network, an online platform that broadcasts high school sports nationwide. The Cedar Shoals student broadcasts this fall are being live-streamed on the Grady Sports Media channel on the NFHS Network. The NFHS Network also loaned Cedar Shoals a starter broadcast kit, including a camera, switcher, headsets, microphones and cables, and provided initial equipment training.

Michaelis is planning to apply for external grants and/or seek support from corporations and individual donors in the future, allowing the program to expand to Atlanta and other communities. She decided to pilot test the program at Cedar Shoals High School because “we should serve the community that’s at our doorstep first.”

Finlay sees this program as being a real source of pride for Cedar Shoals and would like to see future events that bring the students on campus. “The goal is to make them feel that UGA and Grady College are very accessible for them as they continue down their academic career paths.”

The High School Students

Anyone who has been around teenagers knows that it can be a challenge to engage them in new activities, but participation at Cedar Shoals has been strong for the UGA-Grady High School Sports Broadcast Program.

“It’s cool to be able to provide them experience where they kind of have to independently problem-solve in real time for an audience,” Marc Ginsberg, journalism advisor, Cedar Shoals High School

When Ginsberg asked for volunteers to participate from his yearbook, newspaper and other broadcast classes, he wanted to make sure he had committed students who were dedicated to the program and would make it a priority. He had about 20 students volunteer.

He divided the group into two production teams, so that they don’t have to work every game and can enjoy the pleasures of rooting for the team from the bleachers.

“They have worked their butts off so far,” Ginsberg admits proudly of his volunteers.

Cedar Shoals students Tristan Lankford and Sachio Goodie work on some play-by-play calls during the football broadcast. Photo: Miranda Daniel

The production teams have to report to the stadium 2-1/2 hours before kickoff, but their responsibilities begin early in the week by researching background on the opponents, writing the scripts for their opens, building graphics and other prep work. The students take turns each week with their assignments.

A genuine interest in media is something that Finlay noticed when he first met the students.

“Some of the students aren’t necessarily crazy sports fans,” he said, “but they’re still doing this because they are excited about a new concept we are offering.”

Ginsberg claims his keys to success have been to “start with an open mind and be flexible at first.” When Michaelis and Finlay first approached him about participating in the program, he was hesitant, but once he was reassured that there would be training and teacher support from Grady Sports Media, he was all in.

“It’s cool to be able to provide them experience where they kind of have to independently problem-solve in real time for an audience,” Ginsberg said of his students.

For Cedar Shoals junior Victor Soto-Rosales, he sees this as an investment in his future. He aspires to attend the University of Georgia and major in journalism or film. He admits the program is tougher than he thought, but it has its advantages.

“It’s definitely worth it,” Soto-Rasales said. “You get to hang out with friends and learn something new.”

It’s a love of journalism that attracted junior Emma Dowling to the sports broadcast program. She gladly gives up her Friday nights to learn something new, including some hard lessons like struggling for an internet connection right before going on the air.

Dowling said it’s challenges like this that teach the biggest lessons: “Sometimes it’s fine that things don’t go perfectly. We need to say to ourselves ‘don’t freak out, breathe and get back on schedule.’”

The Grady Sports Media Students

One of the biggest surprises for most involved with the program is the close connection developing between the high school students and the Grady Sports Media students.

That connection started after the first training session. When the camera operation lessons were done, the high school students started asking Myan Patel and Taylor Maggiore, two of the four Grady Sports Media students working with the Cedar Shoals students, about college.

“They seem to enjoy it as much as we do because they come on Fridays, as well. It’s a really great example for them to set for us, especially because they have the opportunity to help someone else learn something new.”  — Victor Soto-Rasales, student, Cedar Shoals High School

“They were asking questions like ‘What were the best traits in high school that prepared you for college?’ and ‘What’s it like?’” Patel remembers. “Now, we go in there and they know us and they expect us to be there, so it’s almost that we have become integrated into their classroom.”

Carlo Finlay and Myan Patel provide guidance to Cedar Shoals student Trent Dennison during a football broadcast. Photo: Miranda Daniel

Patel and Maggiore are third-year journalism majors and they are each working toward earning  Grady Sports Media certificates. It was their work with the Grady Sports Bureau (which produces local high school sports broadcasts) last fall, and the fact that they are not far removed from their high school years, that made them well-suited for the high school program. Maggiore spent last summer as a UGA orientation leader, so she is prepared to answer questions about college, and the Cedar Shoals students enjoy talking with Patel about his internship last summer doing play-by-play announcing and beat writing for collegiate baseball.

“It’s really invaluable to see someone doing something that’s exciting and fun who is not that much older than you,” said Michaelis of the dynamic between her students and the Cedar Shoals students.

The Grady Sports Media students, with guidance from Michaelis and Finlay, have conducted all the training sessions with the students and they are there to answer questions and provide moral support during the football games.

“To be a high schooler and to be able to fully set up a production, execute it and break it down is more than most high schoolers could dream of,” Maggiore said of her experience working with the Cedar Shoals students over the past few months. “’From the beginning, they all came prepared and asked all the right questions. They were very professional and had great ideas. That was pretty satisfying from day one when they didn’t know what this thing was and now they are executing a full game. It’s been awesome.”

Taylor Maggiore, a Grady Sports Media student, works with Cedar Shoals students Daveon Montgomery and Pace Barkdoll. Photo: Vicki Michaelis

According to Soto-Rasales, the time the Cedar Shoals students get to spend with the Grady Sports Media students is one of his favorite parts of the program.

“They are really cool,” Soto-Rasales said. “They seem to enjoy it as much as we do because they come on Fridays, as well. It’s a really great example for them to set for us, especially because they have the opportunity to help someone else learn something new. I think it’s really cool they are doing that.”

Patel says the expectation of the future of the program is the biggest reason he is involved.

“It will be really cool to see the program grow,” Patel said. “I think we’ve got them thinking down paths that they might not have necessarily been thinking about. The world in the realm of sports media and broadcasting might not have been something they thought about or had access to before this, but if 10 years from now you can see that program become a feeder to the program at Grady or anywhere else, I think that would be really, really cool.”