Moni Basu named director of MFA Narrative Nonfiction program

A quote graphic that reads "“This felt like a poetic opportunity for me. It is an honor for me to lead this amazing program and to ensure that Valerie’s legacy shines bright.”Moni Basu, an award-winning journalist and author, has been named the director of the Master in Fine Arts in Narrative Nonfiction program and the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer in Residence at Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. She will begin her new role in January 2023.

Basu has been a distinguished professor of practice at Grady College since 2015, serving as a visiting writer and mentor in the nonfiction MFA program launched by the late Valerie Boyd, who passed away in February 2022. 

“This felt like a poetic opportunity for me,” Basu said. “It is an honor for me to lead this amazing program and to ensure that Valerie’s legacy shines bright.”

Basu is leaving her role as the Michael and Linda Connelly Lecturer in Narrative Nonfiction at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications, a job she began in August 2018. She was named UF’s teacher of the year in her fourth semester there.

Before that, Basu was a senior writer at CNN and a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she won numerous national awards. Basu is the author of the book “Chaplain Turner’s War,” which stemmed from a series of stories she wrote on Darren Turner, an Army chaplain who shepherded a battalion of infantrymen during a grueling deployment in Iraq. 

“We’re thrilled to have Moni join us full time,” said Jonathan Peters, head of the Department of Journalism at Grady College. “She’s a wonderful person and an award-winning teacher and writer, with bylines all over the world and deep experience covering issues related to trauma, race and identity. “Our students will be so fortunate to learn from her, and all of us in the Department of Journalism are excited for her to make her mark on the Narrative Media Writing program.”

Basu speaks during a panel at Grady College in 2018.
Basu speaks during a panel at Grady College in 2018. (Photo: Sarah Freeman)

Basu, who has also served as an editor-at-large for The Bitter Southerner and The Groundtruth Project, has a background in local journalism. Early in her career, Basu worked as editor of The Florida Flambeau and briefly at The Tallahassee Democrat, before accepting a position at AJC. 

“Moni brings continuity to the program. With her extensive experience in domestic and international reporting she also brings a new dimension to the mix,” said Jeff Springston, director of the MFA Narrative Media Writing program at Grady College. “As we seek to broaden our student base to become more international, she is the perfect person to lead that effort.”

The MFA Narrative Nonfiction program is a two-year, low-residency program designed to cultivate writers in storytelling. The program offers students an opportunity to develop skills that prepares them to be accomplished authors, editors, literary agents or other industry professionals. Students have published books and articles in national magazines. The MFA Narrative Nonfiction program is one of two tracks of study in the MFA Narrative Media Writing program. The other, in screenwriting, is directed by Nate Kohn. 

A number of leading editors, writers and instructors serve as MFA Narrative Nonfiction mentors including: Rosalind Bentley, interim director of the MFA Narrative Nonfiction program and Pulitzer prize finalist; John T. Edge, author of “The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South;” Lolis Eric Elie, filmmaker, television writer for series such as HBO’s “Treme;” Melissa Faye Greene, author of several books including the award-winning “Praying for Sheetrock;” Pat Thomas, professor emerita and former Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism at UGA; and Jan Winburn, editor of the Pulitzer Prize winning story, “The Umpire’s Son,” reported by Lisa Pollak.

Applications to the MFA Narrative Nonfiction program are due each year by May 1. Learn more on the program website.

Jonathan Peters named Department of Journalism Head

Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication proudly announces Jonathan Peters as the new head of the Department of Journalism.

“I am delighted that Jon is joining the leadership team,” said Charles N. Davis, dean of Grady College. “Jon is a Russell Award-winning teacher and an internationally renowned First Amendment scholar, making him a well-rounded choice to lead our journalism department faculty and curriculum.”

Jonathan Peters talks with a student at his Teacher of the Year reception in 2019.
Jonathan Peters talks with a student at his Teacher of the Year reception in 2019. (Photo: Sarah E. Freeman)

Peters, an associate professor who holds an affiliate faculty position in the UGA School of Law, specializes in communication law and policy. His research focuses on internet companies and decisions made about content they host. Peters also studies how economic, political and technological changes affect modern journalism.

His published research has appeared in the Berkeley Technology Law Journal, the Harvard Law and Policy Review, and the Federal Communications Law Journal, among others.

“It’s an honor to be entrusted to serve the department and I am grateful for the opportunity,” Peters said. “I’m thankful, too, to have such a terrific model in Dr. Janice Hume. She has been an outstanding chair, and I’m relieved she’ll be just down the hallway to answer the dozens of questions I’ll have (and that’ll be only the first day).”

Peters assumes leadership for the Department of Journalism on August 1 when Hume assumes the role of associate dean for academic affairs for the College.

In addition to his teaching and research, Peters serves as the press freedom correspondent for the Columbia Journalism Review. He has written about legal issues for EsquireThe AtlanticSlateWired, NBC News, and CNN, and has been interviewed on related topics by The New York TimesThe Washington PostVanity Fair and NPR, among others.

Peters is a volunteer First Amendment lawyer for the Student Press Law Center and the ACLU. He has also testified in litigation as an expert witness on media law, and he has conducted legal seminars for dozens of news organizations, including the radio program “This American Life” and the podcast “Serial.” In 2020, Peters consulted with the Uzbekistan government as part of a United Nations program focusing on how the government can strengthen public access to the nation’s judiciary as well as public trust in it.

In 2021, Peters was honored as the Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, UGA’s highest early-career teaching honor, and was recognized in 2019 as the Journalism Teacher of the Year at Grady College.

“My colleagues are the absolute best,” Peters continues. “Every one of them has helped me—in different ways—become a better teacher, researcher, and human being. And our students are phenomenal. They’re smart and conscientious, and they’re so creative and curious. They demand your A-game as an instructor and advisor. All of which is why I’m excited about my new role.”

Peters has a B.S. in journalism from Ohio University, a J.D. from Ohio State University and a Ph.D. in journalism from the University of Missouri.

Jonathan Peters recognized with Russell Award

Jonathan Peters, associate professor of journalism, is one of three University of Georgia faculty members named a recipient of the Richard B. Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. The award recognizes outstanding instruction by faculty members early in their academic careers.

Peters teaches communication law courses to undergraduate and graduate students and has a courtesy appointment with the School of Law.

The Russell Foundation established the Russell Awards during the 1991-1992 academic year to honor the late U.S. Sen. Richard B. Russell. The awards include a $10,000 cash award.

“Recipients of the Russell Awards exemplify the commitment to innovative and engaging instruction that makes the University of Georgia one of America’s leading public universities,” said S. Jack Hu, the university’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “I congratulate this year’s honorees and appreciate their dedication to our students.”

In addition to Peters, two other UGA faculty members are being recognized with the Russell Award: Jennifer Birch, associate professor of anthropology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and Emily Sahakian, associate professor of theatre and film studies, and of Romance languages in the Franklin College.

Jonathan Peters at a reception in his honor when he was named the 2019 Journalism Teacher of the Year. (Photo: Sarah Freeman)

Peters is an internationally recognized expert in mass communication law who encourages, guides and challenges his students to think critically and creatively about legal problems and their solutions. He uses humor and innovative assessments to bring to life all manner of difficult concepts. In addition to communication law, Peters has taught both feature writing and travel writing, the latter in Prague, and he has co-taught a First-Year Odyssey Seminar exploring free expression on university campuses.

His impact and influence go well beyond the classroom. Peters is a co-author of “The Law of Public Communication,” a widely adopted textbook, and is a press freedom correspondent for the Columbia Journalism Review. Peters is a frequent commentator on First Amendment issues for The New York TimesThe Washington PostVanity Fair, NPR, CNN, NBC News and CBS News. Student journalists, at UGA and beyond, regularly seek his assistance for public-record requests and for reviews of story drafts.

Peters also advises countries around the world on press freedom issues. Late 2020, he consulted with media professionals and members of the Supreme Court of the Republic of in Uzbekistan on press freedom topics and in 2018, he helped develop legal guidelines for press rights in Poland.

Grady College recognized Peters in 2019 as its Journalism Teacher of the Year, and in 2017 he was selected as an Online Learning Fellow, allowing him to adapt his communication law course to be taught online for the first time. Outside the university, he recently served as the elected teaching chair of the Law and Policy Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Nominations for the Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching are submitted by deans and considered by a committee of senior faculty members and undergraduate students. Tenure-track faculty members who have worked at UGA for at least three years and no more than 10 years are eligible for the award.

Jonathan Peters presents on media freedom to court officials and journalists in Uzbekistan

Jonathan Peters, an associate professor of journalism who holds a secondary faculty appointment in the School of Law, regularly provides counsel and commentary on First Amendment issues in America. His expertise on the subject has made him a sought-after scholar around the world.

On December 3, 2020, Peters delivered two presentations to Uzbekistani journalists and court officials, including members of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan, about rights of access to United States courts and how U.S. journalists cover legal issues.

Peters was invited by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) because of his related work in the United States. His presentations were part of a larger project called the “Rule of Law Partnership in Uzbekistan,” whose purpose is to strengthen public access to the nation’s judiciary as well as public trust in it. The project is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“I was excited to be part of the event, and I was grateful for the chance to work with UNDP and USAID,” said Peters. “Their officials were helpful and supportive, and it was so interesting to learn from them about Uzbekistan—and to contribute to their efforts to strengthen public trust in the judicial system there.”

His primary message was consistent with a lesson he tries to impart to all of his UGA students: that journalism and law must make constant collaboration a priority to coexist productively and in service of democracy.

“There has to be a regular effort to reach across the differences in habit and philosophy that separate journalism and law,” Peters said. “This is really important because each profession can be so absorbed in its own ends that it can lose sight of the other.”

After his presentations, Peters fielded questions from the Uzbekistani participants, allowing judges and journalists alike to gain insight into American media and legal processes. The journalists, for example, asked about how best to explain the law’s complexities. The court officials, meanwhile, asked about media credentialing and whether U.S. judges are able to comment publicly on their rulings.

Uzbekistan is experiencing what Peters describes as “significant democratic change,” and his conversations with the court officials and journalists there made even clearer to him the strong relationship between open courts and a well-functioning democracy.

“That relationship is essential to the goals of political accountability and knowledge discovery and to the achievement of a dynamic civil society,” said Peters. “The rule of law is preserved partly by public knowledge of court rulings and activities.”

Peters encouraged judicial transparency and media access to courts, because news coverage of trials and the law can provide a critical service for citizens both factually and emotionally.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has empha­sized repeatedly the historical importance of public trials and has reasoned that openness improves the functioning of a trial and has therapeutic value,” Peters said. “As the Court once put it, public trials provide ‘an outlet for community concern, hostility and emotion,’ and they educate and enhance public acceptance that justice is being done.”

The seminar with Uzbekistani officials and journalists is the latest international consultation for Peters. He is a regular participant in the U.S. Department of State’s Edward R. Murrow Program, through which he has trained journalists from dozens of countries in media-freedom principles. He has also consulted for European intergovernmental organizations on press rights at protests, and last year he completed a research project to inform the drafting of a United Nations Human Rights Committee document interpreting the right of peaceful assembly.

 

 

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.”

Grady College Conversations podcast: Jonathan Peters

Listen to this episode on Apple PodcastsYou can also hear it on Spotify. Learn more about Grady College podcasts here. 

Jonathan Peters, assistant professor in journalism, joins Dayne Young on Grady College Conversations. He teaches communication law to students across the college. In this episode, Peters discusses the rights of journalists when covering protests in public areas. Peters talks about his background and what first interested him in communication law. He explains how his classes transitioned to online instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, Peters chats about the 2020 election and what trends are emerging from a legal standpoint.

Grady professor advises European organizations on press-rights guidelines

Jonathan Peters, assistant professor of journalism at Grady College and affiliate assistant professor at UGA’s School of Law, attended meetings in Warsaw, Poland, last semester where he served as an adviser developing legal guidelines for press rights at public assemblies.

Peters started working in summer 2017 as an adviser to the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Warsaw-based Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

OSCE and ODIHR asked Peters to help them analyze protections for members of the press covering public assemblies. He was recommended for the position by his former law school adviser, David Goldberger, a First Amendment scholar who serves on the OSCE/ODIHR ​Panel of Experts on the Freedom of Assembly, which ​develops and revises assembly guidelines in consultation with the Council of Europe and others.

“​I​t​’s​ a critical time to do this work,” Peters said. “State police ​have been detaining and arresting journalists without cause for their assembly coverage, and ordinary citizens ​have been assaulting journalists as they report at assemblies. ​States have the duty to facilitate peaceful assemblies and press access to them​, ​and the press must be free to publish truthful information about matters of public concern. These commitments​ ​rest at the core of any functioning democratic system.”

Peters added that regulation of press rights varies greatly across Europe. “The guidelines that we worked on will establish best practices​ and ​set​ a minimum baseline for press rights​ at assemblies, ​creating a threshold that national authorities will meet in their own regulations.”

Peters produced a 35-page report for OSCE/ODIHR that outlined European protections for the press at assemblies and ultimately made recommendations regarding how existing guidelines should be revised to clarify and strengthen those protections. He was asked to attend meetings in Warsaw to present his report, answer questions, and contribute to discussions.

“The best part of the trip were the people I met,” Peters said. “Press rights was just one item on the agenda, so I learned from the panel members as they considered a number of other issues that are outside of my expertise. I was impressed by their deliberative process and the thoughtful, high-level exchanges they had.”

In addition to the work on the report, Peters connected with professionals from other countries, including a law professor from the University of East Anglia and a former UN lawyer who handled rule-of-law matters in the Congo. Fellow Grady College professor Bart Wojdynski also arranged for Peters to meet up with his cousin, who lives in Warsaw, to talk about the city’s history and current political climate.

“I’m ready to go back,” Peters said.

New faculty join Grady College

As the fall semester begins, Grady College is pleased to welcome four new full-time faculty members.

The new faculty include:

  • Anne Gilbert, assistant professor, Department of Entertainment and Media Studies
  • Booker T. Mattison, assistant professor, Department of Entertainment and Media Studies
  • Taylor Cole Miller, assistant professor, Department of Entertainment and Media Studies
  • Jonathan Peters, assistant professor, Department of Journalism

Anne Gilbert

Anne Gilbert researches media industries, transgender, technology and audience cultures. Prior to Grady College, Gilbert was a postdoctoral teaching fellow at the University of Kansas. She is currently writing a book about the San Diego Comic Con and its position in contemporary culture.

Gilbert earned her doctorate in media studies from Rutgers University, her Master of Arts in cinema studies from New York University and her Bachelor of Arts in film and media studies, and comparative literature, from Washington University (Missouri).

She will teach Media and Technology (EMST 3290) and Elements of Narrative (EMST 3510) in the fall.

Booker T. Mattison

In addition to his work as a professor, Booker T. Mattison is an author and filmmaker. Mattison was the screenwriter and director for the film adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s story “The Gilded Six Bits,” which aired on Showtime.

In 2011, he released his second novel, “Snitch,” which received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly. Mattison’s debut novel “Unsigned Hype” was nominated for a South Carolina Book Award in the Young Adult Category. He is currently working on his third novel “Friendship Village.”

Prior to Grady College, Mattison taught at the College of New Rochelle, Brooklyn College and Regent and Hampton Universities.

Mattison received his Master of Fine Arts in film and television from New York University and a Bachelor of Science in mass communication from Norfolk State University.

Mattison will teach Screen Writing (EMST 4110) and Video Production (EMST 4250) in the fall.

Taylor Cole Miller

Taylor Cole Miller is a professor of media and cultural studies and he specializes in television studies, digital and new media and issues involving women’s and gender studies. Miller has written several articles for The Huffington Post and the American Film Institute film files.

He earned his doctorate in media and cultural studies from the University of Wisconsin, a Master of Art in radio, television and film from the University of Texas, a Bachelor of Science in journalism and mass communication from University of Kansas and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from the University of Kansas.

Miller will teach two sections of New Media Production (NMIX 4110) through the New Media Institute this fall.

Jonathan Peters

Jonathan Peters joins Grady College with an affiliate position with the School of Law. He specializes in communication law and policy, with a special emphasis on how internet companies make decisions about the content they host, as well as how new media are reshaping the gathering, production and distribution of news and information.

In addition to teaching, Peters serves as the press freedom correspondent with the Columbia Journalism Review and the First Amendment chair of the Civil Rights Litigation Committee of the American Bar Association.

Prior to Grady College, Peters was an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Kansas.

Peters has a doctorate degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, a Juris Doctor from Ohio State University and a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Ohio University.

This fall, Peters will teach Communication Law (JRLC 5040) and Reporting and Writing Across Platforms (JOUR 3190).