Cox Institute adds new directors, initiatives to benefit students and industry

A new organizational and leadership structure will expand the training mission of the James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership.

The Cox Institute, which operates as a unit of the Journalism Department at the University of Georgia’s College of Journalism and Mass Communication, will offer expanded skills development and training opportunities programs for students and professionals through the newly-restructured Journalism Innovation Lab and Journalism Writing Lab.

The Cox Institute’s Journalism Innovation Lab will assume operation of the Digital Natives program, which brings UGA journalism students with digital news expertise into Georgia newsrooms to help local journalists and news organizations accomplish specific digital goals.  This program was launched by Dr. Amanda Bright, a member of the journalism faculty, who will continue to manage this project along with other digital innovation initiatives to develop the products, practices and people of journalism’s future in a new role as Director of the Journalism Innovation Lab.

“I’m thrilled to be able to create a space where students and professionals can collaborate and innovate toward the next iteration of journalism,” Bright said. “The Journalism Innovation Lab will be committed to encouraging students to think boldly about where our industry should go next, while meeting specific needs in the field to serve our audiences and a functioning democracy.”

The Cox Institute’s Journalism Writing Lab will expand its scope by operating the Covering Poverty project, which was relaunched earlier this year by students funded through a Scripps Howard Foundation grant. This fall, the project will recruit a new group of students and alumni to work in partnership with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Athens Banner-Herald.  Lori Johnston (ABJ ’95, MFA ’17), a lecturer in the Journalism Department who oversaw the relaunch of Covering Poverty, will become Director of the Journalism Writing Lab. She will continue to manage the Covering Poverty project along with other content initiatives.

“I am thankful to the Cox Institute for being forward-thinking and for the relationships we have established with these important media outlets, and others to come,” Johnston said. “I look forward to guiding students as they report, write and produce meaningful stories about issues, people and places. They will deepen their reporting abilities and delve into the craft of storytelling and service journalism to help newsrooms tell these stories now, and then take those newfound skills into their careers.”

In addition to the new structure and projects housed in the Journalism Innovation Lab and the Journalism Writing Lab, the Cox Institute will continue to provide students with leadership training opportunities through initiatives such as the Levin Leaders Program and skills development opportunities through a variety of fellowship programs.

“We are enhancing the core of what the Cox Institute has built over three decades to make our programs an even more integral part of the journalism education our students receive,” said Dr. Keith Herndon (ABJ ’82), whose title will change from director to executive director of the Cox Institute as part of the new leadership structure. “Adding two respected colleagues in Amanda Bright and Lori Johnston to our leadership is a win for the Cox Institute and for the students we serve.”

The Cox Institute was established in 1990 by the late Conrad Fink, a legendary journalism professor, as the Cox Institute for Newspaper Management Studies. Its current name was adopted in 2014 to reflect the news media’s digital transformation. The Institute honors the late James M. Cox Jr., who headed Cox Enterprises and Cox Broadcasting Corporation from 1957 until 1974. Its primary funding is from the Jim Cox Jr. Foundation.

The 2021 Levin Leaders receive their Cox Institute leadership medals

The James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership has recognized its 2021 class of Levin Leaders by presenting the aspiring media leaders with their Leadership Medals.

The Levin Leaders were selected for the program from a pool of faculty nominations based on their commitment to professional development through work in student media, internships and other student activities. The 2021 Levin Leaders are Shaelyn Carroll, Willie Daniely, Alex English, Olivia Mead, Mackenzie Miles, Zachary Miles, Tylar Norman, Laura Nwogu, Caroline Odom, Samantha Perez, Kyra Posey, Jack Sadighian, Augusta Stone and Lora Yordanova.

The students received their medals during a private, socially-distanced dinner on March 15 at the Center for Continuing Education. Grady College Dean Charles Davis attended to recognize the accomplishments of these top journalism students.

“You represent the best of us,” Davis said, reflecting on the competitive selection process. “We want you to know how important you are to the college.”

The Cox Institute also announced the winners of several Journalism Department scholarships during the dinner. Augusta Stone and Lora Yordanova were awarded Conrad C. Fink Scholarships, which are presented annually in memory of the late journalism professor who founded the Cox Institute. Jack Sadighian received the Todd M. Bauer Memorial Award, which was established by the Bauer family to honor their son by helping young journalists establish themselves in their early careers. The Cox Institute also announced Savannah Sicurella, a 2020 Levin Leader, as this year’s recipient of the Barry Hollander Award, which was established by former students in memory of the late journalism professor known for his steadfast defense of open meetings and records.

The students participating in the leadership program met weekly for eight weeks with Dr. Keith Herndon, director of the Cox Institute. The sessions, held socially distanced in the large Studio 100 or over Zoom, featured student discussions about leadership principles drawn from the “Your Leadership Edge” book published by the Kansas Leadership Center.

“These students have been through a lot over the past year and have demonstrated enormous resilience,” Herndon said. “We wanted our program this year to be encouraging while also challenging them to be introspective, empathetic and adaptable as they prepare for immense change in the coming decade.”

Shaelyn Carroll said the program made her think about the importance of embracing change, especially in the media industry, and also said it gave her new perspectives on the meaning of leadership.

“This program made me think of leadership as a choice rather than an appointed position; it is something you can choose to do every single day,” said Carroll.

The 2021 cohort also indicated the training’s emphasis on personal integrity and acting empathetically resonated with them.

“This program made me think of leadership as a way to live,” said Lora Yordanova. “It’s about living everyday with integrity, courage, empathy and vision even when no one is watching.”

Samantha Perez described leadership as “an opportunity to collaborate,” while Laura Nwogu said it means “amplifying the voices of others and giving them a stage to be leaders themselves.”

Since its inception nine years ago, the Cox Institute’s leadership training program has taught 127 of Grady’s best journalism students about leadership principles. The program was renamed the Levin Leaders Initiative in 2019 to reflect the generous support provided by Adam Levin, his wife Heather McDowell, and the Philip and Janice Levin Foundation. The Levin family’s support provides for curriculum development, training materials and other expenses of running the program. Levin is a nationally recognized expert on cyber security, privacy, identity theft, fraud, and personal finance. He was chairman and founder of CyberScout and was co-founder of He authored the book, “Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves.”

Cox Institute’s eBook from The Lead Podcast Wins Gold Medals

This story was originally published on the Cox Institute page here.

An eBook featuring excerpts of interviews from The Lead podcast won two gold medals in the 2020 eLit Book Awards competition, which recognizes excellence in digital publishing.

The eBook entitled News Leadership: Conversations about Journalism and its Future was released by Kendall Hunt Publishing in December as a project of the James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership, which also produces the podcast.

News Leadership received its first gold medal in a current events category for political, economic, legal and media topics. The eBook received its second gold medal in the category recognizing best use of multimedia.

“It was a pleasure to be able to synthesize important leadership and ethical concepts into an interactive tool for journalism students and educators,” said Charlotte Norsworthy, the Cox Institute’s Morris Master’s Fellow, who was the eBook’s lead editor. “By making these concepts more accessible, we are able to better equip students entering a fluctuating news industry.”

The eLit Books Awards, in their eleventh year, are a global awards program open to all members of the electronic publishing industry. The contest is presented by Jenkins Group Inc., a Michigan-based book publishing and marketing services company that has operated the popular Independent Publisher Book Awards contest since 1996. Electronic books written in English and created for the global marketplace were eligible for entry in 65 categories.

News Leadership features insights from established professionals and emerging thought leaders gleaned from their candid conversations with student hosts, including Norsworthy. Their insights offer advice, provide context, and create a sense of optimism for an industry grappling with transformative disruption.

The Lead podcast debuted in the Fall 2016 semester with Daniel Funke as its original student host for the first two semester-length seasons. Nate Bramel and Noelle Lashley took over hosting responsibilities for seasons three and four and Norsworthy led seasons five, six and seven.  In the upcoming season eight, which will debut during the fall semester, Norsworthy moves into the producer’s chair and will direct the episodes featuring the new student host, Caroline Odom.

Guests from The Lead who are featured in the eBook include Pulitzer Prize winners Alex Jones and Nick Chiles, Peabody Award winner Bob Sullivan, local television news legend Monica Kaufman-Pearson and renowned journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault. They are among the dozens of guests who share valuable words of advice with the student hosts and their audiences.

“The Lead podcast has evolved into an important educational resource for presenting insights into the leadership challenges confronting the news media,” said Keith Herndon, the Cox Institute’s director and co-editor of the eBook. “We are excited for this work to be recognized with these eLit Book Awards.”

News Leadership can be purchased through Kendall Hunt at

Kendall Hunt Publishing is a family owned and operated publishing company celebrating a 75-years history. The company has an immense library of course content with over 10,000 print and digital titles. For more information about the publisher, visit:

Norsworthy and Herndon recorded a special bonus episode of The Lead featuring a discussion on the book’s production, which was posted with the book’s release. The episode can be heard here.

Keith Herndon named Morris Chair

Keith Herndon (ABJ ’82), a professor of practice in journalism, has been named to the William S. Morris Chair in News Strategy and Management by the dean of Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“Keith Herndon is an innovator, an academic entrepreneur who works tirelessly on behalf of Grady students,” said Charles N. Davis, dean of Grady College. “I am delighted to see him uphold the proud legacy of the Morris Chair, which traces its roots to the legendary Conrad Fink. This is an important time for building leadership in journalism, as we work with our colleagues in the profession to help create new ways of producing and monetizing the work we do—and I can’t think of a better person to spearhead these efforts at Grady College.”

Herndon is the third professor to hold the Morris Chair. The late Conrad Fink, a legendary Grady professor, was the initial Morris Chair. He was followed by Professor Kent Middleton, who was head of the journalism department and is now professor emeritus.  The program began in 1995 as a named professorship and was elevated to an endowed chair in 2005.

William S. Morris III established the chair in memory of his late father, William S. Morris Jr., who joined the Augusta Chronicle as a bookkeeper in 1929 and rose through the ranks to publisher. He became the controlling partner in 1945 and developed the company into one of Georgia’s leading communications organizations.

Herndon takes pride in the history of the chair: “We honor the legacy of those represented by this chair—its namesake, its creator and the professors who held it—by moving forward with the challenge of training a next generation of news leaders who are prepared to defend the news media’s vital role in our democracy.”

Funding provided by the endowment will be used to expand graduate education in the area of news strategy and management through new academic and applied research initiatives. These plans include a new doctoral research fellowship and a new master’s level graduate assistantship.  Plans also include expanding Herndon’s collaborations and projects with UGA’s Fanning Institute for Leadership Development in the areas of strategic and ethical leadership.

Herndon will continue as director of the James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership where he leads the Cox Institute Leaders program and the Grady Mobile News Lab.   Herndon, a Grady alumnus from the class of 1982, first taught at Grady as a lecturer in fall 2011. He returned the following year as a visiting professor and held that position until joining the full-time faculty in 2016. Herndon earned a Master of Liberal Studies from the University of Oklahoma in 1997 and completed a Ph.D. in Media and Information from Australia’s Curtin University in 2011.

Prior to teaching at Grady, he ran his own media and technology consulting firm and taught part-time at Kennesaw State University.  Previously, he worked at Cox Enterprises’ Internet division, serving as Vice President of Operations and Vice President for Planning and Product Development. He managed strategic partnerships and led technical diligence on Cox’s new media investments, serving on the board of directors of an investment recipient. He was also Director of Operations at Cox Radio Interactive, a pioneer in streaming media. Herndon began his career while at Grady, working as a reporter for his hometown paper in Elberton, Georgia, and then as a sportswriter for the Anderson (South Carolina) Independent and the Athens Banner-Herald. After graduation, he was a Pulliam Journalism Fellow with The Indianapolis News.  He was a business reporter at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution before becoming assistant business editor, deputy business editor and administrative editor.  Herndon is the author of “The Decline of the Daily Newspaper: How an American Institution Lost the Online Revolution” (Peter Lang, 2012). He also has published two business books about entrepreneurship and innovation.

Grady students recognized as 2017 Cox-SABEW Fellows

Six Grady College students were recognized in New York City during the fall conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) through a fellowship organized and sponsored by the college’s Cox Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership.

The students recognized as Cox-SABEW Fellows for 2017 were: Denver Ellison, Lisa Fu, Zachary Hansen, Reann Huber, Mollie Simon and Alex Soderstrom. The conference was held at the City University of New York on October 12 and 13.

This Cox-SABEW Fellowship was created to honor students who have taken the initiative to engage in business journalism through class assignments, student media and professional internships, explained Dr. Keith Herndon, director of the Cox Institute. This year’s group marked the fifth year of the partnership with SABEW, which was created in 2013 and has included 20 students to date.

“I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity being selected as a Cox-SABEW Fellow has given me,” said Soderstrom. “After being introduced to business reporting during my summer internship at the Atlanta Business Chronicle, the SABEW conference has allowed me to delve even further into the world of business journalism.”

Fu, who interned at Fortune magazine, called the Fellowship “a fantastic opportunity for me to network, learn and to explore the field of business journalism with my peers.” Simon, who interned in business news at NPR, said the Fellowship extended her training in an important aspect of news. “Business journalism cuts across so many fields that I know it will touch any topic I have the opportunity to cover in the future,” she said.

In addition to attending the conference, the Cox-SABEW Fellows met with working reporters and editors in the newsrooms of Fortune magazine, Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal. They also networked with Grady alumni and supporters currently working in business news and other news media organizations.

PILOT Sponsors UGA’s Grady Mobile News Lab for Fall 2017

The National Association of Broadcasters’ (NAB) PILOT innovation initiative will provide funding for VR equipment and training at the Grady College of Journalism.


NAB’s PILOT innovation initiative will sponsor the Mobile News Lab project at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication during Fall 2017. The sponsorship will provide the lab with new equipment for producing virtual reality content along with materials for training mobile-media best practices.

The Grady Mobile News Lab launched in Fall 2014 to provide students a forum to experiment with mobile production tools and design concepts. Students learn from Grady faculty, guest trainers and industry coaches as they engage in hands-on practice using mobile devices and applications to report and present news. This year, 18 students will work in three tracks: standard mobile video, social media and virtual reality video.

PILOT Executive Director John Clark said, “PILOT is delighted to support the work at Grady College and the Mobile News Lab students who are experimenting with VR to further develop next-generation storytelling.”

Charlotte Norsworthy and Mary Carol Butterfield brainstorm in the Grady Mobile News Lab.

Skip Pizzi, NAB’s Vice President of Technology Education and Outreach, added, “We’re proud to provide a PILOT sponsorship for this innovative program at the Grady College. It is a great opportunity to stimulate tomorrow’s journalists in learning about new tools that will help them better inform and engage their audiences.”

Ann Marie Jorgensen, a senior lab leader at Grady College, said the Mobile News Lab provides students with an environment to take risks and be creative with their story telling. “I’m grateful to work with my classmates in a fun and cutting edge way,” she said. Charlotte Norsworthy, a third-year lab leader, will incorporate her lab project into an undergraduate research thesis about virtual reality. “I am so excited that the Mobile News Lab has provided students such as myself the chance to engage in projects we can be proud of,” she said. “It gives us the opportunity to test the waters, try new things and build off of the strengths of our peers.”

The Grady Mobile News Lab is an extracurricular experiential learning opportunity presented by the college’s James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership.

Keith Herndon, director of the Cox Institute, said NAB’s sponsorship is vitally important because it allows the program to expand into virtual reality, a new area of training. “Students benefit greatly when exposed to emerging technologies in a lab setting,” he said. “It opens them up to thinking about what’s next. Students are engaged when they realize they will lead the next wave of innovation.”

About NAB

The National Association of Broadcasters is the premier advocacy association for America’s broadcasters. NAB advances radio and television interests in legislative, regulatory and public affairs. Through advocacy, education and innovation, NAB enables broadcasters to best serve their communities, strengthen their businesses and seize new opportunities in the digital age. Learn more at


PILOT is a coalition of innovators, educators and advocates dedicated to advancing broadcast technology and cultivating new media opportunities. PILOT propels broadcast television and radio into the future. It provides a platform for innovation, an engine for incubation, a venue for testing new technologies and a forum for broadcaster education. Learn more at

CNN’s Richard Griffiths to be Industry Fellow at Grady’s Cox Institute

Richard T. Griffiths, vice president and senior editorial director at CNN, will serve as an Industry Fellow with the James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership during the spring 2017 semester at the University of Georgia.

Griffiths, who has worked for CNN for 25 years and has announced his CNN retirement effective February 28, will be a resource for journalism students at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.  CNN is sponsoring Griffiths’ role at Grady where he will guest lecture in the investigative journalism and journalism ethics and diversity courses, and will be available to students as an editor and coach on investigative reporting projects.

“I am excited to work with the students at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication,” said Griffiths. “In this changing media environment, it’s more important than ever to build strong foundations and share our experiences with the next generation of journalists.”

Keith Herndon, director of the Cox Institute, said having Griffiths available as resource for Grady’s journalism students will be an invaluable educational experience.

“Richard Griffiths has been a key decision maker in the news industry for many years. Bringing his exceptional background to Grady this semester gives our students an intimate opportunity to learn and reflect on how the news business works,” Herndon said.

Griffiths had been in his most recent post at CNN since 2010.  He was named editorial director in 2004 after serving a dozen years in several critical frontline positions as producer, senior producer, executive producer and senior executive producer.  Griffiths joined CNN in 1991 after 7 years as a producer with CBS News.

During an exceptional career, Griffiths led reporting and investigative projects that won multiple George F. Peabody Awards, the Overseas Press Club David Kaplan Award, two Emmys, a National Headliner Award and the Investigative Reporters and Editors Medal.

His nine planned lectures for the journalism ethics and diversity course will be open to all Grady faculty and students. They will be held in Studio 100 at 12:20 p.m. on January 27, February 3, 10, 17, March 3, 17, 31 and April 7 and 14.

Cox Institute celebrates dedication of office and journalism innovation lab

Grady College faculty, students, friends and industry partners gathered Sept. 29, 2016, to dedicate the office and journalism innovation lab of the The James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership.

“It is always a great day at Grady when we can come together and celebrate another milestone in the evolution of our college,” Dean Charles Davis said. “The Cox Institute has been a virtual organization recognized for its programs, but lacking a physical space. Today, we rectify that by dedicating a facility that will be used to train Grady’s students in the art and science of entrepreneurial journalism and media leadership.”

Located inside Studio 100 on the first floor of the journalism building, the office and journalism innovation lab provide space for the growing list of programs and activities the Cox Institute hosts throughout the year.

This video about the Cox Institute was produced by student Mollie Simon
and debuted during the dedication ceremony.

University of Georgia Provost Pamela Whitten spoke at the dedication, noting the transformation of the space.

“About three years ago, your dean walked me into some very dark unused space that happens to be right here and said, ‘Doesn’t it make sense for this to be space assigned to the Grady College? I promise we will use it in ways that will benefit students,’” Whitten said. “It is really a pleasure today to see what you have done with the space.”

Whitten also commended Grady Colelge on its dedication to experiential learning opportunities.

“This college has jumped with more enthusiasm, or at least as much as any other, on our deep commitment to privileging the experience of the undergraduate students at the University of Georgia and recognizing that in 2016, so much valuable learning happens outside of the classroom,” Whitten said.

Keith Herndon, director of the Cox Institute, emphasized the institute’s goal of bringing industry and academia together.

“The Cox Institute plans on working with media companies all across the country, but we are doubling down in Georgia where there is such a hotbed of media activity,” Herndon said. “We want to make sure we have close ties to industry and have their input on the skills and training that students need.”

During the dedication, Herndon announced a new partnership with the Atlanta Press Club. The Cox Institute will be the presenting partner in the organization’s annual awards of excellence.

Herndon and Davis thanked individuals and sponsors who support the work of the Cox Institute, including the Jim Cox Jr. Foundation, which was represented at the dedication by Larry Hooks, an Atlanta attorney.

Consumer journalist Bob Sullivan also was recognized for his contributions to the institute’s growth.

“Bob joined our board of advisors two years ago and has been a fountain of ideas and connections for us,” Herndon said.

In 2013, Sullivan was a reporter for NBC’s In Plain Sight: Poverty in America documentary, which won a Peabody Award. At the time, Sullivan received a certificate for his work on the team. At the dedication ceremony, he was given the mounted medallion version of his Peabody to thank him for his work with the Cox Institute.

“Institutes like ours only prosper and grow when we have industry professionals who believe so strongly in our mission like Bob does,” Herndon said.

Privacy Conference set to explore consumer issues

Increasing news coverage of identity theft, consumer fraud and emerging technologies like facial recognition and drones make it essential for reporters to understand the intersection of technology and consumer privacy.

The University of Georgia is hosting a privacy conference Sept. 30 so that students in journalism and consumer sciences will be better informed about privacy issues and challenges. The conference is co-sponsored by the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and the James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“Privacy has become an important issue for consumers and journalists,” said Keith Herndon, director of the Cox Institute. “How we think about our personal information and how we report on that information is changing due to social media and the explosion of mobile platforms.”

Peabody Award-winner Bob Sullivan, a consumer journalist, will deliver a kick-off presentation for the day-long conference, followed by a keynote from Adam Levin, author of “Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves.”

“Consumers really, really care about their privacy, even if they don’t often act that way,” Sullivan said. “Nearly every story has a privacy angle today, and understanding the complex issues involved will help you skip past the obvious into the important on dozens of stories in the next year or two.”

In the afternoon, Sullivan will moderate a panel featuring Levin and Steve Rosenboro, Cox Media Group’s managing attorney and chief privacy officer.

The conference will conclude with a look at legal issues surrounding privacy, through a panel with Rosenboro, Grady College communication law professor Bill Lee and UGA Law School faculty member Sonja West.

“Finding the right balance between reporting the news and respecting personal privacy can be tricky for journalists,” West said. “I hope people come away from this panel with an understanding of what factors they should consider when deciding whether the public interest in news outweighs the individual’s right to privacy.”

Attendees will be encouraged to share their experiences from the privacy conference using the hashtag #UGAPrivacyCon.