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.

Cullen, Johnston, Miller, Read selected as Teachers of the Year

Grady College is pleased to recognize its Teachers of the Year for the 2020-2021 academic year:

The Teachers of the Year are selected by their peers, based on excellence in the classroom and student feedback.

“All of us are so thankful for these award-winning teachers,” said Charles N. Davis, dean of Grady College. “Few outside the classroom realize the incredible investment in time required to reach this level of teaching excellence. In a college renowned for great teaching, the bar is set rather high, and these outstanding teachers went above and beyond, especially over the last year.”

Tom Cullen teaches during the first day of class for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Cullen (MA ’18) is familiar with the classroom from both perspectives: as a graduate of the public relations master’s program and as a professor of public relations communications. He is currently enrolled in the MFA program in Narrative Media Writing and helps advise the Crisis Communication Coalition.

“Tom Cullen is a beloved public relations writing teacher,” said Bryan Reber, the C. Richard Yarbrough Professor in Crisis Communication Leadership and head of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations.  “He’s part drill sergeant, part coach and part counselor.  He makes teaching intensive writing to 80 public relations students each semester look easy. It’s not.”

Cullen is known among his students for challenging them with high expectations and drawing out their talents so they can accomplish future success.

Johnston (ABJ ’95, MFA ’17), who started teaching part time and moved to a full time role two years ago, has had a significant impact on students in a short time.

Lori Johnston teaches Reporting and Writing Across Platforms and Features Writing courses.

“Lori’s course pushed me to the limit,” said one of her students. “She pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me to do things that I didn’t even think I was capable of.”

Johnston is a former Associated Press journalist and still manages Fast Copy, a freelance writing business she owns with her husband, Andy. She frequently incorporates new multi-media elements and technologies into her assignments. Johnston recently led a group of students in redesigning the Covering Poverty website thanks to a grant from the Scripps Howard Foundation.

Janice Hume, the Carolyn McKenzie and Don E. Carter Chair for Excellence in Journalism and head of the Department of Journalism, recognizes the collaboration Johnston brings to her work.

“Lori Johnston provides our journalism students such a strong foundation in reporting and writing,” Hume said. “She has become a leader in our department in terms of sharing ideas and resources so that students in multiple sections of the same course, even though they have different instructors, enjoy a consistent and exceptional experience.”

Miller shares his enthusiasm and knowledge of entertainment, and especially with syndicated television, with his students. An expert of all-things from “The Golden Girls,” Miller researches issues of gender and sexuality within various media forms.

“Dr. Miller’s teaching puts together two very important topic areas: television studies and diversity,” said James Hamilton, a Jim Kennedy New Media Professor and head of the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies. “It’s apparent from student comments just how successfully he does this.”

This semester, Miller teaches Television Histories and Representation in Entertainment, and his role as Peabody Media Center Academic Director has provided experiences teaching from the vast Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection.

Taylor Cole Miller in the vault that houses The Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection.

His students praise his care and understanding for not just their education, but also their state of mind.

“This course challenged me to think more about why and how entertainment media is created and provided me with tools to analyze my findings,” said one of his students. “It shows that the professor cares a great deal about his students, their well-being, and their futures. He made this course engaging not just through lectures but also through the assignments and activities that helped students better understand the concepts.”

When Read is not teaching media strategy and planning, she is working on message effectiveness research in the Body, Brain and Media Lab, which she directs. There, she investigates cognitive and affective, or emotional processing studies of audio and visual media…in other words, what’s happening in the body that helps to understand psychological processes in response to audio and visual stimuli.

Prior to joining the College faculty in 2018, Read taught at Indiana University and was the recipient of the competitive Annie Lang Dissertation Award from the International Communication Association.

Sierra Brown and Glenna Read discuss Brown’s CURO project in April 2019. (Photo: Dayne Young)

She is known for spending extra time with students pursuing research interests outside the classroom, too, through the CURO program.

“Glenna Read makes an impact on both the graduate and undergraduate level, particularly through her Body, Brain, and Media Lab,” said Reber. “She is creative in her teaching methods and has developed at least three new courses in her time at Georgia.”