‘Purpose-Driven Press’: Alumna Keysha Lee delivers inspiring keynote address at GSPA Awards

Two-hundred fifty high school journalists and teachers from around the state learned about ways they can put purpose at the center of their media programs during the Georgia Scholastic Press Association‘s Spring Awards ceremony April 11, 2022, at the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education.

Keynote speaker Keysha Lee (ABJ ’97), an award-winning show host and filmmaker, businesswoman and author, delivered the inspiring message. She defined purpose as “a sense that the work you’re doing is deeply needed.”

Lee challenged scholastic journalism advisers to create a classroom environment where purpose is at the center of what is produced and created. She also outlined why it is important for student journalists to create a feeling among their staff and peers that student media has a bigger meaning. “You have to get everyone on board for that purpose-driven press,” she said. “Everyone has to buy in.”

 

Lee ranks as a Top 100 bestselling author on Amazon with her first book “Keysha Lee Presents Filmmaking 101.” Clayton County Library System offers her book in its collection to patrons at all seven of its branches. Her book also serves as the official text for Kansas City Public School’s Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts.

As a business owner, Lee leads her own media company, Leeway Productions. She stands out in the industry as the youngest black-owned business to gain a partnership with Fulton Films in Georgia. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Telecommunication Arts from Grady College and a Master’s in Education from Alabama State University.  She currently serves on Grady College’s Alumni Board.

Clarke County students visit UGA, explore Grady College

Rick Dunn excitedly turns to a group of nearly 15 Athens-Clarke County students at the conclusion of a short introductory film about Grady College narrated by college Dean Charles Davis.

“Dean Davis is a Clarke Central grad,” Dunn says with pride in his voice.

The message delivered by Dunn and emphasized throughout the students’ visit to the University of Georgia campus on Oct. 6 was clear: Education that begins at Clarke County schools can flourish into more possibilities and opportunities at the University of Georgia.

Rick Dunn (ABJ ’93, left), CEO and executive producer of MEU Radio Athens, talks with two of his students, Kaden Monterio (center) and Freddrell Green, during their tour of Grady College.

Dunn, who earned a journalism degree from UGA in 1993, is CEO and executive producer of MEU Radio Athens, a program he created in 2017. The program introduces radio and broadcasting skills to fifth- to 12th-grade students and encourages them to graduate from high school.

“I would like to help them navigate through hard times into a life that is much more productive,” Dunn said.

Dunn’s students produce programming for an internet radio station including podcasts and sports broadcasts, as well as projects like school announcements. Dunn estimates about 70% of the alumni from his program graduate from college with a degree in mass communications.

Students experience UGA

After meeting with Alison McCullick, director of community relations at the university, Dunn and McCullick got an idea. The pair connected with Stephanie Moreno, the scholastic outreach coordinator at Grady College, and Josh Podvin, assistant director for community partnerships with UGA Public Service and Outreach, to plan a tour for CCSD students. The students’ visit to UGA would include talks from current students, alumni and professionals in the journalism and broadcasting fields and explore the importance of higher education and career possibilities.

Alexia Ridley, an anchor for WUGA radio, spoke to the students during the campus experience. She began her talk by saying she was familiar with the students’ work with MEU Radio, and they were already ahead of where she was when she attended college.

“I can’t believe that you guys do what you do … it’s really good,” said Ridley. “College will enhance what you already have.”

Students from WUOG radio and freelance podcasters Dayne Young and Kim Landrum also spoke about broadcasting, while Helen Mahaney provided an overview of the college.

DonA Traylor-Askew, a journalism and sports media certificate student, and Carlo Finlay, assistant director of the Carmical Sports Media Institute, talk with the CCSD students about careers in sports media.

Cemya Stone, a freshman at Clarke Central and audio engineer for MEU, was inspired after hearing from UGA students like DonA Traylor-Askew, a fourth-year journalism major. Traylor-Askew, who is also earning a certificate from the Carmical Sports Media Institute, talked about her experience managing social media accounts for some of Clarke Central’s sports teams last fall. She also shared about her involvement in producing “The First Five,” a documentary about the first Black UGA football players, three of whom are Clarke Central alumni.

“It was really fulfilling to hear from students giving us their perspective,” Stone said. “They aren’t too much older than we are, and we are going to be there in a few years. If they can do it, we can do it, too. We just need a little bit of insight.”

Makenna Mincey, a junior from Clarke Central who is considering a career in communications, said she had never been to Grady College.

Cemya Stone (left) and Makenna Mincey, two Clarke Central High School students, share a laugh between sessions at the Grady College.

“I think the biggest lesson I learned is to appreciate the opportunity that I have been given,” Mincey said. “It also taught me that if I want to go to the next level, I need to continue to build and grow.”

A collaborative effort

The University of Georgia participates in more than 50 partnerships with Clarke County schools, and Dunn wants to expand those opportunities. Over the past few months, he has worked with David Hazinski, a Grady College professor emeritus, to design a small television studio where his students can broadcast news shows. Dunn left the visit with several new ideas and a faculty introduction to Carlo Finlay, who he connected with about potential partnerships between Grady College students and CCSD students.

Tours like this one give students perspective and teach them to focus, according to Tymisha Creightney, a sixth-grade teacher at Burney-Harris-Lyons Middle School who also serves on the MEU board.

Creightney said the tour was beneficial to many of Dunn’s students who have not seen the university from an academic perspective.

“The thing I appreciated the most about today is that it showed our kids that people who look like them are in this capacity and what they are doing is working,” Creightney said. “Our students who are interested in journalism saw that they could get there.”

The tour concluded with lunch at Bolton Dining Commons, providing the students a chance to mingle with college students.

“I like that UGA is [in] the heart of Athens and that they have partnered with us,” Creightney concluded. “Even if the students don’t attend UGA, they get a taste of what college is like beyond just football. I want to thank the University of Georgia for looking out for our kids and being leaders in the community.”

Kayla Walker, a student at Burney Harris Lyons Middle School, enjoys lunch at Bolton Dining Commons after the presentations.

New program brings journalism students, Georgia newsrooms together to achieve digital goals

When initial discussions began about creating a new program called Digital Natives at Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t factored into its launch. Despite the unforeseen challenge, program director and academic professional Amanda Bright and eight students jumped into action.

Digital Natives was developed in conjunction with the Georgia Press Association. The program pairs UGA journalism students with local GPA member newsrooms to help them accomplish a specific digital goal, from improving social media to experimenting with video production. 

“Once I heard about the program I was absolutely in,” Bright said. “I know that [newsrooms] need that support, and who better to give that to them than boundless energy college students?”

For 2021, eight students were selected through an application process that highlighted their abilities and interest in community journalism. The newsrooms also completed an application that determined their digital needs, willingness to work with the students and ability to follow through on what they learned. Students were matched with news organizations based on how well their skill sets would meet the newsroom’s needs.

The students spent a month preparing for an intensive week with their newsrooms. They consulted with editors and publishers about their digital goals and prepared a community audit that covered demographics, economic outlook, government, local competition and an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. 

Starting on Jan. 4, they implemented their weeklong plans to teach the newsrooms using guided practice, feedback and independent practice resources that they made themselves.

The students created synchronous and asynchronous video tutorials, how-to guides and presentations to explain how to get the most out of digital tools like Instagram and Facebook and develop strategies for optimal use based on the newsroom’s goals.

Senior Alexander Merritt worked with his newsroom, Hometown Headlines, to design infographics to embed in their digital content.

Fourth year Alexander Merritt said Grady Newsource prepared him to confidently work with Rome-based Hometown Headlines editor John Druckenmiller.

Merritt and Druckenmiller worked together to include more infographics in daily content, learn to manage and track a Google analytics page for the website and make a YouTube channel.

“Everyone’s thinking of the CNNs and the Wall Street Journals, you know those kinds of big name jobs, but we forget to understand that local journalism is just as important and those jobs are still good jobs,” Merritt said.

The program is designed to enrich the learning experience for both the students and newsrooms, and that sentiment was especially clear for third-year student Livia Geiger. Geiger’s parents own The Herald Gazette in Barnesville, and even though Geiger is a marketing major in the Terry College of Business, she was able to work with her parents’ newsroom.

“My parents kept referring to themselves as ‘dinosaurs’ and they truly didn’t know anything about Instagram,” Geiger said. “I had to create a Google Drive for them and show them how to post on Instagram. I also was able to level with my parents more because I didn’t have to worry about stepping on anyone’s toes.” 

Kate Hester, a fourth-year student from Monroe, Georgia, said the most rewarding part of the program was looking at the Instagram page of her newsroom, The Hartwell Sun, before and after she arrived. By the end of the week, they were implementing what she recommended. 

“It’s nice that both parties got a new perspective,” Hester said. “When you’re teaching someone else, that’s the best way to learn. I realized how much I really did know about my field and what I needed to improve on in my field.”

The feedback from the newsrooms and the GPA was extremely positive. 

“On behalf of the GPA Board and the Georgia Press Educational Foundation Trustees, yes, a truly amazing report and program. We owe a huge thanks to the Dean for spearheading it and to Amanda for taking it and running with it,” GPA Executive Director Robin Rhodes said.

Bright remains optimistic with Digital Natives’ success and growth in a post-COVID-19 environment. 

“I hope one of the outcomes is that more students decide intentionally to do local journalism,” Bright said. “We have now an established understanding that local news is imperative and crucial and it also needs assistance.”

Grady Digital Natives was modeled off a similar endeavor called Potter Ambassadors at the University of Missouri, where Charles Davis was a professor before becoming dean of Grady College.

If member GPA newsrooms have any questions about the application for the 2022 program, please email Amanda Bright at amanda.bright@uga.edu.

Editor’s Note: This feature was written by Megan Mittelhammer, a 2021 Yarbrough Fellow in the Grady College Department of Communication. She was also a participant in the Digital Natives program.

Campaigns class tackles DEI initiatives in the public relations industry

While many public relations campaigns classes focus on creating programs for corporate or non-profit clients, Dr. Karen Russell’s course this semester tackled a much larger topic: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the public relations industry.

“Like many people, I was pretty appalled at the responses I was seeing as the result of the social unrest last summer,” Russell explained. “I felt like public relations was part of the problem with inadequate responses from companies and celebrities.”

She knew as public relations professionals, they couldn’t sit back and do nothing, so she challenged her students to focus on changing structures to raise awareness and address solutions.

The students worked with dozens of PR professionals and organizations including the Diversity Action Alliance, PR Council, Institute for Public Relations, Arthur W. Page Center at Penn State, National Black Public Relations Society and the Museum of Public Relations.

During initial research, the students found that there is a general lack of knowledge about public relations among young diverse students, and those who were aware of the field found barriers to entry.

The PR Campaigns class worked to address these goals in their DEI project.

To address the issues, the students set out to tackle three goals:

  1. Establish DEI as a core value
  2. Foster a culture of allyship
  3. Increase industry accessibility

They produced videos, infographics, toolkits, a podcast and sponsored a webinar, Religion in Public Relations, with the Museum of Public Relations featuring a panel discussion on religion in PR.

“One of the most fulfilling parts of this course and campaign was the chance we were given to implement tactics that were not only of immediate importance, but which also may contribute to long-term impact and success in the industry,” said Eilis Sullivan, a fourth-year public relations and women’s studies student.  “Almost all of the resources we developed this semester are accessible online, so it’s rewarding to know there’s unlimited potential in the work we’ve done.”

Classmate Laura Burr, a fourth-year public relations student who is also studying fashion merchandising and Spanish, added that the impact is deeper than just recognizing the importance of hiring people from all backgrounds.

“Many only know about public relations because they have a family member in the industry, meaning industry members are a cycle of people from similar backgrounds,” Burr said. “Additionally, the PR industry hasn’t done a great job of offering paid internships, and unpaid internships are likely only a viable option for students from well-off families that can financially support them during their internship. There are changes that have to be made in and outside of the industry in order to create effective change.”

The students also hosted a panel discussion, ‘Moving the Needle: Making DEI a core value within PR’ panel, with the Diversity Action Alliance. During the session, panelist Krystle Cobran urged PR practitioners to change the narrative and reshape the way we deliver our messages, suggesting “stories stick, lectures don’t.”

Sullivan continued: “This campaign has helped me tremendously to better understand my responsibility as a PR practitioner, which is to tell stories that not only suit my clients, but which reflect and represent the larger world around me – including the uncomfortable or unspoken.”

The Diversity Conversation Toolkit, hosted on the PR Council’s website, provides ways to begin difficult conversations about diversity at work, while the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Toolkit provides background vocabulary, tactics for implementation and suggestions of media to learn more.

The students are grateful to the many industry professionals who helped them with the project, including Grady alumna Erica Holland Smith (ABJ ’10) who was working with the team when she died unexpectedly.

In addition to the accomplishments of the Campaigns class, the Department of Advertising and Public Relations co-sponsors the annual AdPR Academy, a week-long program for diverse students from HBCUs and other higher-education institutions to introduce them to the fields of advertising and public relations.

Sports media students write stories for U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum

Students in the Sports Media Certificate program profiled athletes from the 1980 U.S. Olympic team, including Bart Conner (gymnastics), Edwin Moses (track and field) and Megan Neyer (diving) in stories published to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Digital Museum.

The profiles were part of the curriculum in the spring 2020 section of “Multiplatform Storytelling for Sports.” The stories were published for the 40th anniversary of the U.S. boycott of the Moscow 1980 Games.

Zach Miles profiled Isiah Thomas, 1980 Olympian basketball player.

Zach Miles, one of the profile authors, researched, conducted interviews and wrote about Basketball Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas. Miles impressed the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Digital Museum staff and landed an internship with them over the summer.

“To be able to talk with former athletes and their families while hearing their stories and what representing the United States meant to them truly left me in awe,” said Miles. “It’s so important and valuable for these athletes to be remembered and honored in this way, and I was grateful that I was able to play a role in this by telling their stories.”

Museum communications professionals helped students refine their writing and provided feedback on their stories.

“The Museum is committed to education and working with future generations to instill the Olympic and Paralympic values,” Museum Chief Executive Officer Christopher Liedel said. “We are proud to work with a program with such a strong track record and the University of Georgia. Allowing students to learn about and tell the stories of these incredible athletes is just a terrific opportunity for us.”

The partnership builds on half a decade of coverage by sports media students for the Olympic Games, Olympic Winter Games and Paralympic Games.

For 12 years, Vicki Michaelis, John Huland Carmical Chair in Sports Journalism & Society, was the USA Today lead Olympics reporter. She now teaches students the cultural influence of the Olympic Games as an international athletic showcase and the importance of documenting the athletes who perform on the global stage.

“Finding the stories worth telling is at the core of everything we teach, and, in my mind, no sports event offers up more of those stories than the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” said Michaelis. “They provide seemingly limitless opportunities for our students to hone their storytelling skills, whether they’re covering the Games as they happen or peeling back the pages of history.”

Sports media students have covered the 2016 and 2018 Olympic Games as credentialed journalists. A team of the college’s sports media and visual journalism students also covered the 2016 Paralympic Games in Brazil, with their stories and photos distributed globally by The Associated Press. Thanks to a gift from the John Huland Carmical Foundation, the AP partnership will continue at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo next summer.

You can read the profiles of the following 1980 U.S. Olympians:

Gymnast Bart Conner
Kayaker Greg Barton
Swimmer Rowdy Gaines
Wrestler Lee Kemp
Track and field athlete Edwin Moses
Diver Megan Neyer
Basketball player Jill Rankin Schneider
Field hockey player Julie Staver
Basketball player Isiah Thomas

Learn more about the partnership in this release from the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum.

Grady Newsource and ‘Countdown: Election 2020’ students host Election Day coverage

Producing the only video broadcast that Athens-Clarke County residents and those in surrounding counties will see for local Election Day news is no small task in normal times. During COVID-19, the stakes are even larger.

“This is the first major election we or any other newsroom has ever done under these pandemic circumstances. Maybe we say at every election that ‘it’s never been more important,’ but it may not be spurious to say it this time,” said Dodie Cantrell-Bickley, a senior lecturer at Grady College and executive producer of the student-led group putting together this show.

The students, many of whom are journalism and entertainment and media studies majors but who draw from several other majors across campus, are producing a three-hour Election Day show from 8 to 11 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Many of the participating students are taking the capstone Grady Newsource class, or are volunteering for the special “Countdown: Election 2020” broadcast which started last spring and has continued throughout the fall.

“This is one of the most important things I am doing this year,” Nikki Shotz, a fourth-year journalism student and volunteer for the production crew said. “It is extremely crucial to help inform people.”

The Election Day coverage will report on the races and results of local races from six counties — Athens-Clarke, Barrow, Jackson, Madison, Oconee and Oglethorpe — as well as state races and the presidential vote. The students will work closely with the Board of Elections offices in each of the six counties, as well as the office of Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia Secretary of State.

A highlight of the evening will be the expert commentary provided by three guests who will be in the studio providing real-time analysis throughout the broadcast. Those guests include:

  • Charles Bullock, III, the Richard B. Russell Chair in Political Science from the School of Public & International Affairs
  • Audrey Haynes (ABJ ’87), associate professor of political science and director of the Applied Politics certificate program at the School of Public & International Affairs
  • Joseph Watson, Jr., the Carolyn Caudell Tieger Professor and director of the Public Affairs Communications certificate program at Grady College.
Students who will help with interviews of local experts practice transitions during a tech rehearsal in the Peyton Anderson Forum.

Pre-produced stories on topics like elections in the digital age and the impact of misinformation/disinformation will be augmented by tracking of social media updates on a smart board and keeping a watch for issues like voter suppression or long lines at the polls.

The election night coverage is directed by Sam Daniel, a senior journalism major who is working on the show as an independent study before his December graduation.

Helping Daniel produce the show is Molly English a fourth-year journalism student. “I feel so blessed to be here during an election year,” she said. “And, to be able to actually come in and see people face to face and interact with them in a way that’s not over Slack or Group Me feels great.”

In between Cantrell-Bickley’s traditional advice that the students don’t need to be first to announce results, but they have to be right, she sprinkles in new advice about always wearing face masks unless they are on air and making sure their station is wiped down before moving on.

“We consider this show to be a community service, but more importantly, we are here to educate these students,” Cantrell-Bickley concluded. “This is such a great opportunity for them because at the end of the day, to be able to say you worked on an election night show during a pandemic is going to be saying something.”

Viewers can watch the Election Day coverage on Nov. 3 from 8 to 11 p.m. through YouTube Live on the Grady Newsource channel and on Charter Cable 181.

Hunger Bowl 2020: fighting hunger in our community

The Hunger Bowl supports the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia, and this year’s theme is Save Barrel City. Join the College in helping to combat hunger in our community by participating in a virtual food drive.

See how you can help at: https://www.fooddriveonline.org/foodbanknega/Grady, or drop off your cans of good on the fourth floor outside of the NMI Suite.

Special thanks to the NMI, pictured above, for all their enthusiasm and a great replica of Barrel City.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The program is expected to launch in January 2021.

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

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

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

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

 

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.