Editor’s Note: This is part of our six-part series highlighting stories produced by Grady College in 2022. The features include stories in each of the following subjects:
Research & Expertise
Service & Partnerships
This is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but instead highlight a sample of just a few of the hundreds of stories about accomplishments by our students, faculty/staff and alumni. We invite you to visit our Grady College News page for a full list of features posted in 2022.
Grady College was named one of the nation's first four solutions journalism hubs
The Cox Center welcomed groups of foreign journalists
AdPR Academy was revamped and renamed
Service and outreach, often through partnerships with organizations and other units at the University of Georgia, are pillars of what we do at Grady College. Adding to our long list, the following are a few examples of how Grady College expanded our service and outreach efforts in 2022:
Grady College was named one of the nation’s first four solutions journalism hubs: In early August, The Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) named Grady one of the nation’s four inaugural solutions journalism hubs. This announcement designated Grady as a leader in the field and tasked the College with continuing to advance research and practice of solutions journalism, which is focused on rigorously reporting on responses to social problems, and function as a resource for students and professionals in the field. In an interview with the Grady Research Radio podcast, Grady College faculty members and solutions journalism scholars Dr. Amanda Bright,Dr. Kyser Lough, and Ralitsa Vassileva further explained what the designation means.
The Cox Center welcomed groups of foreign journalists: This year, the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research welcomed more than 20 early-to-mid-career journalists from the country Georgia to Grady College to take classes in the area of digital media. Only a few months later, the center hosted seven career journalists from Sri Lanka at the College, where they spent the day touring facilities and taking classes on digital media and journalism in the United States. And in November, 17 international journalists from countries around the world, including Australia, Taiwan, South Korea, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, just to name several, visited Grady College through the Murrow Fellows program.
AdPR Academy was revamped and renamed: The six-year-old educational outreach program, AdPR Academy, was revamped and renamed the Myra Blackmon AdPR Academy for Diversity and Inclusion, following a generous gift from long-time communications professional and former Grady College public relations instructor Myra Blackmon. The Academy is designed to amplify the power of diversity, equity and inclusion while growing the pipeline of diverse advertising and public relations professionals. Over the course of four days, students in the program receive over 35 hours of training and mentoring by experts working in the advertising and public relations industries, participate in daily networking opportunities with corporate executives and agency professionals, and compete in teams representing real-life clients.
At the beginning of August, the Solutions Journalism Network named Grady College one of the nation’s first solutions journalism hubs, a designation given to only three other colleges in the United States. In this role, Grady College’s Department of Journalism will be tasked with continuing to serve as an incubator for creativity, innovation and research in solutions journalism and function as a resource for students and professionals in the region who are interested in the field.
Below is a transcription of the podcast, edited for clarity and brevity.
Grady College: What is solutions journalism, and why is there a need for it?
Kyser Lough: Well, solutions journalism is a method of reporting where the reporter goes out and, instead of just reporting on the problems communities are facing, they also look for what people are doing about it.
It’s not advocacy. It’s not opinion journalism. The journalist is not creating the solution. They are simply using their same set of journalistic skills and tools to go out and report on what’s being done in response to a problem.
It was kind of born out of this idea that we sometimes focus too much on problems. I mean, it’s good. We have to uncover and thoroughly define the problems a community is facing. That’s a very important purpose of journalism. But if we only focus on that, then all we’re showing our readers is that, you know, it’s just doom and gloom all the time, and we know that’s not true. We know there are people out there trying to address these problems. So why aren’t we reporting on that, too?
A lot of people just call it just good journalism. I think putting a name on it was important to help really define what it is, but at the end of the day, it’s something a lot of journalists have been doing. It’s just that we feel a lot of folks haven’t been doing it enough.
Grady College: Amanda Bright explained that solutions journalism entered the curricula at the college roughly four years ago as a very small piece of the capstone undergraduate reporting classes in journalism. Since then, though, solutions journalism has become a part of every undergraduate capstone class. At this point, every journalism student at Grady College leaves with knowledge in some practical application of solutions journalism.
Many student-made solutions journalism pieces are available online at Gradynewsource.uga.edu. While looking through some of those pieces, I noticed that they are far from your standard text-based news stories. The students who make the pieces often weave in both audio and visual components. So, I asked Ralitsa Vassileva about teaching multimedia solutions journalism storytelling in her classes.
Ralitsa Vassileva: In my sustainability multiplatform class, I required students to use four different media platforms to tell (a solutions journalism story) besides text. It could be video. It could be audio. It could be graphics. Whatever the story requires. While for my broadcast students, I challenge them at the end of the semester to produce short videos of a solution story, again, sticking to those principles of solutions journalism for rigorous reporting, which is not easy in a minute and a half to two minutes. But with the growing importance of short videos, this is a very effective way to reach audiences.
Grady College: What does this designation, being named a solutions journalism hub, mean?
Amanda Bright: You know, we’re still trying to figure some of that out. Our four hub schools, we’ve had lots of conversations already about what that’s going to look like on each of our university campuses and what it’s gonna look like in our regions, because we’re really representing the Southeast.
I think a lot of that is coming to fruition as it develops, but our goal is to be a place of teaching, training, learning and resource for our geographic area. We have several faculty members who are passionate about this. We have been practicing it for a while now, so we’ve learned some things.
We want to bring in students who want to do this kind of work, researchers who want to do this kind of work, and industry partners and news organizations that want to do this and try to marshal those resources to grow what solutions journalism is and what it means for communities.
Grady College: What does this designation mean in terms of advancing solutions journalism research? What opportunities are there for collaboration with students and professional journalists in the region who are interested in this research?
Kyser Lough: For me, the designation means a lot when it comes to research, because it further legitimizes what we’re doing here.
It can be difficult, as a scholar, to reach out to journalists and ask them, “Hey, can I interview you and (confidentially) ask you, you know, some of these complicated questions about the work you do.” Even just getting a response can be difficult.
Or, if we want to partner with a newsroom, sometimes it’s not enough just to be somebody at the University of Georgia. They’re skeptical about what participating in this research means. Being able to come at it from, you know, “We’re from the solutions journalism hub. This is what we study. This is what we do,”I think that’s going to add a lot of oomf in our research and any grant applications that we’re doing. It’s important just in getting the visibility out there that this is a legitimate site of study. We’re a place where people who have questions can come to. If they are an editor of a newsroom and they want to know if this is having any impact, they can come to us and we can look at surveys, focus groups and other ways to assess what’s going on in their newsroom when it comes to solutions journalism and the audience.
I have several studies that I’m currently working on that I’m always excited to have other people come on board with. I’m also excited to have people come pitch an idea, and we’ll talk about the potential.
Students who are interested can come to our Master’s program or our PhD program, and they can incorporate that into their studies. We can talk about independent study. We could also work that into their actual program of work for their thesis or dissertation.
There are so many different ways you can take this and apply it, especially to different reporting topics, which is another thing that we’ve been hoping to expand on in the research. How does this play out in health reporting? How does this play out in education reporting, where you’re constantly hearing that either a school has super high scores or super low scores. We never really hear about what schools are doing to try and address those issues.
There’s lots of different topics we can apply it to. Somebody doesn’t have to come here and be a solutions scholar. They can come here being very interested in political coverage. As part of that, we look at solutions journalism and how that can apply to that specific topic.
Grady College: The experts included in this interview want to hear from you, the current and future students, educators and industry professionals in the region. Their contact information is listed below.
The Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) has named Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia one of the nation’s four inaugural solutions journalism hubs. In this role, Grady College’s Department of Journalism will continue to serve as an incubator for creativity, innovation and research in solutions journalism, which is focused on rigorously reporting on responses to social problems, and function as a resource for students and professionals in the field.
“Grady College joins the Solutions Journalism Network hopeful that we can work in partnership with the other wonderful schools selected to continue our longstanding work on building trust through journalism that aims to enlighten, inform, but also to point to ways that society can work toward viable outcomes,” said Charles Davis, dean of Grady College. “Our newsrooms stand ready to join in this important venture. How we do our work must help citizens solve society’s most pressing problems in a complex, diverse world.”
By recruiting scholars, particularly in visual journalism, Grady will continue to add to the growing body of research on solutions journalism. Led by Kyser Lough, an assistant professor in Journalism, this research will investigate the production, distribution and effects of solutions reporting. Scholars and prospective graduate students can reach out at KyserL@uga.edu.
The College will also build on the solutions journalism training that all undergraduate journalism majors receive now, and expand this pedagogy within the curriculum, focusing on local news, broadcast and sustainability initiatives.
Since 2018, Grady students have been incorporating solutions journalism into their reporting. A “solutions journalism” section on Grady Newsource’s website includes over 100 stories. More than 30 of these pieces have been accepted and published by the Solutions Story Tracker, a worldwide database of rigorous reporting on responses to social problems.
“It would be great if someone at a small newspaper in South Carolina emailed me and said we would love to do a partnership,” said Amanda Bright, director of the Cox Institute Journalism Innovation Lab. “That would be really helpful as we start to build our foundation to see what the needs are.” Bright can be reached at Amanda.Bright@uga.edu.
Lough explained that the College was primed to accept a designation like this, which is an achievement he, along with Bright and Journalism lecturer Ralitsa Vassileva, largely give credit to Grady leadership and, in particular, Janice Hume, the Carolyn McKenzie and Don E. Carter Chair for Excellence in Journalism and incoming associate dean of academic affairs, for supporting.
“We are always looking for how to teach better journalism, thinking about how we can continue to innovate while also keeping the basics foundations of storytelling,” Lough explained. “This designation is putting a name on what we are, essentially, already doing thanks to the support and encouragement from college leadership.”
In May, Vassileva and Lough took a group of students from the Department of Journalism to the SJN’s 2022 Solutions Journalism Summit in Sundance, Utah. And earlier this summer, The Oglethorpe Echo received a grant that will enable Grady students writing for the publication to report on solutions related to inequalities, including racial and ethnic disparities, political disenfranchisement and economic development, in the area.
“Our students at UGA are particularly mission-driven. They’re doing this journalism because they want to make a difference in communities,” said Bright. “I think that is also what unites the solutions journalism hubs and the faculty who are interested in this. That’s what will help us grow. It really feels like a breath of fresh air, a little bit of hope in a challenging space.”
The other three institutions named include Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, and Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism.
“These four journalism schools have an amazing wealth of talent and resources, and the Solutions Journalism Network is excited to partner with them to help further the spread of solutions journalism. These new hub universities are showing a serious commitment to leading this important work in their regions and nationally, as well as collaborating with their peer institutions to undertake this mission,” said Francine Huff, SJN’s director of journalism school partnerships.