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Mindy McAdams

Knight Chair in Journalism Technologies and the Democratic Process
Email
mmcadams@jou.ufl.edu
Twitter
@macloo
University
University of Florida
Location
Gainesville, FL
Established
1997
Bibliography
http://mindymcadams.com/res...
Personal Website
http://www.jou.ufl.edu/facu...
Blog
http://mindymcadams.com/tojou/

Summary

Melinda McAdams reaches out to teach journalists, students and educators interested in a multimedia future through her well-trafficked web site.

Biography

Professor McAdams has worked on the Web since 1994 and was one of the pioneers in developing online journalism services.

She has trained more than 400 professional journalists in online and digital skills workshops. She has conducted journalism training or given presentations in Argentina, Britain, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Indonesia, Italy, Laos, the Netherlands, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Vietnam and Thailand.

She has received two Fulbright Scholar grants: in 2011–12, she taught journalism and gave workshops for 10 months in Indonesia; in 2004–05, she lived in Malaysia for eight months while she taught journalism and researched press freedom there.

Before moving to Florida, she was a copy editor for 11 years. She worked on the Metro desk at The Washington Post and at Time magazine in New York. In 1994, she was the first content developer at Digital Ink, The Washington Post’s first online newspaper.

Grant Background

The chair-holder would teach and conduct research about the ways in which technologies used to gather, analyze, organize and disseminate information contribute to journalism's role in developing informed citizens, capable of making decisions to govern themselves. The chair holder would create and teach courses that prepare future journalists to use new and emerging technologies with some sophistication in fulfilling journalism's role in a democratic society. The chair holder would be capable of developing concepts about the future of the media and the democratic process, giving special focus to emerging new media and examining these new media within the framework of political decision-making and censorship.

Recent Activities

 Helped plan and organize the Journalism Interactive conference, held in Gainesville, Feb. 8–9, 2013. See summary: http://storify.com/macloo/summing-up-journalism-interactive-v-2 (1,111 views). I was a host committee co-chair. About 200 journalism educators from around the U.S. and some other countries (Kuwait!) attended. Focus was on current journalism environment, digital and mobile, teaching challenges, etc.

Reinvented MMC 4341 Advanced Online Media Production to teach code skills to journalism students. See syllabus: http://mmc4341.wordpress.com/ (12 undergrad students enrolled). This was the first time the Python programming language was taught in our college; students also learned JavaScript and jQuery.

Journalist training in Vietnam and Laos, July 2013: five-day workshops in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (about 60 reporters and editors in two workshops); two shorter workshops in Vientiane (about 40 reporters, editor and others). Three weeks, funded by U.S. State Department, to introduce blogging as a professional news strategy in an effort to change perceptions that blogs are subversive and a danger to the state. All participants in all workshops were trained to set up and use WordPress. See:  http://www.jou.ufl.edu/news/2013/08/06/mindy-mcadams-spends-three-weeks-in-vietnam-and-laos-conducting-journalism-workshops-for-the-u-s-department-of-state/

Chair Responses to Questions

Many student journalism projects are read by few people in the target community and have little impact. How should that change? Should students engage with the community to understand its information needs before doing their journalism ?

College journalism students are often conditioned—by their courses and by journalism examples provided to them—to follow formulas. They acquire and plug in their quotes and don’t give a lot of thought to whether they have answered the audience’s questions. I think experienced journalists-turned-professors often feed into this habit. To go out and talk to people at length (not just to get quotes or an anecdote, but to understand what is really on their minds), students need coaching and skill-building exercises. Yes, students should “engage with the community,” but it’s possible that many of their teachers don’t know how to teach that practice. There’s also the matter of setting deadlines for assignments within a 10- or 15-week academic term. Teaching “engagement” requires us to shift our expectations for student work. We can’t expect them to discover how to engage without guidance.

We define the “teaching hospital” model of journalism education as a system of learning by doing where students, scholars and professionals fully engage with the community they are serving by using innovative tools, techniques and informed research. Do you agree with that definition? If so, how should journalism schools seek to add community engagement and experimentation to the kind of journalism they now produce ?

It’s hard for our students to learn how to “fully engage with the community they are serving,” in part because they are embedded in a university experience and surrounded by “people like them.” Many students don’t feel they are part of a community outside their campus. I think the most important clue in the question is “innovative techniques”; we are challenged to discover, test and refine those techniques in our teaching. Medical students enter a teaching hospital prepared to try different specialties and place their hands on living patients, but we find many journalism students did not expect to walk up to strangers and perform the journalistic equivalents of medical examinations and diagnosis. (They might have expected to simply record their own thoughts and opinions, cover sports, or write movie reviews, for example.) For journalism schools to integrate community engagement and experimentation into the curriculum, it will be necessary to reorient basic courses from a wire-service or small-town daily newspaper style of simply covering events (including crime, accidents and weather) or meetings to a more issues-based style of reporting. Discovering the issues that affect a community requires students not only to go out and talk to “people not like them” but also to find and analyze data—which leads us to another challenge: the lack of numeracy skills we see in most journalism students. So we find we really need to tear up the j-school curriculum and reinvent it, to allow us to train students differently and prepare them for a media environment in which journalism must prove its value to the public.

Recently Published

Nieman Journalism Lab: Mindy McAdams: Don’t just teach skills, train young journalists to be lifelong learners