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Mindy McAdams

Knight Chair in Journalism Technologies and the Democratic Process
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL
Personal Website


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


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

Developed and taught a new course for journalism students, JOU 4930 Social Media Management (August 2014), which includes social media production during weekly shifts in the Innovation News Center newsroom. Impact: This is the first newsroom-based social media course in our college, and results include a new Facebook page (Oct. 7, 2014) for WUFT News and increased engagement on the @WUFTNews Twitter account (4,018 followers, up from 3,179 on Sept. 2). Engagement rate November 2014 = 4.2 percent; September 2014 = 3.4 percent.

Worked with journalism faculty at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa, as Mellon Scholar-in-Residence for two months, May and June 2014. Conducted workshops, training and seminars for faculty to help them integrate digital journalism skills across the curriculum. Lectures for all undergraduate journalism students, master’s and professional diploma students. Special workshop for fourth-year students in New Media concentration. Impact: Faculty implemented new student-led online reporting system on WordPress platform, integrating multiple courses for the first time. Radio, TV and print faculty all participated.

Wrote a chapter (“Multimedia Journalism”) for a book, Ethics for Digital Journalists: Emerging Best Practices (2014), edited by Lawrie Zion and David Craig. I conducted interviews and made many revisions throughout the 2013–14 academic year. Published in October 2014 (New York: Routledge). Impact: Prior to publication of the book, I wrote a less academic version of the chapter and self-published it on Medium, where (as of Nov. 29, 2014) it has 9,000 views, almost 3,000 reads, and 81 recommendations.

      Give us an example of a media company or organization that you see doing innovative journalism with impact. How do you use this example in your teaching?

Although it’s not an obscure example, NPR is working hard to bring everyone in its newsroom forward into a digital age of dispersed media. In my social media course, students were assigned to examine (for five consecutive days) at least three different platforms (not radio) used by NPR and write a daily report about what was successful, what wasn’t, and speculate about why. At the end of the assignment (spread across five weeks so different students saw different cases), we had a Skype session with Melody Kramer and Wright Bryan of NPR’s social media team, and they told us how they work one-on-one with reporters to help them figure out how to mine social media for sources, ideas, and background on specific stories. We also heard how they encourage each journalist to build a community around his/her reporting and stories on one particular platform (they don’t say you need to be on all platforms for social). Students learned a lot in particular from how NPR handles Facebook posts, often publishing them a day after the story airs. NPR gets high numbers of Likes and shares on Facebook, especially for non-hard-news stories, and often a high number of comments as well. We see this contributing to NPR’s impact, because not all those people are radio listeners. Even when they are, they might have missed that story when it aired. We were also able to peek behind the curtain via NPR’s Social Media Desk Tumblr (

      Internet surveillance, freedom and privacy have become central concerns for those journalists in the digital age. What are you teaching your students about those topics?

Anyone working with social media might be thrust into a local or even global breaking news situation suddenly and with no time to prepare. Not only does this raise concerns about verification of user-submitted reports; it also entails possible risks for citizens whose tweets, etc., might be elevated to worldwide notice if they are republished or broadcast by a large media entity. In addition, journalists in any field might encounter a whistleblower, and this raises another aspect of source protection, given what we now know about widespread surveillance. Can any journalist truthfully guarantee anonymity to any source now? Mindful of these concerns, I assigned readings and had an in-class discussion with my social media students about threat models: what they are and how to use them. I focused on security for both sources and sensitive information and provided resources for how to encrypt a hard drive, use PGP, Tor, and OTR, and other tools for information security. We also discussed password security and the higher stakes for organization-level passwords (example: hijacking of AP Twitter account via phishing in April 2013). In my graduate course, MMC 6612 New Media and a Democratic Society, we devote one week to online privacy and anonymity (and its value in a democratic society) and another week to the Snowden revelations and the societal effects of government surveillance. Here is a short reading list:

Social Media Management class

Why every journalist should have a threat model (with cats)
Security for Journalists, Part One: The Basics
Information Security for Journalists (free e-book)
Security for Journalists, Part Two: Threat Modeling

Graduate course: New Media and a Democratic Society

Richards, N. M. (2013). The dangers of surveillance. Harvard Law Review, 126, 1934–1965. Available:

West, A. (2013, July 9). 11 disturbing things Snowden has taught us (so far). Available at GlobalPost: