If a room is filled with a collection of newspaper, radio and television reporters as well as UNC’s public relations professionals, you know either something very good or very bad is about to be announced. Luckily, the news coming out of UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication on Friday, Aug. 21, was nothing, but good – fantastic even.
Widely known by its nickname, the J School is shedding its former title and will now be called the UNC School of Media and Journalism. It is also adopting a new motto and revamping a class launched in the spring based on student feedback. After landing the top spot against other schools around the country in the Hearst Broadcast Championships last year for the second time in three years, Dean Susan King and her team decided “Start Here, Never Stop” was an accurate tagline for how they hope their graduates will leave Carolina, but never stop the award-winning pursuit of accurate, ethical and well-rounded news coverage. And a class launched last semester by Charlie Tuggle, PhD, Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies, expanded this semester to include not only print and broadcast personnel to serve as mentors for students enrolled in the News Bureau class, but also include UNC public relations partners and a new name – Media Hub.
“In our school, we try to speak to the realities of a rapidly changing media landscape,” says Tuggle. “Our name change to the School of Media and Journalism reflects that as does our commitment to having students work together across platforms so we can prepare them for jobs in the media fields. The idea of Media Hub came out of our long-range strategic plan. We initially called the class News Bureau, but the feedback we got was that the name was a bit restricting for those studying PR and marketing. We have a definite role for such students in the class, so we changed the name to Media Hub to reflect the idea that it’s a collaborative, high-level exercise in not only finding and producing stories of state-wide importance, but also marketing those stories to professional media partners across NC.”
Those partners include reporters and news directors from WUNC, WRAL, WECT, the News & Observer, the Daily Tarheel, Duke University and UNC public relations and marketing professionals including IGHID Communications Director Morag MacLachlan and UNC’s Office of Research Communications Director Layla Higgins Dowdy. MacLachlan got her start as a television reporter for a CBS-affiliate in Maine, where she won a Maine Association of Broadcasters Award and a Radio & Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) fellowship to report for a summer in Germany and Belgium with the Radio in the American Sector (RIAS) Kommission. She then switched to newspaper reporting and won the New England Press Association’s first place award for health reporting in 2006 for a story about water pipes in a local town lined with a carcinogen. She then worked in clinical and research communications for both internal and external audiences at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston before taking the job with UNC IGHID in December.
Dowdy, holds two master’s degrees- one in integrated marketing and one in business administration. She spent years working for NASA, holding positions including public affairs specialist, information and communications coordinator, strategic communications specialist, and communications and outreach specialist. She has served as the Director of UNC’s Office of Research Communications for more than a year.
“One of the most highly visible research stories to come out of UNC over the past few months did not originate from any official source,” says Dowdy. “A student-created video of Jeff Powell’s 3D printed arm went viral and touched millions. Partnering with Media Hub gives me the ability to tap into the unique voice of the students, and their knowledge of the amazing things their peers are working on at UNC. My hope is that by working with me, the students will be exposed to even more of the incredible research endeavors at the University, and will be able to help us develop new, creative ways to communicate the impact that research at UNC has on North Carolina and the world.”
Student Nat Zhai recently wrote a story about vaccinations and says the access to people in the field of journalism as well as the experts the public relations teams on campus can connect her with to enhance her own reporting skills has her excited about the semester in Media Hub.
“I participated in Media Hub because I wanted an opportunity to produce stories on topics that I am deeply passionate about – the environment, energy and human rights,” says Zhai, who is studying at UNC from Malaysia. “I hope that I will be able to learn how to find stories, investigate leads and publish my stories in this class. Working with on and off-campus partners is also a valuable experience as we get to interact with people and know what information is out there and what people want to read.”