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Big Orange Welcome to new JEM Professor

Joy Jenkins - JEM ProfessorBy Chelsea Babin

Every year, the University of Tennessee family grows as new faces appear on  campus. Some are from East Tennessee, while others travel far to call UT their new home. This year, UT’s College of Communication and Information’s School of Journalism & Electronic Media welcomes a new assistant professor.

Joy Jenkins, PhD, originally from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, is now a proud member of the BIG ORANGE family here on Rocky Top.

Jenkins is an alumna of the University of Oklahoma, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in journalism; Oklahoma State University for a Master of Science in media management; and the University of Missouri, where she completed her doctorate in journalism. She spent two years as a post-doctoral research fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University.

“I’m still taking in the cultural differences,” Jenkins said. “It definitely feels a little Southern here. The topology is definitely different – Oklahoma’s super flat, so going somewhere with mountains and actual landscape is really nice.”

After her undergraduate degree, Jenkins stayed in Oklahoma and worked for local media. Her first year out of school, she worked for the Oklahoma Gazette–the alternative newsweekly in the area–as a copy editor and writer. Then, she spent the next seven years at TulsaPeople, a city magazine in Tulsa, as senior editor. She decided to pursue a M.S. in media management during her time in Tulsa as well.

For her doctoral dissertation, she conducted a case study on D Magazine in Dallas Texas. Her study was titled “Brand Believers: Reconciling Journalistic Identity and Organizational Identity at a City Magazine” and examined how staff members discussed their changing journalistic roles and the impact of their publication on their community.

“The primary goal of my research is to produce knowledge about the sociology of news production and the challenges and opportunities facing news organizations and journalists working in the digital age,” Jenkins’ website states. “Specifically, I examine under-studied forms of news media, including local media, alternative media, and feminist media, and their potential to spur social change through content and reader interaction.”

While she is now teaches a section of the introductory course on media writing, Jenkins still finds time to conduct her research. She particularly focuses on local media, alternative media, and magazines.

Since coming to campus last December for her first on-campus interview, she has felt very welcomed by everyone at UT.

“Everyone was very welcoming and nice and friendly, and they seemed interested in my research and what it can contribute to the program, and I just felt at home here,” Jenkins said. “When the offer came, I was like, “Yep, this is where I want to be.”

Jenkins is excited to continue the research she started during her fellowship. She wants to use an international perspective to continue to look at local news and how it is changing in the digital media landscape. Jenkins also hopes to incorporate findings from her research into her teaching.

“Having gotten to travel and do a lot of research abroad, I hope to bring those insights into the classroom, and I’ve been trying to schedule guest speakers that I know from different parts of the world who will talk to students so they can see what journalism is like in other places,” Jenkins said.

One guest speaker is a former Reuters Institute Journalist Fellow who is a political journalist in Moscow. She will describe her experiences reporting on controversial topics in a challenging environment for journalists. Jenkins hopes to bring in various perspectives of journalists from all over for her students.

Jenkins’ first semester has been off to a great start. She said that her students have been attentive and eager to learn.

“I’m looking forward to the class and just seeing how they develop as writers over the course of the semester,” Jenkins said. “They’ve already done a quick writing assignment just to get a feel for where they are, and I can definitely see the potential. I’m excited to see how they grow and learn as they add more tools to their toolkit.”

Jenkins is also excited to learn more about all that the JEM program has to offer to students, such as the student media outlets, the social media center, and the research that graduate students are working on.

Over the last two years, she has collected dozens of interviews and data about different aspects of local news, so she’ll be working on transitioning those into academic publications this semester as well. She’s looking forward to continuing that project and incorporating the local media in Knoxville into her research.

So far, Jenkins has felt right at home here at UT–especially from the various people checking in on her and getting to know her. She’s looking forward to her time in BIG ORANGE country and is excited to get to know more and more people.

“I really love doing collaborative research, so if there are any areas that I am working on that other people–whether in our college or not–are interested in, I love working in teams and I love partnering with people to look into things. … Send me an email.”

After Whitewater Canoeing, Kerns Finds Grad School Smooth Sailing

Charli Kerns - Journalism PhD studentJournalism PhD student Charli Kerns has fought her way through whitewater rapids and cascaded over waterfalls in her canoe. Knowing that adrenalin rush, she doesn’t get too stressed out over research, writing, or teaching a class.

Kerns been an action sports enthusiast since being introduced to kayaking through UT’s Outdoor Pursuits during her undergraduate days on Rocky Top. She later picked up canoeing and now considers whitewater canoeing her main sport. She’s traversed waterways across the United States as well as in Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, Germany, France, and India.

She’s managed to translate her love for action sports—the preferred term for what some people call “extreme sports”—into a career and now into her doctoral studies in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media in the College of Communication and Information. Her research focuses on how action sports media can help reimagine issues of gender in sport and culture.

For her dissertation, Kerns is looking at how female athletes are represented in Red Bull Media House, a global multiplatform media company that’s a leader in action sports news. Red Bull’s YouTube channel has 8.5 million subscribers.

Kerns is looking at why sports media so often downplay women’s sport—whether they consider it less interesting or less of a moneymaker for them—and the ramifications that has on society: “If a sports news outlet says women aren’t worth covering, what does that say . . . and does that lead to girls not being able to imagine themselves as big athletes?”

In addition to completing her own studies, she’s teaching multimedia reporting.

Kerns said the pure exhilaration of whitewater canoeing, stemming from fear, risk, and physical exertion, has given her a different perspective on the stress of everyday life.

“It’s so much easier to deal with deadlines and social expectations when you know, as close to firsthand as you’re going to get, how precious and short life is.”

Charli Kerns - WhitewaterKerns said “scary” is when you almost drown—or when you’re unable to save a friend from drowning. That’s what happened to her in an accident on the Little River.

“If you’ve been paddling long enough, you know someone that’s died,” she said.

To overcome her grief, she forced herself to go back out on the Little River and conquer the same rapids that claimed her friend’s life.

“Absolutely nothing holds focus better than whitewater paddling,” Kerns said. “It reminds me how small I am in the grand scheme of things. It’s taught me that the little things in life are not that big a deal.”

Born in Wyoming, Kerns moved with her family to South Knoxville after her dad retired from the military. She graduated from South Doyle High School. Kerns earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from UT in 2011 and her master’s degree in science and medical journalism from Boston University in 2012.

Once she was job hunting, she realized that most science and medical writing jobs would require living in a big city.

“I’m a mountain person,” she said.

So when she saw a job posted for an online editor for Canoe and Kayak magazine, she jumped at it. She was hired and relocated to San Clemente, California, where she began writing for Canoe and Kayak and other publications in the Adventure Sports Network.

After about two years on the job, writing about everything from epic fishing trips to Grand Canyon rafting to motoccross, she was sent on assignment to western North Carolina to do a story about whitewater paddling on the Green River. She fell in love with the place and the river.

She gave notice to the magazine, moved to Asheville, North Carolina, andlanded a job with the Hendersonville Times-News.

“I’d always had zero desire to work in newspaper, but I absolutely loved it,” she said. “Breaking news is one of the biggest highs you can get as a journalist.”

Kerns spent two years at the newspaper and another year teaching at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. All along, she continued to do contract writing and editing for a variety of outdoor and sport publications.

“I had always wanted to get a PhD and teach and study journalism,” she said. “I really want to do research and teach at a top-level university.”

Kerns applied to several schools but chose to come back home.

“I’m so very happy I chose UT,” she said, adding that the support of faculty has allowed her to meld two things she loves, journalism and action sports.

And getting to do it in Knoxville—which is close to some of the best whitewater paddling locales in the country—doesn’t hurt either.

“I can take a lunch break and paddle the Little River,” she said.

Author, Actress Danica McKellar to Narrate Imagination Library Documentary

Danica McKellar and Dolly Parton work on the Imagination Library DocumentaryAuthor and actress Danica McKellar will narrate The Library That Dolly Built, the first feature-length documentary about Dolly Parton’s book gifting program, The Imagination Library, produced by Land Grant Films in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s School of Journalism and Electronic Media. 

Land Grant Films provides UT students experience in documentary storytelling while providing local nonprofit organizations with videos that can be used to raise awareness and funds. Fifteen UT students worked on the film.

“We are honored to have Ms. McKellar work with us on this important project,” said Nick Geidner, who is a JEM associate professor, the director of Land Grant Films, and the director and producer of The Library That Dolly Built. “She was a pleasure to work with and incredibly generous with her time and talent.”

McKellar is an actress, mathematics writer, and education advocate. Her successful acting career includes her role as Winnie Copper on The Wonder Years, voiceover work in popular animated movies, and a number of movies on the Hallmark Channel. 

In addition to her acting work, McKellar has written eight books, all encouraging children, especially young girls, to have confidence and success in mathematics. Her book, Goodnight, Numbers, is currently included in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. 

“I’ve admired Dolly Parton since childhood,” said McKellar, “and even more so upon learning of her Imagination Library. I can’t wait for the world to learn more about Imagination Library through this beautiful documentary, and I couldn’t be prouder to narrate it.”

Dolly Parton also was excited to have McKellar on board. 

“I was thrilled that Danica agreed to narrate our documentary,” Parton said. “She is the perfect person to help us tell our story. She is very talented and she has such a giving heart.”

The Library That Dolly Built—formerly 100 Million Stories—covers the history, impact and future of America’s largest nongovernmental children’s literacy program, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. It features Parton's music and includes original interviews with recipients of the books, parents, policy makers, authors, program organizers, and Parton. 

Students Win Five Tennessee AP Awards

AP AwardsThe University of Tennessee garnered five first-place honors at the annual Tennessee Associated Press Broadcasters and Media Editors college journalism competition. Final results were announced Saturday, April 28, at the John Seigenthaler Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

One first-place award took a true team effort from the School of Journalism and Electronic Media. Senior Lecturer Melanie Faizer’s course, Digital News Reporting (JEM 350), won the college media website division for its multimedia online project, “Eviction: Stories from Tennessee.” The collaborative website started in fall 2018 and takes an in-depth look at eviction laws and stories from around the state. 

The Daily Beacon Editor-In-Chief Kylie Hubbard (JEM) and staff writer Cat Trieu (Interdisciplinary Programs) scored a win in the online ongoing coverage division for their coverage of the student programming allocation committee.

Elisa Razak (Graphic Design) took first place in news graphic/illustration division for her work with The Daily Beacon, where she has served as a design editor.

Jake Albright (JEM) earned his second win in the college television division, this time for the TV news story, “Tennessee’s Structurally Deficient Bridges.” Last year, he took first in the television reporter category.

In the radio division, Levi Johnson (JEM) placed first for his specialized/topic reporting piece, “UT Professor Suggests Climate Change as Reason for Warmer Fall Weather.”

Razak, Albright, and Johnson were also recognized with best of show scholarships.

In addition to her win with Trieu, Hubbard placed second in the newspaper reporter division for her article, “Campus Community, the Rock Sets Stage for Free Speech Battle.”

The Daily Beacon Campus News Editor Gabriela Szymanowska (JEM) finished second in investigative/in-depth reporting for “Campus Fraternity Investigated for Scavenger Hunt Targeting Asian Students.” Colin Sawyer (JEM) was second in the television reporter category for his piece, “Protesters Oppose White Nationalists.”



College Newspaper Division

News Graphic/Illustration: 1. Elisa Razak, The Daily Beacon

Investigative/In-Depth Reporting: 2. Gabriela Szymanowska, The Daily Beacon, “Campus Fraternity Investigated for Scavenger Hunt Targeting Asian Students”

Newspaper Reporter: 2. Kylie Hubbard, The Daily Beacon, “Campus Community, the Rock Sets Stage for Free Speech Battle”

College Online Division

College Media Website: 1. University of Tennessee, JEM 350, “Eviction Stories from Tennessee”

Online Ongoing Coverage: 1. Kylie Hubbard and Cat Trieu, The Daily Beacon, “Student Programming Allocation Committee”

Radio Division

Radio Specialized/Topic Reporting: 1. Levi Johnson, “UT Professor Suggests Climate Change as Reason for Warmer Fall Weather”

College Television Division

TV News Story: 1. Jake Albright, “Tennessee’s Structurally Deficient Bridges”

Television Reporter: 2. Colin Sawyer, “Protesters Oppose White Nationalists”

Longmire reflects on how JEM program shaped her into a Torchbearer

Elizabeth Longmire receives 2019 Torchbearer awardGrowing up in Corryton, Tennessee, just 15 miles north of Knoxville, senior Elizabeth Longmire always knew where she wanted to go to school.

The Volunteer Spirit at the University of Tennessee is more than just about wearing orange and white. It is about being challenged by peers and professors to grow into the best possible individual and collaborating with others to make positive societal changes.

Longmire, who graduated in May with a degree in journalism and electronic media and a minor in political science, is being honored for exemplifying those very qualities.

She is one of seven graduating seniors named 2019 Torchbearers: the highest student award given at UT for recognition of academic achievement, leadership, and service.

“Seeing the energy and love that goes into being a Tennessee Volunteer is what made me so excited and passionate to be a Volunteer when it came time to join as a first-year student,” Longmire said. “That is just reinforced to me every single day as I walk on this campus.”


While attending a rare Monday meeting for her Delta Zeta sorority chapter, Longmire was surprised when Interim Chancellor Wayne Davis arrived––bouquet of balloons in hand––to announce the news of her honor.

Longmire said she knows the description sounds like something out of a movie, but the experience of receiving the award while surrounded by her friends was “one of the most overwhelming and humbling moments of my life.”

Leadership has been one of Longmire’s standout qualities during her four years on campus. Among many roles, she has served as president of the Panhellenic Council, a leadership group of 13 women’s sororities on campus. She has also held leadership roles in Delta Zeta and recently represented the sorority as part of the Fraternal Relations Governing Coalition in Washington, D.C.


Longmire’s academic journey will not end when she walks across the graduation stage in Thompson-Boling Arena. She will pursue a Master’s in Higher Education at the University of South Carolina.

“The way staff and faculty pour into their commitment to their work and challenge you to be your best self is truly why I believe I applied to graduate school in the first place,” Longmire said. “I wanted to continue my education and understand how I can impact other students as well.”

Her experience at Tennessee, as a student and campus leader, is what inspires her future career. She wants to work in university leadership, perhaps as a dean of student life, so that she can inspire and develop future generations of students.

JEM INSPIRATIONInterim Chancellor Wayne Davis presents Longmire with Torchbearer award at her sorority meeting

Longmire was active in JEM opportunities from the start. She still remembers attending an orientation meeting for The Volunteer Channel (TVC) her first week on campus. Currently, Longmire serves as an associate producer, floor manager, and an anchor for TVC.

"Besides being intelligent, talented and driven, she's always been an extraordinary team player,” TVC and JEM Production Specialist Clint Elmore said. “She is ever ready to take up slack without complaint, whether it's reporting, producing or working a camera.”

As a sophomore, she joined the Society of Professional Journalists East Tennessee student chapter and served as fundraising coordinator. During her junior year, she attended an SPJ trip to New York City to tour national media outlets and network with Tennessee alumni.

In May 2018, Longmire traveled to Washington, D.C., to work as a fellow for the Washington Program of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy. JEM Director and Professor Catherine Luther recommended Longmire for the program and one of the JEM program donors provided a scholarship to make the trip possible. While in D.C., Longmire worked alongside the nation’s top public servants, researchers, and journalists to learn more about public policy.

Whether she was preparing for anchoring UT Today or working toward an internship, Longmire said the JEM professors were always there to help her understand her full potential in the classroom and as a student on campus. She was particularly grateful to two mentors: Luther for her leadership example and Professor Sam Swan for always challenging her to perform to the best of her ability as a student and in everyday life.

Professors and news organizations took notice of her skillset and constant drive for improvement.

“Elizabeth has all the qualities that embody a Torchbearer,” Luther said. “She has excelled in her academic studies and taken on important leadership positions both within and outside of the university. Her Volunteer Spirit is quite impressive. I’ll add that what I believe makes Elizabeth distinct is that she is able to take on so much while maintaining a calm demeanor. I think it will serve her well in her future career.”

During her collegiate career, Longmire obtained two internships––one at Knoxville's NBC affiliate WBIR and another at ABC affiliate WATE. During the summer and fall of 2017, Longmire served as a news intern and television reporting intern at WATE. Following that opportunity, she secured a newsroom internship at WBIR during the summer of 2018.

“Elizabeth is a very creative storyteller in TV news, displaying a rare talent for on-camera performance,” Swan said. “Her writing and reporting skills helped her gain an internship at WBIR-TV, where she excelled as a video journalist.”

While her career plans might not involve sitting behind a news desk, Longmire honed leadership and collaboration skills through the School of Journalism and Electronic Media that she can use daily as a university leader.

“Looking at my major, I am grateful for those hands-on experiences and internships outside of the classroom that have helped me understand just how great the impact journalism has right now on the UT community and the Greater Knoxville community,” Longmire said.

Story by Amanda Pruitt and Chelsea Babin

Photos submitted by Elizabeth Longmire

JEM Students Tour Media Companies in Atlanta

JEM students at SkillshotA group of students from the School of Journalism and Electronic Media took a trip to Atlanta during Spring Break to network and meet with professionals from a variety of media companies.

The three-day tour of companies included both traditional outlets and new media companies that work in the fast-growing field of esports.

The JEM students were members of the Society of Professional Journalists and/or part of The Volunteer Channel (TVC). Faculty and staff on the trip included JEM Director and Professor Catherine Luther, Howard Distinguished Endowed Professor of Media Management and Law and Beaman Professor of Journalism and Electronic Media Stuart N. Brotman, and Video Production Specialist Clint Elmore.

JEM alumna Amy Corn (JEM ’88 and CCI Board of Visitors member) hosted a group dinner at Barcelona and helped facilitate several stops on the tour. She is a corporate communications executive who has worked with several multi-billion dollar companies during her career.

The tour started Monday, March 18, with a visit to Axis Replay, an entertainment and event facility that specializes in esports. The facility, opened in 2018, hosts video game events and high-tech conferences.

Additional video game tour stops included Hi-Rez Studios, an independent game developer responsible for indie hits like Smite (2014) and Paladins (2016), and Skillshot Media, an esports tournament operator and production company that is a subsidiary of Hi-Rez. UT alumnus Nicholas Bashore (JEM ’16), a senior community manager for Skillshot, talked with the group during the visit.

The JEM group also visited several public relations and international communications companies including: the Arketi Group, a PR and digital marketing agency that builds strategy with business-to-business technology organizations; Porter Novelli, an international PR group; and Cox Enterprises, the global conglomerate that also includes Cox Communications and Cox Media Group.

No communication tour of Atlanta would be complete without a trip to the CNN World Headquarters, where the group met with UT alumna Tori Blasé (JEM ’93 and Emeritus member of CCI’s Board of Visitors), who is CNN supervisor and executive producer for the Anderson Cooper Show. The JEM group also stopped by CBS 46, the Atlanta CBS affiliate.

“My goal was to allow the students to understand the varied ways they could apply the knowledge and skill sets they have been learning in our school,” Luther said. “All of the media firms the students visited provided valuable insight into their organizations and tips on how to secure a position upon graduation. I am so grateful to our alumni members Amy Corn and Tori Blasé for using their connections to make arrangements for our visits.”

JEM student and Campus News Editor of The Daily Beacon Gabriela Szymanowska said the trip really broadened her perspective of where her journalism degree could take her after graduation.

"The trip to Atlanta was an amazing opportunity for us to network and open our minds when it comes to being journalists,” Szymanowska said. ”During our courses, we get this set idea of what careers we can go into. For me personally, I am now rethinking my career path in a more creative way, possibly going into marketing where my love of writing and photography can still play a huge part in what I do." 

The visits with professionals reinforced the importance of tailoring resumes and cover letters to the specific needs of employers. It also allowed students to make connections that will help them find a career path when they graduate.

Alumni Q&A: Jim Sexton

Tennessee RiverJournalism graduate Jim Sexton (’81 and CCI Emeritus Board of Visitors member) has described his evolving media career as “long and winding,” and that path has led him once again to his hometown and alma mater. 

At least for this week.

Sexton is now in his eighth year as vice president of digital for the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.) and is in town for Knoxville’s first hosting of the prestigious Bassmaster Classic, which will be held Friday through Sunday on the Tennessee River. He is in charge of generating and developing content for the organization’s website, mobile, and social platforms.

Jim SextonRapid changes in technology radically changed the media landscape since Sexton walked the graduation stage in 1981, but he has transformed his skill set over the years to meet those new challenges.

Outside of an unusual first job in which he played a “Bill Nye the Science Guy-esque” character giving science demonstrations to junior high and high schoolers on behalf of the Oak Ridge Associated Universities, Sexton has spent his career as a content creator. He worked in Chicago and New York before returning to Knoxville for Whittle Communications, rising to editor and chief. After the organization folded, he moved to Washington, D.C., to be an associate editor for USA Weekend.

In 1998, Sexton was back in Knoxville again to work with HGTV, where he pivoted from mostly print into digital production, helping grow the company’s fledgling online presence. He moved to Birmingham, Alabama, where he lives today, working with Time Inc.’s magazine division before his present job with Bassmaster.

After returning from his boat covering the anglers’ practice day, Sexton sat down to discuss his career, storytelling, and advice to students preparing to enter the media workforce. Here are excerpts from our Q&A:

Q: Where has your career taken you since graduation?

A: “I’ve got a journalism degree and have always been in content. I came up in the internet world when we were deciding, ‘Who do you put in charge of internet stuff?’ I made a case that it should be the editor instead of a technology person. I had to learn the technology. So I’ve always managed technology and content. I was there in the early days of HGTV and it grew and grew. I was there nine years and then went to Time Inc. in Birmingham, Alabama. At that time, it had eight magazine brands that also had websites. It had sort of been under paid attention to, so I came in to turn them into real websites with real content, not just remakes of the magazine. That whole operation was during the recession. Time Inc. started cutting everything, so I lost my job there.

“At that time, Bassmaster moved to Birmingham. It was in Orlando and ESPN owned it, then three guys bought it, one of them being the retired chairman of Time Inc. I landed at Bassmaster doing the same kind of work, content for our website and social media. It’s been a wild ride. I’ve always been a sports guy. My father’s a coach and I loved sports, but I never worked in sports media. It’s really what this is. It’s the sport of fishing. The mentality left over from ESPN was to cover it like a traditional sport, meaning we do a lot with stats, we have a live leaderboard, we have live broadcasting and really treat it like baseball or basketball or football would be treated.”

Q: What’s it like being in Knoxville for the Bassmaster Classic, the biggest event on your tour?

A: “We announced it this time last year, so I’ve known it’s been coming for a long time. I’m the only person who works at Bassmaster who went to UT. I’ve got a freelance writer/photographer who went to UT. We have one of our tournament contractors who went to UT who was wearing the plaid orange and white overalls this morning at our practice launch.

“It’s been so much fun. For one, I get to brag a lot about Knoxville and UT. It’s been really fun to see the reaction from our events people who’ve been back and forth here a lot over the last year. It’s really unique. For the seven classics I’ve been to before this, everything has been spread out. We were in Tulsa, Oklahoma, twice. The weigh-ins were downtown. The expo was downtown. The lake was 90 minutes away. Last year, we were in Greenville, South Carolina. The weigh-ins and expo were downtown and the lake was 45 minutes away. That’s typically what we’re doing. Here, you could walk from the weigh-ins at Thompson-Boling (Arena) to the launch at Volunteer Landing to the expos at World’s Fair Park. Everybody’s been really excited about it.

“Knoxville has become what I always thought it could become. When I worked downtown at Whittle, it was a very sleepy downtown. Nobody lived downtown. The only places to eat were lunch places and maybe Regas on the far end. Now, it’s a cool downtown. Lots of people live downtown, and there are cool restaurants and bars. It’s beautiful looking. I’m just very proud of it as much as anything. Being on campus this week, same thing. There’s been so much construction over the last five years that showing someone through campus on Monday, I thought, ‘Wow, it’s all come together.’”

Q: As a journalist and content creator, what makes a good story?

A: “In covering fishing and covering sports, you’ve got to cover the game and tell the score and who did what and who won and those kinds of things. You’ve got to keep the record. I had this conversation recently with my son, who is 24 and is a video editor. He asked how do you determine what makes a good story? And I said, ‘If I’m interested in it.’ I’ve always just felt, if I’m interested in it, other people will be too. That’s not enough of a good answer, but it’s a good story if it’s got a personal angle to it.

“With Bassmaster, we have to do the how-to stories: how to fish, how to catch bigger fish, how to use the equipment. We even tell the stories about the different species and the conservation. The really interesting stories to me and that the fans like are personal. All of these professional anglers that we cover, they’ve all got an interesting life story, right? Going from growing up to becoming a person who relies on fishing for a living, there’s an interesting story there somehow. There was a parent or a spouse who was encouraging. We’ve got an angler from Arizona, in college, he told his professor he wanted to be a professional angler. The professor laughed at him, and that really motivated him to pursue it because that was his passion. … Everyone has personal stories and struggles. Everyone has successes. Everyone has family inspiration. Those personal stories I think are the most interesting.

Q: What are some of your big takeaways from journalism school that you’ve used in your career?

A: “One of my first professors said, ‘Act like you know what you’re doing.’ He meant that as a reporter or editor, you’ll be involved in topics you don’t know that much about. If you approach it like your audience, who also might not know much about it, it’s okay to ask the basic questions and the things an experienced reporter or editor might not ask because they know the topic so well. That’s one thing I took with me.

“I got the sense of possibility in journalism school that you can do anything, whether that be writing or photography or videography or getting into technology. I worked at The Daily Beacon as a photographer, and we developed our own photos in a lightroom. That was the technology. A typewriter was the technology. Somehow, I’ve never been afraid of the technology. I’m 60 now. I’m going to say it’s not rocket science, but it kind of is. You don’t have to understand how it works, but you have to be able to use it. We do some crazy stuff at Bassmaster. We have an app called BASSTrakk. We put it in the hands of the marshals who ride the boats, and they log in every fish and every weight and it shows up instantly on the website. Stereotypically, you may think of a fishing website as simple, but it’s not for us. We do a lot with technology.

“Those are a couple takeaways from my time at UT. It was a mind expanding experience, partially from the people and partially from the subject. My career has been all learning all the time. I never learn enough. After eight years at Bassmaster, there’s a ton I want to learn. Learning’s fun for me.

Q: What is some advice you’d give to CCI students preparing to enter the media field?

A: “I’ve thought about that a lot. I’ve got kids and one is in a similar field. Would you recommend someone go into the field of journalism these days? There are probably more reliable job paths to stay employed with as much change as there has been in the media world. The thing is, people are consuming more media than ever. So there is always a need for people who can communicate well. I still think it’s a great career path and an interesting career path.

“My advice is to learn the basics really well. Be a Swiss army knife where you can do writing and photography and video and podcasts and play with all those platforms where they are all telling stories. Learn those basics really well, and they’ll set you up for any number of directions to go in where you can respond to the marketplace. If podcasts can continue to grow and you’ve done a few, you can do podcasts. If it’s all blogging and photography, you can do that. Learn the basics well. In my time on the Board of Visitors, it was their approach. They wanted kids to be able to come out with a broad skill set so they can take on anything.”

Emmy-winning filmmaker to deliver annual Hill Lecture

Three-time Emmy Award-winning science documentary filmmaker Sarah Holt will speak on "Turning Complex Science Stories Into Compelling Television" at the 27th annual Alfred and Julia Hill Lecture at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.Holt will give her Hill Lecture on Tuesday, April 2 at 8 p.m. in the McClung Museum Auditorium on the UT campus.The event is free and open to the public.

The annual Hill Lecture series brings acclaimed science journalists to Knoxville to speak on issues in science, society, and mass media. The series was a gift to UT’s School of Journalism & Electronic Media in the College of Communication and Information in the form of an endowment created by Tom Hill and Mary Frances Hill Holton in honor of their parents, Alfred and Julia Hill, founders of The Oak Ridger.

Holt won her three Emmy Awards and a dozen other national honors as a writer, editor, director, and producer of film documentaries that cover science, history, and medicine on PBS and especially Nova. Among her documentaries are Addiction, Can Alzheimer's Be Stopped?, How Memory Works, 18 Ways to Make a Baby, and Cracking Your Genetic Code.

Holt studied at Colorado College for two years, then studied abroad in Paris her junior year. In Paris, Holt realized that she wanted to go into film production.She graduated from New York University with a BFA degree in Film and Television. Her film company, Holt Productions, is based in Boston.

While Holt’s documentaries focus on science nowadays, she started out editing historical and biographical documentaries on Douglas MacArthur, Andrew Carnegie, and the Rockefellers.

Holt’s Hill Lecture will be illustrated by clips from her films. The McClung Museum is located on Circle Park Drive on UT’s campus. There is free parking available on Circle Park Drive and in nearby lots. Refreshments will be served before and after the lecture.

JEM Students Earn Regional Journalism Accolades

SEJC Onsite TeamStudents from the UT School of Journalism and Electronic Media (JEM) competed at the Southeast Journalism Conference (SEJC), taking home two onsite victories and a wide range of additional awards. This year's conference was held Feb. 14-16 at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

JEM assembled an eight-journalist squad to participate in the onsite competition for the first time, finishing in a third-place tie with Lipscomb University in team scoring. The competition required a well-rounded group of specialists from writers and editors to photographers and broadcast reporters. The top three competitors for each division were recognized, including first-place finishes by Tyler Wombles in sports writing and Haley Harbin in copyediting.

UT students also took part in the Best of the South competition, which judged selected entries sent in advance of the competition. Tennessee recorded 10 top-10 results in a number of categories. Notably, Andrew Capps scored a pair of top-10 finishes, placing fifth in Best Features Writer and 10th in Best News Writer for his articles from the Knoxville News Sentinel. Olivia Johnston was second in Best Radio Hard News Reporter for her clips from WUTK 90.3 FM, and Evan Newell took third place in the Best Opinion/Editorial Writer competition for his "From Hill to Hill" columns in The Daily Beacon.

The Daily Beacon placed seventh in the Best College Newspaper contest.

The SEJC includes 32 colleges and universities from seven states across the region. The Best of the South Competition included 442 entries from 31 members. Top-three rankings came from 24 schools and first-place finishes from 16 schools.

SEJC Onsite Competition – UT School of Journalism and Electronic Media Results
Abby Bower, third, feature writing
Christy White, second, news writing
Gabriela Szymanowska, second, photo feature
Tyler Wombles, first, sports writing
Haley Harbin, first, copyediting
(Also competing: Vanessa Rodriguez, arts and entertainment writing; Jake Albright, TV news reporting; Anslee Daniel, TV news anchoring.)

Best of the South – UT School of Journalism and Electronic Media Results
Andrew Capps, Best Feature Writer (fifth of 33) for articles appearing in the Knoxville News Sentinel
Andrew Capps, Best News Writer (10th of 37) for articles appearing in the Knoxville News Sentinel
Sophie Grosserode, Best Feature Writer (sixth of 33) for articles appearing in The Daily Times (Maryville, Tennessee)
Olivia Johnston, Best Radio Hard News Reporter (second of four), WUTK 90.3 FM
Lexie Little, Best Opinion/Editorial Writer (10th of 29), The Tennessee Journalist (
Evan Newell, Best Opinion/Editorial Writer (third of 29), The Daily Beacon
Elisa Razak, Best Newspaper Page Layout Designer (fifth of 15), The Daily Beacon
Noah Taylor, Best Sports Writer (seventh of 30), The Daily Beacon
Blake Von Hagen, Best Sports Writer (fourth of 30), The Daily Beacon
The Daily Beacon, Best College Newspaper (seventh of 17)

Two years later: JEM Alumni receive Emmy nomination for Vietnam Veteran War documentary

Often times, moments in history are forgotten and so are the people in them. As journalists, it is our job to make sure the moments and people are remembered for years to come. And, that is just what two recent University of Tennessee graduates did as journalism and electronic media students.

Isaac Fowler and Tim Morris, created a Vietnam War Veteran documentary titled “Welcome Home Brother” while working as undergraduates with the School of Journalism & Electronic Media’s documentary program: Land Grant Films. Dr. Nick Geidner, JEM associate professor and director of Land Grant Films, was executive producer and Clint Elmore, JEM video specialist, was segment producer for the documentary. Funding for the project was provided by various sources including a grant from East Tennessee PBS (ETPBS) via Land Grant Films. Throughout the project, Fowler and Morris were mentored by JEM alumnus ('97) and Academy Award-winning documentary producer Rich Middlemas.

The team worked tirelessly on the majority of the film over the summer of 2017––between junior and senior year for Fowler and Morris. While their original story idea is what landed them the grant from ETPBS, they had to scrap it and come up with another idea.

“When we initially applied for the grant, our story was initially about a Tennessee junior varsity football player who volunteered to serve in Vietnam,” Fowler said. “That story fell through. We got in contact with his brother, but they wished to not be involved in the project.

Fowler and Morris both were student assistants in the athletics broadcasting department for Vol For Life Films (VFL Films) on campus throughout their entire undergraduate careers. Using their connections at VFL, they were able to make contact with Doug “Snapper” Morgan––a local Vietnam Veteran, and the biggest Vol fan Fowler has ever met. Through Morgan, Fowler and Morris were introduced to the Knoxville chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) and various members.

“He took us to a chapter meeting of the local VVA where we were able to meet and talk with several veterans,” Morris said. “It was from here that we decided to make the story about how the VVA acts as a mouthpiece for veterans to have their voice be heard.”

Fowler and Morris held preliminary interviews for twelve veterans from VVA and later narrowed it down to four that they would use in their production. Unfortunately, during the editing process they had to cut the fourth veteran from the documentary due to time constraints. The duo conducted various rounds of on-camera interviews in addition to shooting b-roll at the VVA meetings.

“The editing process was a bit strenuous because we had to go back and listen to all the interviews and pick out the best sound bites that were cohesive and told a story,” Morris said. “With this being a historical film, we also had to track down a lot of pictures, stock footage, and other things to be able to use in the film.”

Once finished, the film premiered at the East Tennessee Historical Society on Gay St. prior to the televised premiere on PBS. “Welcome Home Brother” was also selected by three film festivals, including the Nashville Film Festival.

Having it air on PBS was a very cool experience,” Morris said. “I was able to watch it with a bunch of friends the night it aired and it was just surreal to see something that I created come on the television.”

While having their documentary air on PBS and at the festivals was an honor for Fowler and Morris, nothing could ever compare to them finding out it was nominated for a MidSouth Regional Emmy.

“My initial reaction to the nomination was disbelief. It almost didn’t seem real, still kind of doesn’t,” Morris said. “As it gets closer to Feb. 16, the excitement and anticipation grows. I know it will be a fun and unforgettable experience, no matter the outcome.”

Fowler’s most vivid memory from the whole experience was receiving the call from Morris about their nomination.

Learning of the Emmy nomination has definitely been the most exciting part of the journey so far” Fowler said. “We can’t wait for the awards gala in February and we’re hoping to bring home an Emmy statuette.”

The two have worked together and been close friends since freshman year. Morris described working together was “natural” and said their skill sets complemented each other.

“[Morris] and I have been partners in crime for over four years now,” Fowler said. “So working on this project with him was a lot of fun. We work really well together.

Since graduation, both continue to work with Land Grant Films and have also gotten full-time jobs in video production.

“We’re currently finishing another Land Grant Films produced documentary with a PhD student, Natalie Welch, about Cherokee women and their traditional Cherokee sport, stickball,” Fowler said.

The Emmy Gala will be Feb. 16 in Nashville.

“We never imagined we’d still be doing things regarding this film almost 2 years later. We have been very blessed,” Morris said.

Watch Live as Team Provides Social Media Monitoring of Super Bowl’s Ads

Stuart N. Brotman work with graduate student James Zhang and senior Maggie Akins to examine Super Bowl LIII's ads.A faculty member and a team of students from UT’s College of Communication and Information will be providing real-time analysis of Super Bowl LIII’s commercials for WLVT on Sunday.

Viewers will be able to see them at work on the station’s Facebook page and during the 10 p.m. coverage on WBXX, the CW Knoxville.

The team has been preparing and investigating the ads that were released early. They have been trained in the Adam Brown Social Media Command Center in the College of Communication and Information, which uses Salesforce Marketing Cloud Social Studio software to analyze Twitter messages and trends.

“CCI students are very fortunate to have the resources of the Adam Brown Social Media Command Center available for this unique experience,” said Stuart N. Brotman, the Howard Distinguished Endowed Professor of Media Management and Law and the Beaman Professor of Journalism and Electronic Media. “They can access its Social Studio software remotely on their laptops from WVLT. Their training and skill in real-time social media analysis during the Super Bowl will enrich the viewing experience of the vast television audience tuning in.”

“It’s a social study of one of the most hyped pop culture events,” said Alexandria Southerland, a master’s student in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media.

Zhang examines popular words associated with the Super Bowl.

The broadcast will include interviews with the team’s students, who also include PhD student James Zhang and advertising and public relations senior Maggie Akins.

Each of the students will focus on a specific subject during the analysis. Zhang will look at international reactions, Southerland will analyze the impact of ads using celebrities, and Akins will focus the top ads based on Twitter activity.

Since many advertisers have already released their ads, the team has a head start on what social media is saying.

Southerland expects the top celebrity ads will include the Stella Artois commercial featuring Jeff Bridges and Sarah Jessica Parker, and Pepsi’s feature of icons Cardi B, Lil Jon, and Steve Carrell.

Brotman and another team of students provided a similar service for WVLT during the November 2016 presidential election and the November 2018 Tennessee gubernatorial and senatorial election. He said the student engagement at the station was so positive that WVLT extended this invitation to another major television event for which live social media analysis adds to the viewing experience.

The Adam Brown Center was created with a gift from college alumnus Adam Brown, now executive strategist for Salesforce, a San Francisco-based company that pioneered cloud computing and is the world’s number one customer relationship management platform. The center uses the same technology that Fortune 100 companies worldwide use to publish, engage, and analyze their social media marketing activities.

JEM Alum Included in "Vols to Watch"

Let our alumni entertain you. (Excerpt from UTK story, "Vols to Watch")

Malorie CunninghamMalorie Cunningham

Screen: Southern Comfort (Avery)

Malorie Cunningham’s series Southern Comfort, created for her comedy duo Dolly Partners, was nominated for best web series at the Chain Film Festival in 2018.

Cunningham (‘14) had earlier co-founded the improvisation group Full Disclosure Comedy in Knoxville and studied at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City.

At UT, Cunningham, a journalism and electronic media major, remembers “teaching myself to edit, running to campus events to shoot a story, and rushing back to the writing studio to finish the newscast for that day. I was firing on all cylinders!

But my professor at the time, Dr. Swan, encouraged us to just grab a camera, go out, and do the work,” she adds. “Little did I know, I would use all that info to create some comedy. Isn’t life a gag?”

Cunningham has launched “Head Cow Productions” to host her new Southern-themed comedy sketches and co-stars in a monthly stage series called Sketchy History: A History Sketch Show.

(Image by Serenity Ewing)

JEM's Land Grant Films Creates Veteran Documentaries for East Tennessee PBS

Healing WatersEast Tennessee PBS will air five microdocumentaries on area veterans created by UT School of Journalism students, Land Grant Films, and UT's WUOT-FM.

A release of the microdocumentaries began on Facebook and YouTube in late October. WUOT  aired the audio versions October 29 through November 2 along with original content from interviews with East Tennessee veterans.

The microdocumentaries will be compiled into a half-hour show that airs on East Tennessee PBS at 4 p.m. Sunday, November 11, and 5 p.m. Sunday, November 18.

“This project was a great opportunity for us to work with East Tennessee PBS and WUOT to highlight the work being done by organizations to help veterans transition back to their communities,” said Nick Geidner, associate professor of journalism and electronic media and director of Land Grant Films. “Students were able to get experience producing, filming, and editing microdocumentaries that will be published nationally.”

The documentaries are a part of the Veterans Coming Home series, a collaborative multiplatform public media project of Wisconsin Public Television and Kindling Group in partnership with local stations and other national organizations. Veterans Coming Home is made possible with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The microdocumentaries feature Project Healing Waters, Smoky Mountain Service Dogs, UT’s Veteran Resource Center, the Lady Vets group at UT, and veterans in rural Campbell County.

The Lady Vets and Project Healing Waters pieces will be used as the basis of an episode of Tennessee Life, a monthly 30-minute program that shares stories of Tennesseans.

 “Working with the veterans that I filmed was a great experience,” said Isaac Ward, a graduate student in journalism and electronic media. “Being able to listen to their stories really gives you a different perspective on life. These organizations are doing great things, and it’s up to all of us to help them get the exposure they deserve so that more vets can be helped.”

Geidner created Land Grant Films in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media to give students hands-on experience in documentary storytelling while providing video assets to local nonprofit organizations.

To view the microdocumentaries, visit Veterans Coming Home.

Luther to Participate in Prestigious TV Academy Foundation Program

Catherine LutherCatherine Luther, director of the School of Journalism and Electronic Media in the College of Communication and Information, is among 25 professors nationwide chosen to participate in the Television Academy Foundation’s 2018 Faculty Seminar Program.

The faculty fellows will gain the latest information on the television and content development industries from top entertainment professionals during a weeklong seminar in Southern California in November.

“It is such a privilege to have been selected for this wonderful program,” Luther said. “I hope to gain insight into the current undertakings in the entertainment industries and bring that knowledge back to my unit.”

The seminar will include panel discussions with broadcast and cable network programming and scheduling executives, legal experts, and cutting-edge content creators. Private studio tours and trips to top Hollywood production facilities to meet with producers, observe production, and get firsthand updates on television technologies are also part of the program.

Before entering academia, Luther worked in the United States and Japan as a television news producer. She is the author of three books, the most recent being the second edition of Diversity in U.S. Mass Media, published in 2017. She conducts research on the intersections of media, gender, and race and ethnicity as well as issues involving global communication. Luther has received several awards including the UT Chancellor’s Award to attend the HERS Institute at Bryn Mawr; the UT Notable Woman Award recognizing excellence in administration, research, and teaching; and a Fulbright grant to conduct research in Japan.

Established in 1959 as the charitable arm of the Television Academy, the Television Academy Foundationis dedicated to preserving the legacy of television while educating those who will shape its future through an oral history program, faculty seminars and student internships, and awards.

Student-Made Documentaries Take Home Awards at Knox Film Festival

Isaac Fowler, left, and Tim Morris, right, with Doug (Snapper) Morgan, a Vietnam veteran featured in Welcome Home Brother, at the Knox Film Festival. Two documentaries with ties to UT’s School of Journalism and Electronic Media and Land Grant Films took home awards at the 2018 Knox Film Festival.

Welcome Home Brother took third place and Lieselotte took second place in the Tennessee Film Documentary category. Lieselotte also placed second in the Documentary Short Film category.

Both documentaries involved recent graduate Isaac Fowler, who had personal ties to each film. Fowler’s father served in the Vietnam War, and Lieselotte “Lottie” O’Brien is an icon in his hometown of Kingston, Tennessee.

“The festival is a huge asset to our local film community, and this year it proved to be an exhibition ground for documentary film produced through the JEM and Land Grant Films programs,” said Fowler. “JEM students and our larger university community should take advantage of having a well-established regional film festival in our backyard by submitting their films and screening other films selected by the fest during next year’s event.”

Welcome Home Brother, directed by Fowler and fellow May 2018 graduate Tim Morris, tells the story of three Vietnam veterans as they find their voices in East Tennessee through the help of the Bill Robinson Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Association. Fowler and Morris’s documentary is part of Land Grant FilmsDefender of the Dream documentary series, which aired on East Tennessee PBS.

 Matt Freels with Fowler receive their award at the Knox Film Festival.Lieselotte, a documentary that Fowler, along with senior Matt Freels and May 2018 graduate Chandler Burgess, created for a documentary production class. The film is a look at a 92-year-old immigrant who still works 60 hours a week at her small-town pizzeria.

“Our students are creating high quality documentaries at UT,” said Nick Geidner, associate professor of journalism and director of Land Grant Films. “It is great to see our students succeeding in professional film competitions. Their success allows us to grow our program and be recognized for the documentaries that JEM and Land Grant Films are producing.”

Geidner created Land Grant Films in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media to give students hands-on experience in documentary storytelling while providing video assets to local nonprofit organizations.

JEM student and faculty productions accepted for screening at 2018 film festivals

Knox Film Fest Header Image

School of Journalism and Electronic Media (JEM) professor Dr. Nick Geidner, and nine former or current JEM students will have their short-form documentaries screened at three upcoming film festivals: the Knox Film Fest in Knoxville, TN, the Full Bloom Film Festival in Statesville, NC, and the Immigration Film Festival in Washington, DC.

The documentaries to be featured at the Knox Film Fest (September 14-16, 2018) are:

  • “7 Days in America,” directed by JEM professor Nick Geidner.
  • “Welcome Home Brother,” directed by Isaac Fowler (JEM ’18) and Tim Morris (JEM ’18).
  • “Abigail’s Picnic,” directed by Brock Zych (JEM ’18), Story Sims (JEM ’18), and Deshawn Thomas (JEM ’18).
  • “Meant to Be,” produced and directed by Yuan Yue (CCI-JEM MS ’18).
  • “Lieselotte,” directed by Isaac Fowler (JEM ’18), edited by current JEM student Matthew Freels, and produced by Chandler Burgess (JEM ’18). 

Promotional Poster for the student film Welcome Home Brother. Provided by Land Grant Films.      “7 Days in America,” which follows a family of Burundian refugees and their case worker as they adjust to a new life in Knoxville, will also be screened at the Immigration Film Festival (October 26-29, 2018). “Welcome Home Brother,” about the Vietnam Veterans of America Knoxville Chapter giving voice to Vietnam veterans in East Tennessee, and “Lieselotte,” which focuses on a 92-year-old German-born resident of Kingston, TN who still works 60 hours per week at her Italian restaurant, will also be screened at the Full Bloom Film Festival (September 13-15, 2018). Promotional poster for student film Lieselotte. Provided by Land Grant Films.

Two of the films, “7 Days in America” and “Welcome Home Brother,” were produced as part of the Land Grant Films initiative established by Dr. Geidner to provide students further opportunities to engage in professional filmmaking and develop skills that can be applied to work beyond their academic careers. For more information about Land Grant Films, see

Torchbearer Justin Crawford reflects on JEM-CCI experience, opportunities.

Justin Crawford on the set of ABC's Good Morning America. Image courtesy of Justin Crawford. For Torchbearer and recent alum Justin Crawford, an undergraduate program in Journalism and Electronic Media was about more than just a degree.

Throughout the past four years of packed semesters, summer internships, and extracurricular programs, he found time to work as a career advisor with the Center for Career Development, a student director helping new arrivals in the Ignite program, and as an anchor and producer across the Knoxville media market, scoring spots at NBC, FOX, and ESPN affiliates.

That perseverance and dedication to his craft led to not one, but two prestigious post-graduation internships. In May, Crawford set off for New York, where he is currently working as a Digital Talent Specialist at Cox Media Group, and a 2018 fellow at the International Radio and Television Society Foundation.

To say he has been working hard would be an understatement. And although it might look like a frantic push to build up an extensive work history in only four years, Crawford says he developed a plan a while ago, one inspired by his childhood in Japan.

In Japan, Crawford said, there would be one way in and out of the television field: hard news. Here, he was able to explore every facet of television production under one program. “One of the first things I learned as a freshman was that there are different types of journalism, whether it's sports, entertainment, hard news. When I realized that there were so many different areas, I knew I wanted to touch every single one while I was in school,” Crawford said.

Crawford’s approach has led him to internships at Entertainment Tonight, the Today Show, and most recently, Cox Media’s Digital Talent Program. Justin Crawford appears in a Snapchat advertisement for Cox Media Group's Digital Talent Program. Image courtesy of Justin Crawford.

“At the core of every one of my experiences, there were a few things I wanted to have come out of them,” he said. “I wanted to learn, I wanted to stay curious throughout all of my experiences, which is why I could never stay put. Every semester, I was jumping to a new internship or a new job, and I knew that college was the place to do that. I came here to work, to get as much experience as I could in eight semesters, to figure out what my next steps would be.”

He credits the faculty within the College of Communication and Information, and the JEM program overall, for supporting him and providing the tools and flexibility to adapt to any media environment.

“I knew coming into this major, and coming into this industry, flexibility is your best friend.”

 “From the second you start the first course, the second you start that first internship, you start realizing whether you want to do print, magazine, newspaper, broadcast, sports, video production.

The mentorship Crawford received in the college also helped. “I’ve become very close with the director of journalism, and my advisors, and the dean of our college. Having conversations with them about where my interests lie and how they could help me have been very beneficial.”

He credits Dr. Catherine Luther, Dr. Sam Swan, Dr. Maria Fontenot, Dr. Bob Legg, Robert Heller, Dr. Erin Whiteside, and Lisa Gary for being heavily involved in his professional development throughout the program, and the JEM alumni network for helping him find opportunity beyond the classroom.

“I would say that the educators in our school know that creative freedom is the best way for students to learn,” he said. “Our school as a whole allows you to navigate your own experiences.”



Professor Robert Heller leads students on 25th Eyes on LaFollette workshop

LaFollette sculptor William Sarno puts love and care into his sculpture of Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong. Photo by Deja Lytle.This year marks the 25th anniversary of Eyes on LaFollette. Helmed by Professor Robert Heller, what began as a brief excursion for photojournalism students in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media has since become a monumental documentary effort, with more than 100,000 photographs cataloging both change and tradition in the quiet East Tennessee town. 

Eyes takes students more than an hour away from campus to LaFollette, allowing them to spend a weekend working as real photojournalists – chasing stories, interviewing locals, and using the photography skills they have learned in the semester leading up to their trip.

“The owner of the LaFollette Press newspaper was an adjunct faculty with us [in 1993],” said Heller. “His daughter was one of my students, and I got to know him pretty well. I was talking with him about the possibilities of doing some sort of documentary project – I had done other small projects, but I wanted to do a ‘day in the life,’ or a little more than a day. 

The 2018 Eyes on LaFollette group.

Rissa Reikardt models for Joe Bonomo’s drawing class in LaFollette. Photo by Tara Halley.“As I was talking to Larry Smith about this potential project, he said ‘well, you’re coming to LaFollette.’” 

What began as special section in the LaFollette Press every other year soon became a yearly outing, and while students were documenting the changing lives of the town’s residents, the Eyes project was also beginning to change. 

“When we started shooting in 93, it was black and white film,” said Heller. “We had more than a hundred rolls of film. Back in the early days, I would work with the students, and we would work through the night processing all the film. Even putting the newspaper together was paste-up, there were no digital layouts at that time.”  

At first, students began shooting color film – Thompson Photo agreed to open on Saturday just to process it – before transitioning entirely to digital photography later on “I encourage my students to find stories, not just photographs. Wandering around LaFollette is part of the process too – talking to people, finding out what’s going on. Some pictures were just happenstance; you just come across something, and you get a wonderful photograph.” 

Randy McGloner repaints Lindsay’s Warehouse in LaFollette, TN. Photo by Payton Boyd.Over the years, those stories have caught the attention of other journalists, and students who spent their weekend in LaFollette sometimes end up returning to cover a new class’s work, as was the case when Nashville Public Television’s Will Pedigo and Matt Emigh covered the project for an episode of Tennessee Crossroads. And that influence extends farther – in 2015, Heller was approached by the New York Times to feature in both Lens, the Times’ online-only photography blog, and the International Edition, seen by readers around the world. 

“For a lot of the students, this was their first time seeing their images in print. I love that experience, I’m just as excited as them when I see the issue come off the presses for the first time,” said Heller. “I think there’s still value in this print thing that we do.” 


JEM Students Win Top Honors at AP Awards

JEM students win AP awardsJEM students won 14 awards from the Tennessee Associated Press Broadcast and Media Editors College Division in Nashville. Students from 17 schools submitted more than 300 entries in the contest. Congratulations JEM Students! Those who won Best in Show received an AP Style Book and a $150 stipend

Pictured: Jake Albright, Beverly Banks, Isaac Fowler, Tim Morris pick up their awards in Nashville.

JEM AP Award Winners:

Tim Morris- Best in Show "Welcome Home Brother"
Isaac Fowler- Best in Show "Welcome Home Brother"
Sophie Grosserode- Best in Show "Heat and Homelessness"
Isaac Ward- Best in Show "Defenders of the Dream: Life After War in East Tennessee"
Jake Albright- First place, Television Reporter "Food for College Students in a SNAP"
Tim Morris- First place, TV Specialized Topic Reporting "Welcome Home Brother"
Isaac Fowler- First place, TV Specialized Topic Reporting "Welcome Home Brother"
Beverly Banks- First place, TV News Story "Tennessee Governor Proposes Gasoline Tax Increase"
Adrien Terricabras- First place, College Photojournalist "Football vs LSU"
Sophie Grosserode- First place, Radio Investigative/In-Depth Reporting "Heat and Homelessness"
Isaac Ward- First place, TV Investigative/In-Depth Reporting "Defenders of the Dream: Life After War in East Tennessee"
Alex Holcomb and Annie Tieu- Second place, Newspaper News Story "Rally at Confederate Monument Draws Thousands"
Tyler Wombles and Damichael Cole - First place, Online Ongoing Coverage "Football Coach Hiring"
University of Tennessee- First place, Online Spot Coverage "Fans Protest Tennessee's Potential Schiano Hiring"




JEM Senior Andrew Capps as 2018 Carnegie-Knight News21 Fellow

Andrew CappsAndrew Capps, a senior majoring in both Journalism and Electronic Media and Political Science at the University of Tennessee, is among the 26 students selected from journalism programs across the U.S., Canada, and Ireland to participate in the 2018 Carnegie-Knight News21 program. The News21 program was established by the Carnegie Corporation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to demonstrate the potential of journalism students to conduct national investigations on major topics. This year’s topic is hate crimes in America.

The News21 fellows have already started their investigation on the topic with a seminar taught via video conferencing by former executive editor of The Washignton Post, Leonard Downie Jr. and Pulizter Prize-winner journalist and News21 Executive Editor Jacquee Petchel. Following completion of the seminar, the fellows will be heading to Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, News21’s headquarters, to work out of the school’s newsroom and travel across the country to pursue their stories.

Capps has been focusing on the issues involving hate crimes in Tennessee and Kentucky. “It’s been really interesting to see how different counties report hate crimes, and what the different laws regarding who is protected by hate crimes are,” Capps said.

This year marks the fifth year that the School of Journalism and Electronic Media has been able to send a student to News21. While the Knight Foundation provides core support for the News21 program, the program requires the additional financial support of participating universities.

John and Patty WilliamsThe school has been able to send one of its top journalism students to News21 because of a generous donation from John and Patty Williams. John is the current CEO of the Regional Eye Center in Kingsport, TN. Patty, now retired, spent her career as a dedicated librarian at Abraham Lincoln Elementary and George Washington Elementary in Kingsport, as well as public elementary schools in Sevierville and Knoxville.

“Patty and I are both alumni of the college,” Williams said. “She is now retired as a public school librarian, and I have not been a working journalist for many, many years. But I still use my journalism skills every single day in my work.”

Looking for a way to give back to the college, they found the Carnegie-Knight News21 program through the college’s development office.

“We were looking at ways to get involved as a donor with the college, and we were given some ideas that were based on our interest area,” he said. “One of them was very much broadcast related, which dealt with my past. One was more academic, which dealt with my wife’s past. And then we were presented with this one, which had the journalism element as well as the academic support.”

School of Journalism and Electronic Media Director Catherine Luther expressed heartfelt gratitude toward John and Patty for their support and emphasized the invaluable experience News21 has given to students. “The investigative projects that past recipients have worked on have been recognized by several leading journalism organizations in their award contests. All past recipients have secured excellent positions as journalists upon graduation and I’m quite sure News21 played a role in their success in doing so.”