UNF School of Communication Alumni Profiles
Journalism alum uses his editing and design skills at The Washington Post
By Robert Davis
Class of 2002
Before moving to the nation’s capital, Robert Davis spent seven years at The Boston Globe.
It doesn’t feel so long ago, but it has been nearly 15 years since I began the journey that took me from the graduation stage at UNF Arena to the nation’s capital and to The Washington Post, where I work as a news editor. There have been other career stops — and a whole lot of news — in between, but the lessons I learned at UNF have guided me along the way.
After earning my bachelor’s degree in communications in 2002, I landed my first newspaper job in Jacksonville at a tiny weekly called The Mandarin News. (Don’t look for it; it’s long defunct.) I was one of two full-time staffers and I had to know how to do everything: Report, write, edit, design, photograph. That experience was invaluable, and it got me in the door at other papers in Jacksonville — The Business Journal, then The Florida Times-Union — and eventually to The Boston Globe, where I landed in 2007 as a copy editor/designer.
I would spend seven years in Boston, rising to page one designer and finally assistant design director for news. It was an unforgettable time to be there. Boston's sports teams were on a tear, and I had the rare chance to design A1 for two World Series, two Super Bowls, two NBA Finals, and two Stanley Cup Finals. But that cheer was dampened by the horror and tragedy of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. The Pulitzer Prize we would later earn for our coverage was a bittersweet honor. “There’s nobody in this room that wanted to cover this story. And each and every one of us hopes that nothing like it ever happens again on our watch,” editor Brian McGrory told the staff.
My time working with the Globe reporters and editors who would later be immortalized in the film “Spotlight” were some of my happiest days. But when The Washington Post reached out to me in 2014, I knew I had to hear them out — and I’m glad I did.
The paper, flush with cash from a new owner, was upping its ambitions across the board. I joined as a page one and projects designer, and oversaw presentation for special projects and investigations for print and the Web. I developed a talent for digital design, and in 2016 I said farewell to print when I moved to the homepage team. Now, I monitor news, select stories and write headlines for washingtonpost.com, and help craft the alerts for our mobile apps. And because I can’t seem to leave design behind, I often work with editors and graphic artists to enrich the presentation for some of our most special projects.
To say the least, it is an interesting time to be at The Post and in Washington. But my experiences at UNF — particularly the lessons I learned from Dr. Berrin Beasley and Dr. Robert Bohle — and my work at The Spinnaker conjure warm memories for having planted the seed for a fulfilling career in journalism.
Electronic media alumni find love while working in advertising
By Kayla Beckmann Barnhart
Class of 2011
Guy Barnhart and Kayla Beckmann Barnhart are a team in their personal and professional lives.
Before you ask, no, we were not college sweethearts. In fact, we didn’t even attend UNF at the same time. Now that that’s out of the way, here’s our story.
The story is different, depending on which one of us you ask, but since I’m telling it, here’s my version. I met Guy at the production studios of Digital Video Arts. He was an intern starting his path back into college (second time is a charm), and I was an ambitious fresh-out-of-college girl on a mission to create a TV show out of the same content I was writing about in Void Magazine. Well, the show happened. And so did we.
While I finished up my time at Void, Guy finished up his degree, all while moving in with each other way too quickly. Guy began an internship, then job, at advertising agency Burdette Ketchum, while I went to competing agency Shepherd. Both of our first assignments were to work on the biggest pitch of the year – one to land the Jacksonville Jaguars as a client. We weren’t allowed to talk to each other about it, and let’s just say things were a bit tense in our one-bedroom apartment. Shortly after, Shepherd offered Guy the opportunity to come and work alongside me, and against both our reason he took the job. Together we shared the CSX account, among others, and were a dynamic duo. Guy’s attention to detail and my deadline-driven Type-A personality made us the perfect yin and yang.
After a little more than a year, we both started to feel a bit stagnant and knew some changes were in our future. Then the rest happened really fast. I left Shepherd to start my boutique creative agency, Small Fox Media, in August 2014. Guy proposed in October the next year. We planned a wedding. Then canceled it. Then eloped in Rome in April 2016.
Small Fox had an amazing first year, taking home local and regional ADDY Awards for our work with Drug Free Duval. Feeling confident in our trajectory, it was Guy’s turn to take a risk. He left the agency to become the marketing manager at ICEMULE Coolers, a startup out of St. Augustine. Being the wonderful husband that he is, he hired his wife to make a few videos for them and handle their social media, thus continuing our work together. This past year, Guy led ICEMULE through an entire rebrand that has led to significantly increased awareness and sales, making it one of the fastest growing outdoor brands.
I celebrated three years as a business owner this past August and am excited to see Small Fox really hit our stride in the social media sphere this year, working with national clients and collaborating with like-minded agencies.
I guess this is where we tell you what’s next. This March we’ll be heading west to Denver to keep doing exactly what we’re doing here, but with a little different scenery. Why? Why not!
We both took something very different from our time at UNF (for Guy: the tools to be confident in taking chances in his professional career; and for me: the confidence to be the leader my professors recognized in me early on). We’re honored to represent UNF and hope that we can be as influential to students as the past alumni and professors were to us.
Find us at:
Journalism alum now teaching journalism at university in England
By Ann Luce
Class of 2003
Ann Luce recently published a book about media coverage of suicides.
When I graduated from UNF back in 2003, I had spent three amazing years as writer, news editor and editor of The Spinnaker. I was in Dr. Berrin Beasley’s Writing Editorials and Columns class when 9/11 happened. And I believe it was in Marcia Ladendorff’s Media Literacy class where I created an analogy between Osama Bin Laden and the role of television in society at that time.
It was in the now-retired Dr. Robert Bohle’s class where I cried and cried because I just couldn’t figure out how to use commas while using AP style, but also learned the mantra, “if you’re mother says she loves you… check it out!”
I always seemed to have repeat conflicts with the department chair at the time, Dr. Oscar Patterson III. It was in Dr. Patterson’s ethics class where he and I went three rounds yelling about how journalism was about changing the world (my position). He called me a silly girl, and said gruffly, “It’s about money!” He and I also had an interesting exchange years later when I graduated and came back to UNF to cover a story. It was during an interview; my pen ran out of ink; my tape recorder ran out of batteries (seriously! I still swear I changed them that morning!). Not wanting to give him the satisfaction of seeing me unprepared, I continued to interview him, only I pressed down much harder on my page with my pen. When I got back to the newsroom: “Luce, where’s your story?” “Give me 20 minutes, Jim (my editor). I need to shade in my notes. … Who’s got a pencil?” We did laugh at that when we buried the hatchet about three years post-graduation. I still believe journalism is about changing the world.
These are the stories and “teachable moments” I share with my own students now at Bournemouth University where I teach multi-media journalism and communication.
When I left UNF, I went on to cover maternity leave on the features desk at The Florida Times-Union. I was so bad at writing headlines and cutlines that the chief sub told me to never leave reporting. After that, I landed a full-time job at the Jacksonville Business Journal. I hated math and was now faced with a tsunami of SEC forms, contracts and having to figure out percentage increases and decreases on mortgage rates and what that meant, along with Jacksonville’s budget and Florida’s State budget. I learned my trade here.
Following a particular brilliant stream of scoops back in 2004, The Florida Times-Union came-a-knocking. They didn’t like that the local weekly newspaper was surpassing their endeavours on a regular basis, both in the paper (which came out on Friday) and online (we only published online once a week back in those days). I found myself offered a job as the youngest editorial writer on a daily newspaper in the United States. The job of a lifetime, especially for one so enamoured with the utopian potential of journalism.
I have worked with some of the best journalists in American journalism: Mike Clark, my editor — never a kinder and better man. He also drilled me on those commas, made me stand over his shoulder one day and said, “You WILL learn.” Joe Adams, author of The Florida Public Records Handbook and creator of our team catchphrase, “the super scoopers.” And the talented and funny Ed Gamble, the Times-Union’s first and only editorial cartoonist.
In 2005, personal tragedy struck, when my friend and fellow UNF student and former Spinnaker editor, Richard O’Bryant, died by suicide. His death shook us all, the Department of Communication, students and faculty alike. Following his death, I wrote a series of award-winning editorials on suicide prevention for The Florida Times-Union. But when the paper was ready to stop talking about suicide, it was all I wanted to do. I made the tough decision to leave journalism and the United States, and head over to Cardiff in Wales. It was there that I pursued a Ph.D. in Journalism Studies, inspired by the amazing professors I had at UNF. I thought, if I can’t be a journalist anymore, then at least I can teach journalism in the way that they taught me.
My Ph.D. thesis looked at the representations of suicide in the British press, focusing mainly on the Bridgend suicides in South Wales. I have since published a book about these deaths, published in 2016.
I have been teaching journalism for nearly a decade now. I’ve had to learn how to use Twitter and Facebook (They didn’t exist back in my day. Now I feel old!). I’ve also had to learn how to make and edit video, plus audio — truly becoming a multi-media journalist. I’ve spent time back in the newsroom quite a few times over the years, at The Guardian and The Telegraph in London. I’ve also been to Google and MSN. The last major piece of journalism I completed was back in 2013 when I created an interactive documentary with colleagues at Bournemouth University about gang violence in El Salvador. It was the lessons I learned here that then allowed me to teach digital magazines to my own students and create apps for the IPad.
Since I graduated in 2003, the field of journalism has changed, but the principles have not. Yes, I may be learning how to use SnapChat and teaching it in a journalistic manner to my students, but I still teach them how to find a story, how to interview, and yes, how to fact check. As the journalism world continues to change and become faster, it’s the strong foundation of journalism, research and ethics that I learned at UNF that continues to steer me onwards.
Public relations alum dedicated to nonprofits
By Derrick Richardson
Class of 2014
Derrick Richardson’s interest in nonprofits resulted in a job at Wounded Warrior Project.
While in college my desire was to work for a nonprofit, particularly Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) and pursue my master’s degree as well. I started out as a marketing communications coordinator for a local small business, which originally was an internship, but turned out to be an actual position after doing great work in the position. Funds for the company got low. I was released of my duties, and I thought I was going to turn out to be one of the many college graduates who have a hard time trying to secure a stable job in their field.
That changed, because a month later I got hired in my current position as a communications coordinator at WWP. I said while at UNF I would work for WWP, and I accomplished that goal. After graduating Magna Cum Laude from UNF, I started at Purdue University, and I just recently graduated in August with a 3.9 GPA earning my masters in science. I won’t be stopping there as I have big plans for my future.
I’ve been at WWP for about a year and a half now, and I’m looking for more leadership positions now having a certification in strategic communication management and my master’s. Another goal of mine was to have my own nonprofit along with possibly working corporate communications for Coca-Cola. I’ve set goals for that now as well, and I’m taking action to accomplish those things. I’ve recently applied for positions with Coca-Cola, and I will be coming back to UNF to pursue my certification in nonprofit management. My plan is to be on the brink of starting my own nonprofit by the time I’m 30.
Through all my success, I’ll never forget my foundation of what started me on this path, and that’s the great university where I met many great people. I owe so much to UNF and that’s why I’m willing to do whatever I can to equip those who come after me, so they too can have the same story. To this day I still talk with Dr. Stephynie Perkins and professor Stephanie McLain-Araujo. I love them and I learned so much from their expertise, and will I always look to them as mentors. No matter where my career takes me, I will always swoop on!
Alumni profiles: Zach Sweat and Haleigh Dunning
Zach Sweat and Haleigh Dunning are on their way to New York with dogs Otis and Kitsune.
Zach Sweat and Haleigh Dunning graduated from UNF in 2014 after completing their degrees in communication. Sweat’s degree focus was multimedia journalism and Dunning’s was public relations. The duo got married this past February and relocated to New York City this spring.
Since graduating, Sweat moved up the editorial ladder and became editor-in-chief of the local Jacksonville culture and lifestyle publication Void Magazine. At Void, Sweat was responsible for managing a team of writers, assigning stories, creating content and magazine themes, as well as controlling the overall voice and online presence of the magazine.
Sweat continues to be a remote freelance editor and writer with companies such as Bold Brands and VOID. He’s enjoying himself in New York. “I like the freedom of remote work and look forward to finding other positions which interest me such as music, culture, gaming and technology,” Sweat said.
After graduating, Dunning took a job as an account manager at the Connect Agency in downtown Jacksonville where she learned the ins and outs of marketing for a small-to-medium-sized business. From there, she had the opportunity to be a part of launching a new marketing agency under the Void Media roof called Bold Brands.
As executive director of Bold Brands, Dunning managed a team of content creators and designers to produce digital and print marketing campaigns for brands like Hoptinger, Surfer the Bar, Ancient City Brewing, Void, Edible, Shim Sham Room, Dos Gatos and many more.
Dunning is now the manager of social media and digital advertising for Eataly USA in New York City, an international food and beverage company. “It's very fun and challenging!” said Dunning. “I'm applying and adapting everything I've learn from my education and early career in Jacksonville to this bigger market. It's extremely different in terms of understanding the audience and scale of the city.”
Dunning manages Eataly NYC Flatiron and Eataly NYC Downtown's social media platforms and also manages digital advertising (Facebook, Instagram) for all the United States stores (NYC locations, Eataly Boston, Eataly Chicago and Eataly LA). “I'm really enjoying dictating the strategy of the digital marketing for the brand,” Dunning continued. “They have so many great things going on and it's fun to share that with the world. It's talking about and sharing all things Italian pasta, pizza, wine, seafood, meat – I can't complain!”
Even though now in New York, both Dunning and Sweat remain supportive of the UNF communication department. While they were still here in Jacksonville, they attended and participated in events for UNF’s Media Week and served on the department’s advisory board. They believe in giving back to the school they love. “Getting married was nothing compared to moving and working in the city,” said Haleigh. “I wouldn't trade it for anything, but we definitely miss North Florida.”
Production alum enjoys working in country music industry
Class of 2014
Tillie McNally sets up a camera for the show “Simply Sara” on My Country Nation.
As my last semester at the University of North Florida approached, I had my eyes set on interning for a company that I could see myself working for one day. In summer 2014 I was accepted and was off to Nashville, Tennessee, to intern for Taillight TV, a production company that produces music videos, award shows, a digital network, live events and other various projects.
After my internship there, I was hired to freelance for Taillight for an online digital network called My Country Nation that was just in the beginning phases. My Country Nation is a lifestyle, entertainment and behind-the-scenes network of everything country. The YouTube-based channel produces content including behind the scenes of country artists such as Brett Eldredge, Thomas Rhett and Kelsea Ballerina. There is also a series with artist including Lauren Alaina and Sara Evans, and a weekly news show with YouTube Influencers Megan and Liz.
Since the channel’s launch in August 2014, My Country Nation has become one of the largest and most successful online destinations for country lifestyle content, producing more than 400 pieces of original material.
Working on My Country Nation, I have had the opportunity to learn so much. I started as an office production assistant. I am now producing series, I occasionally camera operate, and I am an associate producer for the channel.
My education at the University of North Florida set me up with a foundation that I find myself using on a day-to-day basis. I am thankful for professors such as Professor Joey Goodsell, who made it possible for students to have the opportunity to intern where they believe it would benefit them most. He helped me obtain the internship at Taillight, which led me to where I am today.
Click here to check out My Country Nation.
"Tracy Dot Com" leaps into journalism and public relations
By Tracy Collins
Class of 2004
Tracy Collins makes her living as Goodwill’s vice president of marketing and public relations, but she continues to participate in fundraisers and other community events, including the Boy Scouts of North Florida Council’s “Over the Edge” event.
When I came to UNF to get my degree in broadcasting, I had already been practicing in the field for four years as a U.S. Navy journalist. I thought I would go through the motions as just a formality to get an official degree. What I didn’t realize at the time is I would have never been able to accomplish my goals without my UNF experience.
It was my relationship with Dr. Paula Horvath that created an opportunity to intern at The Florida Times-Union as a community and entertainment video journalist for Jacksonville.com. And it was my relationship with the late, great professor Joe Lesem that created an opportunity to work on the first season of UNF’s “Inside Jacksonville” on CW-17.
After graduation, I went to work for the T-U. It was a dream job. Except for a few required assignments each week, I got to pick what I covered. That included the Jacksonville Jaguars, annual festivals and fundraisers, and all the things I was passionate about.
My career from there transitioned into a position at Action News as a morning show reporter known as Tracy Dot Com. It’s where I got to do more of the same coverage, only on a much larger scale.
I’ve interviewed a countless number of celebrities and athletic professionals. I’ve been on national television standing on a lonely stretch of flooded Interstate10, the only reporter going live from the scene. And I’ve been able to say I did the kind of reporting I wanted to do and get paid for it, even when naysayers told me that kind of job didn’t exist.
But none of this would have been possible without a few key pieces of advice. Be true to your passion. Take communication classes outside of your field of study. And make sure you create relationships with your professors.
In both cases with Dr. Horvath and professor Lesem, I would not have been enrolled in the classes that led me down those paths. But because I had worked hard in previous classes and created friendships with them, they each asked me to take the necessary courses to make it happen.
Today I am the vice president of marketing and public relations for Goodwill of North Florida. I still write an entertainment column for the T-U. And I still get to fulfill my love of being on TV and radio with fun Goodwill stories. But none of this would be possible without my time at UNF.
Electronic media alum mixes love of sports and broadcasting
By Marcel Robinson
Class of 2012
Marcel Robinson covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for WCWJ-CW17.
Growing up, my career goal was to work in television and focus on sports media.
Currently I am a producer/editor at Jacksonville’s WCWJ-CW17. My role has expanded immensely during the last three years. I play a big role in the vast majority of our sports programming at the station, including live sports broadcasts, our Fantasy Football program and our Jacksonville Armada coverage. I recently began covering the Jacksonville Jaguars on behalf of the station as well. I shoot video of the practices and games, and I conduct interviews in the locker rooms throughout the week.
We also have a partnership with 1010XL, Jax Sports Radio, in which I serve as the point of contact for most of our ventures. I work very closely with Frank Frangie (1010XL and The Voice of the Jacksonville Jaguars) in producing various Web videos for GridironNow.com as well as producing a high school football program that also airs on CW17.
I recently took up professional photography, so I spend a lot of time perfecting that craft. In addition to the work I do at the station, I serve as an independent producer for numerous outside productions, including a local athlete spotlight show. You’ll catch me shooting video and/or taking pictures at sporting events around town, everything from high school sports to college sports and professional sports, including the Jacksonville Sharks and Jaguars.
While attending UNF, I participated in the media programs we produced on campus including “Inside Jacksonville,” and a weekly news magazine highlighting campus life. Between those courses and completing an internship here at CW17, two great things happened. One, I was able to get a lot of hands-on experience, which helped me gain skills that enabled me to “hit the ground running” when I was hired. Two, my experience with the news programs confirmed my initial reservations about working in news. I had a lot of fun and learned a ton, but I could tell that news wasn’t the direction I wanted to go. Ironically when I met with Professor Deeley at the end of my senior year, he felt the same way.
Participating in the Communication program at UNF was an incredible experience. I make my way back to campus fairly often, and between Media Week events and the UNF interns we receive, I see how much the program has grown. There is no question that it prepared me for the “real-life” media market. For the most part, every skill I learned as a student is called upon in one way or another every single day. In fact, whenever any student asks me for advice on getting into this business and being successful, I have five simple words: Get Involved and Do Everything.
Communication alum is an Emmy-winning filmmaker and student advisor
By Frank Goodin
Class of 1994
Frank Goodin has enjoyed being behind the camera for more than 20 years.
The photo above was used in conjunction with a story published about me in the March 1992 publication of the UNF Osprey, a newsletter from the Office of Admissions. As I stop for just a moment to write about where I am at this point in my life’s journey of learning and giving, I reflect with great fondness on that younger version of Frank Goodin many years ago. Here’s a short excerpt from that story:
Frank Goodin envisions making films that enrich lives. Like his inspiration, filmmaker Spike Lee, Goodin's aspirations include producing films that reflect reality, no matter how controversial. Goodin believes that film is another avenue to addressing social problems in America.
"I want to create movies that are influentially positive – the type that make people think. My films will show possible solutions to problems," says Goodin, a communication major.
Aside from classes and studying, Goodin is involved in various clubs, committees and Student Government. He is best known on campus as the president of the African-American Student Union (AASU). Although he has held the post for only a short time, his personal goal is to unify the students on campus, starting with the members of AASU. His strongest motivation is a desire to help people understand and respect different cultures.
"I am a people person, and in today's society no one takes the time to communicate," he says. "I want to change that."
I smile when I read that today. It reminds me of the power of aspiring to live up to great ideals with passion while encouraging me to remain true to them. Our communication department was absolutely critical in helping me form, develop and ultimately express my point of view to the masses. Influential instructors such as Marcia Ladendorff (I was a student in her very first UNF class) helped to mold and prepare me for my career as an independent filmmaker.
In the years between then and now, I have consistently nurtured that vision into many powerful film narratives. My first feature film, "Love Trap," a powerful story about the true nature of love, won several film festivals, screened internationally and was featured on Showtime for 18 months before being picked up for distribution through First Look Studios. Check it out on Netflix when you get time! My first independent documentary "The 904," a gritty, yet insightful story about violent crime in Jacksonville, won an Emmy Award in 2011 and is currently distributed by NEHST Studios.
The 904 came out in 2010, and Love Trap was released in 2005.
Needless to say, I’m an enormously proud Osprey, and UNF has always been a home away from home for me. Between film and video projects, I have returned to help the University community in many ways. In 1997, I helped create the UNF Pathways To Success scholarship program to help socio-economically disadvantaged students afford college. More recently, I created UNF's Transfer Student Virtual Orientation (online) video series, produced the One Stop MyWings “How To” series of videos that all students use for help with some of their most common student MyWings interactions, and refined our efforts to directly recruit Florida's highest academic achievers to our institution with great success. Currently, I serve UNF students as an academic advisor here in the Department of Communication, and I consider it a blessing to be able to help students through many of the same challenges I faced many years ago.
Looking forward, my aspirations remain exactly the same as that skinny kid in the photo. I will continue to plan and execute the vision of producing thought provoking and inspirational material while helping as many people as I can, and I'll always explore unique ways to promote cultural understanding. The faculty of the communication department (and the overall institution) helped to provide me with an invaluable foundation for my journey, and I'll always love this place for that.
Journalism alum now a Web editor and space blogger at Orlando Sentinel
By Emilee Speck
Class of 2011
Emilee Speck covers space and other beats for one of the largest newspapers in Florida.
After graduating from UNF with a communication degree focused in journalism I set my sights on working in a large city. I started as a communications fellow with NeighborWorks America, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., two weeks after graduating.
When my fellowship ended, I landed at the National Press Foundation in Washington as a digital media manager. I worked with journalists from all over the world and traveled to conferences in Kuala Lumpur and Dubai. During the fall, new journalists to the D.C. metro area could apply for a fellowship, and NPF would show them the ropes of covering Washington. It was a great experience meeting so many journalists with different beats and also helped me determine that I wanted to work in a newsroom setting.
After moving back to Florida, I started at the Naples Daily News as a Web producer where I managed social media, edited breaking news video and managed their website. Last year, I became a Web editor with the Orlando Sentinel, where I am now. I edit stories for Web, work with a national desk in Chicago and do a lot of blogging.
I use skills I learned from my advanced reporting class every day, ever since I started my Twitter handle as a part of class. I always know where to look when breaking news happens. When I was working in Naples, Twitter was how we got the scoop on a popular Southwest Florida congressman getting busted for buying drugs in D.C.
A few months back, we started a new space blog called "Go for Launch," where I write about launches, astronomy and some funny items like people sending cool stuff into space, such as doughnuts. Recently, I covered my first launch at Cape Canaveral and landed an A1 byline when the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded minutes after launch. No college course would have prepared me to cover a launch failure like that, but having AP style drilled into me in MMC 3105-Advanced Writing for the Media gave me the tools to hit the ground running.
Starting with an education in journalism at UNF gave me the tools to work in a field where hard work and time will get you ahead, but learning from professors who worked as editors and reporters was one of the most valuable assets the Department of Communication has to offer.
Broadcasting alumnus covers wide range of events
By Ken Thomas
Class of 1987
Ken Thomas in August 2014 covering a mock environmental accident with the U.S. Coast Guard at NAS Jacksonville.
I never left the city of Jacksonville to pursue my career because I didn’t have to. I was fortunate enough to turn two internships into a part-time job and then into a 27-year stint in local television. I have worked for all but one of the stations in Jacksonville throughout my tenure and am currently entering my 18th year at the NBC/ABC affiliate, First Coast News, as a photojournalist. I write this as a testament to the wonderful educational opportunity UNF provided me as a young journalist who knew he wanted to be in television since 10th grade.
As I sit here on Jacksonville’s Westside, covering a double homicide, there’s truly no way to describe how any educational institution can prepare future journalists for a career where weekly, sometimes daily, job duties include taking video and pictures of poor souls who met an unfortunate end to their lives. After 27 years, there have been hundreds of bodies, fires, shootings, stabbings and other tragic events we as journalists cover. However, with all the doom and gloom of these events, I am here to tell you that being a journalist isn’t always murders and mayhem. Sometimes we are rewarded with fun, exciting and positive stories within the communities we serve.
Over the years, there have been many stories that reminded me of why I became a journalist. For me, it began as a sports producer right after college. I’m reminded that I’ve witnessed wonderful things as a journalist in Jacksonville. Among the career highlights are: being awarded the best live show by the Florida Sportscasters Association for the 1989 Gator Bowl matchup between Michigan State and Georgia. Coincidently, it was the last game legendary Bulldog coach Vince Dooley coached. Other highlights: Florida and Florida State national championships; Super Bowl XXXIX; Jacksonville Jaguars announcement and games; President Jimmy Carter building Habitat for Humanity housing; G-8 Summit in St. Simons Island, Ga.; numerous presidential campaigns; Daytona NASCAR races; Jacksonville Beach sunrises and hundreds of stories on resilient folks who had a story to share with the rest of the world.
So, how did UNF’s communication department prepare me for a career where every day can lead you down different paths, literally within a moment’s notice? The short answer is this: While UNF could not prepare me for all the stressful and pressure-packed situations I’ve had in my career in television news, it did lay the foundation to enable me to handle each situation with a calm demeanor. The deadlines of a weekly assignment or a massive research paper provided the organizational skills necessary to succeed in the professional world. Without this skill, many journalists are overwhelmed with the pressures of hourly deadlines, making sense of a six-inch budget proposal and condensing into a one-minute story or simply staying calm in the state of perpetual chaos the news business remains in.
Also, I have been involved with the University athletics department for more than 15 years, shooting and producing the all-sports banquet DVD. I also try to stay abreast of the campus happenings through the alumni magazine and e-mail blasts. I’ve seen the campus grow two-fold since my time there. In fact, where the new student union building sits is where I was sleeping in my car when the Space Shuttle Challenger blasted off into our memories forever as all members of the crew perished.
The bottom line here, for a kid who grew up in Michigan and only moved to Florida to finish school, I made the right choice by selecting UNF. The small, intimate class sizes appealed to me back in 1986 just as much as they continue to appeal to today’s students, and that’s what truly sets the Osprey experience apart from any other university.
Advertising alumna lands "dream job" in New York
By Madison Geery
Class of 2014
Madison Geery takes a break from Shark Week to pose in the New York office of Discovery Communications.
When I first started UNF, I had no idea I would graduate with a full-time career in New York. I have a brand new appreciation for UNF after graduation. I am so thankful for all of the opportunities that were given to me through the Department of Communication. It was here that I learned the fundamentals, which allowed me to get my dream job.
When I began to apply for internships, I knew I wanted to work in advertising and I knew I wanted to work in television. I wrote down a list of all of my favorite television networks, went to their corporate websites and applied for about 100 internships.
Last summer, I was lucky enough to intern in advertising sales with Discovery Communications. Discovery is the world’s No. 1 nonfiction media company with one of the most well-respected ad sales departments. I made sure to be at every event I could and learn about all of the programs. I was working a little with each network. I had the most fun working on Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.
I’m currently working in ad sales for TLC and Discovery Fit and Health, soon to be Discovery Life Channel. I work with about 30 nationally known clients on a day-to-day basis.
I am having the time of my life living in New York and I couldn’t have done it without the department. I started UNF very shy. SPC 2608-Fundamentals of Speech helped break down my awkward barrier and has allowed me to feel more comfortable in professional situations.
MMC 3105-Advanced Writing for the Media also helped tremendously. Your credibility immediately goes down if you send anything to clients with typos.
The most influential class for me was ADV 3300-Media Planning. Even though I’m not on the agency side building physical plans, I understand the math behind them and have a serious career advantage. Scheduling commercials and handling CPMs and impressions is nothing now.
Advertising alum joins Twitter
By Katie Evans
Class of 2010
Katie Evans takes a break during her busy day working in the Twitterverse.
“Seek diverse perspectives” is one of Twitter’s 10 core company values that are instituted globally. Core values are used as a reference point for employees as culture, brand and business strategies develop. Since joining Twitter two years ago, I have come to realize I have always been drawn to this core value. Reflecting on my days at UNF, I realize how consistently intrigued I was by my roommates, my professors, my peers, my colleagues, and the ever-changing ecosystem that surrounded me. Although settling in within current social circles seemed comforting, I started to realize the key, novel bits of information (job leads, for example) started to come from acquaintances. I saw that concept unfold firsthand after spending time with professor Dee Colvin during her office hours when she encouraged me to go to the Department of Communication’s career fair. With my resume and an open mind, I went to the job fair and found myself interviewing at Cox Radio the next day. I worked at Cox Radio for two years and was then offered a role at a start-up in New York City, which launched my career in ad-tech.
I am currently working at Twitter out of our headquarters in San Francisco within our mobile advertising division. Working on a team that is in hyper-growth phase forces everyone to take ownership of their unique skillsets and, as a result, a strong collaboration and sense of pride starts to unfold. From working with teams all across the organization from engineering, to sales, to product marketing, I am constantly challenging the workflows others have created while closely analyzing the outcomes. If it was successful, how can we standardize this process in the future so it’s easily mimicked? On a typical day at the office, you might find me asking my team for feedback on a project, brainstorming with my peers on an optimization strategy I’m recommending to a client, or having coffee with someone on our engineering team just to hear their perspective on the future of advertising.
Seek diverse perspectives and you might find yourself at a company that instills it as a core value.
Journalism alum wins national awards
By Josh Salman
Class of 2009
Josh Salman’s reporting was honored by the National Association of Real Estate Editors.
Sitting through my first mass media lecture at UNF, I never would have imagined those same lessons would carry me to a stage where I would pick up national journalism awards – certainly not so soon.
I now work as a business writer for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, where I focus on real estate stories and investigations. I bring a strong record of enterprise storytelling, versatility and digital reporting to my newsroom.
And I owe it all directly to UNF.
I grew up in Sarasota, a coastal Florida city known for its beaches and vibrant art community. After graduating from high school in 2003, I moved to the Florida Panhandle to attend Tallahassee Community College.
After earning my associate’s degree, I moved to Jacksonville to attend UNF. I immediately joined The Spinnaker as a contributing writer and eventually became managing editor of the award-winning student newspaper. The University honored me as “Outstanding Graduating Journalism Student” during the spring of 2009.
While in Jacksonville, I spent two years as an intern for The Florida Times-Union, covering everything from community sports to complex trend stories. I returned to Southwest Florida in 2009 to work as a government reporter for the Charlotte Sun, a smaller daily newspaper in Port Charlotte. I also spent about a year at the Bradenton Herald as a business writer before joining the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in November 2012.
But the pinnacle of my career came in June when I was honored by the National Association of Real Estate Editors with four awards, including the Platinum Award for Best Individual Entry, Gold Award Co-Winner of the Ruth Ryon Award for Best Young Journalist, and the Silver Award for Best Investigate Series or Report.
I was overwhelmed to beat out veteran reporters at news organizations like the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Bloomberg News and the Seattle Times. A panel of judges from the E. W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University selected the winners.
My reporting has triggered federal investigations, uncovered illegal activity by convicted felons, exposed loopholes costing tax payers millions of dollars, prompted city ordinances changes and helped struggling families save their dream homes.
It was my time at UNF that molded me the most – through my classes, work at The Spinnaker and internships. I guess my professors were right; the hard work really can pay off – and quickly.
My last semester
By Anneliese Delgado
Class of 2013
Anneliese Delgado reported from Washington, D.C., as an intern for Fox 5 News.
I was engulfed in broadcast journalism during my last semester at UNF. My alarm would start screeching at 4:15 every morning, willing me to roll out of bed and go to work at Cox Media Group, where I would produce and report radio traffic until 9:30 a.m. Then I would speed to my internship at WJCT Public Radio. After four hours of interning, I would either go back to Cox to do afternoon traffic or go to class. At night I would edit packages, write scripts or fill out story planning sheets for homework until I fell asleep.
My last semester of college, while extremely hectic, exemplifies how the communication department provides encouragement and support to aspiring journalists. For example, I would have never known about the opening in the traffic department at Cox Media if it wasn’t for the department’s weekly e-mail newsletter, CommStudentUpdate.
My internship at WJCT Public Radio would not have been possible if Dr. David Deeley didn’t agree to sponsor me for an independent study. I would never have been able to balance interning for Fox 5 News in Washington, D.C., and at a non-profit simultaneously over the summer if Dr. Paula Horvath wasn’t flexible with internship deadlines. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to work full time, intern and anchor for department's news magazine show, “Inside Jacksonville,” if Dr. Peter Casella did not accommodate my weird hours of availability. The rest of my professors in the communication department gave me enough insight into broadcast journalism to allow me walk into a newsroom, whether it be as an employee or an intern, and feel comfortable in the environment.
While I am grateful for all the support, I also realize that good things don’t just fall into a person’s lap. I know it takes hard work, a little luck, and in my case, a lack of sleep and a lot of coffee, to get where you want to be after graduation.
It’s been almost a month since I graduated from UNF. I am still working full time as a traffic reporter/producer, and my reports can be heard on four local radio stations. Now that I have more free time, I am focusing on being more involved in the news department and participating in professional development seminars at work.
Motivation and drive are useless without skills and knowledge. The professors and curriculum in the communication department gave me the skills and knowledge to be successful in my current job and for my future career.
The communication program is what you make of it
By Jessica DuBois-Maahs
Class of 2012
Jessica DuBois-Maahs braved the cold while completing her master’s degree in journalism at Northwestern University.
About a month before I was set to graduate with my B.S. in communication degree from UNF, after I had already accepted my seat in Northwestern University’s 2013 MSJ class, a compelling wave of gratitude moved me to write an incredibly embarrassing letter to the then-department chair, Dr. David Goff. In that letter, I poured my guts out, thanking the handful of communications professors who made my future career in journalism a possibility.
After clicking send while sitting at a desktop computer in the Thomas G. Carpenter Library about a week before graduation, I felt a slight pang of regret. The letter was slightly too honest, and naturally, it was circulated to the very professors I openly wrote about. From professor Brian Thornton, who taught my very first Principles of Journalism class, to Amy Parmelee and Dr. John Parmelee, who combined, taught five of my media and journalism classes in a three-year timespan, I shared how the close-knit UNF communication community made me the dedicated and capable journalist I am today.
Throughout graduate school, UNF’s intense focus on grammar, accurate reporting and writing exploration carried me through the grueling 12-hour seminar days at Northwestern, giving me the confidence and foundation from which to build my multimedia and technical abilities. Many of my peers attended schools such as Vanderbilt, Columbia and Dartmouth for their undergraduate degrees, but the journalism abilities I garnered at UNF matched, if not exceeded, theirs, and I earned the highest grade among my cohort in my first semester.
As I sat in my first Wednesday night MMC 3105-Advanced Writing for the Media class as a sophomore, staring at my Word document for more than three hours trying to come up with my very first story lede, I would have never imagined that starting in January 2014, I would be part of the editorial team for Business Insider, reporting for their “Strategy” vertical in New York, MSJ degree in hand.
Looking back, I don’t regret sending the letter of gratitude to the entire communication department; I now realize it was just a swatch of the individuality I acquired through earning my journalism degree at UNF. The communication program is what you make of it, and the more effort and creativity you put into it, the more it shapes you. This is an exciting time to be a journalist, and instead of sitting on the sidelines, be a part of the digital and personalized-news movement that will carry reporting into the next generation.
Don't let anyone get in your way
By Henna Bakshi
Class of 2013
"Henna, don't let anyone, and I mean anyone, stand in the way of your success."
These are the words of my professor, mentor and friend, Dr. Peter Casella. These words have gotten me through some of the toughest challenges as a communication student.
I am Henna Bakshi, a journalist by work and foodie by passion. I am also a multimedia journalism and production major at UNF. Originally from India, I am one of thousands of students finding happiness in the pursuit of my goals. The communication department has housed my dreams, and here's why I call it my second home.
I wrote and directed a short film called "Strings" for Campus Movie Festival at UNF. The festival requires college students to create a five-minute film in one week. The challenge is difficult and not for the faint hearted. It means juggling classes, work schedules and kissing sleep goodbye for the time period. This was my second year competing after making "Buzzkill," which screened in Hollywood.
"You'll do great!" Professor David Deeley is never out of enthusiasm or time to talk. Also starring in "Strings," he never doubted that my team would complete the task. His office door is always open for a quick pep talk to boost the morale.
Dr. David Deeley and Henna Bakshi take a break during the production of “Strings.”
With a talented crew at hand, including Andy Leverett and Aakash Bakshi, we were able to win Best Picture, Best Story, Best Actor and Audience Choice among 128 teams at UNF. Moreover, "Strings" screened at the Cannes International Film Festival this May (when I turned 21 — talk about the best birthday present). It also recently screened in Hollywood at the Universal backlot theater with top universities from around the nation.
“Strings” won top honors at Campus Movie Festival.
Bakshi and Andy Leverett pose on the red carpet.
In L.A. my team got to attend workshops with industry professionals, operate RED cameras and receive VIP tours of the Universal backlot studios. The International Center and Student Government sponsored our travels for representing UNF at the top film venues in the world.
Deeley was right after all. We did great.
During my beginning terms at UNF, I produced and starred in UNF's first HD cooking show, called "The Skillet." Communication student and my best friend Andy Leverett operated the cameras and edited the show. "The Skillet" continues to air on the Spinnaker TV network, with each episode 24 minutes in length.
I was also the food columnist and a news reporter for The Spinnaker, and I got a chance to cover the last NASA shuttle launch in Cape Canaveral.
After "The Skillet," instructor Diane Matuschka encouraged me to take part in the annual UNF Speech Competition where I won first place. Matuschka recognized my passion for public speaking and didn't skip a beat in helping me polish it. She also helped me join classes with Casella for the department's news magazine show, "Inside Jacksonville."
"You can do better. Give this your best. And there's a deadline!" Casella geared me to report, anchor and assignment edit for the show for a year. I like to compare him to Chef Gordon Ramsay. Casella is not exactly sugar-coated. He's the Italian man who will tell you what you did wrong and how to fix it without an ounce of fake flattery. He teaches his students fair judgment when it comes to news, pushes for heights the students don't even know they can reach. That's exactly what he did with me. His persistence made me confident. I now want to pursue careers in national news because of him.
Dr. Peter Casella helps Bakshi and the rest of the crew of “Inside Jacksonville.”
"There's no harm in asking. Never be afraid! Now go and get me an interview from a Florida representative," said Dr. Paula Horvath during our coverage of the Republican National Convention in Tampa. We reported for a week in correspondence with The Washington Post and The Florida Times-Union.
Horvath is a friendly pillar of support, gusto and confidence. It's hard not to let that rub off on you. During my reporting in Tampa, I was the sole video journalist. I practiced all the lessons Deeley and Casella taught me about cameras and journalism alongside a fearless professor like Horvath. This was communication department gold. Also on this trip, Horvath took us for trainings at the Poynter Institute and a trip to the Dali Museum where I got inspired to write the story for "Strings."
Bakshi reported from the RNC Convention in Tampa in summer 2012
See? It all kind of ties together.
I am currently working on a documentary about the making of "Strings" and where the film has taken us as student filmmakers. I am also the newest writing tutor at ACE (UNF's Academic Center for Excellence), and the university's poster child.
The impact these professors have made in my life is hard to put into words. They don't even realize what their trust, motivation and support can do for a girl like me. I hope to intern with CNN before I graduate at the end of Spring 2014.
I am thankful to everyone at the communication department, including and not limited to Nancy Lee, Donna Oxford, and professors Marcia Ladendorff, Nick Tatro, David Goff and John Parmelee. I hope to make you all very proud one day.
SOME IMPORTANT LINKS:
My resume website: http://www.hennabakshi.blogspot.com
The student becomes the teacher
By Lauren Darm
Class of 2009
Lauren Darm takes a break in Central Park while pursuing her master's degree in New York.
When I sat in MMC 3105-Advanced Writing for the Media seven years ago, the first class of my communications career, my thoughts mainly centered on hopes this field would be the perfect profession for me as I planned and, of course, hoped the class would not be as difficult as previous students said.
But I never thought I would one day be in a UNF classroom teaching the exact same course. Looking back, however, especially now that I have stood on the other side of the lectern, it is not all that surprising.
The UNF communication department faculty always encouraged me and my fellow classmates to reach our fullest potential both with our writing and our future career paths — so much so that even as a student they already felt like colleagues.
Dr. Paula Horvath connected me to my first paid internship with the Jacksonville Business Journal for whom I still work today. And when she came to me with the idea of teaching a writing lab for Advanced Writing for the Media, little did I know it would inspire me to follow the career path of a professor as well.
I loved teaching so much I decided to pursue my master's in journalism at Columbia University in New York and soon my Ph.D. in communications at the University of Florida, all in hopes I can continue teaching communications at the college level.
The UNF communications faculty gave me the skills and foundation I needed to start my career, and now as an adjunct teaching a solo section of MMC 3105, the department is still helping me grow by giving me the experience I need to pursue a doctorate.
It is because of these faculty members I made it to where I am today. I owe them for teaching me how to be a strong writer, journalist and now professor. I was lucky to sit in their classrooms, and now I'm lucky to call those same people my colleagues.
My biggest hope now — as I look into the faces of students who sat where I once did — is that I can teach and encourage them as the UNF communication faculty and department did for me.