Meet the 2017 Tow-Knight Disruptive Educators

Melissa DiPento
Aug 21, 2017 · 11 min read

Standout professors – whose approaches to teaching ensure that students succeed in the ever-evolving online news space – have been selected by the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism to a fellowship in which each will champion a specific aspect of journalism education. As a Disruptive fellow, they will engage other educators in the Disruptive Journalism Educators Network Facebook group, in person and in any way that proves effective.

Fellows will participate in the ONA17 Educators Meetup on Friday, Oct. 6, at 3:30 p.m. ET during the three-day conference in Washington Oct. 4–7.

Follow the Disruptors via this Twitter list; see them on a Google map. Request access to the DJEN Facebook group to see some of the links shared below./


Glen Osten Anderson

Anderson teaches undergraduate design and visual classes, emphasizing film, digital documentary and

multimedia journalism and advises student media. A former BBC senior producer for social news and streaming and widely published documentarian and videographer, he is also an adjunct professor at James Madison University.

Advancing News Videography:
How to show, not just tell, by infusing traditions like cinema verité and subject-guided storytelling into news video. Posts from the week of Feb. 25, 2018: Charlottesville documentary by Vice; 360 video; short video profiles; standout documentary shorts

Jake Batsell

Batsell worked for more than a decade as a print journalist before learning to shoot and edit video as The Dallas Morning News Metro Desk’s “hybrid” reporter. Since joining SMU in 2008, he has taught digital journalism, technology reporting, media entrepreneurship and investigative reporting while also coordinating the Division of Journalism’s digital student media operations. He’s specifically interested in getting students to build interaction skills (ie., interviewing) beyond the confines of campus and their friends.

Pushing Students to Venture Afield:
How to motivate and inspire students beyond their comfort zones and get into the community when reporting stories or researching entrepreneurial ideas.
Facebook posts from the week of Oct. 23, 2017: social media scavenger hunt; moving journalism from the classroom to the community; encouraging teen engagement via BallotBox.Me; ONA meetup ideas; Roundup post: Pushing Students Beyond Comfort Zones

Mark Berkey-Gerard

Berkey-Gerard is the chair of the department and teaches online journalism and data journalism courses. He aims to build “the process of experimentation” into his courses and digital bootcamp, nurturing an entrepreneurial mindset. His current research interests include mobile journalism, data journalism, trauma journalism, and the online news community in Philadelphia.

Experimental Mindset:
How to infuse an experimental or entrepreneurial mindset into the storytelling process via new technologies and platforms. Posts: Integrating Online Journalism Awards into class; interview with the Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith; synthesis of posts: 9 Practical Ways to Foster Innovation in a J-School Classroom

Jan Lauren Boyles

Boyles is an assistant professor of journalism/big data and affiliate faculty of human computer interaction at Iowa State University. Boyles focuses on integrating “the experimental culture of digital newsrooms” and shadows news workers. She’s specifically interested in integrating the experimental culture of digital newsrooms into my classroom.

Data Journalism for Beginners:
How to teach foundational data skills to journalism undergraduates. Posts from the week of Jan. 21, 2018: biggest challenges to teaching data journalism; quick tips to get beginning reporting students involved with data; scholarly resources to encourage understanding and growth in data journalism; how educators can grow data skills.

L. Simone Byrd

Earlier this year, Simone was selected as one of 15 journalism professors from 12 states and three countries to participated in the annual Scripps Howard Journalism Entrepreneurship Institute, a rigorous five-day seminar at Arizona State’s Cronkite School. She’s specifically interested in delivering the knowledge and instructional tools for understanding the modern business models for news, including content generation, prototyping, journey mapping and overall UX design.

Implementing Complex Projects:
How to run “skill drill” exercises to keep students engaged and re-evaluating their abilities needed to develop the confidence needed to execute digital media endeavors. Posts from the week of Jan. 28, 2018: growth vs. fixed mindsets; educators’ awareness of fixed mindset; how universities support and facilitate social innovation and/or intrapreneurship; transient and competitive advantages; interviewing a digital entrepreneur; perfect skill sets for intrapreneurs;

Laura Castañeda

Castañeda has been a staff writer, editor and columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle, The Dallas Morning News, and The Associated Press in San Francisco, New York and Mexico. She is currently the Academic At-Large officer for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ). She and a colleague helped students launch an outlet for Latinx audiences called Dimelo, which means “tell me” in Spanish. Stories are posted on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Medium.

Curriculum Management:
How journalism programs can teach reporting, writing and critical thinking along with key digital skills with the same number of units. Plus how to grow a student social media outlet, like one serving young Latinos/as.
Facebook posts from the week of Oct. 30, 2017: types of classes journalism programs should keep, remove or combine; digital classes to require or offer; a “single” way to write for all platforms?; innovating for the evolving employment landscape; and the digital dexterity of colleagues.

Michelle Ferrier

The changing media ecosystem has dramatically affected how people receive the news. Ferrier became interested in how these changes affected communities through her experience as a former newspaper editor around 2007 when media outlets began making these drastic changes. Ferrier continues her innovative research in the data visualization of what she calls “media deserts” or areas where fresh, local news is lacking.

Innovation Ecosystems:
How to build out the university infrastructure and curriculum to sustain student media projects with a focus on ensuring diversity of ideas, founders and products.
Facebook posts from the week of Nov. 13, 2017: Poll: After entrepreneurial class, where do students take their ideas?; treating students like student-athletes plus Medium post: Serving Student Innovators In and outside the Classroom; aiding student founders plus Medium post: What Universities Have; What Teams Need; when colleagues are the first brick wall plus Medium post: Creating internal buy-in for Innovation. See also her co-authored beta-tested textbook, Media Entrepreneurship and Innovation to be published in Spring 2018.

Mary Glick

Glick is former associate director of the American Press Institute in Reston, Va., and is a former associate professor of journalism at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Oswego, where she was also founder and director of the Center for Community Journalism. She’s specifically interested in hands-on exercises — including games — like her 2-hour “Journalism Innovation Challenge.”

Student Media:
How to instill a sense of innovation, intrepreneurship and entrepreneurship and see it flourish within student media organizations. Posts from the week of Feb. 4, 2018: launching a newsletter; refining a pitch to build a news app; roadblocks to innovation with student media; sponsored content; designing a class around a student newsletter.

Jonathan Groves

Prior to coming to Drury, he worked for 14 years as a professional journalist at various newspapers as a reporter, an editor, and an online geek. He then spent two years at the University of Missouri-Columbia as a Reynolds Journalism Institute doctoral fellow studying how the Internet was changing the face of journalism. He now devotes his time to exploring the new media and its impact on journalism.

Innovation in Podcasting and Audio Storytelling:
How small programs with limited budgets can leverage free tools and existing assets to innovate at student radio stations.
Facebook posts from Oct. 6 and 8, and week of Nov. 13, 2017: About go-to open-source/low-cost free tools like Audacity and others for media creation; preparing young voices of innovation; resources to innovate without breaking budgets; expanding technology options for students; tools for audio storytelling (open-source laptop apps, phone/tablet apps and postcasting); and Soundstory and impressionistic technique with podcasts.

Ted Gutsche

Gutsche teaches critical and cultural interpretations of the news and strive to help students and reporters explore better ways of producing storytelling through community based journalism. “Journalism is now at the foundation of informing art, theatre, mixed media, AI, facial recognition, and audience analysis to tell stories of disruptions to environments, society, and truth,” Gutsche said.

Creating rubrics and assessments for measuring journalism coursework and products based on the needs of academic and professional standards. Posts from the week of March 4, 2018: do educators grade too much?; grading and overall assessment goals; how to teach and why; self-awareness in grading; plus earlier poll: how educators grade.

Hamil Harris

Harris spent more than two decades at the Washington Post, where editors said he “is a determined reporter who combines a relentless pursuit of breaking news with a gift for successfully conducting interviews in the most difficult situations.” As an adjunct at Morgan State, he teaches a mobile journalism course entirely on a cell phone.

Mobile Only:
Reporting, writing, storytelling and socializing via cell phones. Expected the week of Feb. 16, 2018: students and traumatic events; creative engagement with students via phones; how a student uses her phone; how a student uses his phone; NAACP conference and a teachable moment; mobile video and breaking news; challenges in teaching editing; cell vs. laptop; using your phone to capture inspiration.

Lisa Heyamoto

As an award-winning journalism instructor at the University of Oregon, she cultivates the next generation of journalists by combining foundational skills with critical thinking and digital agility. She plans to further explore journalistic practices that build trust with the community, such as engagement journalism, social journalism and solutions journalism.

Community Engagement:
Helping students understand what drives and disrupts trust between journalism organizations and the communities they serve.
Facebook posts from the week of Oct. 9, 2017: defining engagement; “listening report” from underrepresented communities; different formats for feature writing; case studies and how to leverage Gather

Michael Marcotte

Marcotte teaches multimedia reporting and supervises the news innovation/collaboration project he founded, New Mexico News Port. His career includes managing the newsrooms of KPBS in San Diego and KPLU in Seattle. Marcotte is specifically interested in operating a publishing enterprise inside the curriculum — including the need to manage it, staff it, edit it, experiment with it and fund it.

Developing the Teaching Hospital Model:
How a small department can provide real-world experience for students and draw professional partners to the cause. Expected the week of Jan. 14, 2018: New Mexico News Port: Part 1: mission and structure; Part 2: actualizing the student experience.

Michael McKisson

McKisson is the chief technology nerd on the faculty. He is currently working with students on virtual reality and 360-degree-video storytelling, drone videography and sensor journalism.He advises the school’s Online News Association student group and is a core member of News Hack Arizona, a weekend hackathon for journalists. He teaches classes in digital storytelling, news startups and mobile application development.

Creating Disruptive Colleagues:
Rather than pushing colleagues toward digital disruption in the curriculum, pull them with easy-to-launch projects that excite students and fellow faculty members.
Facebook posts from the week of Dec. 4, 2017: school culture; collaborating with colleagues; small tweak equals big-impact collaboration; conversation synthesis and resources.

Erik Palmer

Palmer teaches social media and visual communication. His latest research explores the impact of social photography on the practice of professional media photography. Palmer is specifically interested in the emerging connection between strategy and journalism.

Strategic Thinking:
How to help students drive individual and organizational success using an instructional mix of Design Thinking, Lean/Agile startup principles, analytics, scalability, and a commitment to ethical practice and social responsibility.
Reinventing College: A Design Thinking Course in Higher Education
Design Thinking and its Perils
Facebook posts from the week of Oct. 17, 2017: Breaking out of the skills-first mindset in teaching and learning; exposing students to tools like Slack and creating a kind of hackathon; moments that inspire teachers plus a Medium insights into a design-thinking course; Guardian insights on audience engagement.

Ron Yaros

Ronald Yaros researches the cognitive aspects of how to produce the most engaging multimedia and how news consumers seek, select, and share that information online and on mobile device. He currently leads a team of researchers from four departments to develop a funded project with high schools described at Dr. Yaros offers a combination of more than 20 years of experience as a reporter/anchor in radio and TV with nearly 20 years as a researcher.

“Mobilizing” Multimedia News:
Using evidence-based research to help students produce and deliver “mobilized” multimedia stories that engage more users with more content for longer periods of time regardless if users scan, seek or read the news.
Facebook posts from the week of Nov. 27, 2017: poll on the level of emphasis programs places on mobile journalism; mobile apps; Apple Clips; building mobile skills; mobile content (disrupting storytelling for mobile users); mobile analytics.

Susan Zake

Zake teaches multimedia storytelling, Web programming for multimedia journalism, reporting public affairs, big data and media ethics. She’s specifically interested in creating assessment rubrics for measuring academic achievement.

Effective Experimentation:
Best practices for teaching classes in smaller blocks, or teaching some digital skills in short workshops. Posts from the week of Feb. 11, 2018: building an experimental culture; effective experimentation; student view on experimentation vs. evolution; keeping educators’ skills sharp; where to find inspiration.

The Tow-Knight Disruptive Educators project is affiliated with the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism. For more information about the Disruptive fellows program, contact

REVISIONS/EDITS: Reworded some topics; added links to fellows’ work.

Disruptive Journalism Educators Network

Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Melissa DiPento

Written by

Educational Program Coordinator at the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. Journalism must be engaged, innovative and diverse.

Disruptive Journalism Educators Network

Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship

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