team up with tl
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Senior wins Hearst's
first multimedia contest
Dr. Richard J.:.hn:.:.n ind A :..:. ce P',r.: M-j,'.n o,:,ber[:
ABC News opens
campus bure u
Driven to grow
Whenever there's a trace of daylight as I leave Weimer
Hall, I take a circuitous route home, driving by Lake
The lakeside drive provides a revitalizing transition from the
office to the events of the evening. I also enjoy it because, in this
era of rapid and ubiquitous change, the lake remains essentially as
it was decades ago.
As we adapt to changes in the communication fields brought
on by the digital revolution, key aspects of the COLLEGE remain
unchanged. One is our steadfast commitment to teaching stu-
dents core skills, critical thinking, professional values and ethics.
Another is that we continue to enroll extremely bright students.
And our faculty members still rank among the world's finest and
most productive professional educators and researchers.
Our faculty, for instance, once again led the nation in the
number of research presentations at the Association for Education
in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) conference.
The Communication Institute for Online Scholarship's ComVista
service rated the Department of Public Relations' research pro-
ductivity in the top 10 in three specializations. Our Department of
Advertising has placed among the top three nationally in research
Two AEJMC divisions named journalism faculty member
Renee Martin-Kratzer this year's "most promising professor."
And photojournalism Prof. John Kaplan earned a Fulbright
Across all four departments, our students con-
tinue to earn national and regional recognition for Wrigs
excellence. This year, John Cox, JM 2008, won the
Hearst national writing contest, and photojoumal- By DEAN
ism senior Tim Hussin won the inaugural Hearst
Multimedia Award. Telecommunication junior Miles Doran won
an Edward R. Murrow Award. Photojournalism senior Andrew
Stanfill received the Florida Photo of the Year Award from the
Associated Press. Students Josh Breslow and Carling Ponder
at WRUF received a Society of Professional Journalists national
first-place award. Documentary Institute graduates Jolene Pinder,
MAMC 2007, and Sarah Zaman, MAMC 2007, won first place
at the 2008 Academy of Television Arts and Sciences College
Television Awards. About 15 advertising students won ADDY
Our Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA)
membership is the second largest in the nation, having grown to
234 students. And the group's student-run Alpha PRoductions is
working with UF's Office of University Relations to produce ads
for the Gator Nation campaign. Our doctoral students continue to
be among the most productive in the nation, with 20 research papers
and three top paper awards in the 2008 AEJMC conference.
In this edition of the communigator, you'll read about our
Hearst winners. You'll also learn that ABC News has selected our
COLLEGE as one of only five programs in the nation for an ABC
Student News Bureau. This is a tribute to the accomplishments
of our faculty and broadcast newsroom personnel as well as our
students, past and present. This also is indicative of a major reason
our COLLEGE maintains its excellent reputation. We successfully
combine professional education, new technology and cutting-edge
research. We'll never lose sight of this traditional strength. In fact,
it positions us to move forward effectively as we take on the digital
era's challenges and opportunities.
As I wrote in the previous edition of the communigator, I have
ambitious goals for the COLLEGE. We are building
our Center for Media Innovation and Research.
tStuff We've started construction on the multi-platform
21st Century Newsroom. We've drawn plans for the
HN WRIGHT advanced technology strategic communications lab-
oratory. We're establishing a multidisciplinary think
tank for research on emerging media. And we're pushing beyond
traditional departmental and professional boundaries to enhance
education and training across media platforms and the curricula.
As we establish relationships with institutions in Chile, Brazil,
Korea and Dubai, we're expediting development of distance learn-
ing models that initially will include programs in advertising, inter-
cultural and international communication. Our programs will reach
students across the nation and around the world.
Many of you are aware that the dire Florida and U.S. economic
conditions have resulted in significant budget reductions at UF. This
has multiplied and complicated the challenges we face. However,
with faculty, students, friends and alumni working together, we will
pass the tests, exceed our goals and continue providing students
with a world-class education.
I will continue to drive by Lake Alice. As I do, I will continue
foreseeing a future that combines the best of our tradition, hopes
and promises. -*
2 COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008
6 Senior wins Hearst's first multimedia competition, helps propel College
to second place overall
7 ABC News opens bureau at Weimer
8 College creates country's first chair in public interest communications
9 WUFT-TV beats digital deadline
12 Class produces That Girl!, an award-winning magazine blueprint
14 State Department institute finishes second summer in strong fashion
I 5 Telecommunication alum cooks up health solutions
An organization run by Najlah
Feanny, JM 1983, created this
mosaic of photos of foster
children who seek a
29 Potent partnership
Health researchers team up
with the College
40 Picturing a home
Alum creates photographer-run
organization to match foster
children with adoptive parents
ON THE COVER: Dr. Richard
Johnson, chief of nephrology at the UF
College of Medicine, and advertising
Associate Prof. Marilyn Roberts.
PHOTO BY JASON HENRY
I 7 On The Record:
COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008 3
Associate Prof. Marilyn Roberts
served as co-chair of the 57th
annual Latin American Conference
at UF in fall 2007.
Taking on the adventure and responsibility of being
an assistant editor at the communigator has been an
enriching experience that has helped me learn the
S discipline and balance editors need to have. I believe
.. in myself a little more, and every story I edit reaffirms
my passion for feature writing. Being on the other
side of writing and submitting articles has opened my
eyes to what the students contribute. They don't just
make a magazine they weave their personalities and
tg excitement into the stories they write.
Public relations junior
The communicator has given me multiple opportunities to put
the skills I learned in the classroom to the test. Not only did I
improve my writing, editing and interviewing skills, but I did
so for a publication that ends up in the hands of 25,000 alumni
around the world. Working for the communigator this semester
has been especially memorable because I had the chance
to cover the COLLEGE'S involvement in the 2008 elections.
Covering the involvement of the COLLEGE'S faculty, graduates
and undergraduates in researching the media coverage and
attitudes of young voters has made me feel more engaged as a
writer and as an American.
The communigator foiled my big plan. From elementary
school on, my teachers would say, "We're going to
see your name in print someday, Amber." I decided to
prove them wrong I didn't want to do what everyone
expected of me. So in college, I drifted through a year of
"exploratory" courses, including a horrific Shakespeare
class in which I earned my first C. Then journalism
sucked me in. I've found my way to the communigator,
where a brutal-but-patient editor gave me an office to
hang out in between classes and a chance to become a
journalist, after all.
When I first picked up a camera, it was strictly
for fun. I would borrow my mother's 35mm SLR,
photographing my friends and their antics. When
college came around, I needed a career I could
be passionate about and wouldn't consider work.
Photojournalism offered me just that. Shooting for
the communigator has given me the opportunity to
refine my style and push the limits of my creativity,
while still maintaining the enthusiasm and curiosity
with which I started.
FALL 2008- NUMBER 84
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4 COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008
On the finish line
Adrian Dennis, JM 1994, was one of
only 10 field-of-play photographers at the
Beijing Olympics.This allowed him to run
alongside athletes after races.
"Olympic games, from a sports pho-
tographer's point of view, are just work,"
said Dennis, chief sports photographer for
the United Kingdom and Ireland atAgence
France Presse (AFP)."From the moment I
arrived, I was stuck in the Olympic bubble."'
His coverage of the Athens and Salt Lake
City Olympics and his multi-tasking skills led
AFP to give him this assignment, he said. His
challenges in Beijing included photograph-
ing in rain and extreme heat and knowing
when to be on the finish line because several
events occurred simultaneously.
Besides the Olympics, Dennis has pho-
tographed such sports events as the FIFA
World Cup.The London native has also
covered news stories such as former Prime
Minister Tony Blair's trips to Iraq and the
recent Channel Tunnel fire in September.
His passion for sports photography
ignited at UF, where he took photos for
the University Athletic Association's media
"Once you know the rules, you can
break them," Dennis said."Quite often, I cut
someone in half, chop their head off as
long as the picture looks good."
NBA player spends
summer as a student
Al Horford, an Atlanta Hawks center-
forward and telecommunication senior,
hopes to make UF summer sessions a tradi-
tion at least until he finishes his degree.
Horford and his UF teammates won
back-to-back national championships in 2006
and 2007. He entered the NBA after his
junior year in 2007.
During Summer A, he re-enrolled at UF,
taking Television and American Society and
Fundamentals of Production.
After a year away from school, Horford
found it tough to stay motivated, he said.
Professors expected him to keep up with
the fast-paced summer schedule despite the
five-day break between the end of the NBA
season and the beginning of the semester.
"At first," he said,"I didn't know if I
could do it:'
He earned a B+ and a B in his classes.
During the session's six weeks, he
lived with fellow former UF basketball star
parks and tour-
ism major who
also took sum-
mer classes. Hfo
knew when he
at UF that he
might enter the
NBA draft early
and take longer to finish his degree.
"Basketball is what I love to do," he said.
"But you should always have a backup plan'
Mel Karmazin flipped through radio
stations looking for news just as Andrew
Wilkow, TEL 1996, started his Sunday pro-
gram onWABC in NewYork City.
Sticking with Wilkow's program for the
whole three hours, Karmazin made a mental
note to hire him.
Karmazin is CEO of SIRIUS XM Radio.
Wilkow's punk rock flair, which he's
maintained from his days as a night jock for
the COLLEGE'S Rock 104, attracts younger
listeners to his SIRIUS radio show,"The
"I grew up on punk rock," Wilkow said,
"and I think my personality is more in tune
with mainstream conservatives between age
20 and 40."
Wilkow describes his switch to SIRIUS
as the "luck of the moment where prepara-
tion meets opportunity."
It has provided Wilkow with a healthy
challenge. "With no commercials, it has been
a blessing and a curse at the same time,"
he said."I've had to adapt and expand my
research and presentation."
The show airs on SIRIUS 144,The
Patriot Channel, noon to 3 p.m. on weekdays
and 9 a.m. to noon on weekends.
COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008 5
SPECIAL TO THE COMMUNICATOR
Senior wins Hearst's first multimedia competition,
helps propel the College to second place overall
BY JORDANA FYNE
P hotojoumalism senior Tim Hussin drove to Eldorado,
Texas, the week after authorities removed more than 400
children from the Yearning for Zion Ranch. An intern for
Salt Lake City's Deseret News, he joined a staff photographer and
reporters that dry and windy April afternoon for the first, exclusive
interviews granted by the devastated mothers.
Hussin and the Deseret staff spoke with William and Merrill
Jessop, two of the leaders of the Fundamentalist Latter Day
Saints, about how they were going to cover the story while an
elderly woman served them tuna melts and potato salad.
The video Hussin captured that day at the ranch became part
of a package of multimedia pieces he produced in Salt Lake City
that won first place in the Hearst Journalism Awards Program's
inaugural multimedia competition. In one of its most successful
years in the Hearst competition, the COLLEGE earned second place
overall. The individual winners included John Cox, JM 2008,
who won first place in the National Writing Championship, jour-
nalism senior Kim Wilmath, who took second in the Spot News
category, and telecommunication junior Miles Doran, who placed
in the top five in the radio championship.
The contest features three rounds, according to the Hearst
Journalism Awards Program Web site. First, students compete
in monthly contests in the writing, photo, multimedia, radio
and television categories. Next, the winners of the photo and
broadcast monthly contests send in a portfolio of their work
to be judged in the semifinals. In the writing contest, the first-
place winners in each of the competitions advance directly to
The top winners in each category gather in San Francisco in
the summer to compete in the national championship.
The 48-year-old contest added the multimedia category to
keep up with current professional standards, said Associate Prof.
John Freeman, who coordinated the multimedia entry.
"The thing I like about multimedia is that you're in control
of all of it," Hussin said. "You're not just taking a picture and
turning it in to the paper. It's all you. You're telling a story with
stills and audio and video, instead of trying to take one picture to
sum it up."
Hussin wanted to intern with the Deseret News, in part,
because the paper encourages its staff to experiment with multi-
media. He spent that spring learning how to use video.
"Tim's video was extremely emotional," said Deseret News
Photo Editor Ravell Call. "It was immediately in demand
throughout the world. The online hits to that story and video over-
loaded our Web site. We soon shared Tim's video with our sister
TV station and with CNN."
Hussin, who also won second place in the Hearst National
Championship Photojournalism SemiFinals, returned to
6 COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008
ABC News opens bureau at Weimer Hall
For five students, doing what
they love now comes with a
The writing and producing
they typically do for class is part
of their job with ABC News.
At the start of the fall semes-
ter, ABC News On Campus
opened a bureau at the COLLEGE.
Now,a converted Weimer Hall
ground floor office serves as home
base for telecommunication stu-
dents Robert Bradfield, Marilia
Brocchetto, Miles Doran,
Patrick Fleming and journalism
Under the supervision of
News Director Mark Leeps,
the students have been produc-
ing multimedia stories for http://
On Campus Web site has sec-
tions for both video and written
The Web site is also a forum for
college students nationwide, with blogs
and polls that encourage students to
exchange ideas. ABC News also opened
bureaus at Arizona State University,
Syracuse University, University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill and University of
Texas at Austin.
The bureaus giveABC News a college
edge and help mold college students into
journalists, said John Green,ABC's execu-
tive producer for special programming
"We're trying to train these students
to operate like a real news bureau,"
The UF bureau produces content for
several platforms of media. One of the
bureau's most memorable pieces, about
UF's biannual Great Underwear Dash,
even aired on ABC News Now and the
World News Webcast. Reporter Doran
fronted the piece, which showed UF stu-
dents stripping down for a midnight run
down University Avenue and donating
their clothes to the Salvation Army.
"We had to run or drive quickly to
different locations," photographer and
editor Fleming said. "The shoot went by
in a flash."
Four bureau staffers put in a required
15 hours each week, while Bradfield puts
in 20 as the bureau chief. But they usually
spend more time than that.
"I would take this opportunity in a
heartbeat even if it wasn't paid," Bradfield
Gainesville after completing a summer internship in Denver at
the Rocky Mountain News. He plans to graduate this semester.
In June, two other COLLEGE students flew to San Francisco to
compete in the program's national championships.
Doran tackled a story on the rising cost of food and the way
people and restaurants were coping.
"I didn't know what to expect," he said. "I had called alumni
working at stations across the country, and they helped a lot with
Doran, who interned this summer at "CBS Evening News"
in New York, took fourth place in the Radio Broadcast News
Championship. He plans to submit to Hearst in the next two
In the Hearst National Writing Championship, Cox competed
against seven other writers, completing three stories in less than
48 hours (see Alumni Angle, Page 42).
"They treat you so well put you up in a five-star hotel down-
town, take you to unbelievably fancy restaurants," Cox said. "But
until you're done with the stories, you can't really enjoy it."
Cox's national writing championship was the COLLEGE'S first
since Jamie Malernee, JM 1999, won it in 1999.
Malernee, a general assignment writer for the Sun-Sentinel
in Fort Lauderdale, said the format for the writing competition
has not changed much in the past decade, nor does she think the
elements of good journalism accuracy, clarity, a compelling
story ever will.
"You still have to go out there and pound the pavement to
get the goods," she said. "What has changed the most in the past
10 years is the way stories are presented. We have to think more
about graphics, photos, online/interactive components, video,
audio, etc. Now, there are often two newspapers to report for the
online version and the traditional paper."
COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008 7
College creates country's first chair
in public interest communications
Nonprofit organizations and government agencies, already
1.5 million strong, are increasing faster than their for-profit
counterparts. Now Frank Karel, JM 1961, a pioneer in
public interest communications for these entities, is joining forces
with the COLLEGE to prepare students for careers in this field.
Dean John Wright recently announced the creation of the Frank
Karel Chair in Public Interest Communications made possible by
a $2 million grant to the COLLEGE from the Trellis Fund, a family
foundation headed by his wife, Betsy Karel. It is the first of its kind
in the country.
The grant qualifies for a 100 percent match from the state, yield-
ing a $4 million endowment that will allow the Department of Public
Relations to hire a veteran professional to train students for work in
cultural, scientific, educational, advocacy, human and social service,
public policy-oriented and government organizations.
Karel held the senior communications posts at the Robert Wood
Johnson and Rockefeller foundations, Johns Hopkins Medical
Institutions and National Cancer Institute. Prior to entering this field,
he served as The Miami Herald's first science writer. In this Q&A,
the alumnus of distinction outlines his thoughts about the chair.
How did you come up with the idea for the chair?
I wanted to do something that might advance my field using
communications to support and even drive the missions of nonprofit
and government organizations. Creating a chair in this field was a
way to do this, as well as to honor and continue UF's tradition of
excellence in teaching.
Like so many alumni, my undergraduate professors profoundly
influenced my life and career. Buddy Davis [JM 1948, MA 1952],
Hugh Cunningham and L. John Martin in this COLLEGE come
immediately to mind, as do Sam Proctor and Junius Dovell in history
and political science.
Working with Dean Wright, I crafted the specifics of the chair
by the example and with advice from Susan Tifft, a Duke University
professor who was already an acclaimed biographer and journalist
and who also had government, political and think-tank experience
before entering the academic world. With this breadth of experience
and accomplishment, she has inspired students in a special way. After
talking with her, I wanted this chair to be like the one she occupies -
one that accomplished practitioners would move in and out of, rather
than making it their entire career.
The COLLEGE will appoint chairs for five-year terms with only
one five-year renewal. The COLLEGE will recruit a practitioner with
at least 15 years of experience, so it's meant for someone in mid-to-
What's the job description for this position?
The COLLEGE is working on this now, but it will contain the stan-
dard elements that make a faculty position interesting and productive
- teaching, student advisement and research plus writing, speaking
and other activities to help foster the growth and development of a
scholarly base. CONTINUED ON PAGE 9
8 COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008
WUFT-TV beats digital deadline
Deadlines often put the fear of God in
journalists, but the COLLEGE'S PBS station
is having no problem meeting the Federal
Communications Commission's looming
The FCC mandates that all broadcast-
ers switch to a digital signal by February.
"We knew it was coming," said Rob
Carr, the COLLEGE'S director of engineer-
ing for broadcasting. "So we got a new
transmitter and started our digital trans-
The transmitter takes in standard-
definition (SD) feeds and transmits them
to viewers in a digital signal. HD, or high
definition, is an enhanced format of video,
giving the content a crisp look.
"We can only broadcast what the dis-
tributors produce," said Titus Rush,WUFT-
TV's station manager. "So, as a broadcaster,
we're ready to do HD, but ... there isn't a
lot of HD product out there."
PBS is UF's program distributor and
is in the process of building up its HD
WUFT-TV is already broadcasting from
Communications: CONT. FROM PAGE 8
itsWeimer Hall studio in HD. It's broadcast-
ing one HD signal, two digital signals, and
one in SD analogue, which will no longer
exist after the February digital deadline.
WUFT produces "WUFT News,"
"Gallery," "Law Matters," "Gator Beat" and
"North Florida Journal" in HD.
This gives the dozens of students
who work at WUFT an edge, said Neal
Bennett, TEL 1993, news director for
WVIRTV in Charlottesville,Va.
"When I worked for News 5 in 1992,"
he said,"we were shooting on three-fourth
inch tape, lugging around huge decks.There
aren't many universities that have an all-
digital newsroom.They're going to have a
new piece of knowledge that gives them
a leg up:'
This motivated WUFT to get ahead of
the curve, Rush said.
"We have a teaching mission," he
With the new HD technology, students
will learn to capture content in HD, and
to maintain their content in HD format all
the way through the production process to
end up with a final "native" HD product.
"Last year, we got the production
switcher. This year we're doing cameras,"
Carr said. "Next year, we hope to have a
video server to store content, in conjunc-
tion with the COLLEGE'S new Center for
Media Innovation and Research":'
Funding for the HD studio transfor-
mation has come from grants from the
Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the
Department of Commerce and Florida's
Department of Education.
So far,WUFT has spent about $3 mil-
lion. It will take about another $2.5 million
to finish the project, Rush said.
To keep up with the competitiveness
of satellite radio and to have the ability to
do multiple programming, the COLLEGE'S
radio station went HD in 2006. Since then,
WUFT-FM has been broadcasting three
different HD channels.
Going HD allows the station to broad-
cast a digital signal with multiple channels
with a cleaner sound.
"The stations' digital conversion,"
Dean John Wright said, "enhances our
efforts to become a world leader in the
education of digital communication"
What do you mean by scholarly base?
In the early stages of many fields, practitioners learn on the job
or by apprenticeship without the benefit of having an established
body of knowledge and skills that have been developed and tested.
The person holding this chair may have no credentials as a research
investigator, but I hope he or she can influence and assist other fac-
ulty in addressing major problems in the field.
A big one would be, broadly speaking, how information can be
effectively created, crafted and communicated so as to support and
even drive social change in areas of great complexity and challenge.
For instance, improving public education, ending the country's
dependence on petroleum, creating an affordable, universal health-
care system or reducing human rights abuses around the world.
The central focus of public interest communications is using
communications to advance the mission of the organization, be it a
university, think tank, grant-making foundation or any of the wide
variety of nonprofits, including hospitals, civic action and advo-
cacy groups, libraries, museums, human-rights organizations and
environmental action groups, as well as government agencies and
Do you know people in the field who fit what the COLLEGE is
seeking in this chair?
Some, but recruitment will have to reach far beyond my Rolodex
to find the best of the best. They don't exist in great numbers, and
they are in great demand.
Will public interest communication courses be open to students
with majors other than Public Relations?
Certainly to other students within the COLLEGE, and I hope
throughout the university. Let me also add that I envision the per-
son holding this chair teaching graduate as well as undergraduate
How would you measure the chair's success?
First and foremost will be the graduates embarking on relevant
careers. How many and how well prepared are they? And, over the
years, how do they fare? And second is the extent to which those in
the chair have fostered research that is useful in the field.
I hope, too, that this chair will be a step toward building an aca-
demic foothold for the field of public interest communications. That
can only happen if it is the first of many such faculty positions here
and at other great universities. Call it intellectual contagion. That's
the most ambitious aspect of my dream.
Any meaningful assessment of all this is probably at least 20
years down the road. But well before that, there should be indications
as to whether things are headed in the right direction.
COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008 9
Staying is believing
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O,-NTINLUIE! N P-'E I.,
Visiting Professor David Stanton.JM 2002. MAMC 200S. PhD 2008. with his wife and daughters
Connecting the dots
How would you describe this course?
It is a special topics class that fulfills our
professional electives requirement. The focus is
on the history of Florida advertising agencies.
giving students the opportunity to meet
advertising agency executives.
This is an exploratory course in nature. We
are driven by the information we find and the
new paths to which new discoveries lead us.
When we offer a special topics class, we need
to assure that the topic draws enough students
to make offering the class cost effective. If the
research proves fruitful and enough students are
interested, we will offer the class again.
This special course gives our stude nts,depa rtment
and COLLEGE a historical perspective on Florida
advertising agencies and those individuals making
significant contributions to the development of
that part of our industry.
What does your class teach that students
can't learn in other courses?
Because the course requires students to
develop profiles of major contributors to the
development of Florida advertising agencies.
the class gives the students the opportunity
to communicate directly with leaders in the
advertising agency industry. Students must
identify and research the backgrounds of these
executives. From there, students are contacting
the professionals by telephone calls, e-mails and,
in some cases, personal interviews.
What are your objectives for this course?
Our goal is to determine the feasibility of
developing a history of advertising agencies in
Florida. including access to major contributors and
archival information, and to begin to gather the
histories.The class gives the students a historical
perspective of Florida advertising agencies and
those who made major contributions to the
development of the industry.
chair of the
Florida History of
ADV 4930 Florida History of Adverusing
Graduate student Inigo de Amescua works for three Spanish publications, including Vanity Fair Spain.
It all adds up
A t 17, below-par math skills kept
Inigo de Amescua from studying
journalism in Spain, where the
profession is reserved for top scholars.
Thirteen years later, the Madrid native
is a graduate student at the COLLEGE on a
Fulbright scholarship pursuing his second
master's degree in journalism.
A student, writer and photographer,
Amescua juggles writing 30-page papers
for school, covering the international music
scene for the Madrid
magazine Mercado de
Fuencarral (MDF), and JU ggl
news and rock 'n' roll for
Vanity Fair Spain. He's the Web site editor
for Fiber, the official publication for the
Festival Intemacional de Benicassim, an
annual alternative music festival in Spain.
He blogs weekly for one of his three Web
sites. And he takes 12 hours this semester
instead of the minimum nine required for
"It'd be great if every student had his
work ethic," says Prof. Mindy McAdams,
Amescua's Journalist's Toolkit 1 teacher.
"He looks at school like an opportunity, not
Amescua is racing to graduate a semes-
ter early in December.
"I never take it easy," he says.
Amescua was always attracted to
American culture. As an ambitious 14-year-
old lacking Internet access, he learned
English by listening to Bob Dylan and
Marvin Gaye. Two years later, he devoured
Jack Kerouac's scroll of spontaneous road
trips across America in the 1957 novel On
"That's when I knew I wanted to come
here," he says. "That's when I knew I
wanted to be a journalist."
Before turning to journalism, Amescua
settled on a degree in Library Sciences from
Universidad Carlos II de Madrid. He went
on to earn a bachelor's degree in journalism
from Universidad SEK in Segovia, where
he finished first in his class, and a mas-
ter's degree in professional
journalism at Universidad
Sg act Complutense de Madrid.
After seven years of
studying, Amescua landed
a job writing, editing and photograph-
ing Spanish design and architecture for
Experimenta, Spain's most prestigious
"I wasn't just a writer anymore," he
Amescua was still unfulfilled. He had
a thirst for American culture and a need
to experience it firsthand. He applied for
the Fulbright Foundation Foreign Student
Program, which brings students from for-
eign countries to U.S. universities for their
PhD or master's degree.
It was 9 a.m. on day 10 of his 21-day
tour of the U.S. when an e-mail from the
Fulbright Foundation Spanish Commission
popped up on his computer. He was in a
Memphis hotel and had one week to return
to Madrid for an interview for the presti-
He couldn't sleep on the eight-hour
CONTINUED ON PAGE 12
COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008 I I
Class produces That Girl!, an
award-winning magazine blueprint
BY JORDANA FYNE AND CARLY FAIN
Betty Cortina, JM 1992, former editorial director of Latina
magazine, gunned her golf cart across a 23-acre Alachua farm to
check on the slumber-party photo shoot. She drove up to see jour-
nalism students Taryn Fiol and Ashley Cain blowing bubbles over
a group of preteen girls in brightly patterned pajamas.
The excited volunteer models squealed and laughed while pho-
tojournalism senior Zachary Bennett snapped away.
Cortina's walkie-talkie crackled to life with the voice of art
director Holly Gibbs, JM 2008, saying the fashion shoot ran out
of masking tape. Satisfied that Fiol and Cain had the pajama party
under control, Cortina grabbed tape and hopped back into the cart.
The students set up the photo shoot as part of producing a mag-
azine prototype for Cortina's Magazine Management class in the
spring. In the summer, That Girl! won the 2008 AEJMC Student
Magazine Contest for the Team Start-Up Magazine Project.
Cortina, who has worked for 0, The Oprah Magazine and
People en Espahol, lived on the farm during the spring semester,
when she served as the COLLEGE'S Hearst Visiting Professional.
"At the photo shoot," said journalism senior and That Girl!
Editor-in-Chief Nicole Orr, "she just sat back and drove around
and made sure nothing too crazy was going on, but she knew we
were capable of doing it."
In previous semesters, Magazine Management involved four or
five student teams that each produced a 32-page magazine proto-
type, Associate Prof. Ted Spiker said.
Cortina's group took the assignment in a different direction.
The class was discussing current magazine trends when they hit
upon what they felt could be the next big thing: teens, recalled
Erin Everhart, journalism senior and That Girl! managing editor.
The business development team researched the market for the
7- to 12-year-old demographic. Rather than breaking into compet-
jugglingact: CONT. FROM PAGE I I
red-eye home due to turbulence, unsettled
nerves and frantic preparation for his inter-
view. He landed an hour late, leaving
only two hours to make his appointment.
Jet-lagged, exhausted and pessimistic,
Amescua shuffled into his 11 a.m. inter-
view. At 3 p.m., he groggily answered the
phone. It was the secretary of the Fulbright
Foundation Spanish Commission.
"She said, 'This is off the record, but
congratulations,' Amescua recalls. "I
thought she meant for being on time to the
Ten months later, Amescua packed his
bags and relocated to Gator Nation head-
The culture shock and climate change
were obvious adjustments, but Amescua
was unprepared for the intense workload
that came with going back to school on top
of his numerous freelancing gigs.
"If he was having trouble adjusting, I
didn't see him sweat," says Assistant Prof.
Johanna Cleary, who taught Amescua's
Mass Communication Theory class his first
"I've learned how to make the most of
my time," Amescua says.
He plays midfield in Friday and Sunday
soccer games. Some nights, he bikes down-
town to cover the music scene for his blog.
"He's passionate about passion," says
Tommy Maple, JM 2003, a classmate of
Amescua's since 2007. "He always has a
fire about something."
Even though the bulk of his time is spent
writing late into the night at his Hawaiian
Village apartment, Amescua doesn't think
of himself as a writer.
"I can't write in English as fast as I
think in Spanish," he says. "I find it easier
to speak with images. It's what I think I'm
On top of his routine work, he's willing
to take on the extras, giving a presentation
about Spanish culture to 90 students in the
COLLEGE'S study-abroad program who trav-
eled to Greece and Spain this summer.
"I don't mind working 12 hours a day
because I'm doing something I like," he
says. "And if you like the things you're
working on, it's never too much. It's life,
not work, and it's fantastic."
12 COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008
ing groups, the students decided to work together to create one
all-inclusive prototype to cater to the "Hannah Montana" genera-
tion. The Disney Channel show, featuring country singer Billy Ray
Cyrus' 16-year-old daughter, Miley Cyrus, is a hit among teens.
"This is a big audience that's spending billions of dollars a
year," Gibbs said.
The class realized the magazine needed to be multi-platform.
Today's teens are on the verge of being "screenagers," or kids
who spend most of their time on three types of screens.
TV, cell phone and computer screens absorb so much of the
screenagers' time that the class made sure to integrate each into
the magazine's business plan, Gibbs said. The prototype's launch
would include a TV network, a phone number that girls could text
for survey results or the joke of the week, and a Web site with
interactive projects and behind-the-scenes video and pictures from
the magazine's photo shoot.
"We wanted to have an original photo shoot because having
stock images doesn't make it pop," Everhart said.
The team borrowed more than 388 pieces from Gap Kids,
Limited Too and Vera Bradley from The Oaks Mall in Gainesville
and managed to return them all, Everhart said.
Cortina helped the team manage the clothes with some tricks
of the trade, like taping the bottoms of shoes to keep them clean or
carrying around Tide to Go pens to erase any spills on clothing.
"We had specific roles like a stylist and a production manager.
I was one of the photographers," journalism sophomore Heather
Strange said. "Betty invited us to the farm she's living at while
she's here. At first I thought it was funny for a New York maga-
zine editor to live with horses and
poop, but it was beautiful."
Cortina's farm hosts, Jason
and Denise Rosenberg, have two
daughters, Lindsay, 7, and Sarah,
5, who invited about 12 of their
friends to model for the shoot.
"We were there for eight hours
that day, and everyone was scat-
tered over all parts of the farm,"
Strange said. "There was some-
thing going on every second of
that day, as if we were real profes-
Journalism senior David Low,
the lone male on the staff of That
Girl!, ran the food table at the
shoot. Although working on a
preteen girls' magazine was not
his first choice, he said learning
the different aspects of magazine
production proved a good experi-
"A job like catering is so
important because there are peo-
ple there at 7:30 a.m. who didn't leave until 5 p.m.," Cortina said.
"Catering matters when you have a little girl having a meltdown
because she's hungry."
Dean John Wright and Master Lecturer Mike Foley, JM 1970,
MAMC 2004, stopped by the farm to see the class in action.
"I was very impressed," Foley said. "I thought that they did a
great job. They arranged for clothes for the kids, kept the kids in
line, kept kids from drowning in the pool."
Alta Systems printed 75 copies of That Girl! magazine for just
under $1,000. Wright approved the funding after hearing what an
extraordinary product the students produced, Cortina said.
"It would be a shame to have all this hard work printed on
copier paper," Cortina said. "And at the end of the day, I'd like to
think they got their money's worth."
Although there are no definite plans, the editorial team said they
want to try to continue the magazine on a large scale. Everhart, Orr
and Gibbs, along with Fiol and Shauna Canty, JM 2008, made
a PowerPoint presentation in front of faculty members includ-
ing Wright, Foley, Spiker, and Department of Journalism Chair
William McKeen, as well as Linda Marks, publisher of Ocala
Magazine, Steve Shepherd, from Alta Printing, and Joe Kays, edi-
tor of UF's Explore magazine, to make a pitch about the magazine,
marketing, advertising and design.
"This was during finals week. They had already gotten grades,
but they said, 'No, we want to do it, we want to know how to
do it,' Cortina said. "This above and beyond [the] desire to
really learn was the theme of whole class and whole semester to
the very end." -%
COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008 13
College's State Department institute
finishes second summer in strong fashion
BY CARMEN OSORIo-RODRIGUES
In 1976, 18-year-old Jouma Mohamed M. ElFotaysi received
a full scholarship to leave Libya and attend a university in the
ElFotaysi, now a professor of mass media at Garyounis
University in Libya, earned his bachelor's degree in journalism
and master's degree in mass communication at the University of
South Carolina in Columbia.
After two decades of turbulent relations between Libya and
Washington, ElFotaysi returned to the U.S. this summer along
with 17 scholars and professionals from around the world to
participate in the COLLEGE'S State Department U.S. Institute on
Journalism and Media.
The COLLEGE created the institute last year as a six-week pro-
gram with a $275,000 grant from the U.S. State Department. This
year, it received $280,000. It plans for apply for a third summer
AN EVOLVING PROGRAM
Between Fourth of July fireworks, merengue dancing lessons
and barbeques, institute participants attended discussions on the
future of journalism, new technologies and other related topics.
"For me, it's a very strong, intense experience," institute par-
ticipant Maia Mikashavidze said, "because I have not had a class
that I would be only mildly interested in."
Last year, many participants received too much information
and not enough time to absorb and meet with other professors
and colleagues, said the institute's academic director, tele-
communication Lecturer Lauren Hertel. Based on last year's
evaluations, the program incorporated more sessions on online
journalism and practical training and reduced class time by one-
This year, participants finished sessions by 3 p.m. and had
Wednesday to work on their research and participate in local
The institute also had a different composition with a stronger
representation of Arabic-speaking countries, fewer participants
from Eastern Europe and one non-academic professional.
The institute program inspired UF's Department of Political
Science to successfully apply for a State Department-funded
institute. This is the first time two State Department institutes ran
at the same time in the same university.
The COLLEGE assisted the Institute of United States Foreign
Policy. The institutes held joint activities, including a barbeque
and a day trip to St. Augustine.
FROM FOUNDERTO STUDENT
When she arrived and saw Florida palm trees, Mikashavidze
felt as if she were on a vacation. An institute participant from
Georgia, she's the founding dean of a school of journalism with
20 faculty members.
Working at the U.S. Embassy in Georgia, Mikashavidze was
doing media support projects, helping newspapers and sending
professionals to the United States when she decided to start the
school in 2000.
She sought to establish the Caucasus School of Journalism
and Media Management as an alternative to Georgia's public
universities, which tend to be theoretical and often lack practi-
cal curricula. The school instructs 45 to 50 graduate students
and offers two degrees: Journalism and
Media Management, and Journalism and
The school espouses Western journal-
ism principles such as unbiased reporting
"We were the first to start teaching it
things that you take for granted in your
country because you have 200 years of
tradition," Mikashavidze said.
She and her team used only American
professors in the beginning and later sent
Georgian faculty abroad to Louisiana
State University in Baton Rouge to
train. Now, the budding school has more
Georgian faculty than American faculty.
It has more than doubled the number of
its graduates, to 45.
Tastes like hope
alumna cooks up
More than 21 years after earning her
degree in telecommunication and 14 years
of putting on trade shows and confer-
ences for high-tech publishing companies,
Bridget Hart, TEL 1987, enrolled in
After graduating in 2006 from the Cook
Street School of Fine Cooking in Denver,
Colo., she started Sweet Enough, a personal
chef and catering business that specializes in
gourmet cuisine to help control insulin and
blood sugar levels.
"I started eating this way originally to
lose weight," Hart said. "But there are so
many benefits to eating this way. I imme-
diately had more energy, my mood was
steadier, my body changed in remarkable
Afterfinishing an internship in Northern
Italy and Southern France in 2007, Hart
started whipping up tasty meals for those
who face more danger than delight when
Mikashavidze brought back ways to
dining. Sweet Enough I
provides in-home chef
services, catering and W
cooking lessons. Dishes
stuffed chicken breast
and dark chocolate espresso brownies.
Hart, who lives in Denver and is getting
married in June, markets her food through
bridget-hart.com, relationships with doc-
tors and alternative medicine healers and
"When you're overweight or you have a
disease like diabetes, you lose your passion
for food," Hart said. "Food becomes the
enemy. I consider what I do giving people
back their relationship with food."
Her father, Dr. A. J. Hart, an OB-GYN,
suggests the low-carb diet for many of his
"It holds great meaning for those who
are pregnant and have problems with weight
gain and water retention," he said.
It can also help increase energy and
serve as an anti-depressant, Hart said.
"Usually people feel so good that they
don't want to go back to the way they
"I feel safe and sure that we [Georgia] have freedom of journal-
ism in a sense that any opinion will get to viewers," Mikashavidze
said. "I am not so sure of the quality of journalism."
26YEARS OF SEPARATION
During his six years in South Carolina, ElFotaysi stayed
with the same host family and returned to Libya every summer.
Starting out speaking little English, it took him six months to
reach a satisfactory level of communication.
"National occasions, weddings, when someone passes away
- all these things I missed because I was away," ElFotaysi said.
"This gap got filled by my host family."
After completing his master's degree in 1982, ElFotaysi
became general manager of the Libyan National Broadcasting
Network. He's worked in many departments, including news
editing, and he's held different positions, from chief editor of
broadcasting news to superintendent of documentary films and
head of the political affairs department.
ElFotaysi worked in the field as general manager for the net-
work for four years and afterward earned his PhD in mass media at
University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.
The decision to eliminate
carbs is not a diet but a lifestyle,
Hart and her father said.
"It is not a diet for me. It's
a new way of life that I either
followed, or I could plan on
having diabetes and heart dis-
ease when I got older," said
Dawn Delaplaine, an accountant
in Denver and a repeat client of
When Delaplaine was diagnosed with
polycystic ovarian syndrome, her doctor
suggested the Atkins diet. She "hated it,"
she said. She found Hart after searching for
low-carb chefs on the Internet.
"She 100 percent changed the way I
eat," Delaplaine said."She can take any dish
that you believe that you can never eat again
and make it low carb. She has made this
transition so easy for me."
Hart created a support group, the
Denver Low Carb Living Meetup Group,
in 2007. The nonprofit group, made up
of her clients, meets monthly to provide
an outlet for those who have had battles
with food, some of them life threatening,
to swap recipes and share stories, Hart
said. "We talk about things like emergency
-KEHSI IMAN WILSON
One of only six professors in the mass media department at
Garyounis University, Libya's oldest and second-largest (with
about 35,000 students) public university, he's the only professor
fluent in English in his department.
ElFotaysi teaches Media Economics, International Organizations
and Public Opinion, among other classes.
He planned to improve the content of his courses by incor-
porating the new ideas he learned from the institute, such as new
methods for gathering information.
After participating in the institute, Jean Jonas Tossa plans to
use new communication technologies and tools in his home country
of Benin, in West Africa.
Tossa manages Atlantic FM, a public radio station that
broadcasts from 6 a.m. to midnight. He plans to extend its
programming to 24 hours a day. Among his many projects, he
produced a documentary series, "Let Them Say." It consists
of 14-minute stories of children talking about what is on their
minds and what they would do if they were president.
During the institute, Tossa learned to produce photos, audio and
video for the Web. He also studied how information technologies
are changing journalism.
"Today when you go reporting," he said, "you need not go to
your newsroom." -%A
COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008 15
firstact: CONT. FROM PAGE 10
editor and news editor of The Gator Times,
a semi-weekly newspaper, and as a pho-
tographer for a few months at the Lake
City Reporter He shot assignments rang-
ing from sports events to a murder court
case and a bank robbery. He also wrote
feature stories for The Gainesville Sun
and Gainesville Magazine, freelanced for
Men's Health magazine, worked in cor-
porate communications and served as a
consultant for statistical analysis and Web
The first course Stanton taught at UF
was as a lab instructor for Communication
on the Internet in 2004. The class has
more than doubled in size in the past year,
Carlson said. Last year, 70 students filled
the seats. Since the emphasis in online com-
munication and online reporting has grown,
the COLLEGE added four sections, for a total
of seven and more than 140 students.
Stanton teaches three Communication
on the Internet sections and a capstone
course, Applied Electronic Publishing.
In the classroom, Stanton strives to
help his students understand the reasons for
using techniques and the toolset to accom-
"I really want to help students be able
to teach themselves," Stanton said.
In his capstone course, he might have
10 seniors, each of whom has a different
goal: One may want to code Web sites,
another may want to do video, while the
rest may be interested in the reporting
aspect of online media.
"I never wanted to be a reporter," said
Jenna Hodgkiss, JM 2006, lead technical
producer at the Tampa-based New York
Times Media Group. "He really catered it
to what we were trying to do ... so I got to
work on coding."
Hodgkiss and other alumni, including
Stephanie Rosenblatt, JM 2007, a Flash
programmer and multimedia producer at
The Miami Herald, and Brett Roegiers,
JM 2007, a multimedia producer at CNN,
audited Stanton's course online over the
summer to learn new techniques and to
share with other students how the course
material applied to their jobs.
"People really respect his willing-
ness to find out what they're all about,"
Hodgkiss said. "Even now when I hear
about a job opening, I let him know and he
can think about who it might be a good fit
for. He wants everyone to try hard, but he
also doesn't harbor unrealistic beliefs that
everyone was made to code."
ONE MAN, MANY HOBBIES
Wrapped under his father's arm at the
age of 6, Stanton developed a love for
scuba diving when he was too small to
support the weight of the gear. He now has
professional ratings and has been instruct-
ing for about four years at the Aquatic
Center in Butler Plaza. He credits scuba
diving for helping him become a better
"It helped me get a perspective that
every class is not lectures and tests," he
He takes an electric scooter to class,
plays golf at UF's Mark Bostick Golf
Course and shoots hoops on Tuesday mom-
ings with his colleagues. They play two-
on-two or three-on-three, sometimes for
Burrito Brothers lunches.
Stanton and his wife, Autumn, whom
he met in Gainesville in 2002, have two
daughters, Lucy, 3, and Tabitha, 1. The
Auburn University graduate co-owns Do
Art, a paint-it-yourself pottery and mosaic
studio in Thomebrook Village.
At home, Stanton likes to break out his
guitar but finds it "tough to crank up the
amp when the girls are asleep."
He has so many interests that he does
a "spring cleaning" each year to decide
which hobbies to keep and which to retire.
In 10 years, Stanton plans to be a ten-
"Hopefully by then, I've done some-
thing substantial to help journalism flour-
ish in this crazy, multi-platform world,"
he said. "And my kids will be happy and
16 COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008
advertising Associate Prof Marilyn Roberts' mother and
grandmother died from diabetes-related complications. It's
the reason her two sons never knew their grandmother, and
her brother measures his blood-sugar levels every day.
It's also what sparked a conversation between Roberts
and Dr. Richard Johnson, chief of nephrology at the UF
College of Medicine, after she heard him discuss diabetes,
obesity and cardiovascular disease at a Provost dinner last year.
"My ears perked up," Roberts said, "because, not only does this issue
strike a personal chord, it's also a serious epidemic in our country."
Health researchers team
up with the College
By Lindsey Harlin
COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008 29
At the same time, Roberts caught
Johnson's attention during the Provost
dinner when she discussed her research on
mass media agenda setting and its influence
on public opinion and behavior.
"I was very, very lucky to have met
Marilyn Roberts," Johnson noted. "[She]
said, 'You know, it's possible that we might
be able to help you in terms of developing
a schema for taking your information to the
Such connections have been driving
a major emphasis in the COLLEGE: health
communication research. During the past
two years, faculty members and graduate
students have become increasingly involved
in several health-related projects from oral
cancer awareness to cancer clinical trial
participation to an STD (sexually transmitted
disease) epidemic among seniors with
some of UF's top medical researchers.
Researchers from Shands Hospital and
the UF Health Science Center, in particular,
have called upon the COLLEGE to help
communicate their findings and promote
"We can build the best invention known
to man, but if we don't know how to
communicate it to the world, then not many
people will know about it," said Dr. John
Wingard, deputy director of the Shands
The growing public and government
interest in health, along with scientists'
need for communication expertise, have
built a foundation for this new field in the
"The NIH [National Institutes of
Health], just probably five to eight years
ago, discovered that there are people out
there who do communication scholarship,"
journalism Prof. KimWalsh-Childers said.
"Some of them actually know something
about health issues, as well."
In recent years, more professors with
research interests in health and science
communication have joined the COLLEGE
faculty. They've had good timing. Faculty
members are often expected to bring in
external funding, and health care offers
many funding opportunities, Walsh-
"This research is going to raise the pro-
file of our COLLEGE," said Debbie Treise,
associate dean of Graduate Studies and an
advertising professor. "It's going to raise
the profile of our researchers to where we
should be to be thought of as really a
player in these grants."
When it comes to health communication
research, the COLLEGE can join forces with
numerous partners on campus, noted
Sylvia Chan-Olmsted, associate dean
for research and a telecommunication
One example of the COLLEGE'S col-
laborative efforts is the proposal for a
$2.8 million Congressional Appropriations
Request to establish Florida's first obesity
treatment and prevention center.
The Integrated Center for Obesity
Treatment and Prevention will bring
together clinicians and researchers from
six UF colleges, including the College of
Medicine, the College of Public Health
and Health Professions and the College of
Health and Human Performance. The center
will study the causes and treatment of meta-
bolic disorders in people who suffer from
obesity, ensuring quality service and care.
In turn, the researchers will have access to
a database, according to the Congressional
Appropriations Request Form.
After Roberts and Johnson began
brainstorming the idea at the Provost
dinner, Chan-Olmsted organized the
research proposal and showed it to Steve
Dorman, dean of the College of Health
and Human Performance, who decided to
30 COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008
" ... Some of the best scientific breakthroughs
are through serendipitous collaboration,
so that's what we're trying to do."
-Prof. John Kaplan
Co-founder of CureNet
join the project.
In March 2007, Johnson spoke at the
COLLEGE about his research findings.
"I told them about my dream of having
an obesity center, and everyone thought it
was a great idea," Johnson said. "We started
exchanging research ideas, and before I
knew it, there were all these people from
different colleges expressing interest."
If Congress awards the grant, the
COLLEGE will receive about $200,000 to
research groups with higher incidences
of obesity, including African-Americans,
Hispanic Americans and children and
adolescents in rural areas, according to the
The COLLEGE will play an integral role
on multiple levels, including educating the
community about the Obesity Center and
developing ways to recruit people for treat-
ment, Johnson said.
"Another level will be to alert national
news groups to educate the nation about
the work coming from the university,"
Johnson said. "They will also help in
getting this information to the government
to change public awareness and policies
for labeling foods and restricting certain
foods in schools."
HELPING CHILDREN LIVE
Millions of children around the world
require daily insulin injections to stay
alive, but only a fraction receives them.
"Countless preventable deaths, as well
as widespread amputations, are occurring
in Asia, Mexico and sub-Saharan Africa
due to a lack of insulin supply, which
for the most part is unknown [to people]
beyond those in the diabetes field," said
photojournalism Prof. John Kaplan, co-
founder of CureNet: A Communications
ii...I,. in the Quest to Identify a Cure for
Kaplan has partnered with one of the
world's leading Type 1 diabetes researchers,
Mark Atkinson, who co-directs UF's
Diabetes Center of Excellence. They plan to
inform the medical community about new
diabetes research initiatives, recruit potential
pancreas organ donors and raise awareness
about the global insulin shortage crisis.
CureNet aims to highlight the need for
research, the immediate need for insulin in
certain parts of the world and the accelerated
training of medical professionals in the
Third World, Kaplan said.
Kaplan, in collaboration with students
and alumni, has received $25,000 in seed
funding from Shands at UF to produce a
series of multimedia essays profiling long-
term survivors of Type 1 diabetes. It will be
exhibited at the 2009 American Diabetes
Association International Convention.
Another important component of
CureNet will be the development of the first
direct communication network, or intranet,
for leading pathologists to share ideas with
other researchers around the world.
"Right now, these pathologists have no
effective way to communicate together in
real time," Kaplan said. "They can call up
a basic Web site to look at some of these
[pancreas] tissue samples, but really some of
the best scientific breakthroughs are through
serendipitous collaboration, so that's what
we're trying to do."
COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008 31
THE VA VENTURES OUT
Treise and four communications gradu-
ate students received a $75,000 grant in 2007
to work with the Malcom Randall Veterans
Affairs Medical Center in Gainesville.
They obtained the grant to research
communication tactics, develop a script
and produce a video for veterans who suf-
fer from atrial fibrillation (a-fib), which
causes the upper chambers of the heart to
beat more rapidly and potentially trigger
A doctor and a nurse from the VA's
stroke and heart attack department, Ron
Shorr and Connie Uphold, initiated the
yearlong grant, funded by U. S. Department
of Veterans Affairs, Health Services
Research and Development.
"The VA people got us involved not
only on the script writing and the produc-
tion, but also in the research," Treise said.
"They really appreciate and understand the
value of communication."
Treise teamed up with three doctoral
students, Paula Rausch, MAMC 2006,
Heather Edwards and Mic Brookshire,
and science-and-health communications
master's student Ilana Echevarria to
develop a program that will educate veter-
ans diagnosed with a-fib about the condi-
tion. The video they'll produce will also
inform them about blood thinners such as
aspirin and other prescription drugs that
help prevent heart attacks and strokes.
The research included about 20 in-depth
interviews and focus groups, designed to
find the best way to communicate with
veterans and the specific information they
need to know about the condition.
"Many units on campus will put
together a grant, and then they'll go,
'Oh, we probably should have a com-
munication component to this; maybe we
should talk to the people in Journalism and
Communications,' Treise said. "Whereas
the VA people came to us first."
The public's booming interest and access
to health-care information has raised the
demand for communication, said Treise,
who, with Rausch, published research on
nurse practitioners' perceptions of direct-to-
consumer advertising (DTCA) forprescription
drugs in the Journal of Pharmaceutical
Marketing & Management in 2007.
on an NIH grant, "Clinical and Translational
Science," to study how to convey clinical
research to the public. When she showed him
a list of the COLLEGE'S faculty who conduct
"We can build the best invention known
to man, but if we don't know how to
communicate it to the world, then not
many people will know about it."
-Dr. John Wingard
Deputy Director of the Shands Cancer Center
"Culturally, there is a huge shift from
people just being receivers of health-care
information," Treise said. I i. they are
more consumers, they're more involved, and
it's more of a participatory health that people
DTCA is a relatively new way for
pharmaceutical companies to advertise and
inform consumers about prescription drugs,
without having to go through doctors, nurses
"I learned from the direct-to-consumer
advertising research that people are ripping
these ads out and taking them to their doctors
and saying, 'I want this drug,' Treise said.
"We learned that because of the emergence
of DTCA and the abundance of information
available on the Web, consumers know
enough to now question what their doctor
Treise is working onfive different research
projects with physicians at Shands and at the
Malcom Randall VA Medical Center.
"The NPs [nurse practitioners] I worked
with [on the DTCA project] were so excited
about the study and ... about what we did that
they gave my name to a doctor at the VA, who
is one of the most renowned cardiologists in
the country," Treise said. "We got a grant, and
we're looking at heart disease, figuring out
what people know, and then we're going to
make a video to train people about taking care
of themselves and their heart."
Dr. Peter Stacpoole, director of the UF
General Clinical Research Center, heard
about Treise's work and asked her to join in
health communication research, he was
amazed, she said.
For instance, Walsh-Childers completed
a $144,000 study funded by the National
Cancer Institute on the accuracy of
breast-cancer information online, and
recently teamed up with Ellen Lopez,
assistant professor in the College of
Public Health and Health Professions,
to submit an NIH grant proposal for
The original study, which Walsh-
Childers recently presented to the
American Public Health Association,
found that breast-cancer information was
mostly accurate but incomplete.
"Most Web pages cover very little
about the 33 key facts that women should
know about breast cancer," she said, "so
they have to dig around to find the things
they need to know about."
'LEVERAGE TO THAT NEXT STEP'
Wingard called on Treise and advertising
Prof. Michael Weigold to research
the reasons for low African-American
participation in cancer clinical trials.
"There are a number of important find-
ings that they [Weigold and Treise] have
made that we can leverage to that next
step," Wingard said.
Understanding the barriers for
participation in cancer clinical trials is the
first crucial step in increasing minorities'
treatment outcomes, he said.
"We in the health profession struggle
32 COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008
in effectively communicating messages
to the public and engaging the public
in health promotion to prevent cancer,
obesity, tobacco use, and in encouraging
the utilization of health-screening tests,"
Wingard said. "Journalism can play an
enormously big role in that. By partnering,
we can enhance public health by drawing on
each others' skill sets."
Even research that was not intended to
have health applications is being utilized
by the medical community. Advertising
Prof. Jon Morris is receiving attention
from the psychiatry field for his research
on emotional responses in the brain, which
he conducted with the UF Brain Institute
and published in the Human Brain Mapping
journal in February.
The study identified two spe-
cific locations in the brain that mea-
sure emotional response to stimuli
such as advertising. These findings
are useful in the mental health field,
Morris said, because practitioners
can observe and measure emotions
in the brains of those suffering from
depression, anxiety or other mental
"We're the first ones to make
this real link to the specific opera-
tions in the brain," Morris said.
For the past two years, Morris
has placed people in an tMRI
machine and asked them to watch
commercials. Meanwhile, research-
ers tracked their brain activity and
compared it to the subjects' reported
responses on Morris' Advertising
SelfAssessment Manikin (AdSAM)
Morris is proposing another
grant for about $250,000 to reaf-
firm his initial findings and calibrate
the areas of the brain shown to elicit
ON emotional responses.
"We know there is activity
going on in these parts of the brain,"
he said, "but now we'd like to say
what's high, what's low, where the
average is and how you measure
The COLLEGE has only just
begun to explore the possibilities for
health communication research and
"There's a lot of health research
being done on this campus," Walsh-
Childers said. "So we have a lot to
offer those programs because for the
most part, mass communication has
not been the focus of [them]."
Treise predicts the COLLEGE will
collaborate on many more grant
proposals in coming years.
"We're moving toward a greater
recognition of the COLLEGE'S expertise in
communication research," she said, "and the
value of that expertise to people who are doing
health-related research in other parts of the
-With reporting by Rita Chernyak.
COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008 33
JournaLism professor foLLouJs
up breast cancer study
BY AMANDA DEL DUCA
oumalism Prof. Kim Walsh-
Childers' hometown of Buffalo,
Mo., had one doctor and stood an
hour away from the closest hospital.
So she had a personal connection
to the $241,000 research grant she
recently proposed to the National
Cancer Institute (NCI).
Walsh-Childers plans to investigate rural
breast cancer patients' use of the Internet for
health information. She expects to find out if
the proposal is funded by March.
If the project receives no funding, Walsh-
Childers will revise and resubmit the proposal
or seek other funding sources.
Walsh-Childers recently completed an
NCI-funded $143,000 study about the accu-
racy of the media's breast cancer information.
It shows that although Web sites provide
generally accurate or at least partially accurate
information, many of them fail to address all
of the facts listed by an expert panel as the
keys to understanding the disease. To find
complete information, women must do exten-
sive Web surfing and visit multiple pages
within a site.
Once she discovered that accurate infor-
mation was available but often difficult to
find, Walsh-Childers teamed up with Dr.
Ellen Lopez of the College of Public Health
and Health Professions, to research how and
where rural breast cancer patients find medi-
cal information. After Lopez moved to Alaska
with her family, Walsh-Childers resubmit-
ted the proposal with Dr. Mary Ann Burg,
an associate professor at the UF College of
"When we were searching for informa-
tion for the original grant, we realized we
have no clue what strategy typical patients
use," Walsh-Childers said. "We knew they
were looking, we just didn't know how."
Walsh-Childers proposed the $241,000
grant to help organizations make the infor-
mation more available and user-friendly.
She and Burg plan to help breast can-
cer patients and survivors better use the
Internet by giving their information needs
and preferences to Web content providers.
The research will incorporate focus
groups of rural white and African-
American women who have been diag-
nosed with breast cancer in the previous
five years. Women of other ethnicities
will be excluded because adding another
racial group would increase costs over the
projected budget. The research also will
include think-aloud interviews, in which
subjects search online for cancer-related
information while a researcher records
their activity and asks questions about
their thought processes.
"It's an interactive search and interview,"
Walsh-Childers said. "I can ask which sites
are more attractive or seem trustworthy. It's
a perfect way to gain insight into the minds
of cancer patients looking for information
on their disease." -*
"We knew they were looking, we just didn't
BY RACHAEL COX
after researching direct-
(DTCA), doctoral student
Paula Rausch, MAMC
2006, changed her per-
Once skeptical, she
now believes DTCA can improve patients'
"[DTCA] can have some really posi-
tive benefits because it combines the really
effective techniques of advertising with
health messages that people obviously have
interest in receiving," she said. "And it does
it so effectively that people are going to
their health-care provider and they're ask-
ing about specific medications."
Rausch and Debbie Treise, associate
dean of Graduate Studies and an advertis-
ing professor, interviewed 11 nurse practi-
tioners for the study.
"People really are learning a lot of stuff
from these ads," Treise said. "That's what
nurse practitioners believed, as well."
The nurses had mixed feelings toward
DTCA, partly because advertisers often
ignore them as health-care providers,
telling consumers to contact their doctor,
"[Nurses] are becoming mainstream
health-care providers," the study notes.
"Not only in an effort to help curb the
nation's ballooning health-care costs, but
also to fill a need as fewer physicians and
medical students are opting for family
"Nurses are the ones who are writing
most of the prescriptions now," Treise said.
Although the nurses in the study saw
value in boosting patients' health litera-
cy through ads, they expressed concern
that patients believe only medication can
deliver a cure.
Some patients go as far as insisting
nurses prescribe them the advertised drugs
even when the nurses recommended other
Treise and Rausch's study, "The
Prescription Pill Paradox: Nurse
Practitioners' Perceptions About Direct-to-
Consumer Advertising," appeared last year
in the Journal ofPharmaceutical Marketing
Although Treise and Rausch, who have
been research partners since 2004, received
no funding for this research, they plan to seek
funding from pharmaceutical companies to
continue studying DTCA, Treise said.
"I'm just fascinated by this whole
topic," she said. "There's a lot of litera-
ture out there that says people are really,
really health illiterate, and I think direct-
to-consumer advertising raises health
COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008 35
"It combines the really effective techniques
of advertising with health messages ... "
DentaL campaign benefits
from media outreach
BY STEPHANIE STINSON
public relations Assistant Prof.
Youjin Choi is helping to
spread the word: Something
deadly could be lurking
behind your smile.
Five minutes is all it takes
to go through the non-inva-
sive screening for oral cancer at a dentist's
office, Choi said.
In 2003, she partnered with a UF College
of Dentistry research team to increase public
awareness of the disease among African-
Americans through a $1.7 million media
campaign, "Oral Cancer: It spreads faster
than you think."
Three years earlier, Choi researched the
sensationalism of anti-smoking messages
geared at young adults for her doctoral work
at the University of Missouri.
"Our COLLEGE has great
resources and potential to
contribute to interdisciplinary
projects," Choi said. "Other
disciplines are interested in
learning how to use media in
order to get connected to the
public or special audiences."
The screening consists
mainly of a visual inspection.
Dentists and/or hygienists
examine the roof of the mouth,
the area under the tongue and
the back of the throat. They also palpate the
outer area surrounding the mouth, namely
around the jaw.
"Oral cancer is a critical disease in the
male population, and African-Americans are
more vulnerable to oral cancer than other eth-
nicities," Choi said. "Oral cancer is the ninth
most common cancer among white males
and the fifth most common cancer among
Moreover, the five-year survival rate is
only 50 percent.
"We've been trying to do follow-ups with
people in stages 3 and 4 of the disease, and
in three to six months, half of them have died
already," said Jennifer Watson, project coor-
dinator of the campaign.
The team received a $1.7 million grant
in 2004 for five years from the National
Institutes of Health to try to reduce the
ethnic gap. It has been running operations
out of Jacksonville, where the disparity in
oral cancer occurrences between whites and
collect their advice on developing the cam-
paign and its materials," Choi said.
Risk factors for the disease include drink-
ing, smoking, chewing tobacco, prolonged
exposure to the sun and a history of human
papillomavirus (HPV). Although Choi and
her team believe the risk factors explain the
gender gap in the disease, they are uncer-
tain on the ethnicity gap, as more white
Americans smoke and drink, she said.
"We guess that African-Americans have
a lower knowledge of the disease," Choi said,
"and thus are less likely to request screenings
from their dentist."
"It's sort of unethical to raise awareness
that you need to get this exam and then
for people ... not to be able to get it."
African-Americans is one of the highest in
the state, Choi noted. The group conducted
focus groups and surveys and offered free
screenings around the city.
"We wanted to make sure
that everybody would have
access to this exam," Watson
said. "It's sort of unethical to
raise awareness that you need
.. to get this exam and then for
i people who don't have access
...-.. to dental care not to be able
to get it."
The team promoted the
campaign through radio
announcements and advertise-
ments on billboards and buses, and distrib-
uted brochures at dentists' offices and at the
Duval County Health Department.
Choi's major role in the project included
developing the questions, reporting the find-
ings and conducting market research with the
media. She played an integral part in organiz-
ing the press coverage through the different
media channels and in dealing with the adver-
tising firm, Watson said. It was Choi's respon-
sibility to produce various campaign materials
such as pamphlets, brochures and public ser-
vice announcements for radio and TV
"It took about two years to study African-
Americans' knowledge of oral cancer and
The team is tabulating the data it has col-
lected since starting the campaign to deter-
mine if it has had any notable effects. The
results are in from the first survey that the
team administered, but they have yet to
collect the data from the second round of
surveys. The project will wrap up by spring
Early results show that awareness of
the importance of oral cancer screenings
has increased from 13 percent to about 40
percent among people who knew nothing
about the disease initially, but did at follow
ups, Watson said. Furthermore, not only did
the research team raise awareness in the gen-
eral population, but also in its target popula-
tion of African-Americans, she said. Before
the campaign, about 12 percent of African-
Americans in Jacksonville knew about oral
cancer screenings, and that number has since
risen to 46 percent.
"Hopefully, our messages and screening
events can encourage [Jacksonville residents]
to understand the significance of oral cancer
and to talk their significant others into con-
sidering getting examined as well," Choi
said. "Moreover, not a lot of dentists realize
their role as information providers and that
they should be providing health information
along with their services." -%
36 COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008
Gained in transLation
New UF science institute taps the
College's communication know-how
BY AMRITA FORD
something big is brewing
at the bottom of "Shands
Hill," and the COLLEGE is
playing a key role in the
UF's new Clinical
and Translational Science
Institute (CTSI) aims to help change the
way scientists convert their research find-
ings into practical applications with help
from the COLLEGE.
"We don't typically do a very good
job of training fellows in medicine or
PhDs in effectively communicating their
research in ways that capture the interest
of an audience," said Dr. Peter Stacpoole,
CTSI director and professor of medi-
cine and biochemistry & molecular biol-
ogy. "THE COLLEGE OF JOURNALISM [AND
COMMUNICATIONS] can help us in this
The basis for the CTSI comes from a
National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant
initiative that's encouraging large research
institutions like UF to improve the transla-
tion from basic science to clinical research
and the practice of medicine, Stacpoole
UF submitted its bid for the grant,
known as the clinical and translational
science award, in October.
Debbie Treise, associate dean for
Graduate Studies and a member of the
CTSI Steering and Planning Committee,
wrote a key part of the proposal. Her
section, called Novel Translational
Methodologies, specifies the ways the
COLLEGE will be involved in this grant.
Those include educating scientists
on improving communication methods,
conducting field research on commu-
nity habits and tendencies, and keeping
the UF community abreast of CTSI's
COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008 37
Already, the COLLEGE has been fur-
thering the CTSI's goals, helping, among
other tasks, to put together the institute's
inaugural newsletter, Stacpoole said.
The NIH is funding the awards with
a $500 million annual budget, according
to its Web site.
"One of the key parts of the whole
concept of translational science is com-
munication, and it's not always easy for
people to talk about their research with
people who are not directly involved
with it," Franklin said. "As journalists,
that's what we do, we do translation."
"One of the key parts of the whole concept
of translational science is communication,
and it's not always easy for people to talk
about their research with people who are
not directly involved with it."
When the NIH announced the cre-
ation of the awards in 2005, UF obtained
$213,744 to create the CTSI, Stacpoole
said. If the NIH approves UF's grant
proposal, it will deliver the additional
funds in July.
The grant will give the CTSI $1.5
million to $3 million annually for five
years, after which UF can apply for
The CTSI plans to eventually have
about $5 million a year, with the extra
funds coming from UF and other NIH-
funded programs at the university,
The COLLEGE will tell the story of
CTSI, Stacpoole said.
This has started with the new, monthly
CTSI Newsletter, which the COLLEGE helped
launch. The audience includes UF faculty
members, students and staff. Doctoral stu-
dent Paula Rausch, MAMC 2006, and
master's student Curtis Franklin wrote
content for the first issue. They, and other
graduate students from the COLLEGE, will
write for future newsletters on topics that
range from ongoing scientific research to
administrative news, Rausch said.
Eventually, graduate students from the
COLLEGE will work closely with research-
ers and medical students on effectively
communicating their research to the pub-
lic, Treise said. They will help teach
the scientific community to think about
its audience, in terms of health literacy
and interest level, and the information
it wants to convey before presenting its
"Part of our role will be to con-
duct our own research within communi-
ties, gather feedback and report back to
researchers and physicians," Treise said,
"so that the most effective avenues of
communication are open."
The COLLEGE will also be involved in
another CTSI project helping to recruit UF
undergraduate students from underrepre-
sented minorities to get involved in health
research, Stacpoole said. The students
would be paired with College of Medicine
faculty members who have research inter-
ests in health disparities that exist in those
minority populations. The expectation is
that students would take what they learned
back to their communities and share the
knowledge, which is where the COLLEGE
would step in, he said.
To create a multidisciplinary insti-
tute, the CTSI has partnered with 12 of
the 16 colleges on campus, and each
college has a representative who belongs
to the CTSI's Steering and Planning
Committee, Stacpoole said. Treise serves
as the COLLEGE'S representative.
"I've never seen an initiative like
this before," Treise said.
The CTSI also asked UF's Institute
of Food and Agricultural Sciences
(IFAS) to come onboard, Stacpoole
said. Support from IFAS, which has
contacts in all of Florida's 67 counties,
will help drive community interaction
and involvement across the state. To
complete the deal, Shands HealthCare,
the South's largest academic health-
care system, and the North Florida/
South Georgia Veterans Health System,
the largest VA health-care system in the
U.S., joined the effort.
"What we have here is a statewide
enterprise," Stacpoole said. "That's a
potentially important aspect of our grant
UF will find out whether it received the
award in the spring. If it wins approval, UF
will be among 60 institutions out of 125
medical schools in the U.S. with the grant
by 2012, Stacpoole said.
The award is crucial in determining
UF's future as a leader in medical and
scientific research, he said. The schools
that are awarded the grant will separate
themselves from other medical schools
as centers for cutting-edge research and
"This is an evolutionary process for UF
and for all of the institutions involved,"
Stacpoole said. "We are very new, but
that's the exciting part because it has the
potential to transform UF as a whole."
As an important player in the develop-
ment of the CTSI, the COLLEGE has estab-
lished itself in a field that in the past may
have overlooked the value of mass com-
munication, Rausch said. "This partnership
and what it means for the COLLEGE is very
38 COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008
UNIVERSITY OF FLORMIDA
ALUM FIGHTS TO CREATE, KEEP
GEORGIA GATOR PLATE
A after 10 years of failed attempts, President-elect of the Atlanta Gator Club Carla Klepper, JM
1970, recently secured the approval of a commemorative UF Georgia license plate.
With the help of Jeff Hester, who received his bachelor's degree in fine arts from UF in 1995,
and UF Director of Marketing Dan Williams, Klepper first received permission from the Georgia
/ \Department of Revenue to print the plate in 2007. But the state's
I Legislature threatened to pass a bill banning its production.
A flood of calls and e-mails to legislators recently killed the bill, which
would have required reciprocity between states offering higher-education
vanity plates, allowing the tags to be used for display purposes only.
Klepper, an educator and philanthropist, wondered if the Dawgs' angst
from losing 16 out of the last 19 football games to Florida had anything to do
with the bill's conception.
The rhetoric around the bill struck both ways. Eric Johnson (R-Savannah),
president pro-tem of the Georgia Senate, wrote to Revenue Commissioner
Bart Graham to express his displeasure with the plates: "A Gator tag will
cause accidents. Gator fans cannot drive or read traffic signs. A car up on
blocks cannot move. It will lower our quality of life."
Klepper will continue to be involved in funding scholarships for Georgia
residents who plan to attend UF. She and the Atlanta Gator Club, which holds
Carla Klepper, JM 1970,
wondered if the University
of Georgia's angst from
losing 16 out of the past
19 football games to the
Gators had anything to do
with the bill's conception.
annual golf tournaments, auctions raffle tickets during Gator football and basketball games, and participates in
Toys for Tots, can also celebrate the 3,000-plus Georiga cars sporting the Gator head and UF moniker.
COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008 39
glum (readte photorapher-run organization
to math foster childrenn with adoptive pareDts
By Krystina Gustafson
ith every snap of the camera, freelance photogra-
pher and former Newsweek magazine contributor
Najlah Feanny, JM 1983, helps another foster
child find a permanent home.
As co-founder and president of the nonprofit
Heart Gallery of New Jersey, Feanny and 200
volunteers have helped match more than 150
children with adoptive parents by capturing their
"spirit and individuality" through portraits.
The organization places the photographs, along with video
biographies, on its Web site (http://heartgallerynj.org/index.html)
and in a traveling gallery. It helps facilitate the adoption process by
putting prospective parents in touch with New Jersey's Division of
Youth and Family Services (DYFS), the government entity respon-
sible for the state's foster children.
"It has radically changed the face of adoption in New Jersey,"
said Feanny, who recently won the $50,000 Russ Berrie Award for
Making a Difference. "For years, case workers were using their
own pictures in dark hallways, and the kids looked like they had
major problems. For the first time, people were seeing beautiful
kids that they had never seen before."
Feanny developed the program with Pim Van Hemmen, then
assistant managing editor of photography at Newark's The Star-
Ledger, after reading about a similar project in New Mexico.
Unable to imagine her then 4-year-old son Michael living in such
unfavorable conditions, she contacted the DYFS, which she had
previously covered in her photography. With $10,000 in seed
capital from The Star-Ledger, the organization, which is funded
by grants and private corporations and has an annual budget of
$200,000, opened its debut exhibit in 2005.
"You could call her any time, day or night, and she would be
working on something for the Heart Gallery," said Erica Berger,
JM 1979, the organization's director of photography and a contrib-
uting photographer to People magazine.
Feanny's goal for the first exhibit was to photograph five to
10 children. But with the help of 150 photographers whose work
appeared in publications such as Time and Sports Illustrated (some
of whom have won a Pulitzer Prize), they shot 346 portraits.
"People had no idea that there were thousands and thousands of
kids up for adoption in New Jersey," she said.
The group's Web site drew 23 million hits in its first six months.
It elicited so many inquiries from prospective parents, some from
as far as France and Italy, that DYFS couldn't return all of the calls,
Feanny said. All this stemmed from an organization with no paid
staff, operating from Feanny's Clifton, N.J., home.
"Here are a group of photojournalists who are used to docu-
menting history, and they are getting the chance to change history
in dozens and dozens of lives," Feanny said. "They were treating
these children like they were movie stars or CEOs."
The gallery, which travels to a new location each month, cre-
ated a media buzz. NBC's Today show featured the organization
in 2005 and People magazine ran a four-page spread on it in May.
The Star-Ledger ran a different child's photograph every day until
it featured every one.
One of them was 7-year-old Angel, who was found in an abu-
sive home and needed to be placed immediately. Tamara Brown, an
engineer from Eatontown, N.J., received the call from the DYFS.
"Three and a half hours later," Brown recalled, "she was on my
doorstep. [The photographs] were awe-inspiring. Every time I talk
about it, [Angel] says I start crying. She's sitting next to me right
now telling me, 'Don't cry.' "
Feanny and her husband, Michael, have temporarily taken four
foster children into their home since the program's inception. The
most recent child, Stanley, went home with the family at 8 months
and stayed for more than a year.
Feanny expects to receive her master's in fine arts from Parsons
The New School for Design in New York City in May, after she
finishes her thesis on the aging-out process when children outgrow
foster care at 18 or 21 without getting adopted.
She hopes to collaborate with videographers and writers for the
gallery's next project. "We thought it was a major success if one
child got adopted," she said. "With  getting adopted, it's like,
how do you turn away from it now?" -%A
40 COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008
behind the stories
BY JOHN W. Cox, JM 2008
My memory strained for a detail. Was her dress black,
brown or, perhaps, burgundy? I thought it might've been
black. As the bus pulled away from our interview in
Berkeley with restaurant icon Alice Waters, someone said maroon.
I remembered that a photographer took pictures of Waters dur-
ing the interview. As the bus stopped and we filed out, I chased her
to the elevator, and she pulled up a photo. I went with "charcoal."
Two days earlier, I landed in San Francisco and checked into the
way-way-out-of-my-league Palace Hotel, which offers fluffy, terry-
cloth robes in your room and an indoor garden courtyard beneath
sedan-sized chandeliers. After dropping my bags in my room about
4:30 that Monday afternoon, I trotted to the hotel bar to meet my
support team Master Lecturer Mike Foley, JM 1970, MAMC
2004, his wife, Suzette, and former Freedom Forum Distinguished
Visiting Prof. John Marvel for a snifter, as I felt like I should call
my drink in the classy, century-plus-old pub.
The welcome dinner started at 6:30. I cut myself three or four
times as I hustled through a shave and shower.
After dinner, it began. The Hearst writing competition invites
the eight top finishers in that year's contests to write an on-the-spot
story, a profile and a news piece in less than 48 hours (44:30, to
be exact) for the national championship. After dinner, the judges
explained the write-off rules and the subject of our first assignment
- an on-the-spot story covering how the city had "gone green."
When the meeting ended, I went to my room and searched the
Internet for story ideas. I found a listing of green-certified compa-
nies in the San Francisco Bay Area, and one stuck out the first
and only green bar in San Francisco. I sent out e-mails that evening
until I passed out around 1 a.m. and slept, kind of, for six hours.
After a frustrating morning that included about two dozen unan-
swered calls, I contacted two local green-savvy sources at noon and
headed to the bar for two hours of observing, interviewing, and in
the name of research, a shot of the world's only organic tequila.
Even after that, I panicked. My worst fear throughout the
competition aside from fact errors, a lack of sources, misspell-
ings, writing too much, writing too little, getting lost in the city,
oversleeping, insomnia, vomiting, choking and developing carpal
tunnel syndrome was failing to finish my stories on deadline. One
minute late meant disqualification and shame.
The next morning, after a 2 a.m. bedtime, my fellow competi-
tors and I took the bus to Berkeley to interview Waters, the subject
of our profile and news piece.
When the Hearst organizers informed us six days before the
competition that we were writing two stories on Waters, I called
seven sources, including a cookbook author, a food critic and two
farmers, took 3,500 words worth of notes and drafted a lead.
To set my stories apart, I planned to pepper them with details,
like the color of Waters' dress. So, after the press-conference-like
interview, I pulled her assistant aside and asked what brand of cof-
fee Waters was drinking. Then I waited for the other contestants to
shuffle out of the room and approached Waters. I asked her about
the source of her restaurant's wooden walls. She turned red and
shook her head. They were built from redwood trees, the envi-
ronmentally conscious restaurateur admitted with an embarrassed
look. She quickly noted that the downstairs walls were made with
That afternoon was one of the most intense experiences of my
life. My strategy reinforced the most basic journalism idiom -
write, edit, revise. One by one, the other participants turned in their
stories and left the designated writing room, where we penned and
printed all of our entries. At 4:59, the lone competitor still working,
I printed, stapled and turned in my last story.
Since the night they called my name as the winner, turning my
brain to jelly for a few hours, I've had trouble grasping the honor.
It validated some of the unorthodox risks and decisions I made in
college. It made me thankful for my inspiring professors and loving
family who invested and still invest in me. And more than ever, it
made me appreciate that four years ago, having run out of majors,
I wandered into Weimer Hall and discovered what I'll do for the
rest of my life. -*
John Cox, JM 2008, is a reporter for Vermont's Valley News.
The missing piece
BY BOAZ DVIR, JM 1988, MAMC 2008
Racing to finish my master's thesis by the end of the spring
semester, it hit me one late night: My documentary lacked
a key part.
I had been working on "Jessie's Dad" with my Documentary
Institute partner, Rebecca Goldman, JM 2006, MAMC 2008, for
18 months. We forgot to interview our protagonist, Mark Lunsford,
about how he lost his 9-year-old daughter to a repeat sex offender.
We concentrated so much on capturing his transformation from an
uneducated truck driver into a savvy activist that we neglected to
cover this basic point. Now, we faced an unforgiving deadline (and
audience) and had to fill in that blank, quickly.
After several phone calls, Mark agreed to do a sit-down inter-
view with us. When we got together in his parents' mobile home
in Homosassa, however, he was in no mood to talk. He sat on his
father's La-Z-Boy in front of a wood-paneled TV, gazing past some
melodramatic reality show into his abyss of anger and anguish.
Mark had never allowed himself to grieve. Instead, he immersed
himself in advocacy, calling on lawmakers to wise up and crack
down on sex offenders and also working with the media, child-pro-
tection organizations, prosecutors, judges and others to raise aware-
ness and effect change. After three years of traveling to Capitol Hill
and state capitals to push for the passing of Jessie's Law and other
tough legal measures, he realized that his activism could make a big
difference but never purge him of his pain.
That day in Homosassa, when I turned on the camera to film
Mark sulking, he jumped out of his chair and stormed out of the
trailer. Becca and I drove back to Gainesville empty handed.
A week later, with our thesis-defense deadline lodged in our
throats like a fishbone, Mark agreed to meet again. This time, he
appeared ready to talk. The interview started out well. I asked
him a few questions about other matters such as his relationship
with Marc Klaas, who lost his 12-year-old daughter Polly to a sex
offender in 1993, then eased into the main topic.
Mark had recounted Jessie's tragic tale many times, but always
in emotionally charged settings such as his keynote speech at the
Justice Department Victims' Rights Week. Telling it in a sit-down
interview proved disconcerting for him. Besides, he had been feel-
ing burned out, fed up and ready to go into hibernation.
Also, in the 18 months we followed him around the country,
Mark had gotten comfortable our camera. Although this served our
documentary well, it posed a challenge when it came to us interview-
ing him: He rarely felt he had to be "on."
"I'm tired of telling this story," he said. "You tell it."
"The viewers will want to hear it from you," I said.
"How much would you be willing to talk if you lost a child?"
he asked me.
Good point. Although I'm willing to discuss .ii il,_ I rarely
talk about my younger brother, Sharon (pronounced Sha-rhon),
who died at the age of 16.
Mark and I sat in silence for a minute. I had no idea how to
"You tell them," he said. "I've had it up to here with telling
people about what happened to Jessie."
Although I still failed to fully get it, I started applying the
brakes to my quest.
"I don't expect anyone to understand," Mark said, "unless I'm
talking to someone who lost a child. They're gonna get it."
Becca and I left without the clip we needed. We had to find
another way to tell our viewers that a twice-convicted pedophile
living across the street abducted Jessie, held her for three days in
his trailer, raped her and buried her alive.
At first, I thought I should've pressed Mark harder. But back
in the editing room, I realized he was right. It was time for the rest
of us to begin telling what happened to Jessie, and to start doing
something about it. -
"Jessie 's Dad" has won two production grants totaling $3,500
and the Direct Cinema Outstanding Documentary Award, and is a
finalist for the International Documentary Association 's David L.
COMMUNICATOR FALL 2008 43
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