About Us

Department Strategic Plan

Background & core values

The Department of Journalism & Digital Communication believes quality journalism helps communities thrive, and journalists bear a responsibility to the communities they serve to deliver accurate, truthful, accessible reporting. We further believe everyone has a part to play in building healthy information ecosystems, and the quality of journalism cannot be separated from the strength of our democracy.

We value diversity in its many forms and recognize journalism has not always lived up to its potential to benefit underserved and underrepresented communities. Situated on an urban campus on the edge of Tampa Bay, we are attuned to the challenges of climate change and the immense value of clear, data-driven science communication, especially to communities disproportionately affected by extreme weather and rising seas.

As a small, tight-knit community, we embrace tailored educational experiences and prize innovative, unconventional approaches to gathering, producing, and publishing news and information. We value shared inquiry and seek opportunities to not only teach but also learn from our students. We encourage experimentation, challenging assumptions and taking fresh perspectives.

We seek continual growth in the realms of teaching, scholarship and service to the academy, the community and the profession. Our interest in digital innovation extends to the ways we teach and research. Beyond imparting technological knowledge and skills, we aim to instill critical reflection in our students.

Notable changes to our Department & the environment we operate in

Beginning in 2019, the Department entered a period of rapid change. In the past four years, four full-time faculty members have left, and a fifth will soon retire; USF underwent a system consolidation; senior leadership has changed at every level of the University; and new University-wide strategic plans have been laid. These changes have created a dynamic environment and a unique opportunity for the Department to calibrate long-range plans.

Recent notable accomplishments

Despite the loss of faculty and disruptions and uncertainties of consolidation, with the support of the College, Campus and University, we have, since 2019:

  • launched a new STEM-designated undergraduate degree
  • hired four full-time faculty members representing diverse backgrounds, disciplinary focuses and approaches to scholarship
  • maintained our departmental status and become the only department in the College based on the St. Petersburg campus and the only unit at USF focused on journalism education
  • seen consistent enrollment gains and sustained interest in our courses from other majors
  • launched a student-run webcast based in the digital production studio housed in the Department

Strategic goals

Building on these successes, we are poised for continued investment in areas of historic strength while expanding into exciting new frontiers. Based on our values and culture, USF’s trajectory and strategic goals, our unique resources, and emerging needs in the community and profession, we have identified two sets of goals to guide our work in the years ahead. The first concerns strengths we seek to maintain; the second covers areas of desired growth.

Goals to fortify our strengths

  1. Continue to teach at the leading edge of journalism and digital communication by generating new curricula, scholarship and applications of news technologies involving motion graphics, immersive journalism, drone and aerial videography, and photography. We have successfully navigated the new realities of digital-era journalism and emerged as a unit that offers one of the most cutting-edge master’s degrees in the United States. Likewise, our undergraduate program has morphed from one steeped in reporting and writing to one centered around digital skills. Nonetheless, constant renewal is needed.
    1. Action Steps:
      1. Continually renew curricula in digital skills classes.
      2. Monitor industry trends and priorities with regard to technical competencies.
      3. Improve assessment practices to ensure student mastery of digital skills.

  2. Maintain a national model of community journalism premised on equality, access, inclusion and anti-racism by strengthening the Neighborhood News Bureau, the Department’s working student newsroom focus on Midtown, St. Petersburg. In 2020, USF recognized the Department as a model in diversity and inclusion, based in part on our 20-year investment in our Neighborhood News Bureau (NNB) project, which serves the underrepresented Midtown, St. Petersburg community. We view diversity as integral to our mission and a core pillar of strength that must be prioritized in every hiring decision. We also see an important link between diversity and our impact on our surrounding communities. Talking about digital technology without simultaneously addressing the widening digital divide is, at best, unproductive and, at worse, destructive. We are in a splendid position to better weave NNB into the frontier of digital journalism and directly address the technology gap in underserved communities.
    1. Action Items:
      1. Develop a multi-year strategic plan for NNB.
      2. Utilize a new $50,000 seed investment from the College to develop sustainable revenue streams.
      3. Reestablish and expand community partnerships.

  3. Continue our commitment to digital media ethics with world-class research focused on ethics in STEM and journalism, with emphasis on ethical issues relating to artificial intelligence and machine learning, ethical algorithm design, deep-fake content, and evidenced-based reporting.
    1. Action Items:
      1. Launch a national search for a new Poynter Jamison Chair in Media Ethics and Press Policy. We seek candidates with established, influential research agendas focused on ethics, media and technology. Within this wide-ranging theme, we emphasize expertise in areas such as digital surveillance and privacy; computational journalism; investigative data journalism; mis- and dis-information; accountability in machine learning; ethical considerations in the design and use of social media; and media policy and democracy. The Poynter Jamison Chair is expected to develop independent research programs that attract external funding.
      2. Identify opportunities in both programs to add modules focused on ethical issues.
      3. Improve assessment practices to ensure student growth in ethical reasoning.

Goals to expand our impact

  1. Create a new concentration in science reporting and communication by building on the Department’s long history of science writing and by strengthening existing relationships with the College of Marine Science, United States Geological Survey (USGS), Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Florida Institute of Oceanography, and other scientific organizations across campus and the Tampa Bay region.
    1. Action Steps:
      1. Form a Science Reporting/Communication committee to lead the effort to develop this new curriculum.
      2. Research existing science journalism programs to better understand what we can uniquely offer.
      3. Continue conversations with science organizations across Tampa Bay about potential collaborations.
      4. Investigate how best to connect NNB to future science communication efforts.

  2. Fully capitalize on the Department’s new STEM bachelor’s degree by responding to growing interest in algorithms, data visualization, immersive graphics, artificial intelligence, virtual, mixed and augmented reality, and interactive storytelling. Our new undergraduate program, with its STEM designation, is poised to integrate the fruits of the digital revolution and other information-gathering and news-production technologies into our Department more fully than ever before. To do so, we must adopt new courses and curricula.
    1. Action Steps:
      1. Form a STEM Curriculum Review committee to lead the effort to bring the undergraduate program to the next level of its evolution.
      2. Conduct a needs assessment and market research to identify new modules, classes and, potentially, concentrations within the undergraduate program.
      3. Identify existing courses in the State System that would be suitable as core or elective classes in our major and swap existing classes as appropriate.
      4. Explore opportunities to propose new courses to expand our elective offerings and contribute to the distinctiveness of our program.

  3. Increase collaboration with The Poynter Institute, a world-leader in journalism training, to blend scholarship and professional best practices through applied research projects, community partnerships, and classroom- and newsroom-based initiatives.
    1. Action Steps:
      1. Continue discussions with Poynter leadership to find pathways for collaboration.
      2. Maintain connections with Poynter faculty and staff, some of whom are JDC alumni.
      3. Identify and propose grant and research partnerships.

Investment in the above six areas will allow us to prioritize Departmental strengths to match USF strategic goals, maintain quality programming for our students, retain our professional accreditation and contribute significant scholarship as part of an R1 institution on track for AAU eligibility.