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Hodson focuses on innovation as Scripps’ Berman Professor

Nov 6, 2012

Hodson focuses on innovation as Scripps’ Berman Professor


By Stephanie Gort

ATHENS, Ohio (Nov. 6, 2012) – Tom Hodson, Berman Professor of Communication and director and general manager of WOUB Public Media in the Scripps College of Communication, is committed to helping students prepare for careers in the media industry by focusing their experience on innovation and recognizing the need to look at where the industry is headed.

“I think all too often academic institutions look at what has been and then what is, but I think we don’t spend enough time looking at what is going to be and what kind of skill sets our students need to be able to navigate with that new future environment,” Hodson said.

The Joe Berman Professorship of Communication was endowed in honor of Ohio University Dean Emeritus Joseph Berman, who retired from Ohio University in 2002 after nearly 30 years of service. In addition to serving as the founding director of the J. Warren McClure School of Information and Telecommunication Systems, he served as director of WOUB and dean of the Honors Tutorial College. Under Berman’s leadership, the Honors Tutorial College founded the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards and the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Fund. The professorship was endowed by colleagues and former students of Berman to support faculty who bring national visibility and recognition to OHIO.

Named to a three-year term as the Berman Professor in October 2011, Hodson has created a future of media class to bring together students from all schools within the college. Along with that, Hodson has brought in media futurists to work with staff and students at WOUB and the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.

“The [future of media] course has revolutionized our thinking as a College, and has led us to look for additional ways to realize a commitment to innovation,” said Interim Dean Scott Titsworth. “Tom has been a true leader in the College in terms of pushing us to stay contemporary, relevant, and to truly realize our role as a Center of Excellence in the field. I could not be more proud of the work Tom has done as the first full-time Berman Professor.”

Hodson said he has also used his professorship as a vehicle to pursue the idea of making news and information immersive with gaming theories. Researching different studies on how video games increase problem solving and collaboration has sparked some creative thinking in Hodson.

“Take those concepts and gaming theory of what makes people game and what they get out of it and apply it to delivery of news and information. We don’t want to make news a game but how can we have news as more of an experience for people?” Hodson asked.

In addition to his work at Ohio University, Hodson has been working with groups of people involved with the judicial system, including the National Center for State Courts. Studying the impact of social media on the legal system has been an ongoing process still in need of deliberation.  Hodson also helped the Ohio State Bar Association complete an addition to a journalists’ handbook on how to cover courts more effectively.

“Selection of a person to receive a ‘named professorship’ is typically based on the person's ability to offer both students and the university at large new and significant experiences,” said Berman, who is pleased with the selection of Hodson to the role. “Peers recognize that such a distinction is an important part of retaining a vital university.”

Hodson continues to use his Berman Professorship to teach students the basics of being a good journalist. Whether it is being flexible with thinking or being highly analytical with planning a story, Hodson says writing is the fundamental key to everything. Practicing these skills can map out a promising future career for communication students.  

“This is the most exciting time ever to be in media because it’s changing and so innovative and entrepreneurial that, with a whole lot of work and a whole lot of energy, you can carve your own path. Students are all media pioneers now.”

Hodson is widely published and continues to write numerous articles and columns for newspapers, magazine and trade journals. He co-authored the "Journalist's Handbook to Ohio Courts" and has written and served as talent for numerous public television documentaries and public affairs programs and produced public affairs programming for public radio.

In addition to his journalism experience, Hodson was a criminal defense trial lawyer for more than 20 years, and served as a trial judge in both the Municipal Court and Common Pleas Court in Ohio for ten years. He also served as a visiting judge with the Ohio Supreme Court and as a Judicial Fellow at the United States Supreme Court in the Administrative Office of the Chief Justice.

For a more detailed biography, visit the University's experts directory.

This is the first part of a four-part series on named professorships in the Scripps College of Communication, which help to attract exceptional talent to classrooms and laboratories. To make a gift to support a professorship in the Scripps College of Communication, contact Senior Director for Development Robin Stock at stockr@ohio.edu.