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Ohio University journalism professor wins top Online News Association awards

Oct 9, 2017

(L-R) Dr. Michelle Ferrier, associate professor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, and Electionland coverage on Nov. 8, 2016. / Photos provided

Ohio University journalism professor wins top Online News Association awards

ATHENS, Ohio (Oct. 9, 2017)—The Online News Association awarded $35,000 through its Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education to the Rural Remote Reporting Project at Ohio University. Directed by Dr. Michelle Ferrier, associate professor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, the project uses strategic social media monitoring, curating and aggregation to provide local news and information to rural areas. The project is one of 10 announced Thursday at the opening ceremony of the conference in Washington, D.C.

Ferrier also shares in the first-place win of the Electionland project Saturday night at the ONA awards banquet. Electionland, a collaborative journalism project, used social media monitoring to source voting irregularities in the November 2016 presidential election and includes ProPublica, the Google News Lab, WNYC News, Univision, the First Draft Coalition and higher education institutions across the U.S.

“Michelle took charge of this project on behalf of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, giving our students the opportunity to be a part of a very important election-monitoring project,” said E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Director Bob Stewart. “This is the first time Ohio University has been awarded an ONA Challenge Grant. This award will help us better serve our region.”

Student teams used social media to source, verify and report activity in real-time to professional journalists at the local level. Ferrier trained and led the Ohio University student team along with colleagues Nerissa Young and Nisha Garud. The Electionland project also won a top Society for Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award in June.

“I have been excited to bring new skills and tools in digital ethnography and social media monitoring to our students,” said Ferrier. “We are trying to solve the local news challenges of Southeastern Ohio and provide our students with other real-world, critical applications of the technologies.”

Ferrier said the projects also teach students to use design thinking and problem solving to see how to design media innovations for unique communication geographies in Southeastern Ohio. For the Remote Reporting Project, Ferrier will work this fall and spring with students to introduce digital ethnography skills, build competency in social media monitoring for sourcing news and information and provide students with the skills to verify and aggregate content through digital and analog communication tools. The project is designed to test ways of generating and reporting on rural areas that are “media deserts;” places that lack access to daily, local news and information.

Students will partner with the news team at WOUB, the public broadcasting entity at Ohio University that reaches more than 22 counties in Southeast Ohio. They will work with Allison Hunter, editor-in-chief at WOUB News, to turn social material into audio and online stories. In addition, the project will test a print product in a select region, to find ways to bridge the broadband divides in rural Ohio.

The student work will contribute to a larger initiative to enhance the voices and stories of SE Ohioans. The Media Seeds Project started by Ferrier in September, recently received $150,000 through a grant from the Jefferson Center and Democracy Fund to develop media innovations in Southeastern Ohio. Ferrier is the project director for the program, administered through the nonprofit organization Journalism That Matters. She is working with Dr. Laura Black, associate professor in the School of Communication Studies, to evaluate communication efforts.

“I am thrilled that this additional grant allows us to build student skills in the critical areas of digital culture, social media and remote monitoring,” Ferrier said. “Our goal is to help build the capacity at the local level for information, engagement and action around issues important to Ohioans.”

Ferrier is also the principal investigator for the Media Deserts Project that uses geographic information systems to map the reach and penetration of media to the local level, identifying gaps in coverage and opportunities for invention. She is also the founder of TrollBusters, support against online abuse for women writers and journalists. Ferrier is a 2017 Tow-Knight Disruptive Fellow, where she is leading conversations with educators on building out the media innovation curriculum.

-From staff reports