Duck with Centennial HOA ice sculpture

Story by Andra Brichacek

Oh, what a year it’s been.

And not just for politics and celebrity deaths. From the rise of WikiLeaks and the fall of Gawker to the far-reaching effects of the most contentious U.S. presidential election in modern history, 2016 has been a watershed year for the journalism and communication industries as well.

It has also been a historic milestone for the UO School of Journalism and Communication. This year the SOJC celebrated its 100th birthday with a series of centennial events, welcomed a new dean and continued to expand its award-winning student programs.

Before 2017 starts the next chapter in the school’s history, here’s one last chance to catch up on the SOJC’s 10 biggest stories of 2016.

1. Redefining engagement

One of the most talked-about issues in journalism today is engagement — with our audiences, with online communities and with society at large. As many journalists and publications are beginning to discover, however, not all types of engagement are created equal. To address the many evolving facets of the community engagement discussion, in January MediaShift published an 11-article series inspired by the Agora Journalism Center’s Experience Engagement “unconference.” Read the entire series on MediaShift.

2. SOJC recognizes outstanding journalistic ethics with 16th annual Ancil Payne Award

Imagine you’ve got a lead on a great story that will make a big difference in the world, but publishing it might cost you your job — or your life. Do you do it? That’s the kind of tough question the winners of the 16th annual Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism answered while doing journalism that made a difference. To honor their commitment to maintaining the highest ethical standards in the face of extraordinary pressures, in April the SOJC presented Payne Awards and $5,000 prizes to two winners, the Associated Press team that produced  the Seafood from Slaves series, and the journalists of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, who fought for transparency by reporting the secret sale of the newspaperRead the about the 2016 Payne Award winners and an honorable mention.

Ancil Payne Award winners pose with a Payne family donor in front of Allen Hall. From left to right: Mike Hengel of Las Vegas Review-Journal, donor Valerie Payne, John Smith and Jennifer Robison of the LVRJ, Martha Mendoza of AP and James DeHaven of LVRJ.
Ancil Payne Award winners pose with a Payne family donor in front of Allen Hall. From left to right: Mike Hengel of Las Vegas Review-Journal, donor, John Smith and Jennifer Robison of the LVRJ, Martha Mendoza of AP and James DeHaven of LVRJ.

3. How Oregon’s experiential climate change project takes students into the wild

In the world of journalism education, there is nothing quite like the SOJC’s Science and Memory program. The unique experiential learning program, led by SOJC educators Mark Blaine, Deborah Morrison, Dan Morrison and Torsten Kjellstrand, has taken over 100 SOJC students to sites around Oregon and Alaska to learn how to report on complicated scientific topics while exploring the wilderness, collaborating with researchers, interviewing salmon fishermen and native Alaskans, and working long hours in harsh conditions. Read the story on MediaShift.

4. Super-J students conquer New York City

A lot has changed in media and communication in the past decade, but for journalists, the beating heart of the industry still resides in New York City. What better place for journalism students to learn and network? In May, SOJC Instructor Lisa Heyamoto and Carolyn S. Chambers Professor in Journalism Damian Radcliffe took 14 top journalism-track students to the city for the inaugural Super-J trip to the Big Apple, where they visited 16 of the industry’s most iconic sites, from centuries-old educational institutions and legacy print dynasties to the nimble startups researching and innovating the latest media technologies. Read six students’ accounts of what they learned in New York.

Super-J students Judy Holtz (right) and Michaela Giunchigliani (left) take in New York City.
Super-J students Judy Holtz (right) and Michaela Giunchigliani (left) take in New York City.

5. Optimism, broad communications experiences drive new SOJC dean

Juan-Carlos Molleda, the SOJC’s second Edwin L. Artzt Dean and the 14th dean in the school’s 100-year history, made a cross-country trek from Florida to Oregon for his new role in July. He brought with him international expertise that Scott Coltrane, UO provost and senior vice president, hopes “will significantly expand the global reach of the college and dramatically enhance learning opportunities for our SOJC students.” Read the story on Around the O, and check out this infographic to learn more about Dean Molleda.

6. Advanced sports reporting: U.S. Olympic Trials edition

Among the throng of media covering the U.S. Olympic Trials this summer were eight students from the SOJC who worked long hours covering each day’s top stories with the guidance of SOJC Instructor Lori Shontz. Under tight deadline pressure, the students published 84 stories in 11 days — 40 on the class blog and 44 for professional publications, including the Arizona Republic, Seattle Times, Tampa Bay Times and St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Read the story on Around the O. 

7. SOJC faculty among the first in the nation to teach ‘solutions’ journalism

SOJC Instructor Kathryn Thier taught one of the first college solutions journalism courses in the nation in the 2016 winter term. And in the spring, she partnered with assistant professor and OR Magazine adviser Nicole Dahmen to guide students as they put together the “Solutions Issue” of the innovative, student-produced iPad magazine. Read the story.

8. Reporting Roseburg: Journalists’ perspectives on covering a mass shooting

After the tragic shooting at Umpqua Community College in October 2015, SOJC faculty members Dahmen and Shontz asked themselves, “What is a journalist’s responsibility, and how do we balance the moral imperative of seeking the truth with minimizing harm?” Reporting Roseburg was their answer. Read the story.

9. SOJC Hall of Achievement dinner honors communications’ past and future

On Oct. 27, more than 150 alumni, faculty and students gathered for the final centennial celebration of the year — the annual SOJC Hall of Achievement — to reflect on the school’s 100-year legacy and look to the future of the journalism and communication industry. The next day, students engaged with three exclusive alumni panels that discussed the future of advertising, public relations and journalism and offered advice for getting hired after graduation. Read the story and view the Flickr album.

10. Electionland: The SOJC’s Election Day investigative newsroom

The SOJC was one of 13 journalism schools around the country that joined such industry partners as Google News Lab, the USA Today Network and the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism for ProPublica’s nationwide Electionland project. More than 85 SOJC students, led by SOJC Professor Radcliffe, worked in shifts around the clock using state-of-the-art digital tools to monitor West Coast social media for reports of voter intimidation, long lines and other issues that might surround the highly controversial presidential election. Read the story.

SOJC professors Brent Walth and Damian Radcliffe (standing, left to right) oversee student monitoring of social media for irregularities at polling places across the West Coast on Election Day.
SOJC professors Brent Walth and Damian Radcliffe (standing, left to right) oversee student monitoring of social media for irregularities at polling places across the West Coast on Election Day.

Andra Brichacek is the SOJC Communication team’s writer and editor. She has nearly 20 years’ experience creating content for print and online media and has specialized in education since 2008. Follow her on Twitter @andramere.