Here I am manning the front desk in the Journalism and Media Studies department

Journalism and Media Studies M.A. Program: Reflecting on my First Year as a Graduate Student

As I near the end of my first year of graduate school at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg in the M.A. Journalism and Media Studies program, I’m taking the time (in between final projects and research papers of course) to reflect on a year of growth and education in the USFSP Journalism and Media Studies program.

Before I began my application process for grad school I asked myself a few questions:


  • What kind of program am I looking for?
  • How many years do I want to spend pursuing a M.A.?
  • Where do I desire to live during/post graduate school?
  • How much money am I willing to  invest in a Masters degree?

These questions were completely different than the questions I asked myself as an eighteen year old high school senior preparing for my first year of college. The stakes are higher and the dreams are bigger, graduate school is the real deal and making sure that you know what you want in your personal and professional life is paramount.

After doing extensive research I was able to narrow down my choices to three schools and USFSP was a perfect match. I have enjoyed my experience at USFSP and the Journalism and Media Studies program has been everything I hoped it would be.

What are the specifics of the Journalism and Media Studies Program?

The M.A. in Journalism and Media Studies program provides career preparation in journalism while providing a foundation for those students who elect to continue their studies on the Ph.D. level, or plan to use the M.A. as a qualification to teach at the college level. Students are allowed to take classes part time or full time, the program also lets students sample the program by taking up to 12 hours of graduate credit as a non-degree-seeking student before being formally admitted. The full program is offered on the St. Petersburg campus, although students may choose electives at any USF campus with permission of their faculty adviser.

The Journalism and Media Studies Department offers two Master of Arts degrees: the traditional program in Journalism and Media Studies and the fully on-line Master of Arts in Digital Journalism and Design.

USFSP sign in front of Nelson Poynter Memorial Library

USFSP sign in front of Nelson Poynter Memorial Library

I’m enrolled in the traditional program which prepares students for careers in print, electronic and digital media or for college-level teaching. The traditional program has allowed me the flexibility to take online and face-to-face classes. The program normally takes two years to complete with a requirement of 36 hours. There are also several opportunities to work in the community, the Neighborhood News Bureau is a working newsroom that provides Journalism training for undergrad and graduate students.

Students also have the opportunity to study and work at the Poynter Institute. The Poynter Institute is a school for journalists, future journalists, and teachers of journalism dedicated to teaching and inspiring journalists and media leaders. It is across the street from the USF St. Petersburg’s campus.

The Digital Journalism and Design program (DJD) is a fairly new addition. The program was launched in the Fall of 2012, and is a 30-credit program that is typically completed in a year and a half.

Working as a Graduate Assistant

Although a rewarding experience grad school is tough to say the least, the rigors of coursework, and trying to maintain a healthy social life can be a daunting task. Most graduate students work in addition to maintaining a half or full-time course-load, and depending on a graduate students course load and time constraints, the schedule can be grueling. I have had the pleasure of working for the Journalism department as a graduate/teaching assistant.  As a graduate assistant I work 10 hours per week as an assistant to one of the faculty members in the department and as a friendly face for visitors and students who come into the office on a daily basis.

The experience’s that I’ve had in this program thus far have been amazing and I can’t wait to see what else is in store as I prepare to take on another year as a graduate student at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Graduate student creates documentary on the life and legacy of Nelson Poynter

Walter Gordon knew he faced a monumental task when he decided to create a video documentary of the late Nelson Poynter as his Master’s in Liberal Arts project.

Walt Gordon

Walt Gordon

Poynter was a giant in the newspaper industry and a tireless champion of USF St. Petersburg. When he died in 1978, he left behind a 44-foot stack of papers, documents and filmed interviews. They are housed in Special Collections at the USF St. Petersburg library that bears his name.

The Nelson Poynter Memorial Library collection had only occasional interest by researchers until Gordon decided to dig in.

Gordon, a fall 2012 graduate, spent all last summer poring through the collection. The result is a 30-minute documentary about the man who turned the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) into one of the most distinguished newspapers in the country.

“I could have made an hours-long documentary on Poynter,” Gordon said. “He had such an interesting life.”

Born in Indiana on Dec. 5, 1903, Poynter knew at an early age that journalism would be his life-long career. His father bought the St. Petersburg Times in 1912 and Poynter wrote his first story for the Times in 1914. In 1938 he became the general manager of the Times. Before that he was the editor and publisher of the Clearwater Sun and the Kokomo (Ind.) Dispatch . Poynter later acquired the St. Petersburg Evening Independent, which folded in 1986, and founded Congressional Quarterly, an influential legislative news service.

He is perhaps best known for leaving the ownership of the Times to the non-profit Modern Media Institute, now the Poynter Institute, to ensure its independence. The Institute is located across the street from USF St. Petersburg.

Poynter died hours after participating in a groundbreaking at USF St. Petersburg on June 15, 1978, during which he was honored for his efforts to establish it.

James Schnur, Associate Librarian in Special Collections and Archives at the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library, suggested the Poynter documents as a subject of Gordon’s project. Schnur, who first met Gordon while teaching Florida history at Eckerd College, assisted in the documentary process.

As a librarian and graduate of USF St. Petersburg, Schnur understood the impact Poynter had on the development of the university and downtown St. Petersburg. Schnur says Gordon’s documentary is a great way for community members to understand Poynter’s significance.

“He brought Poynter in to the community,” Schnur says.

Making a documentary came naturally to Gordon, who taught TV production at Countryside High School and earned a Bachelor’s degree in history from Eckerd College.

The Poynter Papers include interviews from the 1970s and 1980s that were recorded on film and transferred to video tapes. Because of his experience with TV and film production, Gordon was able to transfer the VHS tapes into digital files in order to make the 35-minute documentary.

Gordon is a staunch advocate for combining the latest technology with other disciplines like the arts and sciences in order to expand educational capabilities.

The documents and videos along with Gordon’s annotations will be available to scholars, researchers, and students interested in learning more about Poynter and St. Petersburg history.

“Altogether, the collection constitutes an amazing amount of data that could still benefit from more research.” Gordon said.

Gordon continues to teach TV production at Countryside High School. He presented his documentary at Heritage Village for its “Speaking of History” lecture series in November. Gordon also presented a 20-minute version of the documentary at USFSP for the 65th Annual Meeting of the Southeast Philosophy of Education Society Feb. 1-2.


Masters Degree Open House

ST. PETERSBURG, FL (March 26, 2012) — Anyone interested in pursuing a masters degree at USF St. Petersburg is invited to attend an annual Open House on Saturday, April 14 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Science & Technology building.
Program advisors, faculty members and college deans will be available to discuss USFSP masters degree programs, the application process, financial aid and scholarships. The event is free and open to the public but registration is recommended. Register at
USF St. Petersburg offers the following masters degree programs:
• M.S. Environmental Science and Policy
• M.A. Journalism and Media Studies
• M.A Digital Journalism and Design
• M.L.A. Liberal Arts: Liberal Studies
• M.L.A. Liberal Arts: Concentration: Florida Studies
• M.B.A. Business Administration
• M.A. Elementary Education: Dual Track
• M.A. Elementary Education: Math/Science Emphasis
• M.A. Reading Education
• M.A. English Education
• M.Ed. Educational Leadership
• MAT Exceptional Education
For more information about USFSP masters degrees and the Open House, please call (727) 873-4567 or email
Media Contact ● Tom Scherberger ● (727) 873-4456  ●

USFSP Offers New Fully Online Digital Journalism Graduate Degree

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (January 23, 2012) – A new fully online master’s degree program at USF St. Petersburg meets the needs of established and budding journalists and other communication professionals by addressing the growing demand for online and digital media skills.

The master’s degree in Digital Journalism and Design offers journalists and other communication professionals courses to develop their web publication, audio visual production, and photography skills while integrating them with foundational journalistic principles. Students will also explore the evolving ethical and legal aspects of digital media. The degree can be completed in one year of full-time study or over a longer period of time if courses are taken part-time.

“No other degree program that we are aware of integrates digital technology as deeply into the practice of journalism as this one does,” said Mark Walters, director of the M.A. in Digital Journalism and Design. “This program will build a community of thinkers, learners and doers ready to go beyond adapting to the rapid changes in how information is produced and disseminated – our students will be among the professionals steering the direction of online information and news delivery.”

With courses in multimedia reporting, digital media technology, entrepreneurial journalism, photojournalism, audio and video production, visual information design and more, students will develop a broad understanding of digital news production to benefit a range of communications-related careers.

The degree program benefits from its association with the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at USFSP; the department has long offered an undergraduate program in mass communications and a graduate degree in journalism and media studies. The department is accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.

Program and application information:

“This degree prepares communicators to deliver content in the engaging ways news consumers are seeking,” said Frank Biafora, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Students will find the relevance of this degree program essential for the development of their careers in journalism and other communication professions.”

Application Bonus

In a unique collaboration, applicants to the master’s degree in Digital Journalism and Design can gain an immediate professional benefit: a USFSP-Poynter Certificate of Proficiency in Digital Media.

The Poynter Institute’s News University (NewsU) and USFSP teamed up to offer applicants to the master’s program an online assessment to gauge their web and digital media skills. Those who score at least 80 percent will be awarded the certificate. All the courses needed to prepare for the assessment are available at NewsU. For more information about the pre-assessment training and assessment program, go to

Applicants do not need a minimum score on the assessment to be considered for admission to the master’s degree, but their highest score will be automatically sent to USFSP to become part of their application package. The courses cover subjects ranging from the basics of creating a website to the essentials of news design.

For more information about the degree program or the online assessment, please visit