UF plans to create 'media farm' for innovation, research

Published: July 16 2008


GAINESVILLE, Fla. — An initiative to create a new Center for Media Innovation and Research was announced today by University of Florida President Bernie Machen and John Wright, dean of UF’s College of Journalism and Communications.

“News media of all types are struggling with the transition to digital,” Wright said. “Our new center will help them find the way. It also will help us produce students who are prepared to lead media companies in the changing landscape.”

The CMIR (pronounced “simmer”) will specialize in original, in-depth news reporting on issues of interest to local, regional, national and international audiences, and it will tell those important stories using new, experimental methods, Wright said.

“Anyone who pays attention to the news media business knows it’s going through tumultuous change right now,” Machen said. “This new center fits perfectly with our mission to ensure that our graduates will be the leaders in that new landscape and that one of the most important parts of a democracy — an informed citizenry — will survive.”

The center will test new storytelling forms on multiple media platforms and research their effectiveness. The CMIR also will develop and test strategic communications methods and messages, Wright said.

“It will be a sort of farm for new ways of disseminating news and information,” Wright said. “Some people are calling it ‘The Media Farm.’ ”

The first phase of the CMIR’s development will involve construction of a 21st Century Newsroom and Laboratory, Wright said. The new newsroom will bring together students and faculty working in print, radio, magazine, television, still photography and online journalism in a convergent, collaborative space where they can work together to pioneer new storytelling forms.

The second phase will create a Digital Laboratory for Strategic Communications. This lab will provide a space for students and faculty working in advertising and public relations to collaborate on strategic communications projects and research, Wright said.

The result will be a sort of think tank consortium for digital media, Wright said. It will provide models for journalism and strategic communications professionals as well as other colleges and universities. Research faculty and graduate students will test the effectiveness of the experiments.

“Many organizations are trying new things as they work to adapt to digital dissemination of news and information,” Wright said. “But almost no one is backing up those efforts with research to see which experiments are most effective, not just in popularity but in comprehension and in action. The Media Farm will fill that void.”

The 21st Century Newsroom and Laboratory will be built in existing space on the ground floor of Weimer Hall on UF’s Gainesville campus this fall. The college is raising money to fund new construction that will provide a larger, permanent home for the center and its staff.

Wright said he expects to name an executive director to lead the center by Aug. 15.


Ron Wayne, rwayne@ufl.edu, 352-392-0186
John Wright, jwright@jou.ufl.edu, 352-392-0466