Center for Collaborative Journalism Working Hard to Engage Local, National and International Communities


It’s been seven years since the Center for Collaborative Journalism (CCJ) partnered with Mercer’s Journalism and Media Studies (JMS) Department to try new approaches to educating the next generation of media thinkers and makers.

With help from our partnerships with The (Macon) Telegraph, Georgia Public Broadcasting, 13WMAZ and Mercer’s own WMUB, we’ve been able to give students a unique, hands-on experience that sets them apart in the job market.

Like other programs in the liberal arts, we pride ourselves on the flexibility the degree gives students in what they want to pursue after college. Some of them go right into journalism jobs or graduate school, while others take the critical-thinking and communication skills they’ve learned in CLA and work in a range of fields.

While one mission of CCJ is educating students, our staff and JMS faculty also work hard to engage the community – locally, nationally and even internationally.

Locally, the CCJ has partnered with the Middle Georgia Regional Libraries on news literacy training and “office hours” that allow community members to meet with a reporter and talk about concerns. Our engagement reporter/coordinator Sonya Green has been hosting “News Break” at libraries around Macon. In the coming year, we’ll continue to use that relationship with the library as we explore solutions to youth violence in the Macon community. CCJ and its partners will begin producing content in September around the tangible and intangible costs of violence to our community.

Also locally and on a lighter note, each summer we work with talented youth from all over the country with our digital media camp for rising high school juniors and seniors. Each camp has a different theme, and our campers produce multimedia pieces around the topic. While some of the students come in with some writing, audio and video skills, many of our campers get their first taste of journalism during the week. This summer our campers produced pieces around Ocmulgee National Historical Park with input from a number of other Mercer departments. Dr. Heather Bowman-Cutway in biology, Dr. Gordon Johnston in creative writing and English, and Dr. Eric Klingelhofer, professor emeritus in History, lent their expertise to the project. You can view the student work on Ocmulgee as well as past camp work on our site.

Nationally (and internationally), professor Adam Ragusea has found some unexpected but not unwelcome success as a YouTube celebrity. Ragusea is known around CCJ for his cooking chops, and last spring a video he made about his long-tested New York-style pizza took off on YouTube, racking up millions of views. The video led to additional cooking videos, and Ragusea’s channel has garnered more than 36 million total views in a very short period of time. His videos often combine cooking with research and outside interviews, including Dr. Garland Crawford, who has helped out with some chemistry input and taste tests. Adam will leave his position as a journalist-in-residence in December to pursue his YouTube interests full-time.

Internationally, JMS chair Dr. Jay Black’s work in China is being cited as a catalyst for legal changes that could protect intellectual property concerns for foreign companies that do business in the country. Black has been teaching in China for years and for the past three years has curated and contributed content to the annual “White Paper on the Business Environment in China” for the American Chamber of Commerce in South China. The book is distributed to government officials and makes recommendations and predictions on the business climate in China. The 2019 book urged the central government to begin overseeing legal complaints lodged by foreign companies that are in joint ventures with local businesses. Under the current system, complaints work through the municipal government, which is open to outside influence and often gives preference to the local party instead of fairly arbitrating the claim.

Two months after the white paper was published, the Chinese government announced it would address the issue with a new foreign investment law. Black said he was surprised the proposal took form as quickly as it did and was pleased the White Paper’s call to action was heard by the central government. For the past five summers, Black has taught Western-style journalism courses at Jinan University in Guangzhou as well as editing and writing articles in the South China Business Journal for the Chamber in South China.

The local, national and international community remains vital to what we do in CCJ, and educating our students is part of that. This year we welcomed our biggest class yet – 26 freshmen with an interest in journalism and media studies. We are in a time when the need for accurate information is more important than ever, and CCJ looks forward to our continued partnership with Mercer to educate that next generation of decision-makers.

Debbie Blankenship
Director, Center for Collaborative Journalism