A well-established center that provides critical leadership training to journalists and journalism students across the country will now become a part of The University of Texas at Austin’s Moody College of Communication.
The Center for Ethical Leadership in the Media, previously The Press Forward, was founded in 2017 to address harassment and abuse of power in newsrooms by focusing on solutions to create fair and safe work environments. Its founding mission was to advance culture in the news industry through training, research and education. It has evolved to include working with newsroom leaders, journalists and students specifically on ethical leadership and equipping media industry leaders with insights and tools to develop healthy workplace environments.
“Moody College is an ideal location for the center because of its world class Journalism and Media and Communication and Leadership programs, which can inform its future development,” said Carolyn Supple, who cofounded the center and was its executive director from 2020 to 2023. “It makes sense for it to live under the umbrella of UT, which has been a tremendous partner as a tier-1 research institute and expert in curriculum development.”
Supple, who was a visiting professor at Moody College, will serve as the board chair and senior advisor to the center.
“UT will help this initiative scale and be of service to the media industry through its robust university practices, world class faculty and ability to convene news leaders,” she said. “We believe change will happen at the journalism student level, and UT is committed to leading in this space.”
At the heart of the center is its online curriculum, which educates journalists and students on fundamentals of leadership so that, in addition to producing compelling content, they can also become effective newsroom leaders.
The center has developed four modules: “Leadership: An Introduction,” “Creating Safe and Fair Newsrooms,” “Giving Voice to Values,” and “Understanding and Changing Organizational Culture,” which help media professionals create and foster environments where people from all backgrounds can rise to their merits. Each of the modules includes videos, readings and case studies, as well as teaching notes, that are available to universities and select media partners at no cost.
Supple, who is a former ABC News journalist, management consultant and now a leader with Google Public Sector, said these kinds of leadership skills are more important than ever in an industry that continues to be in flux, facing challenges like digital disruption, declines in readership and a lack of support for journalists in newsrooms.
“The focus of journalism curricula, understandably, is on preparing students to create newsworthy content. However, journalism majors get little or no leadership training, which can hurt the business and the overall product,” said Journalism and Media Professor Kathleen McElroy, who will co-lead the center. “Democracy can no longer afford for the internal shortcomings of the news industry to hurt journalism’s mission of objective and accurate reporting. Ethical, effective leadership paves the way for the production of relevant, compelling news.”
McElroy has been on the executive committee for the center since its founding. She formerly worked as a New York Times editor for 20 years and was the previous director of Moody College’s School of Journalism and Media. She has expertise in newsroom ethics and training future journalists. The center’s co-director, Mary Bock, is a former TV news journalist and now associate professor in the School of Journalism and Media who teaches gender in the news.
“It’s a really natural fit for my interests in caring about how newsrooms serve the entire community by properly treating their own people,” Bock said. “You can’t serve the community at large unless you serve the community within.”
Additional teaching modules in development will address teamwork and self-awareness. In the future, the center hopes to explore important research questions and provide thought leadership in the areas of ethical and effective leadership and workplace culture.
“In light of newsroom disruptions, the field of media management deserves renewed interest,” McElroy said. “This is an opportunity to rethink how you look at newsroom leadership and offer prescriptive solutions. I think there is possibility for some really innovative research and theory here, and chance to put it to practice.”