Student Media Director and Journalism Faculty Member Named Top-10 Educator

by | Jan 25, 2019 | Faculty Points of Pride, Features, Journalism

When Robyn M. Starling-Ledbetter finished her undergraduate degree in journalism at the U of A, she took a job as a reporter in Shreveport, Louisiana without the slightest clue she’d eventually pursue a career in higher education.

Yet, as the spring 2019 semester gets underway, Starling-Ledbetter’s efforts to move student media toward convergence have played a major role in the direction of the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.

As director of Student Media, Starling-Ledbetter oversees the U of A’s six student media entities: UATV, The Arkansas Traveler, Main Hill Media, the Hill Magazine, the Razorback Yearbook and KXUA.

Her vision played a major role in the convergence of these different outlets, which are now utilizing the new, state-of-the-art Sue Walk Burnett Journalism and Student Media Center that began operation last semester.

Other news professionals around the country are taking notice, as an article by Dinah Eng in the latest edition of Crain’s NewsPro Magazine listed Starling-Ledbetter as one of the top-10 “NewsPro Noteworthy Journalism Educators” of the year.

“I would like to think that I took the things I learned along the way, even during the short time I spent in a newsroom as a news reporter and anchor, and used them to be a good teacher who’s relatable but also innovative,” Starling-Ledbetter said. “I come up with ideas that are very innovative, but also applicable to the industry for our students, and so that’s a strength of mine.”

Tiffany King, instructor and faculty advisor for UATV, said Starling-Ledbetter’s focus on journalism’s evolution made for many of student media’s subsequent improvements.

“Robyn’s enthusiasm for student success is infectious. She is a problem solver and always searches for ways to enhance the learning experience through student media,” King said.

Under Starling-Ledbetter’s leadership, students who would have been limited by their respective curriculum tracts in past years are now conquering new frontiers together, said Bret Schulte, a news editorial professor and faculty advisor for The Arkansas Traveler and Hill Magazine.

“Robyn has guided University of Arkansas student media into a new era of convergence that reflects the rapidly changing news media landscape,” Schulte said. “Students are working together like never before under her terrific leadership, and they’re winning a raft of awards for their work.”

While Starling-Ledbetter’s tireless work inside Kimpel Hall has resulted in many advances, her willingness to promote the program and glean new ideas by attending events may have been the driving force behind her nomination to the list, she said.

“I think it’s just my steadfast presence there in academia and presenting at the [Broadcast Education Association] conference,” Starling-Ledbetter said. “This is probably year seven or eight for me, and we actually are presenting again this year. I submitted a proposal that is solely about our convergence model, how we are really studying audience and workflow patterns in student media dealing with all six of our student media outlets, particularly the Traveler and UATV.”

According to the article, those included on the top-10 list “encourage students to excel” and “were nominated by readers and members of the Radio Television Digital News Association, the Society of Environmental Journalists and the Broadcast Education Association.” Ledbetter has been involved with the BEA for years.

The other schools represented in this year’s class of top-10 journalism educators of the year include Arizona State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Western Illinois University, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, University of Missouri, City University of New York, Columbia University, Ohio University and Syracuse University.

Read more in Crain’s NewsPro Magazine.

A version of this story also appeared in the U of A’s Newswire publication.

Andrew Epperson

Graduate Assistant, School of Journalism and Strategic Media

479-575-3601 // ale005@uark.edu