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Rich Beckman

Knight Chair in Visual Journalism
University of Miami
Coral Gables, FL
Personal Website

Note: The incoming Knight Chair for 2015 will be Alberto Cairo.


Rich Beckman directs the multimedia graduate program at the University of Miami, trains international journalists, journalism students and professors with whom he then produces documentary multimedia projects that feature multilingual local reporting on significant global issues as defined by the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.


I’ve been on the forefront of multimedia since its development as a tool for journalistic reporting and storytelling – from being Education Chair of the National Press Photographers Association’s Digital and Electronic Photojournalism Workshops, to founding and directing the Multimedia Bootcamp Workshops, to training students and journalists around the globe on best practices, to producing dozens of award-winning multimedia journalism project teams, to working as the academic partner of the Online News Association and to graduating many of today’s multimedia newsroom leaders.

I am Professor and Knight Chair at the Knight Center for International Media at the University of Miami School of Communication, after retiring from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a James L. Knight Professor of Journalism and Director of the Visual Communication program. I also hold the position of Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of the Andes in Santiago, Chile.

Grant Background

The Chair in Visual Journalism will lead the Knight Center for International Media in maintaining a cutting-edge relationship to the developing professions of visual journalism by fostering projects and experiments that will incubate new techniques of visual and interactive reporting and storytelling. During the chair’s five- to seven-year term, he will work closely with center staff on its projects, bringing international attention to the center’s work through participation in conferences and seminars and by publishing and disseminating the results of work done at the center.

Recent Activities

Executive Producer: Europe: A Homeland for the Roma (Year 2)
Grantee: the European Union Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme

The is the second year of our second grant from the European Union Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme and my work focused on supervising our second Knight Visiting Chair and Roma journalists as they research and produce stories related to Roma issues in their own communities. This is the final stage of a five year project to help develop fair and balanced reporting of Roma issues throughout five countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

This project is aimed at increasing the visibility of problems that Europe’s Roma communities face with a view to contributing in that way to ending discrimination against the Roma and creating conditions for their social inclusion.

The previous years of the project resulted in the production of two award-winning publications, Colorful, But Colorblind ( and Europe: A Homeland for Roma ( In Spring/Summer 2014, the film premiered in all five participating countries followed by panel discussions on Roma issues that I participated in. The final shooting and editing phase of the project will take place in summer 2014 and be produced in fall 2014. It will consist of 8-10 stories shot and edited by Roma journalists under the guidance Kelly Whalen, our second Knight Visiting Chair and five of my students.

Also, as part of TOL online Media Academy, which will be permanently hosted from early 2014 at TOL’s new e-learning platform, eLearnForChange, we will build a permanent training outlet for young journalists wishing to learn how to use multimedia in tackling demanding topics, including marginalized social groups, and determined to explore possibilities for creating livelihoods out of their multimedia and entrepreneurial skills. The online learning resources will enable students to refresh their knowledge and skills by reading or watching lectures on multimedia storytelling, covering skills from very basic ones to very advanced; manuals on diversity in reporting; and other journalism instruction courses, such as on the basics of journalistic investigation or interviewing techniques. In the same time, they will be able to access learning resources aimed at fostering entrepreneurial skills, such as pitching project ideas and marketing finished work. They will also be able to upload their work in progress and get feedback from trainers. The website will in addition feature regular information on other training and education opportunities.

Executive Producer: 20 Years On
Funder: Knight Center for International Media (; login: 20yearson; pw: beckman) Publication: Fall 2014

This project focuses on life in the townships and informal settlements across South Africa as the country observes the 20th anniversary of the end of Apartheid. Twelve University of Miami students and students from Rhodes University (Grahamstown), University of Cape Town, Cape Peninsula University of Technology (Cape Town), Durban University of Technology and Big Fish School of Digital Film Making (Johannesburg) are participating in the project and are producing short-form video stories covering issues related to housing, healthcare, poverty, employment and equality within their communities.

The final shooting phase of the project took place in January 2014, as I worked with students in Johannesburg, South Africa. The stories were edited in Spring 2014 and we are currenlty finishing the site’s interactive elements.

We have been assisted in the project by Nancy Donaldson, Senior Producer, Video at The New York Times, Evelio Contreras, Digital Content Producer/Editor at CNN, Beauregard Tromp, Knight Visiting Chair, University of Miami and former Senior Field Producer for E News Africa (a report of Tromp’s activities as the Visiting Chair is below) and graduate assistants Aubrey Aden-Buie and Qin Chen. Aden-Buie’s work on the project, which was expanded into her thesis project, won in the 2014 OJA Awards in the Student Projects, Small category (

Report on activities of Knight Visiting Chair:

Beauregard Tromp was selected as a Knight Visiting Chair in May 2013 to coordinate South African partnerships for the Knight Center’s 20 Years On multimedia project. The project examines life in the townships and informal settlements of South Africa as the country observes the 20th anniversary of the end of Apartheid. Tromp has extensive experience as a broadcast journalist within South Africa and internationally and recently finished a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University.

In Grahamstown, Tromp provided valuable assistance in locating subjects and stories. His experience was essential in helping our students understand the issues and gain the trust of their subjects. A graduate assistant worked with Tromp in Cape Town to produce three stories, and subsequent to the conclusion of that work Tromp traveled to Miami to supervise the editing of the stories. In January 2014, the Knight Chair and two students traveled to Johannesburg to produce three more stories in conjunction with Tromp. This work resulted in the production of three stories from Cape Town, three stories from Johannesburg and the stories that University of Miami and Rhodes University students produced in the Eastern Cape on two previous trips. The team finished editing these stories and building the project website, which is in the final beta testing with the goal of publishing before the end of the 2014.

Chair, University of Miami Curriculum Committee

I have just begun my third year as Chair of the University of Miami Curriculum Committee. This is a university-wide committee with representation from all schools and colleges. University committee chairs have two-year term limits, but I have been asked to serve a third term at the special request of the Chair of the Faculty Senate with approval from the General Welfare Committee as the Curriculum Committee continues its work to reform undergraduate General Education curriculum.

As Chair, I oversee the implementation of Cognates, clusters of courses related in a topical, thematic or interdisciplinary manner organized within and across departments, programs, schools and colleges and a new Quantitative Skills requirement. More importantly, we are proposing an advanced communication requirement within all majors across the university that will enhance the writing, multimedia and social media skills of all undergraduate students

•       Give us an example of a media company or organization that you see doing innovative journalism with impact. How do you use this example in your teaching?

As a visual journalist, I have been interested in the evolution of Instagram as a journalistic reporting tool and have been following the success of two Instagram-focused projects that launched in January: Instafax at the BBC and GuardianCam at the Guardian.

Instagram now has more than 200 million active viewers and is especially interesting to me since 65 percent of its audience is outside the U.S. More than 60 million photos are uploaded daily.

In class, we used Instagram to follow a variety of journalists and stories including the UK floods and the coup in Egypt. Students were also required to read: “How 4 Photo Editors are Using Instagram ( Students also do reports on visual journalists who are doing innovative things and this semester, Pam Chen, Editorial Director for Instagram, was one of the people featured. We also spent time looking (online) at the two exhibits they showed at Photoville: The Everyday Projects ( and Here in the World: Voices of the Instagram Community (

All of the students in the class now have Instagram accounts and we even had a spirited discussion about square photographs, Instagram’s default format for uploading images.

In Summer 2015, we plan to partner with Instagram as part of our documentary coverage of the Special Olympics World Games in L.A.

•  What are the most promising changes you see in journalism education as a whole, and why do you think they are hopeful?

When I consider the best journalism schools and programs in the country, there are many consistencies. They all have an appropriate mix of engaged academics and professionals on their faculty and their students produce great research and great creative work. They all feature some variation of a multimedia newsroom, they all have dual tenure tracks, they all have updated their curricula to reflect the digital, entrepreneurial, data-driven age and they all have partnerships with media outlets and are leaders in providing information to their communities.

For a number of years, editors complained that they couldn’t find recent graduates to hire. I don't hear that very much anymore, even though undergraduate journalism enrollments continue to drop. I find that encouraging. Quality over quantity is always preferable (until it starts to affect the budget).

Often, it seems that in academe we take one step forward and two steps sideways when it comes to promising changes. I spend a lot of time writing letters of recommendation for former students and colleagues as they attempt to find a job (or a different job) in academe. I generally view this as a positive development since all of my former students work in visual journalism, multimedia journalism or digital and social media and there has been an exponential increase in the number of jobs in these fields. However, I am constantly amazed at the overwhelming number of these jobs that are seeking only terminal degree candidates.

How many people with great multimedia credentials have a Ph.D.? And how many journalists of any sort graduated with an M.F.A.? I spent 30 years as a professor at a university that had a dual tenure track system – separate, but equal tracks for academics and professionals, and now am into my seventh year at a university that only hires terminal degree candidates into tenure track positions (with a very few exceptions for endowed chairs). We do offer Professor of Practice positions, but they are term positions (usually renewable) with a higher teaching load and not the job security of tenure.

Tenure has its own set of challenges, particularly for professionals, in a fast-changing media environment where there is always the danger of having tenured professionals who have been out of the newsroom too long and have failed to retain any sense of relevancy, but almost all of the top schools and programs have found a way to tenure professionals.

Last year, one of my former students who had been honored by the NPPA as Newspaper Photographer of Year returned to School and earned an M.A. at Syracuse. This is a photojournalist with strong multimedia skills and 20+ years of professional experience, including on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. He sent me a list of more than 40 job openings for jobs in multimedia, digital media and visual media, of which he only had the academic credentials to apply for only eight.

A quick check shows that seven out of those eight made a hire, but only one-third of the openings requiring a terminal degree made a hire. One step forward, two steps sideways.