By:
March 24, 2020

Quick Facts:

  • Poynter is expanding our capacity to serve the journalism industry.
  • Samantha Ragland — with her mission to develop journalists as people and professionals, reinvent local news, and advocate for diversity and inclusion — will join the Poynter team as a faculty member. 
  • Ragland comes to Poynter from a digital leadership position at the recently merged USA Today Network’s Florida Group, where she led the regional content team at GateHouse’s Florida papers.
  • When she starts at Poynter on March 30, her portfolio will include leading the Poynter-Koch Media & Journalism Fellowship and the Leadership Academy for Women in Media.
  • Ragland has been a Poynter program participant, adjunct faculty member and mentor.

There is no such thing as business as usual. COVID-19 has upended every aspect of life.

While journalists look to Poynter for best practices in covering the pandemic, Poynter has an exciting addition to our full-time faculty. 

Samantha Ragland will draw on her experience as a gifted storyteller and team leader as she steps into a job training journalists to tell better stories and build stronger teams. Ragland comes to Poynter from her job as a regional digital director in the USA Today Network, via the legacy GateHouse newspapers.

Ragland will immediately assist Poynter’s response to the pandemic, supporting our mission to champion the duty of a free press to inform, educate and hold the powerful accountable. Today, that looks like offering more virtual training, more thought leadership on Poynter.org and more partnerships. That also looks like growing our team so that we can best serve the industry during this crucial time.

We’re heartened to announce that we have filled this faculty position with a dynamic leader who values the power of stories to make a difference and the power of local newsrooms to make communities stronger. 

Poynter teaches more than 70,000 journalists, educators and students each year. Faculty members are key to creating a learning environment that is regularly described by program participants as “transformative.” The position demands an accomplished, respected industry leader who can effectively translate their years of experience and acumen into relevant teaching, whether it’s a hands-on workshop, a one-on-one coaching session or in writing. 

As much as Poynter faculty are called on as expert sources, they are even more so looked to as mentors, mediators and motivators. During waves of crisis, Poynter faculty members shepherd the hardworking journalist to higher ground.  

If you have met Ragland, you know that she jolts any room to life with her enthusiasm, humor and undeniable competency. As a teacher in our seminars, her bolt of light supercharges students, mentees, peers and colleagues. As her future coworkers, we all can’t wait for Ragland to start as the newest Poynter faculty member on March 30.

Ragland is stepping away from the position of director of digital content strategy for USA Today Network’s Florida Group, where she has been responsible for growing digital audience and acumen across the 22 legacy GateHouse newspapers through content verticals, business models and accessible digital training. She holds a master’s in journalism from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s in creative writing from Western Kentucky. 

She’s been in the media industry since 2013, when she started as a breaking-news web producer at The Palm Beach Post. She was promoted repeatedly, taking on bigger challenges and leading bigger teams focused on cross-platform storytelling. As manager of The Post’s digital storytelling team, she found a way to package her team’s editorial content that would get sales teams excited about finding sponsorships for it. She also co-chaired The Post’s diversity and inclusion team. 

“Sam is one of the smartest thinkers and editors on digital strategy and craft, and she has a distinguished record of helping journalists expand their audiences with engaging, accessible content,” said Poynter president Neil Brown. “Combine that with her passion for teaching, and we get a wonderful new asset to help Poynter provide skills, leadership and strategic training.” 

Prior to her career in media, Ragland spent nearly six years as an adjunct English professor. With a teacher dad and social worker mom, she grew up knowing she wanted to live a life of service, too. She believes that teaching is her calling. 

To scratch the itch as a working journalist, she helped organize high school journalism workshops for five years through Newspapers in Education. She has guest lectured at the University of Florida. In 2018, she was selected as a digital media consultant for the ONA Local Speakers Bureau. She’s also worked with Poynter as guest faculty since 2018, facilitating workshops and training for custom newsroom partnerships as well as the women’s leadership academy. 

“I have loved even the most difficult moments of my work as a journalist and editor, but I can’t begin to express my excitement and gratitude for this next adventure, one that will be highlighted by the conversations and collective wisdom of women and journalists of color,” Ragland said. “Poynter’s interactive training style has elevated the work of countless journalists across the world while the institute’s foundational leadership training has accelerated the career trajectory of hundreds of past, current and future journalism leaders — myself included. It’s an honor to join Poynter and continue their legacy of this important work.” 

When she starts at Poynter, Ragland’s portfolio will include leading the Poynter-Koch Media & Journalism Fellowship and the Leadership Academy for Women in Media. The fellowship is an intensive, year-long program to support early-career journalists in their first newsroom job. Last year, 60 journalists were selected, and Ragland served as a guest instructor and mentor. Ragland will now take over as the lead faculty for Poynter as a new class of fellows convenes in June.

Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Women in Media is now offered three times per year, and it remains one of Poynter’s most competitive programs. Ragland’s dedication to the program began after she graduated from it in 2016: She has volunteered to review applications for several years and volunteers her time as a mentor on the offshoot platform, digitalwomenleaders.com. She served as a guest faculty during the fall cohort of 2018 and the first cohort of 2020. Ragland and Katie Hawkins-Gaar, the longtime program organizer, will co-lead the second cohort (postponed until later this year). Under Hawkins-Gaar’s mentorship, Ragland will lead the third cohort in 2020 and beyond. 

“As a graduate of our leadership academy and a guest teacher in the same program, Sam embodies Poynter’s mission to connect journalists to the noble values that guide our profession,” said Kelly McBride, Poynter senior vice president and chair of the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership. “I’m thrilled to see Sam step into such an influential role in journalism. I have no doubt she’s going to change lives and careers.”

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Mel Grau is the senior product specialist at The Poynter Institute, focusing on Poynter's training experiences and newsletters. She also edits The Cohort, Poynter’s biweekly…
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  • Congrats Samantha!!! We are excited to have you and look forward to working with you soon!