Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute Names Three to Its Executive Staff

Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute

Columbia, Mo. (Aug. 30, 2005) — The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism recently named three to its executive staff.

Executive Director Pam Johnson announced the three new members: Roger Gafke, Director of Program Development; Esther Thorson, Director of Research; and Roger Fidler, Director of Technology Initiatives. The Institute focuses on advanced studies of journalism and its role in democratic societies.

“These three people are at the top of the field in development, research and technology,” Johnson said. “Their combined efforts will make the Reynolds Institute a hub for innovation and understanding in journalism and media-related practices.”

Johnson was hired last fall as the Reynolds Institute’s founding executive director. A long-time media professional, Johnson most recently served as a member of the Leadership Faculty at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies and as the Senior Vice President for News and Executive Editor at The Arizona Republic in Phoenix.

Roger Gafke
Roger Gafke

Roger Gafke, Director of Program Development

As Director of Program Development, Gafke will build partnerships for research projects, programs and funding from corporations, foundations, associations and individuals who share the priority of the Institute to advance the practice of journalism.

Gafke is a leader in the use of the Internet and related digital technologies for public relations, fund raising and training and on the expansion of the university’s international relationships. Since joining the J-School faculty in 1968, Gafke has participated in virtually all aspects of the University of Missouri-Columbia advancement program, with an emphasis on program development and evaluation. He has previously served as vice chancellor for development, university and alumni relations and executive director of the Accrediting Council on Education for Journalism and Mass Communications. Gafke is now professor emeritus at the School of Journalism and focuses on the Reynolds Institute development. Before joining the faculty, he served as a radio news director, newspaper city editor, public information officer for the U.S. Air Force and as a political science instructor.

Esther Thorson
Esther Thorson

Esther Thorson, Director of Research

As Director of Research, Thorson will guide selection and execution of Institute research projects and help choose Institute Fellows who will engage in projects aimed at improving the practice and understanding of journalism. She will continue to serve as associate dean of research and graduate studies at the School.

A leading researcher in the field of journalism, Thorson researches public health advertising and promotion, the impact of news and advertising on audiences and the role of ethnicity in news. She directed the Center for Advanced Social Research at the School, one of the nation’s largest academic research centers that works with news media organizations. Thorson has published hundreds of academic journal articles, book chapters and books and advised more than 40 doctoral students who now teach at universities throughout the nation. For her outstanding contributions to advertising education, Thorson received the 2004 Distinguished Educator Award from the American Advertising Federation. She is the only female Fellow of the American Academy of Advertising, and she won the Academy’s Outstanding Contribution to Research Award in 2003.

Roger Fidler
Roger Fidler

Roger Fidler, Director of Technology Initiatives

As Director of Technology Initiatives, Fidler will take a hands-on approach to discovering new technologies that benefit the broad media industry with the help of fellow scholars, students and technology companies. He will head research on technology advancements that will affect media companies, advertising, journalism and citizens.

Fidler, a recognized leader in the digital transformation of publishing, has worked in the newspaper business for more than 30 years as a reporter, designer, technologist and executive. He has been at the forefront of online and digital publishing development since 1979, when he joined the start-up team for Viewtron, Knight-Ridder’s pioneering videotex service. Fidler went on to found the Knight-Ridder/Tribune Graphics Service, the first computer news graphics service; PressLink, the newspaper industry’s first global intranet; and the Knight-Ridder Information Design Lab, a digital publishing “skunkworks” he headed as corporate director of new media. He was a journalism professor and director of the Institute for CyberInformation at Kent State University when he was selected as the Reynolds Institute’s inaugural fellow in 2004. As a fellow, Fidler conducted the first field test of a new digital publishing platform he developed called Electronic Media Print (EmPRINT).

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation awarded the Missouri School of Journalism $31 million for the creation of the Institute in February 2004. Of this gift, $18.6 million will be spent on construction and technology, $12.4 million on programs. The Foundation is a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named. Headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada, it is one of the largest private foundations in the United States.

Updated: April 7, 2020

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