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New-media innovator to join Medill Faculty

1982 was a revolutionary year for Owen Youngman. It was his first time using the Internet, his first time using online chat and the first time he realized the emergence of a new media landscape.

“[I] realized that many of the boundaries that limited the reach, timeliness and effectiveness of our work were going to fail,” Youngman said. “The immediacy was transformative.”

A new-media visionary and longtime Chicago Tribune journalist, Youngman will be bringing his expertise to Medill this April when he becomes the Knight Professor of Digital Media Strategy at Northwestern University.

“It’s very exciting to contemplate spending my time in the company of people who are excited about thinking, learning and innovating,” Youngman said. “I’ve never made this radical a change before, so of course I’m nervous. But there is nothing as exciting as learning something new.”

During his time at the Chicago Tribune, Youngman oversaw the creation of Metromix and RedEye. By targeting a different kind of audience, or “Tribune rejectors,” Youngman has successfully launched both of these brands. In 2007, Youngman was appointed the Tribune’s vice president of development.

As a Facebook user, Youngman is a big believer in the potential of social media and Web 2.0. Last year, increased traffic by 10 percent within three months through the use of social networks. Youngman believes this is an indication that traditional media forms are not as irrelevant as critics claim.

“Every story created by a newspaper has an enormous potential audience. Through strategic deployment of both digital and analog media, journalists can reach the people who most need what we have to say,” Youngman said. “Our creativity and our ambitions need not be constrained.”

Youngman will teach, write and do research during his time at Medill. He intends to influence and mentor a new generation of journalists who know how to take advantage of this new-media platform.

“I am hoping to pass on some of what I have learned at the Tribune to the next generation of great journalists,” Youngman said. “I believe that my Medill colleagues and I have the opportunity to affect the whole news and media industry, not just one slice of it.”


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