With limited resources for local journalists and small-town newspapers, it can be difficult to provide the kind of training in digital tools that is increasingly required in today’s news environment. The Digital Natives program at the University of Georgia is a partnership between the Georgia Press Education Foundation and the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication which connects UGA journalism students to Georgia newsrooms.

The expertise of these “Digital Natives” helps to fill a gap for local reporters, but also provides real-world experience for UGA students.

As it happens, there is another unit at the University of Georgia that seeks to connect communities to students seeking real-world experience, the Archway Partnership.

Archway Operations Coordinator Angel Jackson helped to connect student Kate Hester to the Hartwell Sun in the Archway community of Hart County.

“Once I got in contact with Angel, she was incredibly supportive of our efforts to connect digitally savvy journalism students to local news organizations for the benefit of both parties,” said Amanda Bright, faculty member in the Grady College and Journalism Academic Professional. “She used her contacts within communities to invite several community newspapers to apply for this first year of our program. Angel was incredibly thorough in her efforts to understand how our new program worked and to correctly and efficiently communicate what we wanted to do for and with these community partners.”

Hart County Archway Professional Rosanna Cruz-Bibb also helped to connect Hester with Hartwell Sun journalist Michael Hall who worked with Hester for a week-long session where she made social media suggestions to help the paper generate revenue and engagement. She created presentations and showed him free and paid options to develop infographics and other social content outside of posts directly related to articles.

Hall said it was great to hear from a younger person on their perspective and she showed him some different tools he had never heard of before. He said it was a great experience and was very complimentary of the class.

Hester developed a social media plan with tips for content types, how much to post on different social media platforms and organizing a calendar for posting.

For her part, despite being a digital native, Hester learned new things from sitting in the teacher chair for once. “When you’re teaching someone else, that’s the best way to learn. I realized how much I really did know about my field and what I needed to improve on in my field,” said Hester.

“The experience was incredibly valuable, it gave me more material for my portfolio and an insight into a real life newsroom. It also helped me to see how similar a real newsroom was to our campus newsroom Grady Newsource,” said Hester. “I really enjoyed the work a lot, it was fun and exciting to put all that I have learned at Grady to work. I have worked with the real-world community previously to this and after this. I have to say I saw a big difference, I am truly a believer of practice makes perfect and I am so grateful to the Hartwell Sun, Grady and UGA for this opportunity to grow.”

“Because of this work, we hope to work with a number of these local news organizations again next year, and Digital Natives will use the Archway network again to make sure communities and editors/publishers know about the great benefits of this opportunity to increase their digital presence for their local audiences,” added Bright.