How to engage audiences, take risks journalistically and learn from web and social media analytics were among the key topics addressed by Mike McCray, social media editor of the Dallas Morning News, in a three-day campus visit March 7 through 9.

McCray was guest speaker in six classes, at a faculty brown bag and at an evening meet-and-greet with students during his follow-up to a competitively awarded Scripps-Howard Foundation grant that sent Associate Professor Eric Meyer to the Morning News newsroom as a visiting professor of social media for two weeks last summer.

As part of his busy itinerary, McCray spoke and answered questions in Jennifer Follis’s campus-wide Introduction to Journalism course, in two of Jean McDonald’s News Editing classes, in Stretch Ledford’s Multimedia Reporting class and in Meyer’s Multimedia Editing and Design class.

He worked closely with journalism, advertising and communication students in Meyer’s Social and Digital Media class, which is producing and marketing a series of experimental social media feeds (The ‘Nois) serving the campus community. With additional help from visiting scholar Ahmed Orabi, the class plans to conduct industry-style research later this semester on the effectiveness of experimental tactics and techniques being developed for their feeds, which can be seen in preliminary form at, and

He also met with U of I journalism senior Tyler Davis, who will be a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund data journalism intern this summer at the Morning News.

McCray, 29, engaged in a wide-ranging dialog with nearly two dozen College of Media faculty members about the Morning News’s recent reorganization, for which he played a key role, into a digital-first newsroom.

He also offered career and professional advice to a standing-room-only crowd of students who gathered over pizza and soft drinks at an evening event co-sponsored by the Journalism Department and the campus chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Association of Black Journalists.

As a graduate of a historical black North Carolina A&T, McCray offered special insights for students of color. He also spent free time picking out U of I souvenirs for the editor who originally hired him in Dallas, Illinois journalism alum Chris McNary, who has gone from being a student in Meyer’s first online publishing class in 1998 to serving as overall manager of the Morning News’s website.

McCray and Meyer


 McCray and Meyer