Matt Sheehan has become a recognized thought leader in journalism education and visionary in digital news. He is an accomplished practitioner, educator and entrepreneur. His vision, insights and experience have helped propel the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications into one of the preeminent journalism teaching hospitals in the country.
His thought pieces on newsroom transformation and the impact of Apple News have been widely circulated. He pioneered news distribution on messaging apps through a partnership with Yik Yak. And he is forging new ground by bringing public relations students into the newsroom to improve audience engagement.
Matt was an assistant news editor at The Washington Post before getting his MBA at the University of Maryland, where he also served as the Merrill College’s communications director, web strategist and developer. He was chief operating officer at a digital publishing startup based in Washington, D.C., from 2009-2011.
Since joining the UF J-School, Matt has dedicated himself to news innovation and education. He was the original director of the college’s 21st Century News Lab – focused on innovation and research in storytelling. In 2013, he helped guide the launch of the Innovation News Center (INC) – a 100+ seat, integrated newsroom feeding the college’s seven media properties (where Matt is also news editor and executive editor) and championed the “report once/publish everywhere” process that is its hallmark.
The INC is testament to Matt’s passion to ensure that emerging journalists have the education and experience to succeed in a rapidly changing media world. He helped foster an immersive learning experience for the college’s journalism and telecommunications students (most of whom are required to spend at least one semester in this real-world news room). Matt played a critical role in the development of new methodologies and technology to manage the news operation, structure of the operation and expansion of the curricula to support it.
Matt has also devoted his time to helping fellow journalism educators as one of the founders and organizers of the Journalism Interactive conference. Matt has been involved in the Online News Association in multiple ways over the years, including three stints as a registration desk captain at the annual conference. He also helped establish ONA’s UF Awards for Excellence in Data Journalism, now the Online Journalism Awards' largest prize.
His work has been published by multiple national media outlets, including The Washington Post, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, St. Petersburg Times and the American Journalism Review. He has won several awards from the Society of Professional Journalist and the Society for News Design, and was named a Scripps Howard Top 10 Scholar in 2001.
— By Randy Bennett for 2015 Online News Association board nomination