The Innovators Series will bring six leaders in the information industries to the University of Florida over the next two years whose inventive outlooks have propelled them to the leading edge of data, mobile and community engagement. These speakers will focus on media innovation and new ways of communicating


We aim to bring to you the kind of innovative thinking and interaction you crave. You won’t hear canned, polished presentations. Our innovators will be diving in and getting their hands dirty along side our students and faculty. We’ll create opportunities for a forward-looking series of events to connect here and virtually with the people who are inventing our future.

“We’re excited about getting these big thinkers here, and seeing what happens when their forward thinking meets our students’ passion. The Innovators will enliven our classrooms, hatch fresh ideas and kindle new directions in scholarship.”    Diane McFarlin, Dean

They have taken big risks on new ideas. Their curiosity is leading toward answers to the most intriguing questions about how new technologies are changing the way we engage people in our causes, acquire and understand news, and connect with others. And they are willing to share what they’ve learned.

Meet the 2015-2016 Innovators Class

Matt Thompson, The Atlantic

Matt Thompson

MARCH 2016 Matt Thompson is the Deputy Editor of The Atlantic where he helps to oversee editorial operations and shape strategic development for the publisher’s media properties. Previously he was director of vertical initiatives where he directed news teams covering race, ethnicity, and culture; education; and global health and development. At NPR, he oversaw the launch of Code Switch, NPR Ed and Goats and Soda.

He also currently is the vice-chairman of the board at the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit organization for investigative journalism. In 2011 he cofounded SparkCamp, a regular gathering for a diverse range of people from a cross-section of industries.

Thompson spent several years in the newspaper industry, building digital products. He was Donald W. Reynolds Fellow and a Naughton Fellow for Online Reporting and Writing.

In 2004, Thompson collaborated on Flash move called EPIC, a prescient view on the future of the media and technology landscape. MORE ON MATT’s VISIT

Sachin Kamdar,

Sachin Kamdar

JANUARY 2016 Sachin Kamdar is co-founder and CEO of, a leading content and audience analytics firm for digital publishers. provides data that publishers can use to make real-time content decisions to increase engagement, sharing, loyalty and the overall user experience.

​Sachin has been in the content and digital media business since 2009, when launched as part of DreamIt Ventures’ incubator program. Since then, he has evangelized the importance of data for online news and media companies. He also is a member of The New Republic’s Advisory Board.

He serves as a mentor at the ER Accelerator in New York, an organization committed to growing and building New York’s technology and entrepreneurial community, and also with NYC Seedstart, a 12-week summer program designed to provide seed funding to technology companies to build a product and launch their company. MORE ON SACHIN’s VISIT

Rafat Ali, Skift

Rafat Ali

SEPTEMBER 2015 Rafat Ali is the CEO/founder of Skift, the largest travel industry intelligence and marketing platform, providing news, information, data and services to all sectors of the world’s largest industry. Since its inception in 2012, Skift has become a trusted brand for travel information. Skift Trend Reports and SkiftIQ provide data on existing and emerging trends and are used by top strategists, technologists, and marketers in travel.

Previously, Ali was the founder/CEO of the online media hub paidContent and ContentNext, covering news, information and analysis of the business of digital media. The company was sold to UK’s Guardian News and Media in 2008 for a reported $30 million.

Join us for a Master Class with Ali, where he will discuss the building of a vertical media company. MORE ON RAFAT’s VISIT

Meet the 2014-2015 Innovators Class

Mark Little, Storyful

SEPTEMBER 2014  Mark Little is the founder of Storyful, the world’s first social media news agency.  He leads a team of journalists and technologists who discover and verify the most compelling content on platforms like YouTube and Twitter. His company works with the biggest news organizations and social networks in the world, including YouTube, ABC News and the New York Times. The company was acquired by News Corp in December 2013, and entered an agreement with Facebook to power the FB Newswire earlier this year. Mark has more than two decades of experience in journalism. He was an award-winning foreign correspondent for the Irish national TV station RTE. He also presented the network’s top-rated current affairs programme, Prime Time, and was its first Washington correspondent. Mark was educated at Trinity College Dublin and Dublin City University. He is married and has three children. MORE ON MARK’s VISIT

Melissa Bell, Vox

Melissa Bell

NOVEMBER 2014  Melissa Bell co-founded in early 2014 and became the first person at Vox Media to hold both a technology and editorial title as Senior Product Manager and Executive Editor for Prior to Vox, Melissa oversaw digital platforms at the Washington Post. She was also one of The Post’s most-read bloggers and a columnist for the Style section. Before joining The Post, she helped launch Mint, a Wall Street Journal subsidiary in India, where she lived for four years. She has written for a number of publications, including Time, the Guardian and Town & Country. She hails from San Diego, California and makes a mean banana-and-cheese quesadilla. MORE ON MELISSA’s VISIT

Maria Balinska, The Conversation

Maria Balinska

APRIL 2015  Maria Balinska is Managing Editor of The Conversation US, a digital platform for analysis and commentary written by scholars, edited by journalists and aimed at the general public. As journalist and manager, Maria has worked at one of the world’s leading media institutions (the BBC) as well as at her own digital startup (Latitude News).  She’s an internationalist who has devoted her career to expanding the coverage of world affairs on different platforms and for different audiences and who believes passionately in the value of the “local global mashup” perspective on today’s interconnected world.  In her free time, Maria is an enthusiast and organizer in the cause of language immersion teaching and will hold forth to any captive audience about the wonderfully surprising history of the bagel (the subject of her 2008 book).

The Innovators Series is hosted at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications.

The University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications is driving innovation and engagement across the disciplines of advertising, journalism, public relations and telecommunication. The strength of its programs, faculty, students and alumni  — in research and in practice — has earned the college ongoing recognition as one of the best in the nation among its peers. The college offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and certificates, both online and on campus. The college’s strength is drawn from both academic rigor and experiential learning. CJC students have the opportunity to gain practical experience in the Innovation News Center, which generates content across multiple platforms, and a strategic communication agency that will begin operation in Fall 2014. The college includes seven broadcast and digital media properties and the nation’s only program in public interest communications.

Innovation isn’t passive. Neither are inventors like you.  

Through in-person and digital interactions with these thought leaders, we can create a community of communicators that will drive change, increase engagement and create an impact. Be part of our community. Sign up for updates and to learn about ways to engage with The Innovators: