by Andrew Johnson
Nelson Poynter was not only a profound journalist, but an optimistic visionary. Unlike many individuals who grow to love journalism, Poynter was born to write. After all, he wrote his first published article at age 11 for the St. Petersburg Times.
Poynter helped the journalism industry evolve throughout his life, especially through technology, said David Shedden, director of the library at Poynter Institute. Under his leadership, the St Petersburg Times was one of the first newspapers in the country to use color.
Poynter’s vision for the Modern Media Institute (which later became the Poynter Institute) was founded on two ideals. First, he believed in training journalists. Second, he also believed that the newspaper he owned should be preserved locally and never owned by a corporation. Poynter’s passion for education played a major role in his vision to train aspiring journalists. To make sure the school he was setting up would remain intact, he set up his finances so the institute would be the owner of the St. Petersburg Times.
The Modern Media Institute was founded in 1975 in a rented banking center. Today it’s the Poynter Institute, and sits on a beautiful site across from the University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus.
Shedden has worked at Poyter for 23 years and has seen Poynter evolve into one of the elite journalism institutes in the country. “Sharing stories is what I particularly enjoy working for Poynter,” Shedden said. “I think because of my background, I enjoy talking about the history of the institute and the St. Petersburg Times.”