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Artist in Res (Temp)

University of Central Oklahoma


Joe Hight is the Edith Kinney Gaylord Endowed Chair of Journalism Ethics in the Department of Mass Communication at the University of Central Oklahoma. He also is director of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, a statewide organization that is based at UCO.

Joe is a columnist, writer, consultant and a bookstore owner. His newspaper career as an editor, director, managing editor or reporter spanned for nearly 40 years.

His nonfiction book "Unnecessary Sorrow: A Journalist Investigates the Life and Death of His Older Brother: Ordained, Discarded, Slain" was published in September 2019 by The RoadRunner Press. His current work on "The Trauma Journey Research Project" will eventually result in a book and curriculum in conjunction with the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, an international organization based at Columbia University with offices in London and Melbourne. 

He was editor when David Philipps and The Gazette in Colorado Springs won the Pulitzer Prize winner in National Reporting for the multimedia series “Other Than Honorable” on the plight of Army veterans suffering from PTSD and traumatic brain injury. He also was named to the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame in 2013.

In October 2014, he, his wife, Nan, and oldest daughter, Elena, bought Best of Books, an independent bookstore in Edmond, OK, that has been in business for 34 years. Joe is president of the corporation. He writes a weekly personal column for the Oklahoma Journal Record called "Oklahoma Joe" and has done consulting in digital and social media strategy, community engagement, trauma coverage and other areas. He is also pursuing the completion of fiction and nonfiction books.

Before coming to The Gazette, he was The Oklahoman/'s director of information and development. 

Hight serves as the chairman of the Oklahoma Watch board and is the 2019 president of FOI Oklahoma. He also serves on the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference Advisory Board. He most recently served on the Associated Press Media Editors board, based in New York, the Friends of the Oklahoma Center for the Book, the Ball State University Dean’s Advisory Board, the University of Central Oklahoma Foundation and others.

He was involved in the efforts that won The Oklahoman the 2009 APME Innovator of the Year Award; The Oklahoman also was a finalist for the 2012 award. He also led information efforts that include the "know it" online communities and "Your Right to Know" projects, which won the national Society of Professional Journalists' "Public Service in Online Journalism" awards as well as regional, state and national First Amendment awards. After he became editor, The Gazette won at least 10 national awards since he became editor, including the national Gannett Foundation Award for Digital Innovation in Watchdog Journalism.

Hight is considered a co-founder of the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma, an international organization based at Columbia University with offices in London and Melbourne, and served for two terms as president of its founding executive committee. He authored and co-authored print and online booklets and columns that are still used by the Dart Center, including "Tragedies & Journalists: A Guide for More Effective Coverage" that has been translated into four different languages. He also cofounded the People and the Media Program at the University of Central Oklahoma, where he was named as a “distinguished former student,” and the “Joe Hight Scholarship” in ethics is awarded in his honor. He also is a past chairman of the Mid-America Press Institute.

He taught and lectured at several universities and media organizations in the United States, Australia, London and Ireland, been a visiting faculty member at the Poynter Institute, a panelist at the Aspen Institute and spoke at several conventions and workshops, including four straight National Writers Workshops. He wrote a chapter on the “ME BRAND” for the recently published book “From Twitter to Tahrir Square” and also several articles on writing, editing, interviewing, victims’ coverage and other subjects in the latest edition of "Reporting for the Media," a textbook that's used at many universities. He also has been featured in books, including as a featured character in Mark Masse's latest book "Trauma Journalism: On Deadline in Harm's Way."

At The Oklahoman, he was victims’ team leader of the Oklahoma City bombing coverage that won two national SPJ awards, a Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Violence and many others. He also has served in many community organizations.

He also received the 2018 Citizen’s Bank Leadership and Civic Engagement Award from then UCO President Don Betz.

His wife, Nan, is CEO of Best of Books. They have two daughters, Elena, who is completing her master’s degree in the doctoral program at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and Elyse, who graduated from University of Notre Dame and is working as consultant in M&A Services for Deloitte in Chicago. 

Classes Taught

Media Ethics -- MCOM 4423

Media Conference Leadership -- MCOM 3990

Database Investigative Journalism (lead instructor) -- MCOM 3390

Media Writing -- MCOM 1113

The views expressed by UCO faculty and staff on their personal websites and social media pages do not necessarily reflect the positions of the University of Central Oklahoma. UCO faculty and staff are advised to follow the university’s social media guidelines and are expected to conduct themselves in accordance with policies outlined in UCO’s Employee Handbook and/or Faculty Handbook.