Meet Kevin Moloney, an Assistant Professor of Emerging Media Design and Development at the Center for EMDD at Ball State University. His specialty lies in photojournalism. Kevin’s work has been published by many, including the New York Times, National Geographic Society, Chicago Tribune, TIME, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, US News & World Report, Paris Match, and Stern.
Could you share the personal journey that led you to become a faculty member?
My father was a photojournalist and a photojournalism lecturer at the University of Colorado. When he retired, an Assistant Dean at the Journalism School asked if I would be interested in taking up his classes. I was working in Miami at the time, photographing for the New York Times. I asked the Times if they needed me in Colorado, and they said yes. So then I moved back home to Boulder.
For the next 21 years, I covered the West and Latin America for the Times. I taught two courses a semester in photojournalism at night. When I started teaching I wasn’t sure if I’d like it as much as I did, but students have a way of charming you in surprising ways.
Along that path, I sought first a master’s degree and then a Ph.D. in Technology, Media, and Society with a someday eye on a tenured faculty position somewhere. Not long after I finished, a friend forwarded me the job posting here at Ball State in EMDD. It was a perfect fit for both my media experience and my areas of scholarship.
What is your teaching philosophy?
I believe that good teaching is an act of facilitation. My role is to assist students in learning and discovery for themselves, to help them find the connections between the subjects and examples I bring and their own lives and goals. I also strive to remove every obstacle to success that I can for the students. Neither I nor my class should be an obstacle, only fuel.
How do you get students excited about your class/classes?
I am fortunate to have practiced what I preach for a very long time. After working at the very top of the journalism profession and for some of the most critical editors in the business, I have endless examples to show of media and storytelling in action. I also have loads of anecdotes about the way media and the world creates work and plenty of learning moments from my career to share. I’m also a dad, and thus I tell dad jokes — some real groaners sometimes. I love the students, and they can tell.
Any personal stories you’d like to share from your classes?
Here at Ball State, the best memories come from collaborative immersive projects where I get to watch curious, brilliant, engaged grad students connect theoretical stuff with the real world. Sometimes they make that personal, like a duo last year, did by developing transmedia storytelling that was deeply connected to their personal lives and histories. “The Women Who Made Me” project, among many others, was almost too much fun to call work. Don’t tell the Dean.
In 25 years of teaching, I have experienced everything from a student confiding in heroin addiction, to one who secretly lived in the department photo lab after being evicted for back rent, to others who asked me whether I thought they should get married. I’ve had a personal mentee die in a horrible car accident. Being a professor is a curious life where you become accustomed to students wandering into your life for a few years, then fanning out into the world. We expect them to come and go, but not because they die tragically.
What are your favorite projects you have worked on?
As an inaugural Ford Environmental Journalism Fellowship grantee in 2000, I spent four months documenting seven environmental problems that had shown up in Tierra del Fuego, the archipelago at the bottom of the Americas. I covered invasive species, deforestation, fisheries depletion, the extinction of native peoples, the ozone hole, pollution from development, and climate change. For that grant, I also taught environmental reporting to regional newspapers in Argentina, Chile, and the Falkland Islands. You can see photos taken during this time in the Seven Plagues of Tierra del Fuego gallery.
Through the 1990s and early 2000s, I documented the rise of Pentecostalism in Latin America. Once home to half the world’s Roman Catholics, Latin America has been turning protestant for more than 30 years. That causes monumental changes in culture and identity. It has also created many frauds and embezzlement scandals alongside some rigid behavioral rules that help some people there take control of their lives. Like most evolutions or revolutions, it is a mixed bag. Photos from this timeframe are in the gallery Invasion of the Sects.
Unquestionably the hardest stories I’ve covered have been from the epidemic of mass shootings, starting with Columbine in 1999. I basically didn’t leave that stressful and tragic story for six months after. It was the first of many more I’d cover, up through the 2018 shooting at Noblesville West Middle School while my stepson Callum was inside. When covering something like Columbine, you are motivated by the hope that your work will mean this will never happen again. When you find yourself covering them almost 20 years later, you question how much your work fuels rather than deter them. This is an example of the depth my working experience brings to both teaching and research — that I have had to face the negatives with the positives of media content creation. I have worked deep inside my subject.
What has been the proudest moment in your career so far?
As a photojournalist that would be making a few images that directly changed the lives of the subjects. When you touch readers enough that they offer to donate a kidney, or fund a new apartment for a hurricane victim, or even to send money to help a couple deer fawns in a wildfire burn zone, then you feel like your work matters.
As a teacher, that moment was flying to Perpignan, France, to watch a former student receive an international award for work documenting 21st-century communism in seven countries around the world. I am enormously proud of the breathtaking work my former students do.
Have you won any awards for your work? If so, what are they and which ones are the most significant to you?
I confess I was always very bad at entering competitions for myself. That said, in photojournalism, I was part of teams that won two New York Times Chairman’s Awards for coverage of Hurricane Andrew and for race divisions on Florida’s Gulf Coast while a photojournalist at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. For the latter, a local synagogue also presented me with an honor for the photographs I made.
In teaching, I’ve just won this enormously appreciated Outstanding Teaching award from CCIM, and in 2008 13 former students secured for me the Robin F. Garland Teaching Award given by the National Press Photographers Association. I am deeply grateful to be recognized by both colleagues and students for my teaching.
What are you most proud of, as a Faculty Member of Ball State?
The Outstanding Teaching Award certainly tops that list! Otherwise, it is being a core part of an innovative and successful program in EMDD.
Can you share one thing that people don’t typically know about you?
Are you involved in any student organizations at Ball State? If yes, what do you do within these clubs/how did you get involved?
What do you think is most important about Ball State?
I truly value Ball State’s priority toward teaching and community engagement. The research we do has the most meaningful impact in the world when it becomes a tool our students use, and particularly when they use it to elevate the communities in which they live. This is an extraordinary ethos, and one of the key reasons I came here.