Debora Wilson and Graham Woodlief Speak to Elon University Communications Students About the Future of Their Companies and Media

By Megan Wanner

Advisory Board members Woodlief and Wilson speak to Elon University Communications Students.In an economic downturn, where is the future of media companies headed?

What about the content these companies are selling?

Two members of Elon University‘s, N.C., School of Communications Advisory Board answered these questions and more Friday while speaking to Communications students. Debora Wilson, former president and chief executive officer of, and Graham Woodlief, vice president of Media General, Inc., introduced students to how their respective companies operated and answered questions students had about their companies and the future of media in general.

Future of Their Companies

Woodlief talked to students about how information is the most important thing to Media General and they look to combine platforms in order to provide better information to their clients. 

Wilson told students that the Weather Channel’s distribution was simple: distribute wherever people were.  “We try to figure out what is happening with customers and with consumers and what kinds of weather information do they want and where do they want it,” Wilson said.

Civilian Generated Content

Woodlief commented that civilian generated content is “exploding.”  “We do everything we can to be able to use user-generated content,” Woodlief said.  “It’s important to us; we feel like it’s an area readers really want to see not only in print but on video and creating opportunies for people to put user-generated content on video…it’s a very important part of our business for the future, we believe.”

Wilson said she felt the rise of civilian generated content had to do with engaging consumers.  “The reason why it’s important, I think, is because it engages the viewer and the consumer of the content in a much deeper way…if you are going to Twitter the Weather Channel, you are a engaged with the Weather Channel, not a passive viewer.”

The Future of Media

Although people are changing the way they get information, Woodlief inserted that with regards to newspapers, he believes “there will be print product for years to come.”

Tips for Future Journalists

“Learn all you can about an organization you’re going to be interviewing with…the more knowledge you have up front is going to show your interest and your ability to grasp information,” Woodlief said.

“Be able to work well with other people,” Wilson said.  “It’s just so important.  I have seen so many people that are so smart and capable f rom a skills perspective that either do not achieve what they want to achieve in a career or they lose their job because they are not able to work in a group environment.”

Wilson and Woodlief

Debora Wilson is the former president and executive officer of  While in this position, she was responsible for the strategy, development and growth of The Weather Channel’s products and brand in online media. was launched in 1995 under her direction and quickly established itself on the Internet, becoming one of the top 15 web properties that exists.  Before joining the Weather Channel in 1994, Wilson worked for 15 years in the telecommunications industry at Bell Atlantic Network Services after earning a bachelor’s degree in finance and business administration from George Mason University.

Graham Woodlief is the vice president of Media General, Inc. and president of the publishing division since 1998.  He is responsible for overseeing 25 daily and about 150 weekly newspapers including the Winston-Salem Journal.  Woodlief is a member of the Associated Press board of directors and is currently vice chairman of the SNPA Foundation.  Woodlief joined the circulation department of Richmond newspapers while in high school and after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, climbed the ladder to become hold his executive position at Media General.

Check out the advice Wilson and Woodlief have for young journalists:


2 responses to “Debora Wilson and Graham Woodlief Speak to Elon University Communications Students About the Future of Their Companies and Media

  1. Wow, great work getting together a lot of good details. Now all you need to do is provide links in the story to all of the keywords that lead readers to useful information and possibly get a photo/video to use as well.

  2. You did professional work getting this finished off with photo, video clip and links. Take pride in your entire portfolio!

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