Meek School Welcomes Board of Directors- Charles Overby

Protecting the First Amendment: Charles Overby Oversees the Freedom Forum

By Macey Baird and Robin Street

For Charles Overby, journalism has been a lifelong calling.

Overby began his self-proclaimed “love affair” with newspapers at age 11 while delivering The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger each day at 5 a.m.  Then came his high school journalism class.

“On the second day of class I remember turning to my friend and saying, ‘If they pay you to do this, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life,’” Overby says.

Today, Overby is chairman and chief executive officer of the Freedom Forum foundation and CEO of the Newseum, a major museum in Washington, D.C. that informs and entertains 700,000 visitors annually about history, news and freedom.

At Ole Miss, the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics is named in his honor and funded through a $5 million grant from the Freedom Forum. The center brings his career full circle back to Ole Miss, where he finished in 1968, six credit hours short of a degree.

Overby credits his days at Ole Miss with preparing him for his career. He was editor of The Daily Mississippian and paid for his education by working for the sports information office of the Athletic Department and as Ole Miss correspondent for several news operations.

“I love Ole Miss in the sense that I have a lifelong passion for appreciating for what it has done for me and what it continues to do for so many people,” he says.

After leaving the university, Overby moved to D.C. to work for Sen. John Stennis from Mississippi before becoming the Washington correspondent for the Nashville Banner. Overby met Al Neuharth, owner of Gannett and founder of USA Today, when Gannett purchased the Banner.

“For whatever reason he gave me many opportunities both at the Gannett Company and the foundation,” Overby says of Neuharth..

He went on to spend 16 years working for Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper company, as a reporter, editor and corporate executive.

In 1982, Gannett appointed Overby as executive editor of The Clarion-Ledger where he led the newspaper’s news and editorial coverage of the need for education reform in Mississippi.  The result was a Pulitzer Prize in 1983.

In 1989, he became president and chief executive officer of the Gannett Foundation, later renamed the Freedom Forum. The Freedom Forum promotes First Amendment and media issues, and funds the Newseum, an interactive museum devoted to educating people about the First Amendment. It also funds the Diversity Institute, which works to keep a diverse workforce in newsrooms.

Today, Overby divides his time between Washingon (the Newseum), Nashville (the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University) and Oxford (the Overby Center).  He also travels around the country to speak about the future of newspapers and a free press.

“The future of newspapers is good.  It’s going to have a strong future in a multimedia sort of way,” Overby says. “I think we will see print for a long, long time, but we will also see news delivered on many new platforms.”

He believes the Meek School of Journalism and New Media will be a vital part of preparing students for that future.

“Journalism is one of the recognized areas of excellence at Ole Miss,” he says. “It teaches you and prepares you for a lifetime of many different opportunities. The Meek School has the right resources and the right leadership.  Now it ranks among the top journalism schools in the country.”

Overby suggests that journalism students gain a broad knowledge base early in their career.

“Pursue what you love and then the rest will fall into place,” Overby says. “It is the greatest blessing to my life and my family to find something I love doing and get paid for something as exciting as journalism.”

Meek School Welcomes Board of Directors- Otis Sanford

 Otis Sanford: The Day’s not Complete for this Commercial Appeal Editorial Editor till Someone’s Angry with Him

              By Toni Lepeska                                                              

       Otis Sanford spends part of his days hearing from angry people.

       Despite the angry folks, though, he loves his job as editor of opinions and editorials at The (Memphis, Tenn.) Commercial Appeal.

       Almost daily, he gets an ear full from people who don’t agree with what he said in his column or with what someone else wrote in the editorial pages. Sanford takes it all in stride.

       “You can’t have a thin skin,” said Sanford, a member of the University of Mississippi Alumni Hall of Fame.

       Sanford, 57, said new reporters should not even consider writing opinion columns until they have done plenty of well-written, accurate reporting.

       A 35-year newspaper veteran, Sanford began his love affair with newspapers as a child on the family farm in Como, Miss. Since his father was busy on the farm, Sanford would read the newspaper and report the contents to his father.

       “He loved news, and I loved news,” Sanford said.

[Read more...]

Meek School Welcomes Board of Directors- Evangeline Robinson

Evangeline W. Robinson

By Stuart Johnson

Evangeline W. Robinson is using the journalism skills she gained in graduate school at Ole Miss to help another Mississippi university, Jackson State.

Robinson, who grew up in the small Mississippi Delta town of Rolling Fork, graduated from Jackson State in 1991 where she majored in mass communications with a concentration in news editorial. While at JSU, she was involved in the student publication “The Blue and White Flash,” serving as editor-in-chief her senior year.

Eager to learn more, Robinson enrolled in the journalism graduate program at Ole Miss where she studied magazine service journalism with Dr. Samir Husni.

“He [Husni] inspired me through the program,” Robinson says. “I learned so much about magazines I never knew.”

While in graduate school, Robinson spent one summer interning in New York City at a trade publication and another with the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at Ole Miss.

[Read more...]

Meek School Welcomes Board of Directors- Liz Shiver

Liz Shiver: The “Go-To” Alumna

By Stuart Johnson and Robin Street

Elizabeth Shiver has lived through many changes in journalism since she graduated from Ole Miss in 1954.

She recalls when the department began with only one faculty member. The student media center did not yet exist, nor did broadcasting classes.

“The Mississippian was a weekly at the time and beholden to student-body wide election with its leaders accountable to the ASB,” Shiver says.

Now retired, Shiver returned to Oxford in 2001 where she has become the go-to person for historical and alumni organizational matters for the School.   Then journalism chairman Samir Husni asked her and Curtis Wilkie to reactivate the Journalism Advisory Committee. They served as co-chairs until 2009.
Husni also asked her to give the Silver Em Award address on the early days of the Department, which began just prior to her student years.  She served as chairman of The Mississippian 75th reunion in 1986 and is now a member of the committee planning the centennial reunion for June 17-19, 2011.

Dean Will Norton says Shiver is a tremendous asset to the School.

[Read more...]

Meek School Welcomes Board of Directors- Dennis Moore

Dennis Moore Mixes it up with the Movies in his job as Deputy Managing Editor for the Life Section of USA TODAY

By Stuart Johnson and Robin Street

Many people enjoy getting away from work by going to a movie. But what if work requires going to the movies?

Ole Miss alumnus Dennis Moore, class of ‘75, says his job as deputy managing editor for the Life section of USA TODAY is the ideal career.

“I have the best job because I get paid to go to movies, to watch TV and to read books,” Moore says. “If I weren’t paid to do this for my job, I would be doing this anyway.”

His job may sound glamorous, but overseeing entertainment coverage requires the same dedication and hard work as covering any other beat.

““We offer insight into the production of a variety of entertainment genres and into the lives of celebrities, for whom everyday people have an insatiable appetite,” Moore says. “When done well, this requires sharp reporting skills and engaging writing. It’s real news but with movie stars.”

Moore spends much of his time planning and coordinating with the editors and reporters who cover television, movies, music, books and celebrities. “I guide the collaboration that creates and distributes content on our three platforms: print, online and mobile,” he says.

[Read more...]

Meek School of Journalism and New Media Welcomes Board of Directors

Twelve outstanding graduates of the Meek School of Journalism serve as the alumni Board of Directors for the school.

Their  careers exemplify the many possibilities available to our graduates in the fields of broadcasting, newspapers, public relations and other journalism-related jobs.

Meet these alumni in the following profiles.

Thanks go to student Stuart Johnson and Lecturer Robin Street for preparing
the articles. As a student in Street¹s Public Relations Techniques class,
Johnson served as a public relations intern with the Meek School.

Another public relations student, Macey Baird, contributed the profile of
Charles Overby.  Thanks go also to UM journalism graduate Toni Lepeska, a
former Commercial Appeal reporter, now a freelance writer, who contributed
the article on Otis Sanford.


Marcus Foster
Evangeline Robinson
Elizabeth Shiver-Harris
Lee Ragland
Dennis Moore
Sellers Shy
Becky West
Otis Sanford
Kevin Seddon
Ronnie Agnew
Rose Flenorl
Charles Overby

Meek School Welcomes Board of Directors- Kevin Seddon

From the Press Room to the Board Room: How one Ole Miss Journalism Alum used his Degree to Become a Businessman

By Stuart Johnson and Robin Street

Kevin Seddon’s accomplishments have ranged far afield from his Journalism degree.

His business experience has included companies dealing with subjects as diverse as computer programming, termite inspection, acoustics and many other topics he never learned in Journalism classes.

So how did an ’88 journalism graduate get into these fields?

He began as a copywriter with several advertising and marketing  firms.  Then he was hired at Oxford Publishing, Inc. as vice-president by its founder and owner Dr. Ed Meek, for whom the Meek School of Journalism and New Media is named. While there, Seddon developed his marketing skills and learned business strategy. [Read more...]

Meek School Welcomes Board of Directors- Sellers Shy

Sellers Shy: Emmy award-winning broadcast sports producer

By: Stuart Johnson

Sellers Shy turned his love of sports and competition into a broadcasting career.

Today, Shy, class of 94, produces a variety of sports under the CBS Eye.  But it all began for this Memphis native when he volunteered as a runner for CBS Sports at the FedEx St. Jude Golf Classic in 1987. Shy, a two time player of the year in golf at Memphis University School, dressed catering stations, set up the network’s towers and drove people around as needed.  Basically, he did whatever he was asked to do.

After high school, Shy majored in broadcast journalism at Ole Miss, where he quickly caught his professors’ attention.

Ralph Braseth, former director of Student Media at Ole Miss, says Shy stood out.

“I could tell by his enthusiasm he was going to be good at whatever he decided to do,” Braseth says. “He possessed a great quality: curiosity.  He is a great story teller.”

At Ole Miss, Shy directed the campus student newscast.

[Read more...]

Meek School Welcomes Board of Directors- Lee Ragland

Lee Ragland: Former Newspaper Reporter, now PR Director

By Stuart Johnson and Robin Street

Lee Ragland’s career in journalism has ranged from reporting on sports and business to his job today in public relations. But his jobs share the need for one main skill: writing.

“Learn how to write. Even in PR jobs, you need the writing samples,” Ragland says. “You have to be able to write in a concise manner. Write and write often.”

Ragland is a vice president and director of public relations at GodwinGroup in Jackson, Miss, the state’s oldest and largest communications agency. He credits his training at Ole Miss with giving him the fundamentals of those writing skills.

“Ole Miss gave me a good foundation in journalism,” Ragland says.

A ’78 graduate, he was in one of now Dean Will Norton’s first classes, News Reporting. And it was that class and the Advanced Reporting class that challenged him to become a reporter, he recalls.

“Dr. Norton understands how newspapers work and journalism works,” Ragland says. “Advanced reporting was a great learning experience that really pushed me.

Norton says Ragland really knew his stuff when he came to sports reporting.

[Read more...]

Meek School Welcomes Board of Directors- Marcus Foster

Television Producer Extraordinaire: Marcus Foster

By: Stuart Johnson

Marcus Foster, who produces the No. 1 rated morning news show in the country, began his career in student media at Ole Miss.

“Working in student media was the best experience I had,” Foster says. “It is close to real world experience at a university setting.”

A Mississippi native, Foster first enrolled at Itawamba Community College where he worked on their school newspaper. “I’ve wanted to be a journalist since high school,” Foster says.

He transferred to Ole Miss where he was awarded a scholarship. “Ole Miss has a rich history of producing national writers and solid newspaper and broadcast journalists, including network anchors Sharon Alfonsi and Shepard Smith,” Foster says. “For me, the choice was easy.”

While at Ole Miss, Foster worked closely with Ralph Braseth, former director of the student media center.

“He [Foster] lived in Student Media,” Braseth says. “It didn’t matter what he was doing. No job was too small or too big. Marcus was there five days a week.”

Braseth describes Foster as “the best utility in fielder to come out of Ole Miss” because of his versatility and dedication to his work.

“He did everything. He was a strong writer and a strong producer,” Braseth says. “Of all students, he had everything. In terms of broadcasting, he was a remarkable student.”

[Read more...]