Due to her background in public relations and wellness, Lecturer Robin Street was a source for Mississippi Public Radio in reporting on a new federal grant. Listen to the interview.
Think Web first. A sign with those three simple words hangs in the Raycom-owned WDAM-TV newsroom in Hattiesburg, Miss. The idea is to remind reporters, producers and everyone else to push to Web, and smartphones make that job much easier.
Reporter Rachel Beech is perhaps the best example of someone who thinks Web first, and by extension, she goes mobile. A quick look at her Facebook posts (which she has automatically linked to her Twitter account) shows that she is always plugged in- and so are her followers.
“My online presence is important, because I see great value in communicating with others while keeping them informed about happenings around the Pine Belt,” says Beech. “People want an accessible avenue for information, and there’s no better place to access info than the Web.”
Perhaps Rachel’s “star moment” was during a mayoral election uproar, which has just recently been taken to a trial. With this constant coverage, Beech has learned the importance of not only immediate updates but also updates that are factual.
“Receiving information straight from the source quickly is critical,” she says, “and I try to do that as soon as news breaks.”
Her live updates boost her online presence, and she says it could not be done without having that mobile access in the field. “After receiving info, I relay it to the public- straight from my iPhone- as efficiently and objectively as possible.”
Here’s what the expectations are for making mobile newsgathering part of the reporter’s day:
- Each reporter is supplied with a smartphone and is expected to use that for reporting in the field. As a reporter rushes out the door, equipment and coffee in hand, they are (or at least should be!) sending out a tweet and posting to Facebook to let their followers know what they are covering. While on the scene, several social media updates are expected, which should include both pictures and video. The quality of camera in the phones is high enough to allow the use of pictures and videos on the Web, as well as in television cut-ins.
- Pictures are sent with a two paragraph story summary that is immediately posted to the Web, Twitter and Facebook. In addition, the reporter also sends back a ten-second tease that is used as a cut-in prior to the newscast. This is also posted to the Web. While the reporter is in the field, the Web producer back at the station is posting the content. But when a reporter returns, it is his or her responsibility to post a Web story along with a video to the website.
The goal is to create a news organization that keeps viewers in mind, every minute of the day.
This story was contributed by Margaret Ann Morgan, a 2013 graduate of the Meek School and a reporter for WDAM-TV.
When Mary Frances Stephens signed up for her first journalism writing class, she probably had no idea she would spark a round of academic research. The journalism major’s video project evaluates the benefits of recycling glass and was featured on a website that focuses on environmental news.
“This video explains how the recycling/re-use of glass can help improve our safety on the roads in our community, as well as reduce the heat island effect that is common in most urban areas,” wrote Stephens.
One of the people she interviewed, Dr. Waheed Uddin, is a professor in the engineering school at Ole Miss. Her story got him thinking more deeply about the topic.
“I have written a paper with my Ph.D. student Fahmi for 2013 IJPC international conference in São Paulo, Brazil where we were motivated by Ms. Stephens’s video project. Our recommended approach involves minimal consumption of energy, lower GHG emissions, as well as, reducing “heat-island” effects,” wrote Uddin.
Stephens did her story for Dr. Kristie Swain’s JOUR 102 class; Swain has long been involved in reporting on environmental issues.
The need for journalists to have strong social and mobile media skills has skyrocketed in the past three years, but the need for basic journalism skills remains critical, too. The bottom line is that journalism educators must prepare their students to do more than ever before.
Those are the findings of an award-winning paper co-authored by Meek School Associate Professor and head of the journalism program, Debora Wenger. One of Wenger’s co-authors, Dr. Lynn Owens, heads the journalism program at William Peace University; the two have been replicating this study since 2008 in order to track the needs of the journalism industry.
This year’s paper took third place at the World Journalism Education Congress in Mechelen, Belgium on July 5 — the only U.S. paper to place in the competition. The Meek School’s Darren Sanefski and Pat Thompson are also involved in the project — Sanefski is interpreting the results graphically and Thompson and Wenger are working on a piece that more fully explores the findings about mobile news skills.
The paper examines job postings from the Top 10 newspaper and TV companies in the U.S. and also looks at online-only positions. The researchers break down the results by medium and by job category to give educators a better idea of the industry’s expectations of journalism graduates.
You can explore the list of skills and attributes by news medium in the graphic below or read the paper online (registration required).
Five students and three faculty produced the project, titled “M-Powered: University of Mississippi students learn through service in Belize.” It included a print depth report, television series and videos documenting the interdisciplinary work of dozens of University of Mississippi students and faculty in Belize over the past few years.
The five students – Aubry Killion, Cain Madden, Jajuan McNeil, Margaret Ann Morgan and Katie Williamson – traveled to Belize during Winter Intersession January 2012 for their reporting. They were accompanied by Student Media Director/Assistant Professor Patricia Thompson, editor and faculty leader for the project, and Assistant Professor Mikki Harris, photography/video Editor. They spent part of spring semester finishing their work. Assistant Professor Darren Sanefski was design editor for the print depth report. Students wrote articles, took photographs, wrote scripts for the television series, produced videos and other online content, and did all the production and on-air work for the television series.
The multimedia course was a partnership with the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education. Students received scholarship support.
Key to the project’s success were the assistance and support of former Ole Miss social work professor Kim Shackelford and the many University of Mississippi students and faculty who have performed service-learning work in Belize. The major effort in Belize has been an empowerment project in the tiny community of San Mateo, which needed roads to link residents to basic services.
The RFK Center honors books and journalism. The awards recognize outstanding reporting on issues that reflect Robert Kennedy’s dedication to human rights and social justice, and his belief in the power of individual action. The Meek School won the only college award.
Other 2013 winners include NBC News for international TV, PBS/Frontline for domestic TV, the New York Times for international print, the Los Angeles Times for new media and CNN for photography. The book award goes to Joseph E. Stiglitz, author of “The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Society Endangers Our Future.”
The awards ceremony is Sept. 26 at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Honorees receive a cash gift and a bust of Robert F. Kennedy by Robert Berks.
This is the second RFK national award for the Meek School in recent years. In 2011, a depth report, led by Bill Rose and titled “The Roads of Broken Dreams: Can a New Delta Arise from the Rot of the Old South?” won a college print RFK award.
Four of the five students on the Belize project have graduated. Killion and Morgan are working as television journalists, and Madden is a newspaper editor; all three were actively involved at the Student Media Center during their Ole Miss years. McNeil, who has a bachelor’s degree from the Meek School and graduated in May with a master’s from the IMC program, is a marketing professional. Williamson, a journalism and art double major working this summer as Daily Mississippian photography editor, graduates in December.
Harold Burson, who came to the University of Mississippi from Memphis and graduated in 1940, visits his alma mater when his schedule permits. On one recent visit, he asked Ed Meek to snap a photo of him in front of the dorm where he lived while a student and correspondent for The Commercial Appeal.
Here are some highlights of his career: He was described by PRWeek magazine as “the century’s most influential PR figure.” This recognition was a culmination of more than 50 years of serving as counselor to and confidante of corporate CEOs, government leaders and heads of public sector institutionsin a survey conducted by PRWeek.
In 1953, Harold Burson and Bill Marsteller co-founded Burson-Marsteller, which is the largest public relations agency in the world today—and ushered in the concept of integrated marketing which became an industry standard.
Burson has contributed to the public relations industry and worldwide community as a member and leader of several organizations, among them: Presidential appointee to the Fine Arts Commission, Washington, 1981-1985; Chairman of the National Council on Economic Education; trustee of The Economics Club of New York; Chairman of the USIA Public Relations Advisory Committee, and board member of the World Wildlife Fund (Geneva). He was elected to the Horatio Alger Society in 1986 and is an Executive Council Member of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi.
Burson is founder of the Kennedy Center Corporate Fund, Washington, D.C., a director of Kennedy Center Productions, Inc., and a trustee and founder of the Fortas Chamber Music Fund. He is a member of the New York Society of Security Analysts, the New York Academy of Medicine, the President’s Advisory Board of the New York Academy of Sciences and the Advisory Board of the Business Council for International Understanding. He was Chairman of the Public Relations Seminar in 1984.
Burson has received numerous honors and awards, including The Public Relations Society of America Gold Anvil Award (1980), and the Arthur W. Page Society Hall of Fame Award (1991). He was named Public Relations Professional of the Year by Public Relations News (1977 and 1989). He received the Alexander Hamilton Medal from the Institute of Public Relations (1999); the Athena Award from the Partnership for Women’s Health at Columbia University School of Medicine (2000); PRSA Atlas Award for International Achievement (1998); the John W. Hill Award for Leadership from the New York Chapter of PRSA (1993). He also received the Millennium Award, University of Florida, College of Journalism (2000), and was the First Executive-in-Residence at the University of Kentucky, College of Communications (2000). Recently, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the College of Communication, University of Texas at Austin (2002) and the Alumni Hall of Fame (2002) Award from the Memphis City Schools.
Boston University honored him with a Doctor of Humane Letters degree (hon.) in 1988. He was tapped for the University of Mississippi Alumni Hall of Fame in 1986. He is a veteran of World War II with service as a combat engineer in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. As an Army news correspondent for American Forces Network, he covered the Nuremberg Trial of leading Nazi war criminals.
Burson is currently the author of a blog focused on the ever-changing role of public relations today.
“The architect of the largest public relations agency in the world today, Harold Burson’s contribution is immense in many other ways besides. He started practicing the concept of integrated marketing decades before the term was even invented. His development of training programs set the benchmark that other agencies have only recently caught up with. His mentoring of talent has spawned a whole wave of ex-Burson PR agency start-ups. He created a unique Burson culture that still unites former employees.”
Ryan Moore of The Hattiesburg American, who graduated from the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, has been selected to receive the Mississippi Photo of the Year for 2012 by The Associated Press.
His image showed Hattiesburg Police Department’s Stephon Harris closing in to apprehend escaped Forrest County jail inmate Thomas Julian Lopez on Thursday, June 7, 2012, in downtown Hattiesburg. Lopez was jailed for grand larceny.
Moore’s photo was made available to all AP members nationwide.
Ole Miss journalism and integrated marketing communications students and their families packed the Ford Center on Saturday, May 11. Doing the honors as the keynote speaker was Sharyn Alfonsi, a 1994 journalism graduate from Ole Miss. Alfonsi is now a correspondent for CBS’ “60 Minutes Sports,” which airs on Showtime.
Alfonsi’s speech delighted the crowd and offered advice on how to succeed with both life and making a living.
The following is a transcript of the speech; a video version is also included:
Dean Norton, parents, faculty and friends and graduates. Good afternoon and congratulations. To be clear, I know exactly why I was given the amazing opportunity to speak to you on such an important day.
It is not because of any impressive journalism awards; it’s not because you want to hear stories from war zones; it is not even because of my terrific head of hair on an oppressively humid day. I know the one and only reason I am here is because Shepard Smith was clearly not available.
Still, let me thank you for this tremendous honor. I graduated from Ole Miss with a degree in journalism, roughly 104 years ago today.
There was no journalism school at that time. It wasn’t a popular choice.
It was believed that the smart students went to the School of Pharmacy because clearly it takes a genius to count pills and hand out ointment for angry looking rashes. Those who were especially talented pursued fine arts degrees because you need to spend tens of thousands on college before you can pursue your dream to make pottery. And then there were the kids from the School of Engineering. I actually didn’t ever hang out with anyone from that school, but neither did anyone else; you get the idea.
Still, it was believed that journalism students were the misfits — the odd ones. Looking at you all today, and at this gorgeous new journalism school, I am delighted to see, nothing has changed.
It looks a little like Scooby Doo’s Mystery Van got lost and you all popped out the back.
I see the Velmas, sporting glasses or comfortable shoes, with dreams of working at NPR or the Economist.
The Freds, who hope their good looks and smart ascots might lead to a seat at the anchor desk at the local TV station.
And of course the Shaggys, those who spent a little too much time in the smoke-filled booth at “Rebel Radio,” emerging only for “Scooby Snacks.”
Parents, if you fear your child is a Shaggy — and a tip off is they may be wearing flip flops or TEVAs today with their caps and gowns — don’t worry. The good news is you will be seeing a lot of them. They’ll be living in your basement for the next 10 years, emerging every time they have a problem with the Wi-Fi.
But I am here to deliver good news to you all today. As you all know the economy is pumping, high paying journalism jobs are everywhere and as a person who has lived in New York City for the last decade, I am delighted to report that the “Media Elite” have absolutely no preconceived notions about people from Mississippi.
And that story about the Elvis impersonator, who may or may not have been set up by a karate instructor, who may or may not have tried to poison the president, really helped things.
I am here to tell you everything I know. So this should take roughly 23 seconds.
When I was applying for jobs my senior year, I sent my resume tape to two dozen television stations. Most of them did not call or write back, but one news director did write back. Here’s what he wrote — this is an excerpt from the actual letter:
Dear Ms. Alfonsi,
Thank you for your application for the news reporter position. Unfortunately, we have hired a qualified applicant. (The word qualified was underlined).
I know you are beginning your career, so please allow me to give you a bit of feedback.
Your reporting skills show some promise however, you need a lot of work. Your hair is too big, your accent too thick and overall, you look a little equine on camera.
Now for those of you who didn’t catch that, he just called me equine. He said I looked like a horse. A horse.
He went on.
Best of luck with your career in television; I look forward to seeing more of your work.
And then he signed his name, which side note: looks like the writing of a serial killer.
Now, a normal person would have finished a bottle of Maker’s Mark and started filling out applications at the racetrack, but I was actually encouraged by this letter. He said he wanted to see more of my work.
This leads me to my first piece of advice: Do not take NO for an answer.
Not when you’re applying for jobs; not when you actually get a job.
People will tell you, “No, were not hiring.” “No, I don’t want to do an interview with you.” “No, you may not sleep on my porch and use my cat as a pillow until I change my mind.”
Keep pressing. You are applying for work in journalism, not trying to get hired as a social secretary. The people who may hire you respect grit. They respect tenacity, and in my experience, I have found they are generally unlikely to issue a restraining order.
If you, like me, were raised by a beautiful, genteel mother with exceedingly good manners, being pushy will make you wildly uncomfortable, but keep at it. Prove that you want it.
The food court at the mall is littered with journalism students who didn’t fight for it. Fight for it.
And if you somehow get an offer to do any job, no matter how small or insignificant in the field you want to work in, take it. There is no job too small.
Yes, it is true, if you do the math (or since you’re a journalism graduate, if you have your roommate do the math) you would likely make more working at a Cracker Barrel than in your first job in journalism.
And if you worked at Cracker Barrel you get to eat your weight in delicious fried apples and get discounts on sock monkeys, but take the journalism job. It will pay off, eventually.
You will never work harder; you will never have more fun. It will not be easy. You will want to quit. I’ve wanted to quit a dozen times over the last decade.
“Really? I have to come in at 2 am and turn a story for Good Morning America because Lindsay Lohan forgot her underpants…. again?
“Really?! I’m eight months pregnant and there’s no one else at this entire network you can send to cover the hurricane?”
“Seriously, After I spent five hours in the driving rain covering the hurricane, you’re going to complain about my hair?! Really?”
For every one of those crappy days, you’ll have ten great ones.
“Really, I’m going to the White House today?”
“Really, I’m going to spend the day watching the Yale Crew team workout? And I am getting paid for this? Fantastic!”
And while those great days may make you feel great, on top of the world almost, you might even think, “Hey, I’ve made it!” and relax a little and get comfortable. Here’s my next piece of advice.
Don’t get comfortable. Ever.
I recently got a job at “60 Minutes Sports.” The show is entirely produced and presented by the “60 Minutes” team you’re used to seeing every Sunday nigh, but it appears on Showtime so technically we could cuss. I won’t. But we could. It is the job I always dreamed of.
Actually, when I was little I dreamed of being Mrs. George Michael, but it became pretty clear when he married a man that wasn’t a great option. So, I set my sights on CBS, specifically “60 Minutes.”
I wanted to be a great reporter — not an anchor, a reporter. In my mind, Mike Wallace’s blistering interviews were art. No one was cooler than Ed Bradley. But I set my sights on “60 Minutes” after watching a young Meredith Viera go head to head with casino magnate Steve Wynn. I can’t remember what she asked him, but he ripped off his mic and at one point threatened to strangle her. It was delicious. I knew in that moment, i wanted to do that — not get strangled, the other part.
Working my way up the ladder in local news, news directors, displaying bouts of seriously impaired judgment, offered me jobs to anchor the news.
For those of you who don’t know, anchoring in a local market generally means you get more money, have some editorial control and best of all you’d get your face on the side of a bus or a billboard right next to an advertisement for check cashing or a gentleman’s club. In a word, prestige.
It would be a more comfortable life, I was sure. But I had my eye on being a reporter and knew that anchoring would take me off the streets. So, to the bewilderment of my bosses, I passed the jobs up.
If you’re not too comfortable, it’s always easier to leave, to move on and hopefully, move up.
So, now that I have my dream job, you’d think I might relax a little, get comfortable. You’d be wrong. See the thing is when you have your dream job, especially when people like Scott Pelley, Leslie Stahl and Morley Safer work down the hall, you’re pretty sure you’re the admissions’ mistake.
I am fairly confident that I am. This isn’t false modesty; it’s a fact. I am not the smartest person who ever worked in a newsroom. I don’t have an Ivy League pedigree or an exotic accent that makes me sound worldly, but I am scrappy as hell, and in Journalism, scrappy counts.
So dream big, but work hard and believe me when I tell you this…there are no shortcuts.
I used to work for ABC News. Disney owns ABC News, in case you didn’t know. When I arrived there they called me a quote, “cast member,” and told me that I got special perks at the theme parks.
One of my colleagues later informed me that at Disney, you can pay extra money to get a pass that allows you, essentially, to get to the front of the lines for rides.
I found this appalling and then immediately asked, “Where do I get one?”
But it turns out, the thing is, if you cut to the front of line, you just don’t enjoy the ride as much. Really. You need to sweat with the masses. You need to watch the weaker, or perhaps wiser, people who can’t handle it, quit. It’s fun to make friends with people along the way. Not the guy wearing an “I’m with Goofy” t-shirt and bedazzled denim short, but the other people.
Along the way you will meet people you will never forget, characters like no other. I can’t remember half the stories I did, but I remember just about every fantastic photographer or producer along the way.
They acted as my teachers, my psychiatrists and often, my parole officers. They still do.
One of my favorites, Danny Marotta, a veteran photographer from South Boston. He fought in Vietnam and reminded me whenever I got stressed, “It’s just TV, pal; it’s just TV.”
Don’t take yourself too seriously. No one else will. You work in journalism. You’re not performing heart surgery.
On a good day, you will tell somebody something they don’t know. I have taxi drivers who do that regularly and they don’t get awards for it.
On a great day, you’ll dig deeper, tell a story so well it gets attention, changes lives, policy or conversation. Those days, I’m not going to lie, are golden. Strive for them.
And if you don’t know exactly how to do that right now, don’t’ sweat it.
You have made your way through what I believe is honestly the of the best journalism schools in the county. Still, most of the important lessons about journalism you have yet to learn. Your professors are passing you on to a new set of teachers: Newspaper editors with nicotine patches, guys carrying a camera in one hand, and a Dunkin Donuts coffee in the other and office secretaries who know more than you’ll ever forget.
So listen to them, be humble and be nice to everyone. It is great to have an important or interesting job but I am telling you that in the long run, it is more important than almost anything you do to be nice.
Now, since we are in the South, and most people are already nice, I feel I should clarify. Don’t confuse “nice” with what I call “stupid nice.”
“Nice” is carrying a tripod for a photographer whose already loaded down with equipment.
“Stupid nice’ is saying to him, “Don’t worry you don’t need to carry a light kit too, I’m a natural beauty.”
“Nice” is congratulating a colleague when they did a good job.
“Stupid nice” is later saying to that same colleague, “You did such a good job; why don’t you just go ahead and do this interview with the president instead of me?”
Don’t be stupid nice. Be nice. There will be days when this will take everything you’ve got.
I have met some honestly horrific people along the way, awful, wretched individuals and right now I would like to take the opportunity to name each one of them.
(No one’s recording this, right?)
There was one senior producer I worked for who was so nasty she went out of her way to try and make me miserable. Often, she succeeded. She made me want to quit.
Then, I remember something my father used to tell me before every track meet.
Well first, he’d say, “Make sure you tie your laces, Einstein.” Then, he’d say. “Ignore the competition and just run your race.’
Throughout your career people will try to distract you. Some will scream at you, others will say things behind your back, and a few feral animals will literally try to throw their stiletto heel in in your lane and trip you. Keep your eyes straight ahead and just run your race.
Don’t worry what others are doing; they are nothing more than a distraction. Drown out the critics. Don’t engage in office politics or gossip. Don’t worry about the guy next you. Run your race.
Now, I am the first to admit I am a cautionary tale here.
I was running so hard, working so much, I looked up one day and realized, suddenly, “Oh crap, I forgot to have kids!” It was literally like that. I was opening Christmas cards from friend and suddenly their babies were teenagers.
The good news? I was married and had been for 15 years to a man who is a saint, and fortunately, we keep the house stocked with wine, so we quickly remedied the situation. I now have two toddlers.
But I am 40 years old and have two toddlers! I am exhausted.
So, can you have it all? Yes, yes you can. But can you have it all at once? Not so much.
Sometimes it will be all about your career, other times more about your family or your kids. Expect it to shift, expect it to change. And that is okay. That is life.
Your life will have chapters, complete with crazy characters, villains and a plot you can’t even imagine as you sit here today.
It’s a lot like a Scooby Doo episode.
You’re gonna see things you can’t believe. Surround yourself with good friends. Keep your eyes on the road ahead. The haunted mansion is a not a great short cut. Ask questions. Be scrappy. Break up the plots of villains. And don’t worry about Scooby Snacks, you’re an Ole Miss grad, grab a bourbon and enjoy the ride.
Thank you all, kiss your parents, hug your mothers, good luck and congratulations.
By Paige Williams
Still cleaning out files, and just came across this, from college, when I started writing newspaper stories for Tommy Miller and under the deanship of Will Norton and in the great big shadow of the incomparable Neely Tucker. Miller was an old UPI hand and a Houston Chronicle deputy managing editor, and we revered and adored him. He gave us many things, this among them:
On Being A Reporter
In order to be a reporter you must be more than a writer. You learn to adopt the personality of the reporter. Your whole approach to everything must be to portray the picture you hope to portray. The primary factors? Objectivity, seriousness, thoroughness, compassion, interest, accuracy, accuracy, accuracy.
Traits and characteristics you never thought important now are, especially if you’re covering a beat. You must wear well. You cannot afford to irritate. You must learn how to size people up and react accordingly. At the same time, you must adopt a code that is strong, professional, unswerving.
You will be evaluated by two factors: the impression you leave and the impression your stories leave.
Nothing will turn off a contact quicker than ignorance, unless it is uninterest (not disinterest). I emphasize that as a reporter you ought to be interested in everything. Everything. You should never even consider that there are things in this world that don’t interest you.
More important, you have to accumulate facts, figures, situations, etc., that allow you to be expressive in several fields — and that allow you to ask questions and understand answers on the level of the people who are making news.
The point is attentiveness. You should begin to assimilate information daily, all the time, until you can make the gaining of such information a part of your normal existence. Then you’ll begin to think in terms of news — what’s important, what’s worthwhile, what’s incidental, what’s interesting, what it takes to become a reporter.
This involves reading, reading, reading, listening, listening, listening, watching, watching, watching.
Develop a code of honor:
1. Be completely honest. Make this a reflex action. Don’t ever consider that you should shade or cloud things. You’ll get yourself entangled if you do. You’ll have a clean conscience and a good reputation if you don’t. Admit when you’re wrong and move on.
2. Be frank with everyone, especially yourself. Don’t be constantly apologetic. At the same time, don’t regard yourself too highly. Find the medium. Understand your strengths and limitations.
3. Adopt a high ethical standard of fairness, objectivity, and compassion in your reporting and writing. Don’t do anything for anybody. Don’t adopt a state of mind that is anti-anybody. Don’t reveal your personal feelings and attitudes about issues — in the field and especially in your work.
Emily Roland, Editor-in-Chief, The Daily Mississippian
By Casey Holliday
As Emily Roland walked across the stage of the Ford Center for the Performing Arts to be awarded a place in the Hall of Fame, a laundry list of achievements were rattled off: editor-in-chief of The Daily Mississippian, president of the Society of Professional Journalists chapter, choir member, recipient of the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson Scholarship.
From a young age, Roland, a senior print journalism major, was interested in music and travel. Her dad, a musician, told Emily to avoid the field and instead combine those passions with her interest in English and writing and become a journalist.
“I had never thought about working for a newspaper until my dad suggested it,” Roland said. “It just kind of stuck. The more I got into it, the idea of journalism really attracted me.”
Roland walked into the Student Media Center on the third day of her freshman year to ask to be a writer for The Daily Mississippian. It was then that she would meet Alex McDaniel, the editor-in-chief at the time.
Sitting behind McDaniel at the editing desk almost every day, Roland would question every change and edit to improve her own writing and lay the groundwork for what was to come. (Read more)
Elizabeth Beaver, Editor-in-Chief, The Ole Miss
By Jane Lloyd Brown
With The Ole Miss yearbook heading to print and final touches completed, one would expect Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth Beaver to enjoy a break from the Student Media Center’s hectic buzz.
Instead Beaver, a senior journalism major and art minor, hustles around the center giving direction on design projects and offering advice to student writers.
The editors on Beaver’s staff include Miriam Taylor, design editor; Alex Edwards, photo editor; Jake Thompson, sports editor; and Callie Daniels, writing editor.
“It’s madness all the time,” Beaver said of working with her team in the SMC. “We’re like a big rolling circus.”
The yearbook process naturally works at a slower pace than the other media components because the staff do not have daily deadlines.
This year, the staff wanted to get the book done early so that they would have time to fix any mistakes before the publication went to print.
With Beaver also juggling schoolwork with a barista job at High Point Coffee and getting engaged this year, finishing the yearbook before deadline was difficult. (Read more)
Stewart Pirani, Manager, NewsWatch
By Kayleigh Webb
It’s 3:30pm on a Wednesday afternoon, and sitting confidently in the control room of the Student Media Center behind a computer editing video is Stewart Pirani. Pirani, an Ole Miss junior pursing a degree in broadcast journalism and a minor in cinema studies, is the manager for NewsWatch, a live, student-run news program that airs on channel 99 at 5 p.m. on weekdays.
His love of television and producing started earlier. It began in high school, where Pirani took a class in television production. The class emphasized producing a live news program.
“I got there on the first day and I walked into the studio and the control room,” Pirani said. “I saw everything: the technology, the lights, the buttons, the monitors. I just knew that what I wanted to do for the rest of my life was television.”
After four years of the class, Pirani had his sights set on Ole Miss because of the broadcast journalism program.
Pirani began working in the Student Media Center at Ole Miss during his freshman year. His first projects were with Chatterbox, a comedy show that was produced in the media center studio.
“It helped me step my foot into NewsWatch,” Pirani said. “I started doing it that second semester my freshman year and I’ve not left since.” (Read more)
Lindsey Malley, Manager, Rebel Radio
By Mary Ashton Nall
Lindsey Malley answers each question her staff asks with kindness and expertise as she looks up from making adjustments to her calendar. Malley, an Ole Miss senior from Long Beach, Miss, is the manager of Rebel Radio — possibly the only student-run, commercially licensed radio station in the nation.
The station provides an array of popular music and news updates for the Oxford area. Rebel Radio also invites bands, Ole Miss ASB officers, administration, and athletic coaches and players on air weekly to talk about ongoing campus and community activities.
The station is open to the entire student body for auditions. Malley tried out for a position as a DJ her sophomore year. As a pharmacy major, she believes the station is an opportunity for every student, not just journalism majors. She encourages more students to become involved.
“Rebel Radio is a creative outlet for anyone with a strong personality,” Malley said. “If you have that, we want you here.” (Read more)
Bill Miles, an early Journalism graduate who went on to a career in reporting, publishing, consulting and two terms in the Mississippi Legislature, has donated his political papers to the J.D. Williams Library at the University of Mississippi.
The gift was made official in an April 29 ceremony, featuring former House Speaker Billy McCoy of Rienzi and Rep. Steve Holland of Plantersville as keynote speakers.
Dr. Ed Meek, for whom the Meek School is named, commented that Miles was ahead of him in classes. “Just watch Bill Miles and do what he does,” Meek quoted early professor and chairman Sam Talbert as saying. “I did, and I have been doing it since,” Meek said.
The event also showcased several vintage campaign commercials produced by the Bill Miles Associates firm for north Mississippi candidates.“We’re also opening the Bill Miles Collection to researchers,” said Leigh McWhite, political papers archivist and associate professor at UM. “Among the current holdings of the Modern Political Archives, the Miles Collection is quite unique.”
Contained within the collection are documents, photographs and recordings on the campaigns of several north Mississippi candidates as well as Miles’s own files from his 12 years in the Legislature. The collection also includes diaries that he kept while it was in session.
“I feel very humbled to be included in an illustrious group of individuals whose accomplishments have impacted Mississippi’s history,” Miles said. “By the luck of the draw, I was fortunate, in most instances, to be an observer and, sometimes, a participant in some unusual events.”
While Miles had considered the possibility of Ole Miss being the custodian of anything worthwhile for future researchers, it was not until he was contacted by key players in the 50th anniversary observance of James Meredith’s enrollment that he made a commitment.
“Dr. Ed Meek and Dr. Andy Mullins pressed me hard by flattering me that my stuff might be worthwhile,” Miles said. “Ole Miss has meant a lot in my own education, and for my children and grandchildren. When I was shown the extent of the archives – where it is housed and its documentation – I was very impressed. And the university is a place where scholars can use ordinary collections, such as mine, for extraordinary benefits for the future.”
After working briefly as a journalist, Miles formed the advertising/public relations firm Bristow-Miles Associates Inc. in 1963 in Tupelo. After later becoming Bill Miles Associates, the firm often represented local political candidates. In 1996, voters of Itawamba and Monroe counties sent Miles to the Mississippi House of Representatives, where he remained for 12 years.
“The most meaningful period in my career probably was during my legislative service, where my friendship and relationship with Speaker Billy McCoy resulted in my appointment as chairman of transportation and as a key adviser to him during very turbulent times,” Miles said. “I certainly enjoyed the association I had with the late Congressman Jamie Whitten, as he attained his high rank in the U.S. Congress. As one back home in his First Congressional District on whom he might rely for counsel, I had the unusual perch on which I observed and sometimes helped him get programs and projects which benefited Mississippians.”
For more information about the Bill Miles Collection at the University of Mississippi, visit http://clio.lib.olemiss.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/miles/.
The Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards competition receives more than 4,500 entries each year from hundreds of journalism programs around the country.
This year, broadcast journalism students Margaret Ann Morgan and Stephen Quinn have been awarded first place honors for their breaking news television coverage of Hurricane Isaac. Their stories aired on the student-produced newscast NewsWatch 99 and were part of a multimedia coverage effort surrounding this major storm on the Mississippi coastline.
In addition, The Flood of the Century magazine was one of two national finalists in the best student magazine category, and student Jared Burleson was a national finalist for his feature photography.
SPJ Is the country’s largest and oldest professional journalism organization in the country. The winners will be honored at the national convention in Anaheim, Calif. on August 25.
Five broadcast journalism students put their multimedia skills to the test during Oxford’s 18th Annual Double Decker Festival. Under the direction of professors Nancy Dupont and Deb Wenger, the team went to work for both WTVA-TV in Tupelo and HottyToddy.com in Oxford, covering events that began as early as 7:30 a.m. and working well past the end of the 6 p.m. newscast on WTVA.
The students also felt the pressure of real-time reporting with additional requirements to tweet story updates and photos, as well as to write text pieces for the Hotty Toddy website.
This is the second year in a row that Meek School students have covered the festival for WTVA. C.J. LeMaster, who anchors and produces the WTVA weekend shows, says the station is happy to work with the students and he enjoys helping them get the experience they’ll need to succeed on the job.
“It’s a humbling experience for me. Not that long ago, I was in their shoes, trying to learn as much as I could. No matter how young or ‘green’ you are as a journalist, you have to start somewhere, and someone has to give you that break, that chance to prove yourself,” said LeMaster. “It’s an honor and a privilege to help these students get some real feedback and experience in the industry.”
Graduating senior Stephen Quinn woke up before the sun to cover the Double Decker Spring Run. He found dozens of participants dedicating their miles to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.
Students Brittani Acuff and Stewart Pirani focused one story on festival food for the HottyToddy website and another on a Tupelo artist for the WTVA Sunday newscast.
Brandon Rook found out why so many people come back to Double Decker year after year for his piece which aired on WTVA’s 10 p.m. show on Saturday night.
But it may have been Bracey Harris who had the most fun covering the Square Fair for Kids where the younger set had a blast with the space-themed amusements.
Harris appreciated the chance to learn about working under deadline pressure.
“Today gave me experience that can only be gained outside of the classroom. I am fortunate to have guidance from Meek School faculty even when the week ends,” said Harris. “I found myself challenged and even frustrated at times, but the lesson was worth it. Field work is organized chaos, but I survived and am better prepared for the future because of it.”
It took four platoons of ROTC cadets, about a dozen Arabic-speaking students and a team of ten Meek School reporters to pull off Operation Rebel Charge on April 25. Ole Miss ROTC took over the Whirlpool Trails on the edge of campus in their final field exercise of the year.
Four students from Prof. Deb Wenger’s advanced TV reporting class embedded with the platoons and learned something about what it’s like to rely on the very people you’re covering, not only for information, but for safety.
“I think the journalism students also got an entirely new perspective on how much preparation it takes to effectively cover stories about war and issues of national security,” said Wenger. “Students got a crash course in how essential research is when it comes to conducting good interviews.”
For their part, the cadets learned how to handle tough questions from the media — getting practice in how to share information without over-stepping their bounds as representatives of the military and without giving away details that would put troops at risk.
The ROTC’s Lt. Col. Nate Minami spearheaded the effort to bring in, not only journalism students, but also student studying Arabic at Ole Miss. The Arabic language students played the role of villagers with whom the cadets had to work to secure an area within the fictional land of Atropia. The cadets learned how to work through an interpreter and the Arabic students got to practice both their speaking and translation skills.
The exercise was made as real as possible, featuring mock explosive devices, enemy combatants and a race against time. Journalism students also got a chance to explore some of the issues facing today’s military, such as the move to allow women to take part in combat someday soon.
Even some of the first-year journalism students got a chance to get involved. Students in Wenger’s multimedia writing course took part in the news conference that wrapped up the exercise.
“It was actually kind of fun,” said Katie Lovett.
For the second year in a row, NewsWatch won first place in Student TV Newscasts at the Mississippi Associated Press Broadcasters (MAPB) banquet held Saturday, April 20 in Jackson.
Stephen Quinn won second place in TV News Reporting for his story on the 50th anniversary of integration at Ole Miss. Norman Seawright won third place in Student TV Documentaries for his series on Togo.
NewsWatch also took home third place in Student TV Weathercasting.
For the past year, Nancy Dupont has been serving as the President of MAPB. She will continue to serve as a board member during 2013-14.
The Newseum, a museum devoted to journalism and the First Amendment, recently opened two exhibits on President John F. Kennedy leading up to the 50th anniversary of his death. The artifacts include restored photographs, Abraham Zapruder’s camera, and the shirt worn by Lee Harvey Oswald on the day he was arrested. View coverage of the exhibits at cbsnews.com, msnbc.com, and nytimes.com. The Newseum is located in Washington, D.C.
Lewis DVorkin, chief products officer for Forbes, recently joined Adam Penenberg of PandoDaily to talk about the state of the media business. Watch the interview at pandodaily.com.
University of Mississippi students won six awards in the Mississippi/Louisiana Associated Press Managing Editors contest for work published in 2012. The awards luncheon was held April 13 at the Overby Center.
Daily Mississippian Opinion Editor Phil McCausland won first place for his editorial about election night events, headlined “We Cannot Disregard Our History and Our Responsibility.”
Jared Senseman won first place in the College Bureau/Features category, for an article about the university medical marijuana lab published in the Clarion Ledger and USA Today.
The Daily Mississippian won second place for General Excellence. Sealy Smith won second place for features for an article in the DM headlined ” ‘Hitt’ too hard: Corporal punishment in public schools.” DM Editor in Chief Emily Roland won third place for layout and design, for her design of three DM front pages. Cain Madden won third place in College Bureau/Features for an article about the revitalization of downtown Hattiesburg published in the Hattiesburg American from one of the Meek School-sponsored weekend reporting trips.
Several recent graduates and former DM staffers, now working at newspapers in Mississippi and Louisiana, also won awards. They included Sheena Baker, Daily Times Leader; Alex McDaniel, Clarion Ledger; J.B. Clark, Daily Journal; and Ryan Moore, Hattiesburg American.
By Lauren Loyless
MediaStorm founder Brian Storm spoke to journalism students and the community of Oxford, Miss. about multimedia and the art of storytelling at the Ole Miss Overby Center April 5.. It was not long before the audience learned that Storm is funny, clever and edgy when discussing journalism.
“You are either in this game for the right reason or you’re a poser and need to get out,” said Storm. “We all know each other, business is small and someone in this room will probably hire you.”
Not only is he the founder of the widely recognized MediaStorm company, but he also has the passion and drive to produce what he calls old school journalism in a technology-driven world. Storm believes in focusing on quality, claiming it’s not about the medium that the story is presented on, but instead the good storytelling that gives a voice to the people.
“An iPad is not going to save journalism,” said Storm. “Great stories will save journalism. If you’re going to be a journalist … it’s not about you. It’s about the people whose stories you’re telling.”
MediaStorm is celebrated worldwide because of its ability to give a voice to the common man and tell the story that is not exactly easy to hear. Storm emphasizes doing a few things really well, and with a staff of nine. the company manages the production of a few multimedia stories a year. The stories range in coverage of the Tutsis’ genocide in “Intended Consequences,” to telling the story of a young man who loses his father in “A Shadow Remains.” What makes these stories so relatable to others is that they are raw with emotion and real. After Storm showed the trailers during his presentation, journalism students were left inspired to produce the same type of top-notch multimedia.
“Heartbreaking but eye-opening, you should watch “Intended Consequences” and see the results of this genocide in Rwanda,” said Ole Miss student Alessandra Richards. “Also watch the preview to “A Shadow Remains.” It’s so captivating and you will want to watch more!”
“Multimedia in the classroom is not talked about in depth the way he talked about it here tonight. It really opened my eyes,” said Ole Miss student Jessica Day.
Bloggers like the Director of National Geographic and popular news websites such as MSNBC and Reuters have promoted MediaStorm’s productions. Storm also works for some NGO and nonprofit clients that he says desperately need storytellers and journalists. However, his company cannot tell every story and typically turn down 70 percent of clients.
“There is no secret about what we are doing, we want everyone to know so they can form companies like us. Start your own company and tell your own stories,” said Storm.
University of Mississippi students won 19 awards in the Society of Professional Journalists Region 12 annual Mark of Excellence contest.
The awards included 11 first places, 6 second places, and 2 third places. Region 12 includes all colleges in Mississipppi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee.
All first-place winners will now compete against first-place winners in the other 11 regions for the national SPJ Mark of Excellence Awards.
The staff of “The Flood of the Century” won first place for Best Student Magazine. The Daily Mississippian won second place for Best All-Around Daily Newspaper, NewsWatch won second place for Best All-Around Television Newscast, and theDMonline.com won second place for Best Affiliated Website.
In the individual categories, the following students won first-place awards:
- Austin McAfee for Breaking News Photography, for his photograph of the Dierks Bentley concert published in The Daily Mississippian
- Thomas Graning for Sports Photography, for “Streak Snapped,” a DM photograph of the Rebels football team
- Josh Clark for a series of editorial cartoons in the DM
- Jared Burleson for Feature Photography for his work in “The Flood of the Century”
- Jajuan McNeil for General News Photography for “The Road to Belize,” a photograph from “M-Powered,” about an empowerment project in Belize;
- Jennifer Nassar for General News Reporting for “What is World Religion” in the DM;
- Nick Andrews for Radio Reporting, for a segment about election night
- Margaret Ann Morgan and Stephen Quinn for TV Breaking News for “Live from Biloxi: Tracking Isaac”
- Norman Seawright for TV in-depth, for “Engineers Aid Village in Togo”
- Betsy Lynch and Ashley Lance for TV Feature, for “Locally Produced Foods Important to Lafayette County, Mississippi”
Students who won second-place awards were:
- Austin McAfee for Sports Photography for coverage of a track meet
- Adam Ganucheau for Sports Writing for “50 Years Undefeated”
- Aubry Killion and Margaret Ann Morgan for TV General News Reporting for “The Road to Belize”
Third-place awards were given to Austin Miller for Sports Writing for “Nkemdiche Making a Name for Himself,” and to Tim Abram for General Column Writing for a series of columns on the DM opinion pages.
Eighteen universities in the four states won awards in this year’s Region 12 contest.
Meek School professors Deb Wenger and Nancy Dupont shared ideas with journalism colleagues and students April 8-10 at the Broadcast Education Association national convention in Las Vegas.
Professor Wenger led a session on mobile newsgathering and was a panelist in a session on recruiting and retaining students. She outlined the success of Meek’s Summer Producer Program in a session on building TV news internships. The producer program is Wenger’s brainchild and has already resulted in full-time jobs for Meek graduates.
Professor Dupont led a session with TV news directors from around the country on how students can win the job with an effective resume video. The standing room only crowd was testament to the need for and the impact of the session. Dupont also served as the vice-chair for research for BEA’s News Division.
BEA is an organization of over 1,000 professors, media professionals and students dedicated to teaching and research of the multimedia and broadcasting industries. The Meek School is an institutional member of BEA.
The final Stuart Bullion Memorial Lecture will be held on Monday, April 15, at 8 a.m. in the Farley Hall auditorium. James L. Bullion, Stuart Bullion’s brother, will be the guest lecturer. The family has opted to convert the lecture fund to a scholarship fund that will assist an Honors College student majoring in journalism.
Bullion, who works for the Department of Defense, will provide an update on media projects both in Afghanistan and Iraq where he has been working.
Bullion was sworn in as the Director of the Task Force for Business Stability Operations (TFBSO) in 2012. In this role, he is responsible for helping to stimulate the private sector of the Afghan economy by enabling direct foreign investment, supporting business creation and growth, and promoting entrepreneurship.
Prior to joining TFBSO, Bullion was president of Phoenix Global Services, LLC, a strategy and management consulting firm that helps companies design and implement new strategies, restructure operations and develop new products and market opportunities. His clients have ranged from private equity companies to technology companies and service providers.
Bullion is a retired colonel of the United States Army Reserve, having received his commission through ROTC at Dartmouth College in 1982. Prior to founding Phoenix Global Services, Bullion served two tours in Iraq with the U.S. Army, as executive officer and commander of a Civil Affairs battalion in Northern Iraq, and then as Chief of Plans and Operations (J3) for the Multinational Security Transition Command – Iraq.
Prior to being mobilized for service in Iraq, Bullion was vice president at Genuity Corporation, a $1 billion Internet backbone provider and telecommunications services company, where he launched a series of new products and managed strategic partnerships. Prior to Genuity, he managed international operations at UNIFI Communications, an early-stage data communications company where he established and oversaw new ventures throughout Asia. Bullion began his career in commercial banking and in investment management. He is a member of the advisory boards of KWantera, an early-stage energy management services company, and of Zero Point Risk Management, a risk mitigation advisory firm. He is also a Chartered Financial Analyst.
Bullion earned a B.A. in Economics from Dartmouth College and an MBA from the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration.
Professor Berkeley Hudson teaches magazine journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism. The former Los Angles Times writer is also an Ole Miss graduate who recently shared his passion for Mississippi and its stories with students just inducted into Kappa Tau Alpha (KTA).
KTA is a college honor society that recognizes academic excellence and promotes scholarship in journalism and mass communication. Eleven of the newest members received their awards and heard Hudson offer advice on how to have a successful career in telling stories.
- Read Richard Wright and Willie Morris. Hudson says you have to know the work of great writers to be great yourself.
- Get yourself a mentor. Find someone who will look at your work and help guide your career. Stay connected to the people you’ve met at Ole Miss.
- No one can teach you curiosity. You just have to want to find out why things are the way they are.
- Your brain is the most important technology. Though Hudson says he believes in “big tent” journalism — accepting that new forms of communication are valid — he also says that the human brain is the most effective tool we have.
Hudson also asked the group, which was meeting in the Overby Center, to reflect on one of the quotes emblazoned on the wall:
“Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories. Listening for them is something more acute than listening to them.”
Read WXII president-GM Hank Price’s response to recent criticism of local television news at TVNewsCheck.com.
By Susan Puckett
Last week, citizens of Clarksdale and blues travelers from all over were saddened to learn of the passing of Frank Ratliff, longtime proprietor of the Riverside Hotel, where many a bluesman had hung his hat. The loss of this beloved local legend — affectionately known as “Rat” — touched several students and faculty members of the Meek School of Journalism & New Media as well. I was one of them.
I found out about Rat’s death from Phillip Waller, a student in the Delta Project depth reporting class I co-teach with Bill Rose. He posted the news over the weekend on our class’s Facebook page, along with several photos of Rat taken on our spring break field trip to the Delta to research the region’s food traditions and habits for a magazine we are producing. That may very well be the last photographs of Rat ever taken.
Rat is not a cook, and the hotel does not serve food. But I made the case that even if a story on the Riverside Hotel didn’t really fit the food focus of this semester’s magazine, someone should at least pay a visit for some authentic Delta context. After all, Rat was one of the last of his kind, a member of that small fraternity of old-timers who remember the way it was and consider it a moral duty to preserve the old memories (and legends) of this distinct region.
I met Rat for the first time four years ago, soon after I set out to gather material for a food-oriented Delta guidebook, “Eat Drink Delta: A Hungry Traveler’s Journey through the Soul of the South.” My husband, Ralph Ellis, a North Carolinian who had never set foot in Mississippi, joined me for a long weekend that included an overnight stay in Clarksdale. I was a bit taken aback when we spotted this rundown structure in a seedy neighborhood behind a broken Schlitz sign. An elderly black gentleman opened the door and cordially welcomed us in. Immediately he put us at ease.
The Riverside is where famed blues songstress Bessie Smith died, following a car accident while on tour in 1937. At that time, the little brick lodge teetering over the Sunflower River was the G.T. Thomas Hospital, caring for black patients who had nowhere else to go for treatment.
In 1944, when Rat was four years old, his mother, Z.L. “Momma” Hill, took over the building and converted it into a hotel that became a temporary home to a long procession of black musicians. She treated them like her sons, cooking meals for them and sewing their costumes. Rat helped out his whole life, even while employed at the Wonder Bread bakery, and took over the business with his wife Joyce when his mother died. He reserved Room Number 2 as a shrine to Smith, with several portraits of her on the walls and one propped up lovingly on the pillow. Each of the other rooms paid homage to a different musician or other celebrity who had stayed there. Ike Turner. John Lee Hooker. John F. Kennedy, Jr.
Rat gave us the grand tour of each spotless, memorabilia-filled room, as if he were a museum tour guide. We settled on the Pop Staples room, equipped with a disco ball hanging from the ceiling. Before we left to explore the town, Rat invited us into his apartment to help us plan our itinerary, and assured us he would make sure our stay was safe and comfortable. And it was.
Like others who have stayed there, by the time we left we felt like old friends. Ralph snapped my photo with Rat, posed in front of that iconic faded blue and white “Riverside Hotel, Home of the Delta Blues” sign, as a thousand other guests before me.
Right around the time of my book’s release, Meek School Dean Will Norton, one of my journalism professors more than 30 years ago, invited me back to my alma mater to help Bill Rose’s depth reporting class produce a special report on the Delta, as it has for the past three years. The hope was that the research I’d poured into my book could inspire students to delve deeper into more serious issues of economy and health.
In the classes leading up to spring break, Bill and I helped students lay the groundwork for stories on the catfish and prawn industry, obesity, the rise of community gardens, culinary entrepreneurs, and much more. Using the apartments above Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale as our home base, we canvassed the region — talking to people, shooting photos, and eating extremely well.
One of the students in the photography class, Katie Williamson, was intrigued by Rat’s story and tried to set up a photo shoot with help from photography instructor Mikki Harris. They spoke with his daughter, Zelina (“Zee”) Ratliff, whom he had been grooming to take over the business. She said she would ask him, but made no promises. He had been ailing, and was reluctant to give tours to travelers who weren’t staying at the hotel to respect the privacy of the guests. Still, I held out hope.
On the last day of our trip, they finally got word that he would agree to meet them late that afternoon.
When we arrived, Rat was sitting in his usual spot, in a plastic chair on the front porch. He did not stand up to greet us. He seemed exhausted. I wondered if perhaps he wasn’t up to our visit after all and Zee, who was inside, might ask us to leave.
Then Katie took the chair next to him, and deftly switched hats — from photographer to reporter. Phillip Waller pulled out his camera as Katie began chatting with Rat, eventually pulling out her pad and taking some notes of her own.
Slowly Rat began to perk up. In a voice so soft we had to lean in at times to hear him, he began telling us one story after another — some of which I recalled from my earlier visit — while Phillip photographed him. Zee joined into the conversation, as well, and gave us a quick tour of the storied rooms.
As we prepared to leave, I showed him my book, and the passage in which he was quoted. A weak smile appeared on his thin, drawn face. I signed it to him and his daughter. He asked me where my husband was, and said he hoped we’d both come back to stay sometime.
Frank “Rat” Ratliff died at the Riverside on the evening of March 28, 2013, less than two weeks after our visit. For now, the hotel appears in good hands. Like her dad, Zee seems to genuinely relish sharing her family history and Clarksdale heritage with those who care enough to inquire.
Which is a good thing; Rat told the students that there’s so much family history within the hotel he’d rather have it torn down than let anyone other than a blood relative take over.
Whatever the Riverside’s ultimate fate, the stories within it will live on — thanks to journalists who have come to listen — and lean in close, if necessary, to hear the answers.
Gifts to a new University of Mississippi fund are being used to honor the life of the late James L. “Buddy” Bynum, a leading journalist, and his enthusiasm for communication, learning and the university.
The Buddy Bynum Speaker Series Endowment was established with an initial donation by Dr. Richard B. and Nancy Harrelson Akin of Hazlehurst and is open to contributions from others. “He was my best friend, my mentor, my inspiration and loved Ole Miss better than anything,” Nancy Akin said of the couple’s decision to honor Bynum.
Earnings from the endowment will be used by the university’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media to invite media leaders to meet with students and enhance their learning experiences.
“Buddy had great jobs and a great career; journalism was in his blood,” she said, pointing out that the fund may inspire others.
Bynum was born and reared in Meridian. He started reporting for The Meridian Star after he contacted the community newspaper and told them box scores should be included with their baseball coverage of his school, Nancy Akin said. It became Bynum’s job, she said.
Bynum was Mr. Meridian High School and president of the student body. Then his early interest in journalism continued at Ole Miss where he was summer editor of The Daily Mississippian and was an initiate of Sigma Chi fraternity.
He later returned to Meridian as editor of The Meridian Star newspaper, a title he also held at other publications, including the Mississippi Business Journal and the Oxford Enterprise.
Bynum served as communications director for Gov. Haley Barbour and for former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott when Lott was a member of the U.S. House. While in Washington, he also served as deputy secretary for congressional relations of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and, in March 1988, was named an honorary citizen of New Orleans and presented a key to the city.
After his work for Barbour and the Oxford Enterprise, Bynum chose to enroll at the Meek School in 2009 to complete the few courses needed for his Ole Miss degree.
“Going back to school took amazing courage, but I’ve never seen anyone enjoy anything more,” Nancy Akin said. “The best year of his life may have been back in that academic environment. There wasn’t a class he didn’t like.”
During the summer of 2011, however, Bynum was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died on Sept. 3 at his home in Ridgeland at age 59.
Will Norton Jr., UM journalism dean, said he especially admired Buddy’s determination and cheerful manner in working with and encouraging “classmates” who had little experience in journalism compared to his. The endowment, Norton said, will “in perpetuity enhance the education of students, faculty and the community through visits from media practitioners who, like Buddy, are of the highest quality.”
Donations may be sent to the Buddy Bynum Speaker Series, University of Mississippi Foundation, P.O. Box 249, University, MS 38677-0249. Online gifts can be made here.
Read Slate writer Matthew Yglesias’s analysis of the Pew Research Center’s annual “State of the News Media” report.
Dr. Samir Husni and the Meek School Magazine Innovation Center are spotlighted in the March issue of Delta Business Journal. Read the article.
Neil Alford, a 1996 Meek School graduate, worked with several NFL players and coaches to produce a public service announcement spotlighting ALS that aired during the Super Bowl. Alford, whose company is Neil Alford Productions, produced and directed the spot as part of a campaign to raise awareness about the debilitating brain disease. Read more at The New York Times and USA Today. Watch the PSA on YouTube.
Part 1: In New York, Talking About Race
“Why Is the Paper Always Talking about Race?” is the title of a presentation by Student Media Director Patricia Thompson, Daily Mississippian Editor in Chief Emily Roland and Opinion Editor Phil McCausland at the College Media Association spring conference in New York. The three were invited by CMA to talk about racially charged issues on campus over the past few years, how the DM and theDMonline manage coverage and deal with the controversies, and the lessons they’ve learned. They answered questions and provided tips for students and advisers.
Part 2: In Washington, Talking about Gun Control
Emily Roland left the CMA convention in New York and headed straight to Washington, D.C., to participate in a program sponsored by the National Newspaper Association Foundation. She is one of six college students from across the country selected as an NNAF Fellow. Roland received a scholarship from the Mississippi Press Association Foundation to support her trip. She and the other Fellows worked with mentors and gained exposure to a variety of viewpoints as they write about a hot topic this year: gun control.