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UM students win national SPJ journalism awards

Posted on: May 13th, 2016 by ewrobins

Katrina Team 2Students covering the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi Gulf Coast won the top national award for best use of multimedia in the Society of Professional Journalists annual Mark of Excellence contest, which honored the best work by college student journalists in 2015.

The MSKatrina project team included Meek School of Journalism and New Media students Brittany Clark, Payton Green, Sereena Henderson, Ji Hoon Heo, Maggie McDaniel and Quinton Oliver Smith. The project’s advisers were professors Nancy Dupont and Deb Wenger, who led the team on the trip to the Gulf Coast.

Here is a link to some of the work they produced:

In addition, UM students were named national finalists in three other SPJ categories.

The Daily Mississippian, for the second year in a row, was honored as a finalist for best all-around daily student newspaper, which means it ranked as one of the top three campus publications in the country. Judges consider all editorial aspects, including editing, writing, photography, design, opinion, columns, illustrations and cartoons in all sections. The DM staff was led by Editor in Chief Logan Kirkland and Managing Editor Clara Turnage, with a staff of about a dozen editors and numerous reporters, photographers, columnists. Patricia Thompson, director of student media, is DM faculty adviser. Professors Darren Sanefski, Mikki Harris, Cynthia Joyce and other faculty regularly work with students on design, photography, writing, online and other areas of their work.

Deja Samuel, a photographer for The Daily Missisippian, was named a national finalist for her photograph taken during the “take down the state flag” rally and protest on campus in October.

Land of Broken Promises, the depth report published in early 2015 examining 50 years of voting rights legislation in the Delta, was a finalist in the best college magazine category. More than two dozen students contributed to the depth report. The project was led by instructor Bill Rose, with Mikki Harris as photo and multimedia editor and Darren Sanefski as presentation editor.

Meek School wins third Kennedy Award

Posted on: May 12th, 2016 by ewrobins

Depth reporting class exposé on 50th anniversary of Voting Rights Act winner in college category

Mollie Mansfield interviews civil rights activist and business owner Vernice Sanders with Professor Bill Rose at Vernice's Upholstery in Leland, Miss., Tuesday, March 11, 2014. (Photo/Thomas Graning)

Mollie Mansfield interviews civil rights activist and business owner Vernice Sanders with Professor Bill Rose at Vernice’s Upholstery in Leland, Miss., Tuesday, March 11, 2014. (Photo/Thomas Graning)

For the third time in seven years, the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi has won an annual Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Journalism Award.

UM’s depth reporting class won in the college category for “Land of Broken Promises.” The exposé examines the impact of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the Mississippi Delta 50 years later.

The winning project was led by Willard “Bill” Rose, visiting professor and a fellow of the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics; Mikki Harris, assistant professor; and Darren Sanefski, assistant professor of multiple platform journalism.

“Winning the Kennedy Award for college journalism is a testament to the quality of teaching by Mikki Harris, Bill Rose and Darren Sanefski,” said Will Norton Jr., professor and dean of the journalism school. “These three individuals have demonstrated repeatedly that they are uncommonly effective, student-oriented teachers. We are grateful to have professionals of their caliber on our faculty in the Meek School.”

Twenty-seven students spent spring break 2014 conducting interviews and photographing images for the 132-page, four-color magazine. It was published and distributed in January 2015.

Students who worked on the project included Eliza McClure, Debra Whitley, Erin Scott, Jason Burleson, Logan Kirkland, Thomas Graning, Clancy Smith, Katie Adcock, Karson Brandenburg, Phil McCausland, Cady Herring, Phillip Waller, Mary Marge Locker, Kayleigh Skinner, Alex Edwards, Allison Moore, Mollie Mansfield, Christina Cain, Taylor Davenport, Kristen Ellis, Conner Hegwood, Jessica Hotakainen, Lauren Keossian, Ignacio Murillo, Savannah Pounds, Kimberly Sanner, Madisen Theobald and Ellen Whitaker.

Advertising executive Allan Hammons speaks during an interview with University of Mississippi reporters Clancy Smith, middle, and Karson Bradenburg, right, in Greenwood, Miss., Tuesday, March 11, 2014. (Photo/Thomas Graning)

Advertising executive Allan Hammons speaks during an interview with University of Mississippi reporters Clancy Smith, middle, and Karson Bradenburg, right, in Greenwood, Miss., Tuesday, March 11, 2014. (Photo/Thomas Graning)

Three reporters both wrote and captured photographs. One worked on the design and captured photographs, and four were dedicated to photojournalism for the project.

“This was a wonderful and unique opportunity for our journalism students to work as multimedia journalists in a very diverse setting,” Rose said. “It’s one of the things I love about working here. Students who are driven to be the best can get opportunities here they won’t get at other journalism schools.”

The project focused primarily on documenting the work of activists in the civil rights movement and their struggles to help people in impoverished areas register and vote in local, state and national elections.

“These students tracked down civil rights legends Andrew Young and John Lewis and lesser known, but influential, civil rights workers to capture what happened here after the Voting Rights Act was passed,” Rose said. “They tackled the tough conversations on race and did it impressively.”

The result was a print depth report produced to raise awareness of this community.

The award is nice, but the experience with the students is the best reward, Harris and Sanefski agreed.

“We used a significant number of archival photos to tell a visual story of major events that happened in the past,” said Harris, who edited the photos to fit the written stories. “The process of spending hours looking at the AP’s archive of images was eye-opening and emotional.”

Archival images selected for inclusion in the project showed activist Fanny Lou Hamer speaking to delegates attending the Democratic National Convention in 1964, civil rights leader Lawrence Guyot as a young man in 1963, covered with marks from a police beating, and Martin Luther King, Floyd McKissick and Stokely Carmichael marching together for equality.

“The images from the 1960s provide a visual of the blood, sweat and strength that laid a foundation for today,” Harris said.

Sanefski’s digital design students spent more than a semester designing the award-winning publication.

“We were not able to accomplish it in one semester, so me and three other students from that class wrapped it up early the next semester,” Sanefski said. “Design is always about making content easier to understand. I’m very proud of my students and all the students who have pooled their talents together to create a great product.”

The journalism school has won previous RFK Awards for magazines on poverty in the Delta and attempts to help residents of an island off the coast of Belize.

“Throughout his life, my father held a deep commitment to freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “He would invite reporters and news crews to join him in the most impoverished city neighborhoods, to Indian reservations and communities in Appalachia, California’s Central Valley or rural Indiana – places that often lacked electricity and plumbing – and he would ask the press corps why it wasn’t covering those issues and these places.

“The journalists who followed his ’68 campaign created the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards in his name, to honor those who covered the issues most important to him.”

This year’s Book and Journalism Award winners were chosen from more than 300 submissions. Historian Michael Beschloss chaired the judges’ panel for the 2016 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award.

The journalism awards ceremony, in its 48th year, will be presented May 25 by Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. All honorees will receive a bust of Robert F. Kennedy in recognition of their award. — Edwin Smith

Read Land of Broken Promises at

President Obama answers Meek School student’s question at College Reporter Day briefing

Posted on: May 3rd, 2016 by ewrobins
Daniella Oropeza.Briefing Room

Daniella Oropeza in the White House Briefing Room

When Juan Oropeza came to the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant 25 years ago, he couldn’t have imagined that his daughter would one day ask the president about immigration policies. But that’s what happened in the White House Briefing Room last week when Daniella Oropeza, a junior in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, raised her hand and was called on by President Obama.

Oropeza reporting from outside of the White House

Oropeza reporting from outside of the White House

“We weren’t supposed to meet the president, so I was shocked he came into the room and shocked that he called on me, “ Oropeza said. She was chosen as one of 50 college journalism students to participate in the first White House College Reporter Day.

President Obama answered a few questions from students, and called on “the young lady right there in red.” When Oropeza began her question, her first words were, “Hey, I’m Daniella,” which prompted President Obama to teasingly interrupt by saying, “Hey.” He gave a lengthy answer to her question about whether his administration will make any further changes in its Mexican immigration policy.

Oropeza’s question got attention. Immediately after the press conference with the president, Oropeza was interviewed by CBS News. She then received emails from Univision and Telemundo, the two Spanish-language networks, asking her for interviews, which she conducted in Spanish and English.

“It was very exciting. I didn’t expect to see President Obama and I didn’t expect what came after with the interviews,” Oropeza said. “It was the experience of a lifetime.”

Oropeza in the White House Briefing Room

Oropeza in the White House Briefing Room

Oropeza, of Clinton, had an internship last summer at WAPT-TV in Jackson. She is a correspondent this semester for NewsWatch, the Student Media Center’s student-run daily, live newscast. She will work this summer as a sales and marketing intern at WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Oropeza traveled to D.C. with her mother and grandmother. They drove 14 hours from Mississippi to the nation’s capital, and stayed for two days. On their way back to Oxford, they stopped for lunch at a Mexican restaurant in a small town in Georgia. While paying for their food, the waiter asked: “I’m sorry, but I just have to ask, were you on the news a couple of days ago?”

“I was speechless,” Oropeza said, “but my grandmother was quick to say, ‘Why yes, she was!’ After paying our check, our waiter came back with his phone in hand and showed us a clip of my question to the president from the White House account on YouTube. That lunch still feels like a dream.”

White House College Reporter Day was on April 28. It was designed as an opportunity for student journalists to talk to senior administration officials about issues as varied as sexual assaults on campus and student loans. Students were selected based on applications they submitted, and they had a full day of events and briefings at the White House, including sessions with Press Secretary Josh Earnest, the White House Press Corps, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and Secretary of Education John King.

Near the end of the day, President Obama walked in, saying, “I hear there’s some hotshot journalists here.” USA Today reported that you could hear “audible gasps and freak-outs from the unsuspecting students.”

At 3:28 p.m. that day, Oropeza tweeted: “When your Mom is so excited that you spoke with the POTUS that she can’t even type.”

Oropeza’s coverage of College Reporter Day aired on NewsWatch.

Meek School’s Wenger tapped to be part of Google News Lab’s US Training Team

Posted on: April 28th, 2016 by drwenger
Associate Professor Deb Wenger in Google's Android Sculpture Garden after completing Google News Lab training in Mountain View, California.

Associate Professor Deb Wenger in Google’s Android Sculpture Garden after completing Google News Lab training in Mountain View, California.

Whether it’s mapping a series of local crimes or monitoring breaking news in another country, Google News Lab provides tools that can help make that job easier for a journalist. Yet, significant numbers of reporters, editors, producers and news managers know relatively little about the breadth of Google’s journalistic toolkit.

“It could be using Photo Sphere as an entrée into immersive storytelling or using the data sets provided free to newsrooms via Google Consumer Surveys – the bottom line is that journalism organizations can use these tools to find new stories or tell stories in new ways,” said Director of Undergraduate Journalism Debora Wenger.

Wenger recently took part in an in-depth training session at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. She met with some of the company’s news product experts to learn about the journalistic capacity of tools like Google Earth Pro and Google Trends.

As Google News Lab indicates on its website, the company worked with the Society of Professional Journalists and the Online News Association, to identify professionals able to teach Google digital news tools at conferences, workshops and newsrooms across the country. Google and SPJ are committed to training as many journalists as possible in the effective use of their tools in reporting stories.

“Our target is 100,000 journalists trained this year – either in person or online – in the U.S. and globally,” said Nick Whitaker, Google News Lab’s head of training and development.

Wenger is one of eleven trainers already on board for the new program, but Whitaker does hope to expand the trainer list in the future. Wenger says the opportunity to become a trainer gives her a chance to do two things she loves.

“There’s nothing I like better than learning about tools that can help make our storytelling better, and when I can get the opportunity to share what I’ve learned with professional and student journalists, that’s just great.”

Students cover Double Decker Festival for two-state region

Posted on: April 28th, 2016 by drwenger
Oxford's Double Decker Festival 2016 is showcased on TV in the region, thanks to Meek School students.

Oxford’s Double Decker Festival 2016 is showcased on TV in the region, thanks to Meek School students.

As many as 65,000 people poured into Oxford for the 2016 Double Decker Festival, and tens of thousands more got to look in on the fun thanks to a team of Meek School broadcast journalists.

Leah Gibson, Payton Green, Sereena Henderson, Maggie McDaniel, Lacey Russell and Sudu Upadhyay produced stories on the music, the art and the food for WMC-TV in Memphis and WTVA in Tupelo.

“This partnership is a win-win for everyone involved — the university, the students, the community and WTVA. It gives the students valuable, real-world experience, theuniversity one more tool to offer its students, and provides exposure and coverage to the community and the Double-Decker Festival,” said Steve Rogers, news director at WTVA.

Friday night’s story aired on WTVA’s 10 p.m. show and was published on the WMC-TV website with student video airing in that station’s evening broadcast. “We are very excited to work with the next generation of journalists, in our own backyard. We have been very impressed with the students at Ole Miss…their work ethic, their passion, and their love for the industry,” said WMC-TV News Director Tammy Phillips.

Professors Deb Wenger and Nancy Dupont have been working with the students to cover the festival for the past four years, but this year the students coordinated the process all on their own.

“It makes us especially proud to see how well these students handled the whole stressful and complicated process of producing stories on deadline for much bigger audiences than is typical for them,” said Wenger.

Both WMC-TV and WTVA have indicated that they hope to work more with the school’s top students, partnering on additional projects throughout the year.

Meek School student named Outstanding PR Student in Mississippi

Posted on: April 26th, 2016 by ewrobins
Tori Olker, a graduating senior, was named Outstanding PR Student by the Public Relations Association of Mississippi, as well as being awarded the Taylor Medal for the highest GPA in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media recently. Olker, a print major with a PR emphasis, is pictured here with her nominating instructor Robin Street. Photo by: Stan O’Dell

Tori Olker, a print major with a PR emphasis, is with Robin Street, her nominating instructor. Photo by: Stan O’Dell


By Ashley Gamble

A University of Mississippi Meek School of Journalism and New Media student recently was named Mississippi’s Outstanding PR Student by the Public Relations Association of Mississippi.

That award was the latest of many for Tori Olker, a graduating senior print journalism major with an emphasis in public relations. Olker also was awarded the Taylor Medal for the highest GPA in the Meek School. In addition, she and her team partner won first place in the Southeastern Journalism Conference PR competition.

Olker was named the Oxford-Ole Miss PRAM chapter’s Student of the Year, and was selected for Who’s Who and Kappa Tau Alpha Journalism Honorary Society.

“Winning the Outstanding PR Student award provided me with the validation that I am on the right track as a professional journalist and it showed me how much I want to accomplish after graduation,” said Olker, from Spring Grove, Illinois. “I am extremely proud and humbled to have been selected among so many other college students.”

During her years in the Meek School, she has worked in all aspects of media. She has been a disk jockey on Rebel Radio, a writer for the yearbook and a feature reporter for The Daily Mississippian. She has also completed several public relations and journalism internships.

The PRAM award was presented at their state conference in Jackson on April 8 along with a $250 scholarship, PR professors at all Mississippi universities could nominate a student to compete for the award. UM Senior Lecturer Robin Street nominated Olker.

A panel of PR professionals selected the winner based on the nominating letter and on factors including academic excellence, honors, public relations activities, and campus and community involvement.

“I am in awe of Tori’s multiple accomplishments and activities,” Street said. “She truly is one of the most impressive students I have ever taught. She not only excels in the classroom, but in putting that classroom work into reality through her internships and part-time jobs.”

Ole Miss broadcast students dominate MAPB awards

Posted on: April 25th, 2016 by ewrobins
From left to right: David Kennedy, Payton Green, Steven Gagliano, Sereena Henderson, Leah Gibson, Kelly Smith, Shelby Sansone, Browning Stubbs.

From left to right: David Kennedy, Payton Green, Steven Gagliano, Sereena Henderson, Leah Gibson, Kelly Smith, Shelby Sansone, Browning Stubbs

UM broadcast students won 20 awards in the Mississippi Associated Press Broadcasters annual contest for college students, including best newscast for the fifth year in a row for NewsWatch.

Shelby Sansone was named the state’s outstanding student television reporter, and Steven Gagliano was named outstanding radio reporter. They each won cash scholarships. UM television and radio students won nine first-place awards.

Dr. Nancy Dupont, Meek School professor, NewsWatch adviser and president of the Mississippi Associated Broadcasters Board for 2015-2016, was honored for her service.

The awards were presented Saturday night in Jackson. The college categories had 51 television entries and 23 radio entries from five Mississippi universities. The contest year covered work produced during spring and fall semesters 2015.

Here are details:

First-Place Awards:
College Television
Best Newscast: NewsWatch, for its Oct. 21 newscast
Best Feature Story: Sereena Henderson and Ji Hoon Heo, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church 10 years after Katrina
Best News Story: Shelby Sansone, Dan Jones rally
Best Sportscast/Sports Program: Browning Stubbs and David Kennedy, Oxford Chargers state championship preview
Best Documentary or Series of Stories: Atomic, Mississippi, produced in a course taught by Dr. Brad Schultz and Dr. Kathleen Wickham
College Radio
Best Feature Story: Steven Gagliano, end of semester feature
Best News Story: Steven Gagliano, state flag removal from campus
Best Sports Story: Riley Mueller, concussion study
Best Documentary or Series of Stories: Riley Mueller, concussion study

Other awards:
College Television
In addition to the first place awards NewsWatch also won:
2nd Place Best News Story: Kelly Savage, state flag removal
2nd place, Best Sports Story: Browning Stubbs, Tip Six, Alabama game
3rd Place Best News Story: Browning Stubbs, metro narcotics unit investigation
3rd Place Best Newscast: Sept. 21 newscast
3rd Place Best Sports Story: Waverly McCarthy, Who is Chad Kelly
3rd Place Best Sportscast: Nov. 20 RebelWatch
College Radio
2nd Place Best Feature: Riley Mueller, fitness instructor
2nd Place Best News Story: Steven Gagliano, new chancellor
2nd Place Best Newscast: Meredith Parker
2nd Place Best Sports Story: Steven Gagliano, women’s soccer
2nd Place Best Sportscast/Sports Program: Steven Gagliano

The MAPB ceremony also included awards to professional broadcast journalists in the state. Among our recent graduates who won first-place awards: Courtney Ann Jackson (WLBT), Gerard Manogin (WJT) and Ryan Moore (WDAM).

Joel Kotkin, internationally known urban development expert to speak May 6 at Pavilion

Posted on: April 22nd, 2016 by ewrobins

At an unprecedented open event on Friday, May 6, the last day of class before exam week, internationally known urban development expert Joel Kotkin will speak. The event is aimed at inspiring students and educating the community.

Organized by the Ole Miss Real Estate School Alumni Board, it is the first-ever event that brings together the Business School, Ole Miss Athletics and the Meek School of Journalism & New Media as sponsors.  Read more at

UM students, Daily Mississippian, NewsWatch recognized for excellence

Posted on: April 18th, 2016 by ewrobins
SPJ Winners 2016

The SPJ Region 12 conference was on April 16 in New Orleans. Attending the conference were, left to right: SPJ chapter adviser Jason Cain and Daily Mississippian staffers Cameron Brooks, Lana Ferguson, Logan Kirkland, Jake Thrasher and Clara Turnage.

University of Mississippi students won 22 awards in the annual Society of Professional Journalists Region 12 Mark of Excellence contest, including 12 first-place honors. The Daily Mississippian won first place as best student newspaper, and NewsWatch won first-place awards for television breaking news reporting and best use of multimedia.

Region 12 includes universities in Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana. Ole Miss students compete in categories for the largest universities. SPJ regional and national organizations select one winner and two finalists in each category. First-place winners automatically advance to the national contest, where they will compete against first-place winners in the other 11 regions. National winners and finalists are usually announced in May.

First-place honors were awarded:
Daily Mississippian staff (best daily newspaper, for three dates selected by SPJ)
NewsWatch staff (TV breaking news, Ole Miss names new chancellor)
NewsWatch staff (best use of multimedia, Katrina anniversary)
Atomic Mississippi (TV in-depth)
Land of Broken Promises depth report (best magazine)
Clara Turnage (general news reporting, living wage campaign article)
Lana Ferguson/Logan Kirkland (breaking news team entry, Graeme Harris sentencing)
Logan Kirkland (online feature, Land of Runners from Ethiopia project)
Jake Thrasher (editorial cartoons)
Deja Samuel (breaking news photography from flag rally/protests)
Kelly Savage (TV general news reporting, author of flag resolution calls for NAACP recognition))
Joe Rogers (online sports reporting, feature on Croatian tennis players)

NewsWatch staff (TV newscast for flag aftermath show)
Lacey Russell and Maggie McDaniel (TV breaking news, Graeme Harris sentencing)
Waverly McCarthy (TV sports reporting, Who Is Chad Kelly)
Riley Mueller (radio sports reporting, concussion research)
Logan Kirkland (online news reporting, first same-sex marriage in Lafayette County)
Clara Turnage (breaking news reporting, Confederate symbolism conversation in the Grove)
Clara Turnage (general news, fraternity assault article)
Dylan Rubino (sports writing, The New Chad Kelly)
Cady Herring (breaking news photography, Dan Jones rally)
Clancy Smith (magazine writing, Land of Broken Promises)

The SPJ Region 12 conference took place on Saturday, April 16, in New Orleans.

The 30 Event: A magazine media celebration

Posted on: April 18th, 2016 by ewrobins

Husni min 2016min celebrated the 30 hottest magazine launches of the past 30 years, as well as the 30th anniversary of editor-in-chief Steve Cohn, at its “30 Event” on April 14. Filled to capacity, the Grand Hyatt’s Manhattan Ballroom was virtually a Who’s Who of magazine media editors and publishers. Attendees caught up over breakfast prior to the start of the ceremony. Out of a staggering 9,828 eligible brands, the “30 Hottest Launches” were selected by Dr. Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi. Top honors were also awarded to Hottest Editor, Publisher, Creative Team and Launch. To read more about the event, visit

(From min: media industry newsletter, April 18, 2016, page 1)