Lacey Russell walks down the street in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. (DM Photo | Cady Herring)
Phillip Waller on the field at Vaught- Hemingway stadium on Oct. 4, 2014 on the campus of the University of Mississippi. (Phillip Waller | The Ole Miss)
Sudu Upadhyay at Newswatch 99
Madelyn Mohr at Rebel Radio
Her first story made it into The Daily Mississippian, and then her second story made it on the front page, above the fold, and the rest, as Lacey Russell said, is history.
“I remember Instragramming my front page, and I thought maybe I have a knack for this,” said Russell, a junior journalism major from Tupelo.
“I had no idea it made the front page until somebody Tweeted at me. I was totally shocked, and I geeked out, and then I told my mom. That’s what confirmed that this is what I’m supposed to do — that feeling of gratification, knowing that all my hard work paid off.”
Russell was named editor-in-chief for the 2014-2015 school year.
“The selection committee was impressed with Lacey’s multiple platform experience, in print, TV and digital media,” said Patricia Thompson, student media director and adviser for The Daily Mississippian.
“Lacey had a tough act to follow, given the success of last year’s DM staff, but she has led her team to produce outstanding journalism — great in-depth articles, great design, great photography and great headlines.”
Some of the highlights from Russell’s tenure so far have included the front page after the football’s team victory over Alabama and a moving 10-year anniversary piece on the fire at the ATO fraternity house.
“People stop me on campus to tell me how much they have enjoyed reading The Daily Mississippian,” Thompson said.
Russell’s passion remains reporting and getting out in the field and getting to hear people’s stories and then telling their stories. She had an internship at WTVA-TV in Tupelo during winter break her sophomore year, and this year, she was one of 10 students selected to participate in a School of Journalism and New Media international journalism reporting course in Ethiopia during Winter Intersession.
Russell has faced her share of challenges as editor-in-chief. It has not only made her a stronger editor, writer and reporter, but also a stronger person.
“It’s hard to keep up with everything,” Russell said. “Being a 20-year-old college student and balancing class and also being responsible for a paper that’s circulating to thousands of people every day, it’s tough. People like to point the finger at the editor, and that used to bother me. I used to take it really personally. But I have really developed a thick skin through this job. Not much gets to me anymore.”
Russell has not made definite plans for her senior year and beyond, but she said she plans to remain involved in student media. She has applied for several summer internships. She also had some words to the wise.
“Get involved,” Russell said. “This is so essential for your career. You have to have experience. I know on my resume I have my experience before I have any of my education. It’s so important to do something and come out of college with work you have to show for it for your employers. And the SMC is a great place to get involved. There’s so much opportunity over here.”
She added: “There are going to be days where you don’t want to get out of bed and there are days where you will have stayed up until 5 a.m. working on the paper or working on your schoolwork, but hang in there and it will all be worth it one day.”
Phillip Waller is one of 10 outstanding seniors selected for the 2014-2015 Hall of Fame, one of the university’s highest honors.
Waller has worked as a photographer, editor and writer for The Daily Mississippian and The Ole Miss yearbook. This year, he is editor-in-chief of The Ole Miss.
A journalism and public policy leadership double-major in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Waller traces his interest back to his aunt, Cynthia Ferguson, who used to be journalism instructor at Oxford High School, and before that, she worked for the Oxford Eagle.
“She got me interested in this idea that students could produce good work, and that the opportunities you have as a journalist are unmatched with any other profession,” Waller said.
His interest in journalism started with photography, growing up in a family where photography was something fun to do, something to relax, something to record a memory, and for him, it started with a simple point-and-shoot camera. He traces his serious work to the purchase of his first SLR camera, which he used all through high school.
“It starts with an interest, and then developing that interest, reinforcing that interest and then having a support group there,” Waller said. “My experience is not unique, but it’s something I’m blessed to have. I’m very thankful.”
Among his favorite things as a journalist, Waller said, are the opportunities for hands-on learning – experiencing events such as a sporting event or a theater production up close and personal with unmatched access. His work as a journalist has earned him a first-place Society of Journalists regional award for Best Non-Fiction Magazine Article, and first place in the On-Site News Photography Competition at the regional Southeast Journalism Conference.
“The student media center has reinforced the things I knew I already loved, and it allowed me to explore those with the resources and the capabilities that the center offers,” Waller said. “It has also provided me with a support group that can teach me skills and place me out there with opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
Student Media Director Patricia Thompson said that Waller has been a key player at the Student Media Center for several years. The Ole Miss annual has a reputation as one of the top yearbooks in the country, and this year’s book will continue that tradition, she said.
“Phillip is that rare person who excels as a writer as well as a visual journalist, so he was a perfect choice to be editor-in-chief of the yearbook,” Thompson said. “He’s active on campus, very plugged-in, and that has made a big difference. I have been particularly impressed with Phillip’s outreach and use of social media to broaden the awareness of the yearbook. He’s one of our top students academically, he’s a good manager, and he’s creative and full of ideas. That’s a great combination.”
As a student manager, Waller said his charge is not only to make the best publication, but also to pay it forward and help the next generation succeed.
“You want to make sure if you have a skill you know you spent a lot of time learning, that you make that skill that much easier for the next person to learn and give them that much higher of a position to start from for the next year,” Waller said. “When you have that talent pipeline in place, when you have people working to make sure the next generation is moving forward, then you can have an excellent publication.”
Looking to his future, Waller said he was drawn to journalism because of the strong communications education and training. He sees a career related to his two majors, perhaps in a political campaign capacity, adding that he has tried to remain flexible and keep his options open. Last summer, he had an internship in Washington, D.C., as a press intern in the office of Sen. Roger Wicker and as a digital intern at the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
“I’m definitely excited about the possibilities out there for me because I have been prepared for them here,” Waller said. “I have the flexibility and the skills, and I know how put myself out there because I have had this experience working in the Student Media Center. That’s going to serve me well in whatever I do.”
Sudu Upadhyay is not one to settle. Whether it has been as a videographer assistant for Ole Miss athletics, sports anchor and reporter for Newswatch 99, or the station manager for the student-run TV show, Upadhyay strives to be the best.
Most freshmen aren’t ready to take on a leadership role, but Upadhyay proved himself to be the exception to the rule, excelling not only as an anchor and reporter, but also as the co-sports director on the way to becoming station manager as only a sophomore.
“Sudu doesn’t shoot for the ordinary,” said Nancy Dupont, faculty adviser for Newswatch. “He wants everything to be extraordinary. He’s not going to settle for anything.”
Upadhyay is a broadcast journalism major from Oxford, said was involved with athletics productions in high school.
“I met Stewart Pirani, then the (NewsWatch) student manager, when I was a senior in high school,” Upadhyay said. “I was shying away from student media. I was focusing more on the athletics production side, and he told me, if I really wanted to get into sports reporting, this was something I needed to check out.”
Upadhyay came in and shadowed for a few days and fell in love with the fast-moving news environment.
After winning two awards in a regional competition where he was pitted against students from universities across the Southeast United States, Upadhyay was offered a job by a television director in Louisiana, who was stunned when she found out he was just a freshman.
“If people are looking at me this way as a freshman, I can’t imagine what I could do being more involved, so that’s what made me get involved and stayed involved at Newswatch,” Upadhyay said.
Upadhyay was recently notified that his entry in the prestigious Hearst journalism competition placed in the Top 20 nationally. His entry included a four-part series from Togo, Africa, and a stand-up about the science of tornadoes – all of which aired on NewsWatch last spring, when he was a freshman.
“Someone that extraordinary needs an outlet very quickly,” Dupont said. “He wandered over here, and everybody saw what he could do, so they put him to work immediately.”
The highlight of his time so far as station manager, Upadhyay said, has been the Ole Miss-Alabama football game, which the Rebels went on to win 17-10 over the top-ranked Crimson Tide.
“The Alabama show was a focus from the beginning of the year,” Upadhyay said. “We said, if Ole Miss was undefeated going into the Alabama game, that was going to be our biggest show and that was what we are going to enter for an Emmy. That was the biggest show, and it went smoothly.
“After that, I got burned out, but then I thought, ‘We had one good show. Now, we have to follow it up. We can’t be a one-trick pony with one great show and then fall off.’ We already had a spectacular show. If people saw that, they need to see that same standard or a higher standard of Newswatch every day, so that’s what keeps me going and keeps me trying to make better shows.”
One of the changes the hard-working NewsWatch staff has made this year is the addition of frequent live feeds.
Looking ahead to next year, Upadhyay plans to work as an anchor and reporter for Newswatch, and pursue other opportunities for professional and campus internships.
Madelyn Mohr, a senior accountancy major from Houston, Texas, rose through the ranks at Rebel Radio, from “DJ Mad Dog,” to production director, to station manager. She loved music, so she followed her passion.
“Since I have been able to stand, I have liked to sing,” Mohr said. “Classic rock is my favorite genre, and I remember my dad was always playing that. In middle school, I played the French horn in band for four or five years, and then I started playing the guitar and singing in restaurants. I got into music, and I loved that, and Rebel Radio made sense, so I pursued it.”
As the station manager for the 2014-2015 academic year, Madelyn oversees a staff of more than 30 students.
Rebel Radio is one of only a handful of college student-run commercial FM radio stations in the country. The station broadcasts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and boasts a signal stretching nearly 40 miles across North Mississippi.
“It’s the hidden gem of the SMC,” Mohr said. “If you love classic rock music, you can apply as a DJ and do your own classic rock segment. If you want to get involved with production work or get involved with businesses, you can do that too. You can also program music into the system and work with the Adobe Audition program to create commercials. If you want to work in the radio industry, you can get a lot of hands-on experience here.”
Her experience at Rebel Radio, Mohr said, has helped her see not just radio, but the entire music industry. As part of her accountancy degree program, she is currently in Houston as an intern with Ernst and Young.
Mohr is interested in pursuing a master’s degree in music business and then a career as a general manager of a radio station, or something along those lines.
Rebel Radio adviser Roy Frostenson said that Mohr’s internship in January and February allows her to successfully combine her accounting and music backgrounds.
“That is an example of how her love for music, nurtured by the SMC and Rebel Radio, is shaping her career choices,” Frostenson said.
Whether you’re an incoming student or a current student, a journalism major or a non-journalism major, Mohr made a pitch for Rebel Radio and the Student Media Center.
“If you love music, this is the place on campus to go,” Mohr said. “No other place on campus is going to let you plug in your computer or your phone and have your own playlist and play what you want and talk about the artists or festivals in the music industry.”