Getting that job in TV news: Advice from experts

Anne-Conner Dickerson doesn’t have to much to worry about at graduation on Saturday.  Even before she walks across the stage she knows her career is underway.

wtvaDickerson took advantage of the Ole Miss Producer Internship Program in the Meek School last summer.  She learned how to be a newscast producer at WTVA in Tupelo, and the station liked her so much, they hired her full-time during the spring semester.

Though there are other students like Dickerson who already have jobs by the time they graduate, most are deep into the job hunt right now.  Dickerson spent some time talking to her colleagues at WTVA to get their best advice for getting work in TV.

     “Home work – do your home work. You should research the station and whom you are   applying to. If I get a resume that says ‘to whom it may concern’ it goes right in the trashcan, but someone who says ‘To Dave Beech’.. who knows how to spell my name correctly… that shows me that they have taken initiative on their end to do some homework, to go out of their way to find out a little bit about me, about this station, and who we are and what we are. This industry rewards self starters and if you can’t take the time to do a little bit of homework then I won’t want you in my newsroom.

-       Dave Beech, WTVA News Director


    “I would tell people that you have to put together a great resume reel with no mistakes in it and be confident. Always have your reason why you want to be a reporter ready because news directors will ask. Make sure your reason is unique. And, of course… You have to be ready to move far from home.”

-       Jessica Albert, WTVA Reporter


“Persistence. If you know you’re qualified for the job then always follow-up. If you send a tape don’t wait for them to call you. Follow-up with a phone call. Then follow-up your phone call with another call. Use each opportunity to self-promote and tell them how you’re ready to get right to work. I’ve noticed that most News Directors always stall making decisions while waiting for something better. Make them think you’re the better choice they’ve been waiting for.”

-       Dave Bauer, WTVA Producer

“In one word: networking.  I got my first job in television by passing along my resume’ to a friend who put in a good word for me.  In the TV positions following, my news directors made personal calls on my behalf to news stations for where I had applied.  Never be afraid to strike up a conversation with someone, ask a favor, or hand out a resume’.  Because a friend said, ‘Give this girl a call’ I was given a shot.  Always seize the opportunity to meet people in your field and make connections.”

-       Riley Koppa-Eversull, WTVA Producer


   “The first question you need to ask is which area of television you want to work in, and in what capacity. The requirements for different vocations are varied, so you need to plan your training path according to your particular ambition. On the other hand, it’s also a good idea to keep your options open. Many people find that they end up with a very different job to the one they had originally wanted. This is one advantage of beginning your training with a general media studies course – it will give you a good grounding in many different disciplines and may help you decide which you prefer. Put your application in with a resume and wait for someone to call. Be patient….”

-     Alvin “AI” Ivy, WTVA Photojournalist

Of course, one of the best pieces of advice is to get “job ready” while you’re still at school.  If  you’re interested in the job of a newscast producer, consider applying for the Ole Miss Producer Internship Program.  In addition to earning up to 3 credits, you receive a $500 scholarship and the experience you’ll need to get a job in television news.  Contact Deb Wenger at for more information.

Ole Miss journalism students cover tornadoes for national, regional media

Meek School of Journalism and New Media students cover the destruction of a tornado in Tupelo, Miss., Tuesday, April 29, 2014. Photo by Mikki K. Harris

Meek School of Journalism and New Media students cover the destruction of a tornado in Tupelo, Miss., Tuesday, April 29, 2014. Photo by Mikki K. Harris

Meteorologists had been warning anyone who would listen about the potential for deadly storms in Mississippi and across the South, and on Monday afternoon, their predictions came true for our area.

“At the Student Media Center, students started planning for storm coverage on Sunday, and went into high gear via social media all afternoon Monday. This was the first big test for the brand-new DM staff, and they rose to the occasion,” said SMC Director Pat Thompson.

Broadcast journalism professor and interim NewsWatch 99 advisor Deb Wenger also had video journalists on standby.  Shortly after 2 p.m., all the preparation proved its importance.  An EF-2 tornado hit Tupelo, damaging as many as 500 businesses and 200 homes.

“Our students were amazing.  They did what professional journalists do on a regular basis — cancel previous plans, gear up and go,” said Wenger.

Broadcast journalism senior Ian Cowart produced a story within hours of the touchdown.

Online, DM Photo Editor Cady Herring used photos from Thomas Graning and Ignacio Murillo to compile a photo gallery that quickly garnered hundreds of page views.  Herring also quickly put together a map showing the wide path of the tornado destruction.

“New DM Editor in Chief Lacey Russell anchored the coverage throughout the night,” Thompson said. “Alli Moore got a quick baptism as new Design Editor, and Sierra Mannie contributed to the DM’s online presence. Students were tired as deadline approached Monday night, but spent time planning follow-up coverage for Tuesday.”

On Tuesday, Newswatch 99 produced extraordinary coverage of the storms in Louisville and Tupelo for the 5 p.m. newscast.  Led by manager Miriam Cresswell, the show also included a graphic explainer of how tornados form, as well stories about the ways in which Mississippi  residents were coming together to help the victims.  Students Leah Gibson and Gabriel Austin were on the road by 6 a.m. Tuesday to cover the Louisville damage.

Russell, Graning, Herring and News Editor Logan Kirkand spent all day Tuesday in the field reporting, taking photographs and shooting video.  Photojournalism professor Mikki Harris accompanied the students to help guide their multimedia reporting.

“I was so encouraged by the professional approach and demeanor the students used yesterday,” Harris said. “Logan was in people’s homes and yards not only conducting interviews, but helping. Logan said, ‘I didn’t really do that much. I helped carry a bin full of things to their car and tied a rug to the top of their car.’ Logan may not see that as doing much, but it is. He was there on assignment, interviewing, recording audio, capturing stills and video. Logan taking the time to move his focus away from a story, and focus on the people, shows tremendous skills as a journalist.”

In addition to all the work for student media outlets, former DM Editor Adam Ganucheau wrote the lead story for the New York Times’ U.S. page online.  Graning’s work was used by the Associated Press throughout the day on Tuesday.  Journalism student Jared Senseman’s photos were included in a slideshow produced for the Weather Channel on

Photo by Jared Senseman, April 28, 2014.

Photo by Jared Senseman, April 28, 2014.



Big broadcast wins for Meek School students

For an unprecedented third year in a row, NewsWatch 99 won the Best Student Newscast award at the Mississippi Associated Press Broadcasters banquet held in Jackson Saturday night. The winning newscast featured stories previewing the LSU-Ole Miss football game and a historical perspective on the rivalry. NewsWatch 99 also won second place in Best Student Newscast for its coverage of a double murder in Lafayette County. Miriam Cresswell and Bracey Harris accepted the awards on behalf of NewsWatch.

Student awards

Featured L-R: Nice Andrews, Miriam Cresswell, Bracey Harris.

Rebel Radio won Best Student News story for coverage of the Colonel Reb/Mr. Ole Miss controversy. Nick Andrews took the honors and was awarded a scholarship by the AP Broadcasters.

Other students received Awards of Excellence in Best Student TV Sports reporting, including graduates Sid Williams and Anna Ellingburg, who also placed in Best Student TV News Story. Kelly Scott received the award in Student Weather Reporting and Kells Johnson, Jon Monteith and Stewart Pirani placed in Student Documentary or Series. On the radio side, Nick Andrews received additional honors in Best Student Sportscast.

Ole Miss Journalism alumni Margaret Ann Morgan and Chris Harkey, both at WDAM-TV in Hattiesburg, took home six first place professional awards in Small Market TV. Harkey won for Best TV Videographer and Best Feature Story, Morgan won for Best Investigative Report and Best TV Reporter. Alumnus Wilson Stribling, news director at WLBT-TV in Jackson, won Best Feature Story in Large Market TV.

The program featured a tribute to the late Medgar Evers who was named a Pioneer of Broadcasting for Breaking the Color Barrier. Former CBS correspondent Randall Pinkson, a visiting professor at Ole Miss earlier this year, introduced Myrlie Evers-Williams who accepted the award.

Associate Professor Nancy Dupont serves on the Mississippi AP Broadcasters Board and is the adviser for NewsWatch 99.


Featured L-R: Photos: Andrews, Morgan, Pinkston, Dupont and Harkey.

Broadcast students cover Oxford for local NBC affiliate

For two days in late April, the Ole Miss Student Media Center became a news bureau for WTVA in Tupelo.  Led by journalism professors Deb Wenger and Nancy Dupont, a team of 5 students covered the annual Double Decker Festival.

Gabriel Austin and Natalie Wood focused their Friday story on the artists of Double Decker.

The art story and another on festival music aired on WTVA’s 10 p.m. show.

“They did a terrific job,” said Wenger. “The started shooting at about noon, produced four versions of the story — one for WTVA, one for NewsWatch, one for and one for the DMOnline.  Gabe anchored NewsWatch and then he and Natalie went back out for another round or reporting.”

On Saturday, a second team picked up the reporting baton at 7 a.m. to cover the Double Decker 10K.  Ian Cowart and Jillian Clifton worked hard to capture the flavor of the festival’s biggest day.

Clifton says she was willing to give up her Saturday to get this kind of experience.

“It makes me feel proud to be a journalism student and to know that my work actually means something and people are actually watching it,” said Clifton.

WTVA’s news managers were so pleased with the students’ efforts that they asked to expand from two days of reporting to three.  Miriam Cresswell and Gabriel Austin were tapped to cover a fundraiser for Good Food for Oxford Schools on Sunday; however, that event was postponed due to storms in the area.

The weekend reporting experience is part of the advanced TV reporting class, which is taught by both Dupont and Wenger.

Meek PR students among top to watch

Sofia Hellberg-Jonsen

Sofia Hellberg-Jonsen

Wil Yerger

Wil Yerger

Meek School students Sofia Hellberg-Jonsen and Wil Yeager are featured in PR blogger Arik Hanson’s  list of “17 PR students to watch.”  Read the post at


Harris produces newscasts during fellowship

braceyHarrisMeek School journalism senior Bracey Harris received hands-on experience as a producer recently when she participated in the CBC-UNC Diversity Fellowship Program at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Harris is one of 12 students chosen from across the country to participate in the intensive workshop led by UNC journalism faculty and professionals at Capitol Broadcasting Company’s WRAL-TV in Raleigh. The program is geared toward seniors and graduate students finishing their programs and pursuing careers as producers, reporters, photojournalists and Web editors. View the shows she produced at

Harris is multimedia editor at The Daily Mississippian, a former NewsWatch anchor, and was named Best Magazine Writer by the Southeast Journalism Conference for articles published in “The Flood of the Century” depth report. Her internships include print and television work in Jackson.



CBS Sports takes journalism students behind scenes of broadcast

GrantEvery camera is placed with precision, every graphic discussed in detail and every shot is studied before CBS Sports puts a game on the air.  For a group of Ole Miss journalism students who went behind the scenes of the Rebels-Gators basketball game, this was an eye-opener.

“To be honest, I had no idea. That’s the whole reason I wanted to do this whole thing. I always wondered where they go, talking about going from camera to camera,” Ole Miss senior Pete Porter said.

CBS Sports Director Mark Grant gave the students a tour of the production trailers, where he and his staff work up to 16 hours to prepare before the game.  The group also went inside the Tad Smith Coliseum to see exactly where Grant and his crew strategically place all the cameras they utilize during the game.

According to Grant, he works in unison with 35-40 people for college basketball games, but the staff could increase depending on the magnitude of the game. To make it all work, each person inside the production trailers and arena have to communicate effectively with Grant to correctly time what people see on television.

“I’m Mark’s right-hand man, whatever Mark wants to see, visuals or full-screen graphics I put that up,” technical producer David Saretsky said.

Grant says he tries to direct the game to his own satisfaction and take into account what his bosses in New York would like to see.

“The most stressful part of my job is the pressure, the pressure of network television, millions and millions of people are watching,” Grant said. “The expectations are high with our bosses…there is zero tolerance for mistakes.”

Several of the students volunteered their time on Saturday morning to act as runners for Grant and his staff. They also got a chance to watch the live production of the Ole Miss-Florida game.  For senior Ashleigh Culpepper, the opportunity now has her thinking about additional career options.

“Because of the behind the scenes experience I could honestly see myself behind the camera now as opposed to in front of it.”

UM students honored at Best of the South

in Lafayette, La., Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. (Photo/Thomas Graning)University of Mississippi students won 20 awards — including four first places — at the annual Best of the South contest banquet on Friday night Feb. 21, and on Saturday they won first place as Onsite Championship Team for their performance in contests held during the Southeast Journalism Conference convention in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Friday night was a big night for Daily Mississippian Editor in Chief Adam Ganucheau. He won three Best of the South awards:

  • Special Events Reporter/Editor first place, for his coverage of the “Laramie Project” disturbance and its aftermath;
  • Best News Writer second place for articles from The DM and his Daily Journal internship;
  • College Journalist of the Year second place. Adam’s College Journalist of the Year award came with a plaque and $500. The College Journalist of the Year competition requires an essay about responsibility and commitment, letters of recommendation and published work.

John Monteith won first place as Best Television Hard News Reporter for several NewsWatch segments.

Virginia England won first place as Best Magazine Page Layout Designer, for her design work in the “Land of Plenty” depth report.

Tim Abram won first place as Best Opinion-Editorial Writer for a series of DM columns.

Our other Best of the South winners:

  • Casey Holliday, second place for Best Arts and Entertainment Writer;
  • Ignacio Murillo, third place for Best Newspaper Page Layout Designer;
  • Lauren McMillin, third place for Best Magazine Writer;
  • Phil McCausland, third place for Best Feature Writer;
  • Kristen Saltzman, third place for Best Advertising Staff Member;
  • Brittani Acuff, fourth place for Best Television News Feature Reporter;
  • Ellen Graves, fourth place for Best Journalism Research Paper;
  • Thomas Graning, sixth place for Best Press Photographer;
  • Sudu Upadhyay, sixth place for Best Television Journalist;
  • Jonece Dunigan, sixth place Best Feature Writer for articles from her internship in Illinois;
  • David Collier, eighth place for Best Sports Writer.

NewsWatch won second place for Best Television Station and third place for Best College Video News Program. won fourth place for Best College Website.

There were 440 entries from about 35 universities in Best of the South. The contest year covered mid-November 2012 through mid-November 2013, and most categories required three entries from each student. In large categories with many entries, awards were given for first through 10th place.

This year’s conference was Feb. 20-22 at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. About 300 students attended the conference. SEJC includes 40 universities in seven states.

A second highlight of the conference each year is the onsite competition in which students participate in categories under deadline pressure. This is the third time in four years that University of Mississippi students won the grand championship award for the onsites. UM students were named conference champions based on points accumulated for the following awards:

First places:

  • Phil McCausland, feature writing;
  • Phillip Waller, news photography;
  • Thomas Graning, sports photography.

Second places:

  • Ignacio Murillo, page design;
  • Sudu Upadhyay, television reporting;
  • Caty Cambron, Olivia Rearick and Katie Davenport, public relations team

Third place:

  • Sarah Parrish, copy editing

Bracey Harris selected for national journalism fellowships

Bracey HarrisMeek School journalism senior Bracey Harris has been awarded two prestigious national journalism fellowships this semester: The New York Times Student Journalism Institute and the CBC-UNC Diversity Fellowship. Both programs provide hands-on training from some of the best journalists in the country.

In March, Harris heads to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill for an intensive workshop led by UNC journalism faculty and professionals at Capitol Broadcasting Company’s WRAL-TV in Raleigh. The CBC-UNC program is a competitive fellowship for only 12 top students from across the country. The program is geared toward seniors and graduate students finishing their programs and pursuing careers as producers, reporters, photojournalists and Web editors.

In late May, Harris travels to Dillard University for the New York Times institute. Students work as journalists supervised by New York Times editors and reporters. They work as reporters, copy editors, photographers, Web producers, print and Web designers and video journalists. Many alumni of the program now work at major news organizations.

“During the institute at Dillard, I will be responsible for writing an enterprise story about New Orleans,” Harris said. “By the end of the program, we will produce a newspaper. I have seen copies of past publications and can tell the expectations are high. What’s really exciting is that the paper will contain The New York Times masthead. I’m really looking forward to utilizing the skills I’ve gained from the Meek school, SMC and internships.”

Harris is multimedia editor at The Daily Mississippian, a former NewsWatch anchor, and was named Best Magazine Writer by the Southeast Journalism Conference for articles published in “The Flood of the Century” depth report. Her internships include print and television work in Jackson.

In the summer of 2012, Dean Will Norton and three students traveled to South Africa to work on a reporting project with students from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. Harris was one of the Meek School students on that trip.

Dean Norton noted that at the end of one of her essays for the South Africa publication, Harris wrote: “Although separated by the Atlantic Ocean, Mississippi and South Africa often fight the same struggles. How to look forward to the future without denying the past poses a challenge. However, the battle can be won.”

Dean Norton added: “That expression of optimism in the face of enormous challenges is who Bracey is for me.”

Daily Mississippian wins MPA advertising awards

DM Winning MPA Ad 2014

Winning entry for best advertising promotion

The Daily Mississippian won several awards in the Mississippi Press Association Better Newspaper Contest advertising division annual competition. The Daily Mississippian competes against professional newspapers in the state in this contest, not other college newspapers.

Kristen Saltzman, an education major, won 1st place for best advertising promotion, competing against all daily newspapers in Mississippi. The winning entry was a house ad for yearbook class portraits that featured students in the 1983 yearbook. Saltzman has worked on the creative staff at the Student Media Center for several years.

The Daily Mississippian won second place for best niche publication in the state, for its 2013 orientation guide. Emily Roland, last year’s DM editor in chief, was in charge of the editorial content and designed the cover. LeAnna Young was student sales manager, and students Kristen Saltzman and Nate Weathersby were the creative design staff for the publication.

An ad for the Ole Miss Quarterback Club, by Creative Services Manager Debra Novak, won third place for best black and white institutional advertisement in a category that includes newspapers with daily circulation higher than 9,000.

Ole Miss grad returns to teach sports production class

EwertBy Brandon Rook

Terry Ewert (’73) has had a successful career in media production during the last 40 years. The Emmy Award-winning producer was back in Oxford during September, teaching a five-week sports television production class.

Under his direction, journalism students have partnered with Ole Miss Athletics for the first time, to produce live coverage of the women’s volleyball match against Arkansas. Ewert also worked with Dr. Bradley Schultz, a long-time broadcast journalism professor.

Senior Morgan White, a student in the class, said, “Mr. Ewert has been amazing, and I’ve learned a lot… and I’m going to use it in the future. ”

“Now, I feel like I have a better foundation if I do feel like I want to go into production or even on air. The live webcast of the game was streamed on RebelVision at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27.

Ewert answered a few questions about Ole Miss and his career:

What is your favorite memory of your time as a student at Ole Miss?

I had a lot of them. Coming out of high school then coming to a university was bizarre for me. I was in a fraternity, and I have 120 or so automatic friends. Some are friends, some are not friends, but they’re the kind of people who look out for you, and that’s just something that I wasn’t used to.

When I was a freshman, it was Archie Manning’s junior year, his phenomenal year! I think all of us in the class that came in were caught up with the great football and national attention that we were getting with Archie that football season.

I think the fraternity, working at the sorority house and certainly my classwork were my best memories. Oh yeah, and the football season that freshman year.

So, how did you end up at Ole Miss?

When I was in high school looking for a place to go to college, I had been appointed to the U.S. Air Force Academy.  I wasn’t sure at the point that I wanted to be a career officer in the military.  I was always a service brat; we moved from place to place; my father was in the Air Force.  I promised him that if I got a scholarship to Ole Miss I would take ROTC.  Indeed, I did get a scholarship, and I ended up at Ole Miss and took ROTC at least for the first year (laughs).

As an alumnus of the University of Mississippi, what kind of advice would you give to a soon-to-be graduate from the university?

You should explore where you want to be.  I think this school of journalism has a very good reputation, and I think the best thing to do is choose your steps wisely and reach out to every different media outlet, newspaper or whatever direction you want to go in.  Try to find your niche.  If you really want to stay in journalism, the opportunities are there if you really strive and want to get noticed or hired.

How often do you come back and visit?

Not very often, unfortunately.  I travel a lot on my job.  I have my own production company where we have to do a certain amount of hours and certainly the Big Ten Network keeps me busy as well.  I live in the New York area, and I always enjoy coming back.  I’m always impressed with how the university has grown and how it’s more diverse.  I think that’s the important step this university made years ago, and it continues to this day.  I think it’s getting to be what Dr. Robert Khayat called it, “A Great American Public University.”

What advice would you give to Terry Ewert the freshman?

I probably would’ve taken more courses in broadcasting when I was here. I really only took one. My very first job was in broadcasting. I was an on-air anchor and on-air sports director for KALB-TV in Alexandria, La. I should have concentrated more in broadcasting so that the learning curve wouldn’t have been so high. I was a political science major, but I also was in speech and theater. I took Broadcasting 101, and I wish that I had pursued that another semester or even further. There were very rudimentary courses at the time, and eventually that whole system moved to where it is now, a school of journalism. I probably could have gotten a lot more out of Ole Miss at the time in the world of broadcasting.

With working in such a deadline-oriented and sometimes stressful business, how do you balance out your life when you’re not working?

I have a wife and family.  My children have always been an inspiration.  They’re grown now, but to spend time at home and watch my children grow up was always my recreation — just being a dedicated family man.

Could you describe some of the biggest highlights of your career that were the most exciting to you?

I was a senior production executive for three Olympic games, two for NBC sports and one for the Atlanta Olympics. My former executive producer Don Ohlmeyer said, “If you ever wonder how good you are, do an Olympics,” and I did three of them. The first one was the Olympics in 1988, and I did the broadcast side. In 1992 for Barcelona I did the cable side. Lastly for 1996 I did the overall. I actually worked for the Olympic Committee. I got to experience all sides of Olympic coverage, and I think that was fulfilling, but I think working as an executive producer at CBS sports for six years and doing the Master’s, NCAA basketball tournaments, SEC Championship games, doing a multitude of other things with the NFL and doing the PGA tour were really the highlights of my career.

What was your first job after graduating from Ole Miss in 1973?

It’s funny because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had worked the year before between my junior and senior year at WJTV in Jackson, Miss. I needed a summer job and they had cameramen positions open for those who were on vacation relief, so that is what I first did.

That was kind of the seed, and I went back to the station after I graduated. They had a sister station in Louisiana. As fate would have it, they were looking for a sportscaster. I talked a lot of SEC football with them, and they liked that. They auditioned me, and I got hired. So my first job was being an on-air anchor and sports director at KALB.

Were there any risks that you ever had to take in your career?

Moving to New York. I was at the KALB station for a year, and I also was an actor while I was at Ole Miss. I was into speech and theater as well, so I did a lot of the plays. A group of theater friends were moving to New York, and they asked me to come with them. I quit the job at KALB and, with $600 to my name, moved to New York. That’s all I had. I ended up on the streets of New York. I hated it while I was there because I was struggling, and within three months I got a commercial, and I thought it was easy, and for six months after that I didn’t even get another callback.

That’s when I decided to become an NBC page and from an NBC page, I just worked my way up through NBC to NBC Sports. I was there for 18 years. The biggest risk I took was quitting everything and moving to New York City.

What did you learn at Ole Miss that has helped your career get to where it is today? Was there a specific professor or experience?

The biggest thing most individuals learn in college is how to live with other people. You lived with your family your whole life through high school, and that’s kind of a sheltered existence because there’s someone that’s always looking out for you. When you come to any university or college, you have to get along with other people, and it’s a great social experiment that you don’t even know that you do. You have all this freedom, but you have to go to class. You have to get all your work done. You’ve got to get good grades, and you’ve got to progress through the four years. So, the great social experiment of living with other people and being around other people was the greatest takeaway from this university because this university was very nurturing with the staff and the teachers.

A version of this story was originally published on

Bestselling author to students: Sweat the small stuff

Author Charles Graeber paid a visit to Meek School students this week to discuss his best-selling book “The Good Nurse,” about the serial killer Charles Cullen, the so-called “Angel of Death” who, before his arrest in 2003, murdered as many as 300 patients over the course of a 16-year nursing career.

Graeber explained how his six-year investigation into Cullen — and into the broken health care system that allowed him to continue undetected for so long – all started with the bizarre news clipping he’d been carrying around in his pocket, about a serial killer who wanted to donate a kidney against the wishes of his victims’ families. That clip inspired Graeber to write a letter to Cullen, asking if he would talk with him. Despite having turned away dozens of reporters in the past, Cullen agreed.

“At that point,” Graeber said, “I had the football.”

“It’s a little counter-intuitive to think that good story ideas often come from other news sources – it might seem like that story has already been told,” Graeber told students in Assistant Professor Cynthia Joyce’s JOUR 271 News Reporting classes on Tuesday. “But that’s not always the case – there was another story here that wasn’t being told.”

His initial investigation led to a feature story in New York magazine, “The Tainted Kidney.” That story, in part, launched a book deal, and the book became the basis of a two-part “60 Minutes” segment.

Curious about his reporting techniques, Meek students asked Graeber whether spending so much time with a serial killer required “psychological counseling.”

“In the middle of working on “The Good Nurse,” I was sent by Business Week to write a story about a family in Kamaishi, Japan, who survived the 2011 tsunami,” he said. “This was one month after [the tsunami] – and the fact that I was actually eager to go and sit around a campfire with the survivors was probably a pretty good indication of my mental state.”

That story – “After the tsunami: Nothing to do but start again” – earned the Overseas Press Club’s Ed Cunningham Award in 2011.

Although Graeber is obviously drawn to “big” stories, he emphasized the importance of sweating the small stuff — getting every single fact right, down to the tiniest detail.

“Never mind that for more than 15 years a killer was allowed to work in nine different hospitals — if the guy had been wearing brown shoes, and I’d said they were black, no one was going to believe anything else about the story.”

Graeber will be signing copies of “The Good Nurse” at Square Books on Wednesday, September 18 at 5:00PM

Watch the “60 Minutes” segments about “The Good Nurse” here.


How journalists are using their smartphones to build audience

Beech sends out a tweet before heading out on an assignment. She says, as a journalist, she feels “indebted to being a gatekeeper of important information.” Photo by Margaret Ann Morgan.

Beech sends out a tweet before heading out on an assignment. She says, as a journalist, she feels “indebted to being a gatekeeper of important information.” Photo by Margaret Ann Morgan.

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.

Journalism student’s project prompts engineering research

102Student-EditWhen 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.

Meek School students win national journalism honors

MAMThe 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.

Mobile newsroom created for coverage of Double Decker Festival

Journalism students take over High Point Coffee couches as a makeshift newsroom at the Double Decker Festival.  Photo by Deb Wenger.  April 27, 2013.

Journalism students take over High Point Coffee couches as a makeshift newsroom at the Double Decker Festival. Photo by Deb Wenger. April 27, 2013.

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 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.”

Mission Ole Miss: Journalists and ROTC team up for learning

Embedded journalists cover the ROTC final field exercise.  Photo by Maggie McDaniel.  April 25, 2013.

Embedded journalists cover the ROTC final field exercise. Photo by Maggie McDaniel. April 25, 2013.

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.

NewsWatch tops in Mississippi student newscasts

NewsWatch with awards

Pictured L-R; Stephen Quinn, Margaret Ann Morgan, John Monteith, and Gerard Manogin. Photo by Nancy Dupont, April 20, 2013.

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.


Students win major awards in Southeast Journalism Conference contests

SEJC Winners Photo

University of Mississippi students won more awards than any other college in the annual Best of the South contest, including four first places.

The students won a total of 11 Best of the South awards, and an additional five awards – including one first place for public relations – in the onsite competitions held at the conference, Feb. 21-23 at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.

Best of the South
Margaret Ann Morgan was named Best Multimedia Journalist, Bracey Harris was named Best Magazine Writer, Benjamin Hurston was named Best Magazine Layout Designer and Nick Andrews was named Best Radio Journalist. All four are Meek School students active at the Student Media Center.

The Daily Mississippian won fourth place in the Best College Newspaper category. Twenty-nine campus papers entered that category, and The DM was the top-ranked daily paper.
NewsWatch won third place for Best College Video News Program. won second place for Best College Website.

The contests are sponsored by the Southeast Journalism Conference, which has 45 member universities in eight states. This year, there were 430 entries in Best of the South, covering the contest year from mid-November 2011 through mid-November 2012.

Morgan’s Best of the South multimedia entry focused on coverage of Hurricane Isaac, and included an article in the DM written under daily deadline pressure, NewsWatch live reports, and an online photo/audio package. The judge wrote, “Very nicely done. The ability to produce video, still image, text and broadcast quality stand-ups means some news organization ought to hire this student quickly.”

The DM was required to enter publications from two dates for the Best College Newspaper category. The judge in that category praised the staff for “ambitious ideas, creative approaches to sports and strong photography.”

A broadcast judge wrote about the NewsWatch video program entry: “I felt like I got an accurate account of not only what’s happening on campus but across the state.”

Harris and Hurston won for their work in “The Flood of the Century,” a depth report about flood control on the Mississippi River. Judges praised their creativity and imagery.

Other Best of the South awards, all for work published in The DM: Josh Clark, second place for editorial cartoons; Kristen Saltzman, second place for advertising design; Austin Miller, third place for Best Sports Writer; Mary B. Sellers, fourth place for Best Arts & Entertainment Writer.

Onsite Competitions
In the PR: Crisis Communication category, the Ole Miss team of Frances Allison, Jane Lloyd Brown and Alyssa Randolph took first place.

Austin Miller won second place for copy editing. Emily Roland won third place for page design; Adam Ganucheau won third place for news writing; and Phillip McCausland won third place for editorial writing. All are DM editors and writers.

The onsite competitions included 11 categories. About 300 students from 24 colleges attended the SEJC conference, and many of them participated in the onsite contests.

Student journalists finalists in Best of the South contest

Eight students are finalists in the individual categories for the Best of the South contest. (Still awaiting the results of the judging for Best of the South best newspaper/best newscast/best website/journalist of the year categories.) The individual student winners are listed below, in alphabetical order. Congratulations to all!

Screen Shot 2013-01-26 at 9.26.46 AMNicholas Andrews. Category: Best Radio Journalist.
Josh Clark. Category: Best News-Editorial Artist/Illustrator.
Bracey Harris. Category: Best Magazine Writer.
Benjamin Hurston. Category: Best Magazine Page Layout Designer.
Austin Miller. Category: Best Sports Writer.
Margaret Ann Morgan. Category: Best Multimedia Journalist.
Kristen Saltzman. Category:  Best Advertising Staff Member.
Mary B. Sellers. Category: Best Arts & Entertainment Writer.

The Best of the South contest is open to Southeast Journalism Conference member universities in seven states. We find out details about what each student won at a banquet at the annual SEJC conference on Feb. 22, at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.

Meek School students inducted into Who’s Who and Hall of Fame


Margaret Ann Morgan, Emily Roland and Kimbrely Dandridge

This year more than 150 Ole Miss students were added to Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, including 14 from the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. They are Tara Brando, Emily Cegielski, Kevin Cozart, Kimbrely Dandridge, Ashleigh Davis, Jontarius Haywood, Kim Hobgood, Gerard Manogin, Austin Miller, Margaret Ann Morgan, Emily Roland, Sealy Smith, Miriam Taylor and Katherine Williamson. From that talented group, three were selected by the university to be among the 10 students inducted into the 2012-2013 University of Mississippi Hall of Fame.

Margaret Ann Morgan is a broadcast journalism major who is this year’s Miss Ole Miss.  She has anchored NewsWatch and been actively involved in student government.  Morgan is from McComb, Miss.  Emily Roland is the editor of the Daily Mississippian and is from Bakersfield, Calif.  Kimbrely Dandridge is the current student body president and has also anchored NewsWatch.  She is from Como, Miss.

Selection of a total of 153 students for the Who’s Who honor, one percent of the student body on the Oxford campus, was announced in a ceremony at the Gertrude S. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.



The Top 5 skills and attributes that a broadcast journalist needs


Photo Courtesy of The Commercial Appeal

Students often feel inundated with advice about the hundreds of skills journalists “must have” in order to be successful. But the journalists at WMC Action News 5 in Memphis have narrowed the list to five essential skills.

1.  Dedication

Photojournalist Bo Bradley says a real journalist has to be a dedicated one. He says you have to be willing to work the longer shifts and do the grunt work, really roll with the punches, to be successful in this business.

2. Persistence

Reporter Justin Hanson says there are going to be times when you have to be persistent to get the interview that will make your story come to life. Stick with it and you will be surprised what you can do.

3.  Creativity

Associate Producer Denisha Thomas says creativity drives the newsroom. You have to really use the right side of your brain and figure out what matters to your public and deliver it in a creative way.

4. Desire

Anchor/ Reporter Lindsey Brown, a graduate of Ole Miss, says you have to have the desire to make a difference through what you write and what you report. You have push through the long hours and realize that your hard work will pay off.

5. News Consumption

Assistant News Director Regina Thomas says keep writing and read a lot! Consume news from different outlets, both local and national, to compare and learn why and how they report the way they do.

It isn’t the most obvious skills and attributes — editing, writing, interviewing — that each of these successful journalists listed as most important.  Instead, they say, their list includes the things that matter most when you are pushed for deadline, hunting down the interview or covering breaking news.

Anna Ellingburg is a senior with an emphasis in broadcast journalism.  She recently completed an internship at WMC.

SMC student managers attend media convention, accept award

Student Media Director Pat Thompson and five SMC student managers attended the National College Media Convention in Chicago from Oct. 31-Nov. 4. The conference was jammed with an incredible array of workshops for students and advisers on topics including dealing with deadlines, photography, writing, student media law and ethics, advertising sales, design, engaging your community, sports journalism, yearbook leadership, Internet radio, photo illustrations, video production, building readership, coping with limited resources, covering elections, reporting high-profile scandals, radio relevance, and so much more. More than 2,500 people attended this year’s convention. Hour-long workshops began at 9 each day and ended at 5, with a selection of at least a dozen workshops each hour to choose from. The group also accepted the award for the 2011 The Ole Miss annual, a finalist in the national Yearbook Pacemaker contest. The 2011 yearbook was produced by recent graduate Alex McDaniel and her staff.

Pictured are NewsWatch Manager Stewart Pirani, Daily Mississippian Editor in Chief Emily Roland, Thompson, Yearbook Editor in Chief Elizabeth Beaver, Radio Station Manager Lindsey Malley and Advertising Sales Manager LeAnna Young standing in front of the Chicago Tribune/WGN radio building near the convention hotel. They are returning to campus full of ideas and inspiration.

Recent Meek School grad in need of blood donors

Katherine Barkett Byrd, a 2011 Meek School graduate, is in critical condition at Baptist Hospital in Jackson, MS. A broadcast journalism major and the 2011 Miss University, Katherine has been diagnosed with a very serious blood disorder called HUS/TTP Syndrome and is in need of  blood transfusions. Doctors are concerned that her needs will deplete the supply they have on hand.

If you are in Mississippi and are able to donate blood, please do so in the name of Katherine Barkett Byrd at Mississippi Blood Services. Mention her name and her date of birth: 12/20/87.

She can accept all blood types, but AB+ and O+ are especially needed.

Travels to Togo: Meek School student and prof cover engineering initiative

Thousands of miles away in Africa, Ole Miss students are having an impact.

The Ole Miss chapter of Engineers Without Borders traveled to Lomé, Togo on an engineering mission trip August 6-13. The team of eight consisted of three faculty members and five students, including the Meek School’s Dr. Nancy Dupont and student Norman Seawright, who traveled with the engineering group to document their efforts.

“The trip to Togo with the Ole Miss Engineers Without Borders chapter was so much more than Norman Seawright and I thought it would be.  We knew Togo had needs, but we were not prepared for the level of poverty we saw,” said Dupont.  “At the same time, we were stunned by the beauty and friendliness of the people and the way they welcomed visitors who had come to help.  It was the experience of a lifetime. ”

Seawright is producing three stories for NewsWatch, the student-run newscast at Ole Miss.  He is also working with Dupont and other Meek School faculty on a documentary.

The local Engineers Without Borders is currently in the middle of a fundraising campaign to return to Togo in August 2013 to begin work on their selected project.  To help support their efforts, you can make a donation online,  or you can participate in Trot for Togo, a 5K run/walk that takes place on Dec. 1 in Oxford.

The plan to construct a new school will take thousands of dollars, but a new building could have a major impact on the educational capabilities of the area.

For more information, please contact Dr. Cris Surbeck, Department of Civil Engineering, at

Freshman produces interview for PBS NewsHour Extra series

Freshman Ann-Marie Herod’s interview with junior Tim Abram for PBS NewsHour Extra’s “Listen to Me” series focuses on the most important issues in the election year, whether or not political system is broken. This is her first national story and part of a series of videos being produced in Dr. Mark K. Dolan’s media history class on alternative campus voices.

Watch the interview on YouTube.

Social Media Boot Camp Kicks Off Meek Week Events

Journalism students “tweet” the Meek Week presentation on social media as part of a project in the Journalism Innovation class. Oct. 8, 2012. Photo by Vince Davis.

By Jennifer Peterson

Dr. Carrie Brown-Smith, a journalism professor from the University of Memphis, hosted a session called “Social Media Boot Camp” to kick off Meek Week.

“I think it is a really exciting time [to be a journalist] because we have all these tools like Twitter at our disposal,” she said.

Brown-Smith recommends Twitter as a tool for every journalist. She says that it is an easy, interactive instrument that allows people to both take the pulse about what people are talking about and to collectively participate in that discussion as well.

“There are literally over a hundred New York Times [reporters] who are using Twitter every day in their news process,” she said.

Social media has allowed many news companies to reach much larger audiences, something that Brown-Smith says was much more difficult to do in earlier times. It also allows companies to potentially reach more diverse audiences.  For example, African Americans use the social media approximately twice as much as whites, according to Brown-Smith.

Brown-Smith said that the first and most obvious use of Twitter for a journalist is breaking news. She emphasized the fact that social media is changing the way news breaks and said that many of the most recent front page stories, such as the death of Whitney Houston, were first broken on Twitter. Because of an effort to distribute breaking news to as many audiences as possible, Brown-Smith said that some news companies are even re-tweeting their competitors.

But, Brown-Smith says, the fact-checking process should follow the same standards as traditional media – especially if you plan on retweeting someone else’s information.

“A tweet is no different than anything else. You gotta check it out,” she said.

Although the Twitter process is hard work, Brown-Smith doesn’t recommend giving up. She says that an online community is not built in a day or even a year, but that it is achievable.

“Keep plugging away,” she advises, “Consistency over time does drive you to have a following.”

A Walk to Remember

Student and professional journalists crowd around civil rights activist Harry Belafonte as he leads a walk of remembrance at Ole Miss. Oct. 1, 1962. Photo by Mikki Harris.

On Oct. 1, administrators, students, faculty and guests honored James Meredith and his historic walk into history as the man who integrated Ole Miss 50 years ago.

The walk was lead by civil rights activist Harry Belafonte, who also spoke to a packed house at the university’s Ford Center.

Media came from across the country and around the world to cover the events, including CBS News, the New York Times and BBC radio.

From Riot to Remembrance: Student Journalists Cover the Ceremony

A candlelight vigil to celebrate 50 Years of Integration at the University of Mississippi. Sept. 30, 2012. Photo by Stephen Quinn

Hundreds of people gathered at the Ford Center on the 50th anniversary of the riot that changed Ole Miss forever. As the university paused to reflect on the years following the enrollment of James Meredith, broadcast journalism students covered the event for NewsWatch.

Reporter Stephen Quinn explored the pride some members of the university community are feeling and the promise that others are making.

The ceremony included a spiritual component, and reporter Gerard Manogin talked with local clergy about the role of religion in this historical event.

And James Meredith paved the way for thousands of students who came after him. Reporter Margaret Ann Morgan shows us how the event looked through the eyes of an African-American student.

Photojournalism Students Cover “50 Years of Integration” Events

Student Steff Thomas covers “50 Years of Integration” Event, Sept. 26, 2012. Photo by Mark Dolan.

Photojournalism students at the Meek School found themselves listening to a living history lesson, as witnesses to the integration process at Ole Miss spoke about their experiences. The event was part of the university’s “50 Years of Integration” project, a year-long exploration of James Meredith’s enrollment in 1962 and its impact then and now.

Jan Humber Robertson is a former managing editor of the Daily Mississippian. She described what it was like to be a journalist at the scene.

Former Daily Mississippian Managing Editor Jan Humber Robertson speaks out at “50 Years of Integration” event. Sept. 26, 2012. Photo by Tanner Marquis.

“I went up to a highway patrolman, and I looked up on the building, Old Chemistry, and saw a man with a rifle on the roof… and I went up to a highway patrolman and I said, ‘There is a man with a hunting rifle on the roof of that building… I just saw him.’ He turns around and literally patted me on the head and said, ‘Don’t you worry your pretty little head about that little girl.’ He didn’t even turn around and look up at the roof, I think he was afraid that he might see him,” said Robertson.

Other panelists described walking over the wounded at the Lyceum and of hearing the tear gas canisters popping while they tried to listen to President Kennedy on the television set, calling for calm.

Humber Robertson said she was proud of the work done by the Daily Mississippian that year, and she stated that the FBI had praised the student paper for providing accurate reporting on the events leading up to and following Meredith’s enrollment.

“My father tried to withdraw me from Ole Miss, but I did not go home until Thanksgiving. I had seen so many lies about what happened here. I knew that I wanted to be a journalist; I had a responsibility to study and do what I could to print what I witnessed, what was actually happening,” said Humber Robertson.

The students captured the memories of the panelists in a series of quotes and photos.