Lee Ragland: Former Newspaper Reporter, now PR Director
By Stuart Johnson and Robin Street
Lee Ragland’s career in journalism has ranged from reporting on sports and business to his job today in public relations. But his jobs share the need for one main skill: writing.
“Learn how to write. Even in PR jobs, you need the writing samples,” Ragland says. “You have to be able to write in a concise manner. Write and write often.”
Ragland is a vice president and director of public relations at GodwinGroup in Jackson, Miss, the state’s oldest and largest communications agency. He credits his training at Ole Miss with giving him the fundamentals of those writing skills.
“Ole Miss gave me a good foundation in journalism,” Ragland says.
A ’78 graduate, he was in one of now Dean Will Norton’s first classes, News Reporting. And it was that class and the Advanced Reporting class that challenged him to become a reporter, he recalls.
“Dr. Norton understands how newspapers work and journalism works,” Ragland says. “Advanced reporting was a great learning experience that really pushed me.
Norton says Ragland really knew his stuff when he came to sports reporting.
“Lee was an exceptionally knowledgeable sports reporter when he was in school,” Norton says. “He really knew so much behind the scenes in the Southeastern Conference that he understood what angle to take on his stories.”
Ragland also worked at The Daily Mississippian as a sports reporter.
“I always thought I’d be a sports writer,” Ragland says. “As a freshman, I walked right into Brady Hall (where Journalism was formerly housed), applied and next thing I got a job.”
Ragland’s first job after he graduated was again as a sports reporter, this time for The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger.
“I thought I would be a reporter,” Ragland says. “I didn’t think I would do anything else in my life. Ink was in my blood.”
He spent 19 years at The Clarion-Ledger as a reporter and later, an editor. For his last seven years, he switched beats to business. There, he gained knowledge he would later apply in when he moved to the GodwinGroup
“I wasn’t looking for a job, but Godwin contacted me and asked if I would be interested,” he says. “ After 19 years in the newspaper business, I probably needed a new challenge as the stories were starting to run together.”
Today, at GodwinGroup, Ragland oversees a staff of seven PR professionals who provide variety of services including public relations, issues management, media training, reputation management, litigation support, web content crisis communications.
“My background in journalism helped me understand what reporters need,” Ragland says. “I understand the thinking, the deadlines and the time management a reporter needs to get the story.”
During his 13 years there, he has worked with a wide variety of clients, including financial services, law firms, telecommunications and energy companies, hospitality industry, government agencies and trade associations.
“The aspect of the job that is most appealing that I get to work with a variety of clients and businesses with assorted needs, so no two days or alike,” he says. “ I might be working on web content or media analysis for a client and the phone rings and it is another client who has an crisis that needs immediate action.
“When you pick up the phone you never know what the client’s needs are going to be, I think that is what keeps you fresh. It is almost like a rush a reporter gets when working on a big story.”