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Meek School journalism student named Harry S. Truman Scholar

Posted on: April 12th, 2018 by ldrucker

Jaz Brisack, a University of Mississippi Meek School of Journalism and New Media journalism student, has been named the university’s 15th Harry S. Truman Scholar. The junior was one of three UM finalists selected for the coveted scholarship. UM Communications reports that Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter told the Oxford native and Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College student Wednesday, April 11 about her win.

“Jaz Brisack is upholding our strong and distinguished tradition of student excellence and public service,” Vitter said in the news release. “We are so pleased to offer programs and learning opportunities that prepare our students to be competitive on a national stage.”

Joe Atkins, professor of journalism, has taught at the University of Mississippi since 1990. He teaches courses in advanced reporting, international journalism, ethics and social issues, media history, and labor and media.

Atkins has taught Brizack in six courses, including Honors 101, Honors 102, Honors 399 (feature film and social issues), Journalism 580 (documentary and social issues), Journalism 301 (media history) and Honors 391 (conversations on social issues). He is also advising her and chairing her committee for her honors thesis.

“She is one of the most amazing students I’ve met in my nearly 28 years of teaching,” he said. “She visited me before I ever taught her, asking if she could get in my already closed Honors 101 course. She had researched me and my labor interests, and in our discussion, I was so impressed with her that we opened the class for her.”

Atkins said Brizack arrived at UM with a deep knowledge of labor and social history and a deep commitment to social justice issues, which she has demonstrated in a wide variety of activities, ranging from teaching in the Mississippi Delta to working with the United Auto Workers in the Nissan campaign in Canton.

“She has amazing intellectual breadth and a razor-sharp mind that I’m sure has helped her greatly in her debate sessions,” he said. “She has all the promise of being a true leader on a national and even international level.”

Atkins noted Brizack’s excellence in the classroom, fine writing skills, and commitment to a wide range of important activities beyond the classroom.

“She has boundless energy as well as a quick intellectual grasp of issues backed up by research and much reading,” he said. “She’s also engaging and good in working with people, proving herself again and again in her labor and political campaigns, working with American Indians in the Midwest and the poor in the Mississippi Delta. How she finds time to do all the things she does I don’t know, and I’m sure the Truman Scholar judges wondered about that, too.”

Curtis Wilkie, Meek School Overby fellow and an associate professor of journalism, has taught Brizack in three courses. This semester, she is enrolled in Wilkie’s Honors College course on presidential debates. Janet Brown, executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates who was instrumental in bringing the first 2008 debate to the Ole Miss campus, has been the guest lecturer for the past two weeks.

“Jaz not only gets high grades and is active in extracurricular interests,” Wilkie said, “but I found her to be one of the best-read students I’ve had in 17 years teaching at Ole Miss. That came across in the first class she had with me, when it was apparent she had already read so many of the books I mentioned. That was impressive.

“She’s also the kind of student who will drop by my office just to talk about current events or her political efforts outside the classroom. As you may know, she was home-schooled. I think she’s an extraordinary student, and I’m very proud of her accomplishments while at Ole Miss – whether its filling the Lyric for a rally for Jill Stein in the fall of 2016 or the unpopular (in Mississippi) causes she supports on behalf of laborers or American Indians or Palestinians.”

UM Communications reports that Brisack’s honors include having an article, “Organizing Unions as Social Policy,” published in the Global Encyclopedia of Public Policy, being a winner in the Creative Nonfiction division of the Southern Literary Festival and receiving the UM Outstanding Freshman award.

Brisack is also a National Merit Scholar finalist, a member of the UM debate team, and a recipient of the Honors College Extraordinary Research Funds and the Penny Leeton Service Award, UM Communications reports. She is also an Opinion columnist for The Daily Mississippian, the campus newspaper

Brisack told UM Communications her plans include earning a master’s of fine arts degree in creative writing and working with a small and independent union or network of unions to help empower workers to bring democratic processes to their workplaces.”

“I want to help create a network of independent locals with self-determination that retain nationwide leverage while maintaining a decentralized approach,” Brisack said in the news release.

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship is highly competitive scholarship of up to $30,000 given to college juniors who have leadership potential and a commitment to public service. It was created in 1975 in honor of the 33rd president.

For more about the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, visit http://www.honors.olemiss.edu.

The UM Communications news release mentioned in this post was written by Edwin Smith.

Happening This Week: Meek School to present Silver Em to Hearst editorial director April 18

Posted on: April 11th, 2018 by ldrucker

Newell Turner, a former University of Mississippi magazine student who rose to become the Hearst Design Group editorial director, will be presented the Silver Em, the University of Mississippi’s highest award in journalism, at a campus event April 18 at 5:30 p.m.

Turner is responsible for the collective editorial direction of ELLE DECOR, House Beautiful, and Veranda magazines. He served for five years as the 22nd editor-in-chief of House Beautiful, and in 2012 under Turner’s leadership, the magazine won its first National Magazine Award for general excellence—the industry’s equivalent of an Oscar—and was a finalist in the category in 2013.

Newell Turner

Dr. Samir Husni, professor and director of the Magazine Innovation Center, said the Silver Em is usually given to a native or resident of Mississippi who has excelled in the field of journalism and media. Turner was one of his early magazine students.

Husni said when Dorothy Kalins, then editor-in-chief of Metropolitan Home magazine, visited the Ole Miss campus in the mid-1980s, she was impressed by Turner’s passion for the magazine industry. “Newell, who was in my class, asked her a few questions that left an impact on her,” Husni said. “When she went back, she called and said, ‘Samir, I have an assistant position. I would like to offer it to Newell.’”

Husni said he encouraged Turner to take the job, saying: “If you are going to be in this profession, those opportunities don’t knock twice.” Turner took the job and eventually became editorial director of the Hearst Design Group, a leader in the publishing world with the development of innovative editorial production models and business strategies across print and digital platforms.

Turner has reported on interior design, architecture, product design and the lifestyles of upscale consumers throughout his 30-plus year career, which has included positions at House & Garden and Metropolitan Home. He was also the founding editor of Hamptons Cottages & Gardens and its sister publications: Palm Beach Cottages & Gardens and Connecticut Cottages & Gardens.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and Southern studies with advanced work specializing in magazine design from the University of Mississippi. Turner is a current member of the American Society of Magazine Editors and a trustee on the board of the New York School of Interior Design.

The Silver Em award dates to 1958, and recipients must be Mississippians with notable journalism careers or journalists with notable careers in Mississippi.

The Wednesday, April 18, Silver Em event and dinner will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Overby Auditorium in Farley Hall on the University of Mississippi campus. It will take place during the Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT 8 Experience April 17-20. The theme of the 2018 annual magazine industry conference is Print Proud, Digital Smart.

The Meek School of Journalism and New Media was founded in 2009, funded with an endowment gift by Dr. Ed and Becky Meek. It offers bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in both journalism and integrated marketing communications on the Oxford campus and in coordination with satellite campuses. Because of the increasing variety of media careers, enrollment continues to rise in the Meek School, and there are now almost 1,200 undergraduate journalism and IMC majors.

CONTACTS:

Dr. Samir Husni | 662-915-1414, 662-832-6247 | samir.husni@gmail.com
Charlie Mitchell | 662-915-7146 | cdmitch1@olemiss.edu

 

PREVIOUS SILVER EM HONOREES

1958 – George W. Healy Jr.

1959 – Turner Catledge

1960 – Kenneth Toler

1961 – John Oliver Emmerich

1962 –

1963 – George McLean

1964 – William B. Street

1965 – Purser Hewitt

1966 – Hal C. DeCell

1967 – Paul Pittman

1968 – Hodding Carter Jr.

1969 – Willie Morris

1970 – T.M. Hederman Jr.

1971 – Joseph R. Ellis

1972 – Wilson F. Minor

1973 – Mark F. Ethridge

1974 –

1975 – H.L. Stevenson

1976 – William Raspberry

1977 – Joe L. Albritton

1978 – James A. Autry

1979 – James Nelson

1980 – Mary-Lynn Kotz

1981 – Curtis Wilkie

1982 – Harold Burson

1983 – John O. Emmerich

1984 – Hazel Brannon Smith

1985 – Charles Overby

1986  – W.C. “Dub” Shoemaker

1987 – Charles Dunagin (2)

– Larry Speakes (2)

1988 – Edward Fritts

1989 – Rudy Abramson

1990 – Hodding Carter III

1991 – James L. McDowell

1992 – Rheta Grimsley Johnson

1993 – Dan Goodgame

1994 – Robert Gordon

1995 – Jere Hoar

1996 – Gregory Favre

1997 – Stephanie Saul

1998 – Lerone Bennett

1999 –

2000 – Jerry Mitchell

2001 – Bert Case

2002 – Ira Harkey

2003 – Jim Abbott

2004 –

2005 – Otis Sanford

2006 – Dan Phillips

2007 – Stanley Dearman

2008 – Ronnie Agnew

2009 – Stan Tiner

2010 – Terry Wooten

2011 – Patsy Brumfield

2012 – Greg Brock

2013 – W. Randall Pinkston

2014 – Fred Anklam Jr.

2015 – Bill Rose

2016 – Dennis Moore

Meek School students win 11 awards in annual Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press contest for college journalists

Posted on: April 8th, 2018 by ldrucker

Students in the Meek School’s Student Media Center won 11 awards in the annual Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press contest for college journalists, including five first-place awards for NewsWatch Ole Miss; Lana Ferguson; Alana Mitius; Clara Turnage and Malachi Shinault; and Matthew Hendley and Joseph Katool.

NewsWatch Ole Miss won first place in the TV newscast category for its Dec. 1 show about NCAA sanctions against the football team. Judges said about the newscast: “Ole Miss athletics got hammered. The Ole Miss journalism students hit a home run. Comprehensive coverage of a story that impacted the Oxford campus. Well thought out. Live shots added to the overall presentation.”

 

Lana Ferguson won first place for feature writing for her story about an Oxford church’s efforts to help a Texas community rebuild after Hurricane Harvey. Alana Mitius won first place in the radio feature category for a package about a debate competition. Clara Turnage and Malachi Shinault won first place for multimedia for their report about activist Correl Hoyle. Matthew Hendley and Joseph Katool won first place for their radio coverage of the NCAA sanctions decision.

Second places were awarded to Ethel Mwedziwendira, for newspaper layout and design; Lana Ferguson and Clara Turnage, for breaking news, for coverage of the arrest of a student for election sign vandalism; NewsWatch Ole Miss, for sportscast or sports program, for its live reports about NCAA sanctions; Abbie McIntosh and Marlee Crawford, in the documentary category, for a package about Orange, Texas, recovering from Hurricane Harvey; DeAndria Turner, in the radio sports category, for a recap of the Ole Miss vs. LSU football game; and Italiana Anderson for radio news, for a package about the Hurricane Harvey relief effort.

Unlike in previous years, this year there was no “best newspaper” or “newspaper general excellence” category.

The awards were presented Saturday, April 7, at the Louisiana-Mississippian convention at the World War II museum in New Orleans. In attendance from the Meek School were Lana Ferguson, Matthew Hendley, Ethel Mwedziwendira and Collin Rivera.

View the work of the Lens Collective focusing on civil rights stories in the Mississippi Delta

Posted on: April 5th, 2018 by ldrucker

The Meek School of Journalism and New Media hosted the Lens Collective – an annual multimedia workshop that involved collaborations with mentors, students and eight universities – March 28-31. The 2018 focus was stories about Civil Rights in the Mississippi Delta.

“The Lens Collective is fun and intense,” said Alysia Burton Steele, assistant professor of the Meek School. “We have incredible mentors helping students and sharing their inspiring work.”

Three distinguished guests mentored students and presented their work. They are Smiley Pool, a Pulitzer-Prize winning photojournalist from The Dallas Morning News; Eric Seals, a nine-time regional Emmy Award-winner from the Detroit Free Press; and Josh Birnbaum, an award-winning photojournalism professor at Ohio University and author of the newly released coffee table book Dream Shot: The Journey to a Wheelchair Basketball National Championship.

Students took a bus tour in the Delta, enjoyed dinner with the people they documented and premiered student work on the last night of the program.

Rolando Herts, director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, partnered with the Lens Collective to provide a civil rights heritage tour of the area. The educational tour included the Fannie Lou Hamer Memorial Garden in Ruleville, the historic black town of Mound Bayou, and a Mississippi Delta soul food experience at The Senator’s Place restaurant in Cleveland.

Dr. Herts, Lee Aylward, and Sheila Winters of The Delta Center organized the tour and connected the Lens Collective with Delta residents whose stories were documented.

“We are pleased to host for a second year this group of talented students and mentors from across the country,” said Herts. “They are documenting and preserving important Mississippi Delta stories.”

This is also the second year the Meek School has partnered and will sponsor all other events. It was an opportunity for participants to build their resumes and portfolios.

“Universities that can provide immersive field experiences to their students like the Lens Collective are taking their education seriously,” said Charles Mitchell, assistant dean of the Meek School. “They understand that classroom alone is not sufficient for a media practitioner. They find out how much fun it can be, and their college work is better because seeing what it’s really like being out in the field inspires them.”

To see the Lens Collectives work, visit the website.

By Bobby Steele Jr., Meek School of Journalism and New Media

Oxford Stories students produce The Lorraine Motel: 50 Years After the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Posted on: April 4th, 2018 by ldrucker

Last semester, journalism instructor LaReeca Rucker gave Oxford Stories journalism students a challenging final project. She wanted them and readers to learn about the effects of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination that happened 50 years ago on April 4, 1968 in Memphis.

The result of that was a project called The Lorraine Motel: 50 Years After the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal has partnered with Oxford Stories to run some of the students stories this week.

Recognizing the educational value of the historic event, Rucker said she also hoped to incorporate social justice reporting into classroom assignments that would challenge students to step away from common campus stories and learn firsthand about our state and surrounding area’s recent history from those who had endured it.

“Any assignment or journalism project you do with students is always experimental because you know some will deliver and others will not, so I wasn’t exactly sure what the completed project would look like,” she said.

Their objective was to interview someone about their lives, their memories of Dr. King’s assassination, and the impact they believe his life and death had on them and the world. Many returned with compelling stories.

One student found Mary Redmond, who had met King after one of his speeches. He shook her hand and told her “things were going to get better.” This was an important encounter and message for a woman whose father was beaten to death because, as a child, she accidentally bumped the arm of a white girl.

They interviewed Hezekiah Watkins, who met King after Watkins was jailed at age 13 for being one of the youngest Freedom Riders. When he and one of his young friends wanted to get a closer look at the people who were traveling through Mississippi fighting for equality, he said they rode their bikes to the Greyhound Station in Jackson. There Watkins, a child, was arrested and jailed along with the others.

Students interviewed Senator Samuel Jordan, who personally attended the trial of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, charged with the murder of Emmett Till, 14, in 1955. Pitching in a quarter each for gas, Jordan set out for Sumner, Mississippi with friends and watched reporters interview Mamie Till, Emmett’s mother.

They found and interviewed Roscoe Jones, a Meridian native and Bloody Sunday marcher, now 70, who had a personal relationship with Dr. King when he was president of the youth chapter of the NAACP during the Freedom Summer of 1964.

They also interviewed others with memories they can’t shake. When Belinda Carter was around 10, her school bus driver drove past Carter and her siblings for a week as they stood on the side of the road waiting for the bus because the driver refused to pick up black children.

As a kid growing up in the 1960s, Cut Miller was a member of a student boxing team. About 50 percent of the team was black, but only white members were allowed to use the restroom of a local restaurant because the sign on the door read “White Only.”

“Today, there is another wave of social justice activism happening in our country,” Rucker said. “Conversations are needed, but there is sometimes a lack of communication, listening and understanding – a roadblock for modern civil rights progression. There is also a difference in reading about history in books and meeting someone face to face who has lived it. That is why I intend to continue using this project as a teaching tool.”

Some students who participated in this journalism project, like Sarah Kane, said their thoughts about it changed after interviewing their subject. “I realized that this was more than just another project,” she said. “This assignment was very special, and the content needed to be delivered in a very respectful and proud way. I look at life in a different way now because of my interview with Ms. Carter, and I am extremely honored that I got to take part in this assignment.”

Student Katherine Johnson said the project made her realize how widespread King’s assassination was felt. “It was not consolidated to the African American population in any sense,” she said. “My time with Willingham allowed me to understand how this event molded the world that we see today. He shared with me his ideas on further breaking down the racial barriers in our society, and impressed that these were a continuation of King’s ideals. In my mind, this project changed from being about something isolated in the past to a topic that remains current and important in our modern world.”

To learn more about and read stories from the project, visit https://mlkmemories.wordpress.com/

Meek students cover 50th anniversary of King assassination in Memphis

Posted on: April 4th, 2018 by ldrucker

This week, students from the Meek School of Journalism’s Student Media Center traveled to Memphis to cover events related to the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Journalism professors Jennifer Sadler and R. J. Morgan also took a group of students to Memphis on an educational journey.

“I’m at a loss for words of how amazing this day truly was,” Sadler said. “Our students did such an amazing job at the (National) Civil Rights Museum. They also had a chance meeting with Bernie Sanders. He passed by, took photos and asked them about voting in Mississippi. (Students) watched legendary speakers and stood as icons passed by us in between their speeches.”

Sadler said students got a good quote from Bernie Sanders yesterday, who said: “The future of the country rests in your hands, especially in states like Mississippi.”

Meek professor Dr. Nancy Dupont said three students from her JOUR 480 class reported from Memphis yesterday.

Some of the Meek students who were there include Ariel Cobbert, Terrence Johnson, Brittany Brown, DeAndria Turner, Blake Alsup and Taylor Vance.

Thursday’s Daily Mississippian featured a special section about the assassination anniversary.

Some students met civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who is only one of two surviving witnesses to the assassination.

Students documented their day via #meekjourno on Twitter. To read more about their journey and view pictures, click here.

The Ole Miss television station, NewsWatch, also broadcasted content about the events surrounding the anniversary. Here’s the link to the show.

 

 

Morgan wins SIPA Elizabeth B. Dickey Distinguished Service Award

Posted on: April 3rd, 2018 by ldrucker

COLUMBIA, S.C. – R.J. Morgan, director of the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association at the University of Mississippi, is the recipient of the Southern Interscholastic Press Association’s Elizabeth B. Dickey Distinguished Service Award at the University of South Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

The award was presented during the advisers Saturday luncheon at the annual SIPA convention March 2-4.

“He is an encourager of others, loves students and works well with both students and adults,” Beth Fitts, former MSPA director, said. “At the same time, he is a self-starter who gets things done – all with great flair and an engaging sense of humor.”

R.J. Morgan, center, during the recent Mississippi Scholastic Press Association annual conference at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi.

Morgan is recognized for going above and beyond to get students the education and opportunities they need to grow as journalists and people. But what really sets him apart is his availability and his dedication to the students. Whether it be answering a text message or an email about a small question or renting buses to ensure students have the opportunity to make it to the SIPA conventions, he is always around for help.

“He frequently goes above and beyond his normal director duties,” Diala Chaney, Oxford High School journalism adviser, said. “He stays in constant communication with the journalism teachers throughout the state. He makes all the arrangements, travel plans and only collects a portion of the cost from the students who are interested in attending [the SIPA convention].”

D’Iberville High School yearbook adviser Mandy Mahan agrees and says Morgan leads students and advisers to participate at the state, regional and national level

“Because of the opportunities that R.J. creates through MSPA, my students have built impressive resumes filled with speaking engagements and awards. He truly believes that scholastic journalism should be student led, so my students have presented at our state conferences and have had the opportunity to submit work and win awards in the numerous competitions that he readily advertises.  He encourages them to think outside of the box and makes himself available whenever they need him. My broadcast group has even asked him to come down here to be a featured guest on their weekly podcast.”

This award is presented at the Southern Interscholastic Press Association’s annual convention the first weekend each March. The recipient usually has at least seven years of experience advising one or more award-winning school publications. He/she also has an influence in scholastic journalism beyond the walls of the school in state, regional and national scholastic press associations and shows leadership at SIPA conventions.

For more information contact Leslie Dennis at 803-777-6146 or read the full article online.

The Southern Interscholastic Press Association is a not-for-profit organization of public schools, including middle, junior and senior high schools, and independent schools. Its purpose is to encourage a high degree of professionalism in scholastic journalism and mass communications in the Southeast. Founded at Washington and Lee University in 1926, SIPA moved to the University of South Carolina in 1972.

Meek School of Journalism and New Media spring scenes

Posted on: March 28th, 2018 by ldrucker

Meek School of Journalism and New Media student Lee Catherine Collins shot these spring scenes recently on campus. One of the many things students often say solidified their decision to attend the University of Mississippi is the beauty of the campus.

If you shoot a picture in or around the Meek School of Journalism, Tweet it to @meekjournalism. We may share it on our website or social media accounts.

Meek School grad Jesse Holland talks Star Wars, Black Panther and nonfiction writing

Posted on: March 27th, 2018 by ldrucker

University of Mississippi senior Brittany Abbott had not planned to attend the latest Meek School event featuring writer Jesse Holland, but the experience proved serendipitous.

“I, honest to God, came into this talk because my teacher told me to,” Abbott said Tuesday. “I had no idea who he was. I saw the posters around class. I did not know we were coming to do this today. And when we came in and sat down, and he started telling us who he was, I was like, ‘No way. No way.’ And it just kept getting crazier and crazier.”

Abbott learned Holland was from Holly Springs, graduated from H.W. Byers High School, and was a longtime comic book fan. She is also from Holly Springs, graduated from H.W. Byers High School and loves comic books.

“This is too surreal for me,” she said, Marveling at the coincidence. “There’s no way that someone from my little nothing of a town – I mean, I graduated from a class of 40 people. He is probably the only person who understands that. I mean, nobody even knows where H.W. Byers is, so this is just crazy.”

Abbott, who plans to graduate from UM in May, also discovered she and Holland were both double majors in English and journalism.

“He is practically like related to me at this point,” she said. “I feel like he’s really an inspiration to me. We came from the same place, from the same school. We practically know all of the same people. I’m getting the same degree as him, and he’s successful.”

Holland, who has spent much of his career as an Associated Press journalist, spoke at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media Tuesday at 2 p.m. discussing his career as a journalist and nonfiction writer, his journey to writing fiction novels for two successful movie franchises, and tips for aspiring writers, including Abbott.

Holland, who grew up on a farm about 15 miles outside of Holly Springs, said he was recruited to attend UM from H.W. Byers, but college was not his first Ole Miss experience.

His mother, who was once his own English teacher at H.W. Byers, taught during the school year and spent five summers working on her master’s degree in English. While she attended classes, Holland and his older sister hung out in the campus library and took swimming lessons at Ole Miss. “So I basically grew up on campus,” he said.

Holland later worked as editor of The Daily Mississippian, as a talk show host, and ran one of the campus TV station cameras.

“The great thing about Ole Miss for me was it allowed me to experiment and learn about all types of journalism,” he said. “I got to pick and choose which one suited me. It was the only place at that time that had a student run newspaper, TV station and radio station.”

Holland always knew he wanted to be a writer, but coming from a small Mississippi town, he said he wasn’t sure what to write about. “That’s why I got into journalism,” he said, “so I could go to interesting places, meet interesting people, do interesting things.”

Holland said UM professors emphasized the value of internships. He interned locally at The Oxford Eagle, at the Birmingham Post-Herald, with the Meredith Corporation working in the test kitchen for Better Homes & Gardens, at The New York Times, and with the Associated Press in South Carolina.

After several AP reporters quit around the same time for different reasons, Holland advanced from intern to full-time journalist after graduating from UM in 1994. He has remained with the Associated Press for almost 24 years.

His first book Black Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African-American History In and Around Washington was published in 2007. Ten years later, his second book The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House was published.

“Part of my story is taking advantage of opportunities when they present themselves,” Holland said. “When it does, you have to grab it.”

Holland said he’s a proud “geek” who discusses science fiction on social media. That’s one reason a Lucasfilm book editor contacted him and asked him to write Finn’s Story, the backstory of one of the latest “Star Wars” characters. Holland, who has been a “Star Wars” fan since elementary school, said it was the first movie he saw in a theater.

A month after Finn’s Story came out, Holland received a call from a Marvel book editor who had read The Invisibles and asked if he had heard of “Black Panther.” Holland had been reading Black Panther, one of the first comic books he’d ever read, since he was 5 or 6.

“I’ve been following this character my entire life,” he said.

The Marvel editor, who had read Finn’s Story, asked Holland if he would be interested in writing Who Is the Black Panther?

“Would I be interested in doing it,” Holland asked, enthusiastically. “Am I supposed to be paying y’all, or are you paying me?”

Holland said his “Black Panther” book focuses on the character’s classic comic book mythology. He said the origin of the character was written in 1966 and stayed the same until Marvel hired a writer to update the origin in 2005. Holland was asked to take the 1966 and 2005 origin stories and update them for 2017.

He said the “Black Panther” book has sold out internationally. “It’s gone,” he said. “It’s been very well received by everyone, and I have been very well treated by Marvel.”

Holland, who fielded questions from the audience, said he credits his success to UM professors who told him he could do anything he wanted as long as he worked for it.

What does he do when he gets writers’ block? Holland said he rarely has that problem because he has worked as a journalist for the past two decades.

“One of the things you learn as a journalist is that you can’t afford writers’ block because a deadline is a deadline,” he said. “I think that’s one of the reasons I was chosen by Lucasfilm and Marvel, because they knew I was a journalist, and I knew deadlines.”

Holland said he had only a month to write the “Star Wars” novel. They wanted a junior novel of 20,000 words, but he turned in more than 40,000, and editors cut it. For “Black Panther,” they wanted 90,000 words in six months. Holland said he blew the deadline, turning it in one day late. He apologized for missing it.

Is it difficult to transition from writing nonfiction to fiction? “It is not as difficult as I thought it would be,” Holland said. “For years, I refused to write fiction because I actually have a master’s degree in creative nonfiction. When I started working on Finn’s Story, I discovered there was a common thread through my fiction and nonfiction. We, as journalists, are basically all historians.”

Holland describes his Lucasfilm and Marvel writing as “fictional history,” an oxymoron. “For me, the fictional history was easier,” he said. “I didn’t have to do any interviews. I could make up quotes that fit where I needed them to without going out and making the story fit around the quotes. I could make things happen the way I needed them to for the story.”

He said the “Black Panther” book didn’t require a lot of research because he had unknowingly already been doing it his entire life. He had most of the comic books in his basement. But writing Finn’s Story was different.

“There are fans of ‘Star Wars’ who know every single detail in that universe,” he said. “There are people out there who know exactly how many rooms there are in the Millennium Falcon. I was warned by Disney that there are people who know all of this, and you better be correct.”

Holland said this required a lot of detailed, technical research.

He’s now in discussions with Marvel about another project, but he can’t announce it. He’s also writing an outline for his next nonfiction book about a village founded by freed slaves, and he’s working on an anthology of African American narrative journalism. He also predicts he’ll be writing more graphic and science fictions novels.

Holland said it’s important for students to get hands-on journalism experience, and they can do that at the University of Mississippi.

“You can leave campus with actual journalism experience,” he said, “not just the classes and the grades. You can leave with experience running a radio station, being a live host, with camera experience, or with actual media experience where you have gone out and reported stories, published stories, and even worked on the advertising side. You can have the experience media companies want you to have without leaving school, which makes you doubly valuable to media companies.”

What is his biggest career triumph? “I consider the publication of the first Daily Mississippian with me being the editor as my first triumph,” he said.

But there’s another story. In 1994, the year he served as DM editor, it was the first year the student newspaper had Macintosh computers. Holland said the week before the semester began, S. Gale Denley, head of the Student Media Center, brought in eight Macs and told the DM staff they had a week to figure out how to network the computers and put out a newspaper.

“So, for seven days, we had to teach ourselves computer networking, pagination and printing in addition to writing the stories that had to be in the newspapers,” Holland said. “… That was fun, but I will admit, that was difficult. Just the fact that we were able to get it done was my greatest triumph. It’s a good example of what you can do when you don’t stop to think about why you can’t.”

In other words, “Do or do not, there is no try.” – Yoda

By LaReeca Rucker

Take a virtual tour of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media

Posted on: March 20th, 2018 by ldrucker

Have you ever wanted to take a tour of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Here’s your chance!

Link to video.