The Meek School of Journalism and New Media

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Two upcoming Meek School events will feature Chick-fil-A leaders

Posted on: April 17th, 2018 by ldrucker

The Meek School of Journalism and New Media has two upcoming events featuring top industry professionals, this time from Chick-fil-A.

On Thursday, April 26, Ole Miss graduate and Chick-fil-A Director of Corporate Communications Reade Tidwell will speak at 9:30 a.m. in the Overby Auditorium.

On Friday, April 27, Chairman and CEO Dan Cathy will speak in the Pavilion at 11 a.m.

This is part of the Leadership Luncheon series each spring semester, and it is sponsored in part by the Meek School.

The events are open to all.

Local podcast creators speak at Meek School

Posted on: April 16th, 2018 by ldrucker

Chase Parham and Neal McCready, hosts of the Oxford Exxon Podcast, spoke at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media this week.

The hosts of a Mississippi sports talk podcast that has been called Yahoo.com’s largest college-centric podcast talked to students about how they created and have grown their podcast.

The two spoke to journalism students during a class led by Meek School journalism instructor Summer Hill-Vinson, Ph.D.

Meek School students and alumni well represented at Public Relations Association of Mississippi conference

Posted on: April 16th, 2018 by ldrucker

Meek School students and alumni were well represented at the recent Public Relations Association of Mississippi conference, most of whom are Senior Lecturer Robin Street’s former students.

Front row, from left, Paul Katool, Bianca Abney, Kendrick Pittman, Robin Street, Mary Margaret Turner Busby and UM alum Rob Pettit.

Back row, from left, Emily Blackwell Pickering, Jace Ponder, Alex Hicks, Selena Standifer, Ryan Whittington and Brian Von Foregger.

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: Magazine Media Bliss: ACT 8 Experience April 17-19 at Meek School

Posted on: April 11th, 2018 by ldrucker

It’s been called “two and a half days of magazine media bliss.” The ACT 8 Experience, an event organized annually by the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism, is set for April 17-20 in Oxford. The 2018 theme is Print Proud, Digital Smart.

Dr. Samir Husni, professor, Hederman Lecturer, and director of the Magazine Innovation Center, said the conference is not for the faint-hearted. “We have an interesting lineup of professionals from all over the world,” he said. “If you’re interested in marketing, journalism, magazines, digital, or a combination of all, you need to attend this conference. It will be a wild ride of critiquing the current magazine industry and welcoming my magazine students who plan to change it for the better.”

Husni said the event will be the biggest ACT Experience to date. This year, it will welcome several new faces, including Linda Thomas Brooks, president & CEO of MPA, the Association of Magazine Media, formerly known as the Magazine Publishers Association; and James Hewes, president and CEO of FIPP, formerly the Federation Internationale de la Presse Periodique (International Federation of Periodical Publishers). The United Kingdom-based trade organization works to improve media content and is comprised of 700 enterprises, including nearly 60 national magazine associations.

The ACT 8 Experience will also welcome Erik van Erp, founder and editor of Print Media News in The Netherlands; Bonnie Kintzer, president and CEO – Trusted Media Brands (formerly Reader’s Digest); and Newell Turner, editorial director of the Hearst Design Group.

“You’ll have direct access to more than 10 editors and editorial directors, nine presidents and CEOs, and a slew of marketers, designers and sales consultants,” Husni said. This will include a total of 33 magazine and magazine media makers.

“Consider this a small vacation,” Husni said. “Sit back and listen to prolific speakers tell their stories – their trials and tribulations we all rallied against to become the best writers, designers marketers and business people we could be.”

Those who attend are encouraged to immerse themselves in the foothills of Mississippi by exploring Oxford. Participants will also have the opportunity to stroll the streets in Clarksdale, home of the Delta Blues Museum and actor Morgan Freeman’s famous Ground Zero restaurant.

Husni said he wants them to leave Oxford with a leg up about the industry, a belly full of Mississippi fried catfish, and an ear full of soothing, Delta blues. “It’s a refreshing experience to slow down to the Mississippi pace of life,” he said. “Enjoy a memorable ACT Experience of learning, doing, seeing and living the Mississippi way.”

Husni said his main motivation for bringing these industry professionals to Oxford is for Meek School students. “The only reason I do that is to bring the industry leaders to meet the future industry leaders,” he said. “I tell my students that it’s an opportunity of a lifetime to be sitting in a car with a CEO of a major magazine or media company, you name it. I assign my students to shadow all these speakers, pick them up from the airport, take them to the airport.”

The Silver Em, the University of Mississippi’s highest award in journalism, will also be awarded at 6 p.m. April 18 during the ACT 8 Experience. Newell Turner, a former University of Mississippi magazine student who rose to become the Hearst Design Group editorial director, will be presented the award.

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.

The Silver Em is usually given to a native or resident of Mississippi who has excelled in the field of journalism and media.

The ACT 8 Experience is dedicated to the memory of Jennifer Reeder, vice president of sales at Democrat Printing and Lithography, and a board member of the Magazine Innovation Center.

Industry leaders may attend and be part of the ACT 8 Experience for less than $400. To register, visit: http://maginnovation.org/act/register/. Only 100 attendees are permitted to register, so it’s important to reserve your space now.

Confirmed ACT 8 Experience Speakers (in Alpha Order) as of Feb. 1, 2018

Joseph Ballarini: founder and editor-in-chief – Tail Fly Fishing magazine

Joe Berger: publishers marketing and sales consultant, Joseph Berger Associates

Linda Thomas Brooks: president and CEO – MPA: The Association of
Magazine Media

Deborah Corn: principal, chief blogger, and intergalactic ambassador to The Printerverse™ – Print Media Center

Marisa Davis: associate director, product marketing – MNI Targeted Media

Daniel Dejan: North American ETC (Education, Consulting and Training),
print creative manager – Sappi Fine Paper

Jim Elliott: president – The James G. Elliott Company.

Erik van Erp: founder and editor, Print Media News, The Netherlands

John French: co-founder – French LLC

Tony Frost: senior vice president, TVGM LLC, TV Guide

Natashia Gregoire: reputation manager, Editor, Access magazine – Fed Ex

Abdulsalam Haykal: founder and publisher, Harvard Business Review Arabic, United Arab Emirates

James Hewes: president & CEO – FIPP: The Network For Global Media

Mona Hidayet: executive director, clients and products – Advantage CS

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: founder and director, Magazine Innovation Center

Joe Hyrkin: CEO – issuu

Todd Krizelman: CEO – MEDIAradar

Bonnie Kintzer: president and CEO – Trusted Media Brands

Jerry Lynch: president – Magazine And Books, Retail Association

Daren Mazzucca: vice president/publisher – Martha Stewart Living

Mark Potts: managing editor – Alta The Journal of Alta California

Sebastian Raatz: publisher/co-founder – Centennial Media

Jen Ripple: founder and editor in chief – DUN magazine

Monique de Ruiter: former editor diversity magazine and VTWonen – The Netherlands

Bo Sacks: president, Precision Media Group

Ray Shaw: executive vice president/managing director – MagNet

Tony Silber: former editor – Folio

Franska Stuy: founder and editor – Franska.NL, The Netherlands

John Thames: founder and publisher – Covey Rise Magazine

Newell Turner: editorial director – Hearst Design Group

Liz Vaccariello: editor in chief, Parents Magazine, and Content Director, Meredith Parents Network

Jeffrey Vitter: chancellor – University of Mississippi

Thomas Whitney: president, Democrat Printing & Lithographing

CONTACTS:

Dr. Samir Husni | 662-915-1414, 662-832-6247 | samir.husni@gmail.com

If you will be attending The ACT 8 Experience, please use  #micact8 on Twitter

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.

Janet Brown, director of presidential debates, speaks at Overby Center

Posted on: April 6th, 2018 by ldrucker

Janet Brown, executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates who was instrumental in bringing the first 2008 debate to the Ole Miss campus, was the featured guest in a discussion Tuesday, April 10, at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics about the merits of holding the high-stakes political confrontation.

The program was the fifth of the spring season at the Overby Center. All Overby Center functions are free and open to the public.

Brown served as a guest lecturer for two weeks at the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at Ole Miss, but she has a longer history with Mississippi and the university. Her grandparents were residents of Como, and she has frequently visited the state.

Ten years ago, she was the key force behind the debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, a dramatic moment during the campaign when McCain, the Republican nominee, threatened to pull out of the encounter in order to pay more attention to an economic crisis.

She spoke about her experiences over the past 30 years as head of the non-partisan commission and her thoughts about the value of presidential debates in a discussion with Charles Overby, chairman of the center, Overby Fellow Curtis Wilkie, who is teaching the Honors College class on presidential debates with Brown, and Tom Oliphant, a former political columnist for The Boston Globe. As journalists, Overby, Wilkie and Oliphant covered many of the debates after they became a regular practice in 1976.

“Janet is the country’s presidential debate czar,” said Overby. “She has overseen the evolution of the debates. She knows the inside stories of these historical events.”

The Overby Center season will conclude April 17 with an appearance by Tucker Carrington, director of the Innocence Project at the Ole Miss law school, and Radley Balko, an investigative reporter for The Washington Post. Carrington and Balko are authors of a new book, “The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist,” an exposé about misbehavior by Mississippi officials which led to the convictions of innocent defendants.

Knight Foundation writes about local news study co-authored by Meek School professor Wenger

Posted on: April 6th, 2018 by ldrucker

The Knight Foundation’s Beyond “Live at Five”: What’s Next for Local News? summarizes research the organization commissioned from Meek School of Journalism and New Media Assistant Dean Debora Wenger and Professor Emeritus Bob Papper of Hofstra University.

Local TV News and the New Media Landscape” focuses on the competing forces currently shaping local television news. With a decline in broadcast news ratings, local news leaders are trying to engage audiences on social media and other digital platforms.

The article reads: “Knight Foundation is supporting television news journalists and leadership by investing $2.6 million into efforts around digital transformation, diversity, audience engagement and investigative reporting. Today, we are complementing that effort by publishing new research on the state of the industry and its future.”

The article notes some key findings from the study Local TV News and the New Media Landscape, co-authored by Wenger and Papper. They include:

  • TV is a key source of news, but audiences are slowly shrinking.
  • While newspapers have lost employees to layoffs and industry changes, TV news employment is up.
  • Television stations are primarily innovating on digital platforms rather than on the air.
  • Social media engagement boosts television ratings.
  • Most local television news leaders believe newscasts must fundamentally change if they expect to survive into the future.

The Knight Foundation is a national foundation that invests in journalism, the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Its goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, believed to be essential for a healthy democracy, according to their website.

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

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