Posts Tagged ‘featured’
Daily Mississippian: Lana Ferguson
Lana Ferguson says working at The Daily Mississippian taught her valuable lessons.
“Some of the most important things I’ve learned are how to find a news hook on just about any story and the importance of not always being first, but being right,” Ferguson said. “Readers won’t always remember who published it first, but they’ll remember who was right.”
Ferguson is from Mechanicsville, Virginia, a small town near Richmond. She was editor of her high school newspaper for two years, and when she came to Oxford as a freshman in 2014, she joined the staff of The Daily Mississippian as a writer.
“I remember being excited to get back into the swing of reporting and writing. My first article was at the top of the front page. It was about the uptick in people selling their student IDs for football tickets. Ever since, I was hooked.”
She was promoted to news editor, then managing editor, and for 2017-2018, she is editor-in-chief.
“It feels natural to me to take charge, and it has been a goal of mine since freshman year to one day oversee The Daily Mississippian,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson has won awards for news writing, feature writing, magazine writing and coverage of breaking news.
“Lana can do it all,” said Patricia Thompson, assistant dean for student media and faculty adviser for The Daily Mississippian. “She can quickly put a story together for the website on a tight deadline, and she also has the talent to craft a beautifully written profile. I was especially impressed with Lana’s success at ratcheting up the DM’s social media presence. Any media company would be lucky to have her.”
The DM staff is made up of students with different backgrounds and political views – just like the audience for the newspaper and website.
“No matter where you stand politically, you have to be ready to cover the campus, be confident and accurate in what you’re reporting, and know that you’re never going to make everyone happy,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson is majoring in journalism with minors in Southern studies and digital media studies. During her time at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, Ferguson has traveled to Oklahoma, Texas, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Sri Lanka to write articles for depth reports and The Daily Mississippian.
“I love the experiences I get to have from going out and reporting or representing The DM,” Ferguson said. “There’s no other job that would reward and cure your curiosity like that.”
When The Daily Mississippian switched from publishing in print five days a week to four days a week in fall semester 2017, Ferguson said initially she was nervous. But the staff had more time to provide original online content, completely revamp its social media efforts, create a new logo, and produce more videos and podcasts.
“I think I’m most proud of stepping up to the challenge of the digital shift the journalism industry is moving toward, and leading my team to produce quality work,” she said.
Ferguson has had two summer internships, one at the Calhoun County Journal in Bruce, Mississippi, and last summer for RVA magazine in Virginia.
After she graduates in May, she hopes to continue traveling and telling stories.
“Writing is the goal. I got into journalism to tell stories that matter. Whether it’s internationally or locally, I would be ecstatic to see my hard work pay off.”
Advertising Sales: Blake Hein
Working as the advertising sales student manager for the Student Media Center was the natural next step for senior business administration and integrated marketing communications double major Blake Hein.
Hein, a native of Naples, Florida, was introduced to the SMC by a few friends already employed on the sales staff. Under his leadership in 2017, The Daily Mississippian’s back-to-school edition – one of the biggest sources of advertising money for the Student Media Center each year – saw a 55 percent increase in revenue compared to the previous year’s section. And Hein has the staff’s second-highest monthly individual sales total, according to records kept for the past four years.
“Blake has been terrific as sales manager,” said Roy Frostenson, student media assistant director for advertising. “He was one of our top sales reps prior to taking over the manager’s job and has just made a seamless transition. He’s what you look for in a manager. He’s mature, responsible and dedicated, always focused on the task at hand, and improving himself and his team.”
Hein said he couldn’t have accomplished his goals without the help of his staff of four other students, and described them as ambitious, motivated and hard-working.
“I really strive to maintain a team atmosphere with my staff. Everyone always puts forth great efforts to reach our sales goals.”
Hein has sales in his blood. His mother worked in commercial real estate sales, and his older sister is in sales. He enrolled in several advertising classes at the university and enjoyed them.
“Sales is the pillar in any job, whether you are dealing with a service, product, or yourself, you are always selling,” Hein said.
The student staff works daily with advertising clients for The Daily Mississippian, for Rebel Radio and for websites.
“Ultimately, we are in college to gain experience to prepare us for our careers,” Hein said. “Working with the sales department, I’ve gained knowledge of my field, and I know that I can be successful.”
Hein’s career goal is to be successful in whatever he does. Long term, he wouldn’t mind being the next Robert Herjavec, a businessman and investor.
“I admire Robert because of how he launched his very successful career starting as an IBM salesman,” Hein said. “I like how he built successful businesses and authored multiple books. Also, it is pretty cool that he is featured on the television show “Shark Tank.”
“I want to make it big, but at the same time, maintain a work-life balance. I also wouldn’t mind having my own business with an office and a secretary.”
Austin Hille is a junior integrated marketing communications major from northern California. He came to the Student Media Center looking to meet people and to be part of an after-school program.
“I thought being a DJ would be fun. I never realized how much real-world experience I would gain,” Hille said.
Hille (pronounced Hill-ee) auditioned for a DJ spot his freshman year.
“It’s funny, they asked me if I liked bluegrass, and I had little knowledge of it,” Hille said. “Next thing I knew, I landed the show and was playing bluegrass music.”
In his sophomore year, he switched gears and was a DJ for an electronic dance music show, and he also worked daily as Rebel Radio’s music and programming director. This year, he is student manager of the entire radio station, supervising a music director, a news director and a marketing director.
Roy Frostenson, student media radio adviser, said Hille’s passion and vision have made him a strong manager.
“Austin has been involved with the radio station almost from the day he stepped on campus,” Frostenson said. “He’s been a great manager for Rebel Radio. He’s passionate about music and making Rebel Radio the best it can be. He has a great vision for Rebel Radio and works hard every day to make it happen.”
Throughout Hille’s time with the SMC, he has treated Rebel Radio as if it were a professional job. He wanted an out-of-classroom experience that would give him practice for the real world.
“My biggest accomplishment as student manager is getting Rebel Radio on the Radio FX app and going mobile,” Hille said. “RadioFX represents a major modern push for Rebel Radio and separates us from most college radio stations across the country. Not only does it keep us relevant, but puts us ahead of the pack in so many ways.”
RadioFX has enabled Rebel Radio to make significant gains in its listening audience. The station also airs more student news packages than in previous years, and Hille’s staff has already won several regional awards this year for news coverage and commercials. They continue to be actively involved with Thacker Mountain Radio and live remotes.
Hille’s time at the SMC includes writing for The Daily Mississippian. He covered news, wrote music reviews and, in one of his most memorable assignments, The Daily Mississippian sent him to cover the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in the summer of 2016.
“RNC was an incredible experience,” Hille said. “My favorite story happened on my first night in Cleveland. It was a highly contentious time in the country overall – attacks in Nice had just happened, as well as the shooting in Dallas – and Trump’s polarizing campaign really made the convention feel like a target.
“James Comey stated in Congress the day before I left that he was ‘very concerned’ about the safety of those in Cleveland. I was waiting for a delegate to get out of the convention for an interview, and it was getting dark. Police presence was so excessive it’s hard to describe.
“I was sitting in Public Square – which is where the majority of the protests were taking place – working on a story I was going to send off that night. I heard some commotion and peeped my head up to find what looked to be about 30 police officers in full bomb squad gear, running in my direction. So, I closed my computer, left the area, and called an Uber to get back to my Airbnb. The interview just had to wait until the next morning.”
Hille is ready for the next stage in his career. He has had an internship with a marketing agency in Tupelo, and he’s looking forward to pursuing a career in the marketing field.
“I feel confident about the future of Rebel Radio,” Hille said. “The staff is the reason the radio station works, and they’ve always done way more than I’ve ever asked. They’re great and the station is in good hands.”
NewsWatch Ole Miss: Abbie McIntosh
As a senior in high school, Abbie McIntosh first learned about the Student Media Center when she came to campus and took a tour.
“As soon as I saw it, I knew this is was the next step, and right where I needed to be,” McIntosh said.
McIntosh is a junior broadcast journalism major from Cypress, Texas, with a minor in political science. In high school, she was the first female sports editor of the student newspaper, and its first media editor.
She quickly got more familiar with the SMC her freshman year, working for The Daily Mississippian as a staff writer and NewsWatch as a weather anchor.
One year later, McIntosh landed the role as a sports anchor and video producer for Newswatch. She enjoyed having the access that student media press credentials provided.
“I really enjoyed being on the field, or in a press box, getting to report for the Rebels,” McIntosh said. “My favorite game was the 2016 Egg Bowl.”
Currently, McIntosh is student manager for Newswatch and has fallen in love with the job. She said that because she spends so much time at the Student Media Center, she has jokingly been told she should pay rent to the SMC instead of to her apartment complex.
Nancy Dupont is professor of journalism and NewsWatch Ole Miss adviser, and works with McIntosh every day.
“Abbie constantly amazes me,” Dupont said. “She is a natural leader who has the respect of all the students she supervises.”
McIntosh said working for the SMC provides invaluable experience that will help her get a job. She dreams of becoming a television show producer or working for the Houston Astros.
“I want to work for the Astros because they’re my childhood team,” McIntosh said. “Some of my best memories are going to Astros’ games.”
Through student media, she got a chance to travel last semester to her home state of Texas as a correspondent, as one of the students covering an Oxford church’s efforts to help rebuild a community after Hurricane Harvey.
Recently, McIntosh won first place for television news reporting in the annual Southeast Journalism Conference Best of the South contest, and the daily newscast has also won awards already this year.
McIntosh said she’s most proud of her NewsWatch Ole Miss staff for its December newscast about the NCAA ruling on the Rebels football team.
“The show was a beast and we crushed it. We really worked like a team and I am so proud of the work we did that day. “
Dupont is confident McIntosh’s future career will be very successful due to her hard work and tenacity.
“Her skill set is perfect for her position, and she always wants to improve. I expect her to get any job she wants and to have a great career,” Dupont said. “She’s headed for the top.”
Over the last few years, McIntosh has developed a thick skin. She knows that you must leave mistakes behind, learn from them and move forward.
“This sounds cliché, but I love knowing people. I know all my staff and have strong relationships with everyone,” McIntosh said. “I also enjoy being able to call the shots. It’s great when we all work together, because everyone relies on us to get the news out.”
The Ole Miss Yearbook: Marisa Morrissette
After attending Mississippi Scholastic Press Association conferences, and working as managing editor and editor-in-chief of her high school yearbook, Marisa Morrissette knew she wanted to work on The Ole Miss yearbook staff.
Morrissette, a senior integrated communications major, is an Oxford native and was familiar with the Student Media Center before enrolling at the university. Since her freshman year, she has worked as a yearbook designer and for The Daily Mississippian as a design editor.
“I love being involved in every step of the process and seeing it all come together as one cohesive book.” Morrissette said.
As she started her position as The Ole Miss editor-in-chief in 2017, Morrissette had big goals. She wanted to set the 2018 yearbook apart from past years’, while maintaining the yearbook’s brand.
“I wanted the book to be diverse,” Morrissette said. “We highlighted stories from the most known people on campus, to people who would have never thought they would be in their college yearbook.”
Assistant Dean Patricia Thompson has worked regularly with Morrissette over the past few years.
“Marisa is a talented designer and a newsroom leader, and we knew she’d be the perfect editor for the 2018 yearbook,” Thompson said. “I really like the vision she had for this year’s theme. I know students will be impressed when yearbooks are distributed in late April.”
Morrissette’s dream job is to be a designer for an NBA team, or to create editorial designs for a sports outlet.
Thompson said she isn’t surprised to hear those are Marisa’s career goals.
“Everybody here likes and respects her so much, and we enjoy teasing her about two things: I think she’s the only vegan in the newsroom, and she knows more about sports than anyone else here,” Thompson said.
In addition to her yearbook leadership role, Morrissette is also president of the Meek School chapter of the Society for News Design. She has won regional design and journalism awards, and she was one of the students who traveled to Sri Lanka in August for a depth reporting project.
Darren Sanefski, assistant professor of journalism, is the adviser for the SND chapter.
“I admire Marisa’s work ethic and the fact that she always strives for excellence in her designs and infographics,” Sanefski said. “She stays abreast of the industry and its leaders, and when we attend Society for News Design events, it’s fun to see her have fan-girl moments when she meets someone whose work she knows and follows.”
Morrissette said her vision of the yearbook could not have been completed without her hardworking staff.
“I never have to micromanage my staff. They all have initiative, self-leadership, and great communication with each other,” Morrissette said. “I couldn’t be more appreciative of the teamwork.”
You may also view this story on the Ole Miss Student Media Center website.
This article was written by IMC major Kelly Fagan. Photos of Ferguson and Morrissette are by journalism major Ariel Cobbert.
After a rare snow day pre-empted the final day of the 15th annual Speaker’s Edge competition at the University of Mississippi, the School of Business Administration recently got participants back together to present awards and wrap up the event.
In the Ethical Dilemmas category, Ferderica Cobb, one of the Meek School’s top IMC students from Canton, took first place, followed by Jonathan Dowell, of Port Gibson, in second, and Corey Price, of Birmingham, Alabama, in third. In this category, participants presented their best solutions to workplace challenges where suggestions of sexual harassment, bribery, appropriation of intellectual property, plagiarism, per diem abuse and inappropriate office behavior were presented.
In the Marketplace Pitch completion, Dowell came in first, followed by Cobb and then Price. These presentations were persuasive arguments regarding technology, innovation productivity, leadership and strategy. Dowell’s winning pitch advocated using battery technology to close the performance gap between renewable energy and fossil fuels.
Cobb’s stellar performance in both categories earned her the title of overall winner for the competition, which includes a $1,000 prize.
“Speaker’s Edge was a great experience – receiving feedback from the coaches, moving from room to room, presenting our speeches to judges, competing with classmates – I enjoyed the intensity of it all,” Cobb said. “The event challenged me in new ways, and I will take those skills with me into the professional world.
“Everyone’s ideas were so interesting, and I knew there were strong presentations from my classmates. I did not expect to win. I was humbled, and it is a huge honor to be the 2018 winner.”
Cobb’s success may be attributed, in part, to the active role she played in the university’s Student Media Center. She was very involved in Rebel Radio during her undergraduate career.
This year’s edition of Speaker’s Edge kicked off Jan. 11, featuring 97 students from the UM School of Business Administration and Patterson School of Accountancy. More than 50 judges from all over the Mid-South volunteered their time to help at the event.
“Speaker’s Edge provides students an opportunity to develop the communication and presentation skills that are vital to success in business and other leadership settings,” said Walter Davis, faculty adviser to the MBA program. “Students often point to the Speaker’s Edge experience as a highlight of their MBA or Master of Accountancy program at Ole Miss.”
Plans called for a new Team Pitch category at this year’s event, but snow and ice across much of north Mississippi forced the cancellation of the final day of competition, including the Team Pitch presentations.
“It is disappointing that Mother Nature prevented us from the opportunity to review these presentations, but this something to look forward to in next year’s competition,” said Ashley McGee, director of the MBA program.
The Speaker’s Edge competition was started by Ole Miss alumni in 2003. The event brings together industry professionals, retirees, working alumni and students, requiring students to adapt their message to different audiences.
In preparation, participants spent a week-and-a-half working with volunteer communication coaches to discover the strengths and weaknesses of their own personal presentation style in front of multiple judges.
“One great thing about Speaker’s Edge: When you see a student move through fear and become the confident speaker they will be for the rest of their lives,” said Joan Andrews, a Speaker’s Edge coach from the College of East Texas.
The annual event helps students find their own voice and grow more confident in their presentations, said JoAnn Edwards, speech instructor, director of forensics and special projects manager at the UM Lott Leadership Institute.
“The outcomes are beyond valuable – they are vital,” Edwards said. “The act of teaching, guiding and coaching that process is, for me and for all the coaches and judges who give of their time and talents, pure joy.”
The Speaker’s Edge competition is a critical program that helps Ole Miss students position themselves for success as they move into the professional world, said Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration.
“The competitive nature of the program allows our best student presenters and speakers to get even better while honing the skills of those students who are less confident in this environment,” Cyree said. “We greatly appreciate the dedicated coaches, instructors and judges who are involved in making this an exceptional opportunity for our students.”
By Stella Connell
University of Mississippi students won 25 awards in two major regional contests this past weekend, and were named the 1st Place Journalism Champions for the on-site competitions.
The Southeast Journalism Conference 32nd annual convention was Feb. 15-17 at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas. SEJC has more than 40 member universities in seven southeastern states, and sponsors two contests.
The Best of the South contest recognizes the best student journalist work published or broadcast in 2017. In this year’s contest, there were 412 entries from 30 universities. Each UM entry consisted of several examples of student and staff work, from The Daily Mississippian, NewsWatch Ole Miss, Rebel Radio, internships and published projects.
The on-site competitions are held during the conference, and students in attendance compete against one another to produce content on deadline in 15 separate categories. Harding reported that 170 students competed in the on-site competitions this year.
Meek School of Journalism and New Media students won five first-place awards. In the on-site competitions, first places were won by Devna Bose for arts and entertainment writing; Marlee Crawford, for sports photography; and Ethel Mwedziwendira, for current events.
In the Best of the South contest, Abbie McIntosh won first place for Best TV Hard News Reporter, and Thomas DeMartini and Austin Hille teamed to win Best Broadcast Advertising Staff Member.
Other awards won by UM students:
Second places in Best of the South: Lana Ferguson, Best News Writer; Lana Ferguson, Best Feature Writer; Madison Heil, Best Journalism Research Paper; Erin Pennington, Best Radio Hard News Reporter.
Second places in the on-site competitions: Hayden Benge for newspaper design; Clifton Carroll for public relations; Marisa Morrissette for media history/law/ethics.
Third places in Best of the South: Jake Thrasher, Best News-Editorial Artist/Illustrator; DeAndria Turner, Best Radio Journalist; NewsWatch Ole Miss, Best College TV Station. NewsWatch is a live, daily newscast, compared to some others in the competition, which are weekly recorded and edited shows.
Third places in the on-site competitions: Matthew Hendley for TV anchoring; DeAndria Turner for radio reporting.
In the Best of the South contest, some of the categories – especially the newspaper categories – attract more than 30 entries each, and awards are given out up to 10th place. Other UM students/staffs who placed in Best of the South: The Daily Mississippian, a daily newspaper competing against student newspapers published weekly or semiweekly, won fourth place for Best College Newspaper; Marlee Crawford won fifth place for Best Press Photographer; NewsWatch Ole Miss won fifth place for Best College News Video Program; Devna Bose won sixth place for Best Arts and Entertainment Writer; Ethel Mwedziwendira won seventh place for Best Newspaper Page Layout Designer; Hayden Benge won eighth place for Best Newspaper Page Layout Designer; Grant Gaar won eighth place for Best TV News Feature Reporter; Liam Nieman won eighth place for Best Opinion-Editorial Writer.
Fifteen UM students traveled to Arkansas to participate in the on-site categories, accompanied by Meek School Assistant Dean Patricia Thompson, who oversees all of the Student Media Center.
“Year after year, our students excel in both the Best of the South and the on-site competitions,” Thompson said. “Some of them are in our newsroom for many hours each day, five days a week. They use what they learn in classes to produce outstanding work, and they do so not just to gain practical experience for internships and jobs, but also because they are passionate about keeping the campus and community informed about events and issues.”
This is the sixth time in the past eight years that UM students have won SEJC’s on-site journalism grand championship award. University of Mississippi students were ineligible to compete in the on-site contest last year because the Meek School of Journalism and New Media was the host for the 2017 conference in Oxford.
SEJC’s Friday night awards banquet speaker was Sonia Nazario, who won a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing and other national awards for “Enrique’s Journey” when she was a Los Angeles Times staff writer and is now an author, activist and frequent New York Times contributor.
The conference did not have an overall theme, but it included workshops and panels focused on digital content, engaging audiences, broadcast storytelling, yearbook journalism, how to cover campus hazing issues, photojournalism, design, and a look back at the Little Rock Nine and the role journalists play in documenting stories about marginalized people.
In the hit HGTV series “Fixer Upper,” Chip and Joanna Gaines own and operate Magnolia Homes, a remodeling and design business in Waco, Texas. The show chronicles their adventures turning dilapidated houses into showplaces while helping revitalize neighborhoods throughout central Texas.Houses aren’t the only thing that have benefited from the duo’s magic touch. The couple’s magazine, The Magnolia Journal, won the 2017 magazine Launch of the Year Award at the American Magazine Media Conference in New York City Feb. 6.
Dr. Samir Husni, professor, Hederman Lecturer, and director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media, presented the award along with the MPA: The Association of Magazine Media.
From a field of 212 new magazines launched with a regular frequency between Oct. 2016 and Dec. 2017, Husni said they selected 20, then carefully chose 10 finalists for the top honor.
What made The Magnolia Journal stand out? Husni said the magazine will launch its spring issue Feb. 13 with a $1.2 million rate base.
“It’s been a long time since a magazine has generated as much buzz in the marketplace as The Magnolia Journal has,” Husni said. “The connectivity of the content and the design made, and continues to make, this magazine fly off the shelves. Under the leadership of Editor-in-Chief Joanna Gaines, this print product creates a very interactive experience for readers. All in all, The Magnolia Journal burst onto the scene, and in less than a year, floated to the top, deserving the Launch of the Year Award – an honor well-deserved.”
Husni said the magazine has had amazing success on newsstands. The first issue sold out immediately, and Meredith Corp. had to issue a second printing. “It’s rare in that industry that takes place,” Husni said.
He said one reason the magazine has been successful is because of the couple’s strong connection to their fans. “People who watch their television program always tell me how close they are,” he said. “You feel like you are just talking to them. So the magazine was just an extension. It brought the pixels-on-the-screen-experience to something you can actually hold in your hand. Only print can give you that experience.”
Chip and Joanna Gaines, who serve as the editor-at-large and editor-in-chief, respectively, sent a video response about the award that played during the award ceremony. Joanna Gaines said they were honored that the Waco, Texas-based title won the 2017 Launch of the Year Award, and they thanked Husni.
“For us, this has been such an amazing journey watching these issues come to life,” Joanna Gaines said. “We’ve loved every minute of it … We are really excited about what’s to come with The Magnolia Journal.”
The event was held during the American Magazine Media Conference, the largest magazine media conference in the country. Among the top 10 finalists were titles such as Airbnbmag, Alta, Bake it up!, goop, MILK Street, The Golfer’s Journal, The National, The Pioneer Woman and TYPE Magazine.
“Almost every major magazine publisher published at least one new magazine last year,” Husni said. “That’s why I called 2017 the Year of the New Magazine. He said that’s evidence print magazines are not a dying medium.
Doug Olson, president of Meredith Magazines, accepted the Launch of the Year Award from Husni. “We’re super excited about it for lots of reasons,” Olson said in a video. “Number 1, it was a huge team effort starting with Chip and Joanna Gaines and their vision and our execution on that. Second, Meredith doesn’t win very many of these awards, so we are super excited and very much appreciate the recognition.”
Husni has a busy season ahead of him with magazines. He is currently preparing for the ACT 8 Experience, an event organized annually by the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism set for April 17-20 in Oxford. The 2018 theme is Print Proud, Digital Smart.
And Newell Turner, one of Husni’s former UM magazine students, 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 during the ACT 8 Experience. The event will be held held April 18 in the Overby Auditorium in Farley Hall on the UM campus at 5:30 p.m.
The Silver Em award dates to 1958, and recipients must be Mississippians with notable journalism careers or journalists with notable careers in Mississippi.
Dr. Samir Husni | 662-915-1414, 662-832-6247 | email@example.com
University of Mississippi alumnus Jesse Holland Jr. was tapped by Marvel to reintroduce the world to the 1960s “Black Panther” superhero franchise through a new novel ahead of this weekend’s release of the blockbuster film about T’Challa, ruler of Wakanda.
Holland, a Holly Springs native who graduated from the university in 1994 with a degree in journalism, was tasked in 2016 with retelling the story through a 90,000-word origin story novel based on material in six comics. The goal was to create a new world for the main character, T’Challa, set in modern times.
The novel was released last fall as part of efforts to promote the new $200 million movie, which stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, and features Forest Whitaker and Lupita Nyong’o. Rap megastar Kendrick Lamar produced the soundtrack.
Being asked to write the novel, “Black Panther: Who is the Black Panther?” was a dream come true, Holland said.
“I’ve been reading comic books my entire life,” Holland said. “When I was at Ole Miss, me and my friends would drive from campus all the way to Memphis to comic book shops on Wednesday or Thursday nights when the new ones came out and pick them up.
“I told Marvel I’d love to take it on and they offered to send me some Black Panther comic books for research, and I said, ‘Don’t bother. I already have them all in my basement right now.”
The movie is poised for a majorly successful box office opening weekend. Drawing attention as one of the first superhero movies to feature a person of color as the main character, it follows the release of “Wonder Woman,” which featured the first female superhero star on the big screen.
Audiences are clamoring for something different from traditional Hollywood superhero movies, and there’s a much broader appeal than normal that is driving the high expectations, Holland said.
“This is not a recycled superhero story,” he said. “It is not the third different actor playing the same character. This is something that is completely new, completely different as far as superhero movies go.
“One of the things we are going to see behind the success of this character is that we as Americans don’t need to see the same story over and over. We are accepting of new heroes and new mythologies, and in fact we’re more accepting of heroes of all colors and genders. America is ready for a different type of hero.”
In the film, T’Challa returns home to the isolated, but technologically advanced, African nation of Wakanda to succeed the throne that was recently vacated when his father, the king, died. The country is able to be technologically advanced because it’s the only source of an advanced metal known as vibranium.
When another nation attempts to invade Wakanda to take the ultrarare material, T’Challa is forced into a role as his nation’s protector.
He is a complicated character, Holland said.
“When people ask me about T’Challa, I tell them to imagine if the president, the chief justice of the Supreme Court and the pope were all the same person,” Holland said. “On top of that, he’s a superhero.
“His superhero outfit is bound with vibranium, which makes him almost indestructible. He also takes a special herb that gives him super powers.”
“Black Panther” is drawing high marks from critics. The New York Times called it, “A jolt of a movie,” and said it “creates wonder with great flair and feeling partly through something Hollywood rarely dreams of anymore: myth. Most big studio fantasies take you out for a joy ride only to hit the same exhausted story and franchise-expanding beats. Not this one.”
Over six months, Holland wrote the updated origin story based on a 2005 version.
“It’s actually pretty cool to not have to start from scratch and to take a storyline by an absolutely great writer like Reginald Hudlin,” Holland said. “He based his work (in 2005) on the great work that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby started with.
“To be able to take that work and make it your own and be able to add and subtract and mold it to something you’re happy with is just fabulous.”
Doing this kind of work is nothing new for Holland. Disney Lucasfilm Press commissioned him to write the history of the Star Wars franchise’s newest black hero, “Finn.” He told his story in the 2016 young adult novel “Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Finn’s Story.”
He’s also penned award-winning nonfiction. His book “The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slavery in the White House” (Lyons Press, 2016) won the 2017 silver medal in U.S. History in the Independent Publisher Book Awards.
He teaches creative nonfiction writing as part of the Master of Fine Arts program at Goucher College in Townson, Maryland. He is also a race and ethnicity writer for The Associated Press.
Holland recently saw a screening of the movie, which he said is “fabulous.” He expects the release will create a major payday for everyone involved.
“From everything we’re seeing – all of the sold-out movie theaters, pop-up bars, pop-up art shows and pop-up screenings, it seems like this is going to be a record-breaking weekend for Marvel, and maybe the movie industry,” Holland said. “It’s going to be amazing to see the final numbers.”
After 17 people were killed at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day, Ole Miss senior Alexa Johnson held a march for the victims. From the steps of Farley Hall, she spoke to a crowd of about 100 people.
Alexa graduated from Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2014 and wanted to honor her former school here in Oxford.
“The community of Oxford and the community of Parkland are so similar,” Johnson said. “They’re close-knit, friendly and kind communities, and I know that if something like this happened in a place like Oxford or elsewhere in the nation, I know that Parkland would be there doing the same exact thing.”
After a speech on the Farley steps, the crowd made its way to the Walk of Champions and marched through the Grove and to the Lyceum. Cameras were rolling, and a video of the march was sent to Ty Thompson, principal of Majory Stoneman Douglas High School, to show support.
The event was supported by the Meek School of Journalism and New Media with many of its teachers and staff present. IMC Instructional Assistant Professor Debbie Hall was one of many to march through the Walk of Champions.
“I’m proud of our young people for doing this and taking a stand,” she said, “not just in favor of doing something to make our schools safer, but to show support for the students at Parkland.
“We have two students who were directly affected by that. They both have been to school there, but one of them actually had a younger sister in the building. I just think its great to show support for those students who are hurting.”
The march started at 7 p.m. as rain began to fall. Hall was pleased with the number of people, despite the weather. “When its raining, people are not going to get out and walk, and yet they did,” she said. “As I heard one person say, it’s the least we can do.
“I want to encourage young people to stand tall. I came from a generation where young people made a difference in the Vietnam War, and we can make a difference in keeping our schools safe.”
Ole Miss senior Alexandra Morris was one of many students who participated.
“I’m so glad people showed up despite the rain,” she said. “I thought Alexa’s words were very powerful and moved everyone there. I hope it brings joy to [the victims] knowing the Ole Miss family and the Oxford community are standing with them”
With staff, students, and locals demonstrating support from the University of Mississippi and the Oxford community, the crowd chanted “We stand with you” on the Lyceum steps for the video that will be sent to victims. Students returned to class in Florida Wednesday, and Johnson wanted them to feel as comfortable as possible.
“They are going back to school for their first day,” she said, “and walking in those doors after the massacre happened, they need as much support as possible. I wanted my second family at Ole Miss to support my first family, and they did 100 percent tonight, and I couldn’t be any happier about this event.”
Johnson had apprehensions about the turnout, but she was pleasantly surprised at the number who attended.
“It’s definitely more than I thought,” she said, “and I’m so grateful for each and every one of them. Like I said, these people are my family. I don’t know them, but they are still my family for coming here tonight and just being there for a community that they might not even know of, but they’re still here showing support for the victims and the students and faculty, so I am so grateful for that.”
Classes have resumed at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School, but the freshman building, where the shooting took place, will remain closed indefinitely.
Photos and story by Brian Barisa, Oxford Stories.