The Meek School of Journalism and New Media

The University of Mississippi

Posts Tagged ‘Memphis’

Oxford Stories reporters talk about MLK reporting project in Daily Journal podcast

Posted on: April 21st, 2018 by ldrucker

Oxford Stories reporting classes recently completed a special journalism project about the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Oxford Stories worked in partnership with the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal to republish some of the stories student reporters wrote.

Chris Keiffer, of the Daily Journal, later contacted Oxford Stories and asked to do a podcast about the project. Oxford Stories reporters Alexis Rhoden and T’Keyah Jones were interviewed for the podcast. You can listen to their interview at the link below.

http://memo.djournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/The-Memo-04.20.18-MLK-memories.mp3

You can read stories from the project at the website: The Lorraine Motel: 50 Years After the Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

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/

1962 Ole Miss riot and news media’s vital role, then and now

Posted on: September 10th, 2017 by ldrucker

It was 55 years ago this month that the University of Mississippi campus was engulfed in a riot when James Meredith sought to enroll in the state’s flagship university.

Segregationists from around the South had descended on the campus and a riot ensued. More than 300 reporters traveled to Oxford to cover the story.

Some were beaten; others had their equipment damaged or set on fire. Agence France-Press reporter Paul Guihard was murdered, the only reporter killed during the civil rights era.

The issues then were as stark as they are today – as demonstrated by protests and demonstrations occurring in Memphis and across the nation regarding the existence of Confederate memorials on public grounds.

Screen grab from The Commercial Appeal of Dr. Kathleen Wickham’s guest column.

In today’s climate the emotions on both sides are as raw as when the monuments were installed, the beliefs as rigid and the hate as repulsive.

But at a time when claims of so-called “fake news” are used to undermine the press’s credibility, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the role of the press in reporting riots, protests and disturbances.

That role – granted by the First Amendment – is to monitor the actions of government and powerful people and institutions by providing a reliable source of information about how law enforcement, public officials and citizens react to events and protect people and property.

Attacks on the press for performing this work are an affront to democracy. Journalists report the news without fear or favor on behalf of the people.

The reporters who descended on Oxford in 1962 were doing just that. They were driven to seek the truth and inform the public about what was happening.

In my new book “We Believed We Were Immortal: Twelve Reporters Who Covered the 1962 Integration Crisis at Ole Miss“, I explore the crisis through the words and experiences of journalists who were there.

They include Sidna Brower, the Memphis reared editor of the student newspaper; Claude Sitton of The New York Times, known as the dean of the civil rights press corps, Dorothy Gilliam, also a Memphis native who was the first African-American woman hired by The Washington Post; Michael Dorman of Newsday, who explored the town’s attitudes as evidenced by the Faulkner family; and Tupelo-native Neal Gregory of The Commercial Appeal, who wrote about the mood of Oxford’s religious community.

Guihard’s unsolved murder is also a significant aspect of the book. Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather, another reporter who came to Oxford in 1962, spoke at the 2010 dedication of a memorial marker for Guihard.

Rather observed that the job of a reporter is to bear witness and “be an honest broker of information. To take the viewers to the scene …to get as close to the truth as you possibly can, recognizing that most of the time you can’t get the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Journalism is viewed as the first draft of history. It is through such drafts that truth emerges. Journalists speak for their communities and create public conversations, emboldened by the belief that their stories shed light on public affairs and can change the world.

Dr. Kathleen Wickham, a former Memphian, is a journalism professor at the University of Mississippi. She is scheduled to sign copies of her new book at 5 p.m. Sept. 12 at Square Books in Oxford, and at 6 p.m. Sept. 15 at Novel bookstore in Memphis.

This column was originally published in The Commercial Appeal.

Former Meek grad Otis Sanford will discuss How Race Changed Memphis Politics April 24

Posted on: April 18th, 2017 by ldrucker

Otis Sanford, a longtime columnist for The Commercial Appeal, will be a guest speaker at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics Monday, April 24, at 6 p.m. to talk about the racial conflict and transition that has taken place in Memphis politics, from the time of E.H. Crump’s rule of the city in the first half of the 20th century, to the modern era in which African Americans exert power.

Sanford has written about this subject in his new book, From Boss Crump to King Willie: How Race Changed Memphis Politics.

He will be joined in the discussion by two other long-time political observers, Charles Overby, chairman of the Overby Center, and Overby Fellow Curtis Wilkie.

The program in the Overby Center Auditorium is free and open to the public. A reception will be held following the event, and arrangements have been made for parking in the lot adjacent to the auditorium.

Sanford, who grew up near Como, a north Mississippi town in the shadow of Memphis, is a 1975 graduate of the University of Mississippi. He majored in journalism. He served on the staff of major newspapers in Jackson, Pittsburgh and Detroit before settling at The Commercial Appeal, where he eventually became managing editor.

In 2005, Sanford was awarded the Silver Em, the highest honor given by the university’s journalism school to native Mississippians who excel in journalism or to those who have distinguished themselves in the state.

He is now a member of the University of Memphis faculty, but continues to write a weekly column for The Commercial Appeal.

“Otis is not only a product of Ole Miss we value, he has become the most knowledgeable source on Memphis politics, and it will be great to welcome him back,” said Wilkie.