Meek Journalism instructor Ellen Meacham’s article Mississippi Braces for Massive Cuts to Children’s Health Insurance is featured on the Spotlight on Poverty & Opportunity website. To read the article, click here.
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Meek Journalism instructor Ellen Meacham’s writing featured on Spotlight on Poverty & Opportunity website
The Daily Mississippian sponsored a “Cookies, Coffee & Conversation” open house at the Student Media Center on Wednesday evening, Sept. 13. Chancellor Jeff Vitter and his wife, Sharon, were among the guests who stopped by and met with DM editors.
Pictured with the Vitters are DM Managing Editor Slade Rand, Social Media Editor Anessa Guess, Graphics Designer Emily Hoffman and Editor in Chief Lana Ferguson.
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.
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.
Meek School students and University of Mississippi Association of Black Journalists officers Terrence Johnson and Brittany Brown, and Assistant Dean Pat Thompson attended the National Association of Black Journalists convention in New Orleans Aug. 8-13.
While there, they spent time with UM alumni, including Fred Anklam, Jared Boyd, Lynecia Christion, Jesse Holland, Rose Jackson Flenorl, Dennis Moore, Ashley Norwood, Norman Seawright III and Kayleigh Skinner.
Terrence and Brittany also participated in NABJ’s Day of Community Service helping to rebuild homes destroyed in Hurricane Katrina.
Harold Burson, a University of Mississippi alumnus known as the “Father of Public Relations,” was inducted Friday (July 21) into the Southern Public Relations Hall of Fame in recognition of his decades as a giant figure in the industry he helped invent.
Burson, a 1940 Ole Miss graduate who has been described by PRWeek as the 20th century’s “most influential PR figure,” founded the powerhouse public relations firm Burson-Marsteller with Bill Marsteller in 1953. The firm created the concept of total communication strategies, which became the industry standard for decades.
Will Norton, dean of UM’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media, was among those who wrote a letter supporting Burson ’s nomination to the Hall of Fame. Norton notes Burson has had a long and exceptional career and brought honor to the profession. He’s also made enormous contributions to the success of the Ole Miss journalism school.
“We have worked with Harold to initiate the integrated marketing communications degree program at Ole Miss that now attracts nearly 1,100 majors to the Meek School,” Norton said. “His sage advice in developing the curriculum and his interaction with faculty and students have been crucial for the program’s gaining recognition from the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.”
“Without the guidance of Harold Burson, the Meek School would not be what it is.”
A Memphis native, Burson was an exceptional student, so much so that he entered Ole Miss at age 15. When he was 19, he served as a combat engineer in the U.S. Army, and in 1945, he worked as a reporter for the American Forces Network and was assigned to cover the Nuremberg trials after World War II.
After leaving the military, he used a connection he had forged with an engineering firm, which became the first client of his new PR company. Later, Burson-Marsteller was born.
The PR business grew from there and for many years, Burston-Marsteller was one of only two major PR firms in the world. In 1969, Burson’s firm was making about $4.4 million a year, according to PRWeek, but by the early 1980s, revenue was about $64 million, and Burson was head of a firm with 2,500 employees in 50 offices worldwide.
In 1983, it officially became the world’s largest PR firm, with regional headquarters in New York, Sao Paulo, Hong Kong and London.
His firm handled several major accounts. For example, it help ed Johnson & Johnson with its response to the deaths of eight people who had taken Tylenol in 1982. The company was not faulted, but it assumed responsibility and took the product off the market and halted advertising.
Representatives showed complete transparency and openness and made themselves available at all times to answer questions. The response to the Johnson & Johnson case led to Burson being credited with creating the template for crisis management.
The British government called on Burson-Marsteller ’s help during an epidemic of mad cow disease. He also counseled Union Carbide, the Three Mile Island nuclear plant after a famous meltdown in 1979 and BP after its Torrey Canyon oil tanker sank .
The Southern Public Relations Hall of Fame is co-sponsored by the Southern Public Relations Federation and Mississippi State University’s Department of Communications. The names of the Hall of Fame members adorn the walls in the Mitchell Memorial Library at MSU.
Inductees must have 25 years of professional experience that brings honor to the profession and show strong contributions to their organization, city, state or region, among other criteria.
Burson’s son, Mark, is an adjunct instructor in integrated marketing communication at UM. He accepted the recognition on behalf of his father, who could not attend the ceremony Friday.
Scott Fiene, director of the school’s integrated marketing communications undergraduate program, said it’s fortuitous for Ole Miss that the “father of public relations” got his start here.
“He’s counseled royalty and shaped the image of many top global brands , but he’s always remained involved and partnered with the university on so many projects,” Fiene said. “His influence on the profession isn’t just what he has accomplished, but on the lives he has touched and the students he has mentored.
“The seeds he has sown will live for generations to come.”
Rick Dean and Kristie Aylett, agency principals with The KARD Group, a PR and marketing firm based in Mississippi, also were among those writing letters in support of Burson’s nomination .
“Kristie and I have studied and respected Harold’s contributions to our industry since we were students and, as professionals, we continue to use things learned from him,” Dean said. “To have played a role in Harold’s well-deserved nomination and induction into the Hall of Fame was our honor.”
Story by Michael Newsom