The Meek School of Journalism and New Media

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Posts Tagged ‘Ole Miss’

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/

Media Center 2017-2018 student managers reflect on their year in charge

Posted on: March 12th, 2018 by ldrucker

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 Ferguson on a depth reporting trip in Zimbabwe, Africa, in May 2016.

“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.”

Blake Hein at work in the Student Media Center

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.”

Rebel Radio: Austin Hille

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.

Austin Hille covering the Republican National Convention in summer 2016.

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.”

Abbie McIntosh on assignment in Texas following Hurricane Harvey.

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.

Abbie McIntosh in the NewsWatch Ole Miss studio.

“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.”

Marisa Morrissette at the Southeast Journalism Conference in February.

 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.

Marisa Morrissette.

“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.

Measure of Progress: The Clyde Kennard Story

Posted on: March 8th, 2018 by ldrucker

A new documentary on the life of a civil rights pioneer who sought to desegregate higher education in Mississippi is the result of a collaborative research effort by a group of faculty members at The University of Southern Mississippi. The film was produced by University
of Mississippi journalism and integrated marketing communications professors Alysia Steele and Bobby Steele, Jr.

“Measure of Progress: The Clyde Kennard Story” will premiere at the University of Mississippi, Overby Center Auditorium Tuesday, March 20, 2018, from 6-8 p.m. The program is free and open to the public. There will be a panel to answer questions after the premiere. Clarion-Ledger investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell, who was interviewed in the film, may attend the event.

Southern Miss Freedom50 Research Group, an interdisciplinary group of scholars in the USM Departments of English, History, and School of Mass Communication and Journalism researching racial progress occurring at the university over the last 50 years, reached out to University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism professors Alysia and Bobby Steele to produce the 15-minute documentary. Project funding was provided by the Mississippi Humanities Council.

A native of Hattiesburg, Clyde Kennard made several attempts to enroll at then Mississippi Southern College, now The University of Southern Mississippi, but was denied entry by college, state and local officials. Although his efforts were obstructed, Kennard persisted until he was falsely accused and convicted of multiple crimes, then ultimately sentenced to seven years at Parchman Farm, now the Mississippi State Penitentiary. While there, Kennard was diagnosed with cancer, but was denied proper medical treatment until he was critically ill. He was released on parole in January, 1963 and died July 4, 1963, at the age of 36.

On March 30, 2006, Kennard was declared innocent in Forrest County (Miss.) Chancery Court – the same court where he had been convicted decades earlier – after subsequent investigations showed he had been framed.

To atone for its role in this injustice, USM in 1993 renamed its student services building Kennard-Washington Hall in honor of Kennard and Dr. Walter Washington, the first African American to earn a doctorate from the university. USM also honors Kennard’s legacy through a scholarship program that bears his name, which to date has benefited more than 40 of its students.

Members of the Freedom50 Research Group include Dr. Sherita Johnson, associate professor of English, director of the USM Center for Black Studies and organizer of Freedom50; Dr. Cheryl Jenkins, associate professor of mass communications and journalism and assistant director for the Center for Black Studies; Dr. Rebecca Tuuri, assistant professor of history, and Dr. Loren Saxton Coleman, assistant professor of mass communications.

As the Freedom50 Research Group evolved, Dr. Coleman said it became clear it needed to focus its work on Clyde Kennard, because “his story is paramount in this university’s journey to desegregation and racial progress,” and engaged producers Alysia Burton Steele and Bobby D. Steele, Jr. to turn their idea for a documentary on Kennard’s life into reality. Meek School of Journalism and New Media professor Ji Hoon Heo assisted as camera operator and drone photographer.

“It has been our goal to share his story of triumph, not just tragedy, with the university and greater Hattiesburg community,” Coleman said. “We want each student that walks on this campus to know the Kennard story, understand his sacrifice and see themselves as part of his legacy,” said Dr. Coleman.

Dr. Jenkins described the project as “a labor of love for both the producers and the research group.”

“We wanted to make sure Mr. Kennard’s legacy would be the highlight of our work, and that his determination to receive an education would be an inspiration to all,” Dr. Jenkins said.

Meek School student selected for national multimedia project investigating hate crimes

Posted on: February 22nd, 2018 by ldrucker

Meek School major Brittany Brown is one of 26 students from 19 universities selected to participate in a major national investigation into hate crimes in the U.S. as part of the 2017 Carnegie-Knight News21 multimedia reporting initiative.

Brittany is a junior from Quitman, majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in Spanish. She is in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and a digital content producer, anchor and correspondent for NewsWatch Ole Miss. She was an intern at WTOK-TV in Meridian and a research intern in the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Summer Research Program, and she is co-president of the University of Mississippi Association of Black Journalists.

Headquartered at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, News21 was established by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to demonstrate that college journalism students can produce innovative, in-depth multimedia projects on a national scale.

Students from journalism programs across the U.S., as well as Canada and Ireland, will join Cronkite students for the 2018 investigation. They will examine the major issues surrounding hate crimes in America.

The students are participating in a spring semester seminar in which they are conducting research, interviewing experts and beginning their reporting. The seminar is taught in person and via video conference by Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of The Washington Post and Cronkite’s Weil Family Professor of Journalism, and News21 Executive Editor Jacquee Petchel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former senior editor for investigations and enterprise at the Houston Chronicle.

“We chose hate crimes and hate incidents as this year’s timely News21 topic because of the apparent increase throughout the country of such acts – from bullying and vandalism to assaults and murders – involving racial, religious, nationality, gender and sexual orientation bias,” Downie said.

Following the seminar, students move into paid summer fellowships, during which they work out of a newsroom at the Cronkite School in Phoenix and travel across the country to report and produce their stories.

“We will be able to do what many newsrooms cannot, which is to deploy dozens of student journalists to investigate the culture of hate and related acts of violence in every state in the nation,” Petchel said. “Not only do recent attacks on people of different races and religions call for it, it is the right thing to do in the name of public service journalism.”

Over the past eight years, Carnegie-Knight News21 projects have included investigations into voting rights, post-9/11 veterans, marijuana laws and guns in America, among other topics. The projects have won numerous awards, including four EPPY Awards from Editor & Publisher magazine, the Student Edward R. Murrow Award for video excellence, and a host of honors from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Hearst Awards Program, considered the Pulitzer Prizes of collegiate journalism.

Cronkite fellows will be named later this semester. In addition to the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi, the other universities are:

  • DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana
  • Dublin City University, School of Communications, Dublin, Ireland
  • Elon University, School of Communications, Elon, North Carolina
  • George Washington University, School of Media and Public Affairs, Washington, D.C.
  • Indiana University, The Media School, Bloomington, Indiana
  • Kent State University, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Kent, Ohio
  • Louisiana State University, Manship School of Mass Communication, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Morgan State University, School of Global Journalism and Communication, Baltimore, Maryland
  • St. Bonaventure University, Jandoli School of Communication, St. Bonaventure, New York
  • Syracuse University, S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse, N.Y.
  • University of British Columbia, Graduate School of Journalism, British Columbia, Canada
  • University of Colorado Boulder, College of Media, Communication and Information, Boulder, Colorado
  • University of Iowa, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Iowa City, Iowa
  • University of North Texas, Mayborn School of Journalism, Denton, Texas
  • University of Oklahoma, Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, Norman, Oklahoma
  • University of Tennessee, School of Journalism & Electronic Media, Knoxville, Tennessee
  • University of Texas at Austin, School of Journalism, Austin, Texas

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation provides core support for the News21 program. Individual fellows are supported by their universities as well as a variety of foundations, news organizations and philanthropists that include the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, Hearst Foundations, Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, International Ireland Funds, The Arizona Republic, The Dallas Morning News, Myrta J. Pulliam, John and Patty Williams, and Louis A. “Chip” Weil.

Who is the Black Panther? Former Daily Mississippian Editor Jesse Holland wrote the book

Posted on: February 21st, 2018 by ldrucker

Holly Springs native Jesse Holland crafted his most recent novel, “Black Panther: Who is the Black Panther?,” using skills he honed during his undergraduate years at Ole Miss.

Holland started at Ole Miss in 1989, immediately going to work for The Oxford Eagle. There, he covered the town of Water Valley, high school sports, and just “whatever had to be done.” One of his most memorable moments was when a writer came in the office asking if anyone wanted to interview him. That writer was John Grisham.

UM alumnus Jesse Holland Jr. has written a novel for Marvel to reintroduce its 1960s superhero ‘Black Panther,’ the main character in a new blockbuster film.

Later, Holland worked for The Daily Mississippian as a news editor before climbing to managing editor and all the way to editor-in-chief. He helped craft a comic strip along with two other students called “Hippie and the Black Guy” that made light of stereotypes for the paper, all while a full-time student double majoring in journalism and English. He also worked for Rebel Radio as a DJ for his rap show and talk show, and was a cameraman for the school’s TV newscast.

“All of the professors at Ole Miss insisted that we all learn different forms of journalism. I went from room to room in Farley Hall,” Holland said. “I tried to stick my finger in every form of journalism I could, and Ole Miss encouraged it.”

Meek School of Journalism and New Media Dean Will Norton found Holland when he was in high school in Mount Pleasant and encouraged him to come to Ole Miss.

“I would have never been at Ole Miss if it wasn’t for Dean Norton,” Holland said. “He has been to a great mentor to me all of these years.”

Norton described Holland as “exceptional” and credited his success to his work ethic.

“I wish I had his character. He is so honest and hardworking, and he never complains. If he talks about something being bad, he does so with a smile on his face,” Norton said. “When Jesse Holland tells you something, you can trust that it’s the truth. I look up to him, not just because he’s taller than me.”

Ever since his time at Ole Miss, Holland has been writing books and for The Associated Press and now lives in Washington, D.C.

Holland has been writing since 2005. His books mainly focusing on African-American history, and he was approached by an editor at Lucas Films in 2016 about writing the backstory for a character named Finn in the “Star Wars” trilogy.

“(Star Wars) was one of the first films I saw in a theater,” he said. “I jumped at the chance, and ‘The Force Awakens: Finn’s Story’ came out.”

After reading the story, an editor at Marvel contacted Holland about writing a story for the latest film about the Black Panther. A comic book fan, Holland readily agreed.

“Marvel wanted a novel retelling the origin of the Black Panther in time for the 2018 movie release so people wouldn’t have to read all of the comic books to figure out his history,” he said. “I’ve been reading them since I was 5 or 6 years old.”

Holland said he had an advantage because he wouldn’t need to be sent the comic books – he already owned them all.

“Back at Ole Miss, I used to drive from campus to Memphis to be there when the comic books came out on Wednesdays. It was a weekly pilgrimage for me and my friends,” he said. “When Marvel came to me, I said, ‘I have all of the comic books down in my basement.’ It was a great experience – it gave me an excuse to read comic books.”

Dex McCain, Holland’s fraternity brother with whom he pledged the Eta Zeta chapter of Omega Phi Psi Fraternity, Inc., the first black Greek-lettered charter at Ole Miss, remembered Holland’s love of comic books in college.

“We knew he was destined for this. The things he’s done have prepared him for this, and he has always had a passion for comic books,” McCain said. “Even in college, he would read comic books. He’s just the right person for it. I’m so proud of him. He’s always been a perennial all-star. Anything he did, he did well and with passion. To me, he tells every story like it is, and that’s what you see in his books, including ‘Black Panther.’”

Holland drew inspiration for his novel about the Black Panther from his own life, something he’s learned to do with his fiction writing over the years.

“A lot of people in my life are represented from the book. You write what you see and you write what you know. I pull from every source that I can,” he said. “The speech patterns come from people I see on a daily basis.”

Marvel gave Holland free reign to work on the book, so he started it in Washington, D.C., where he lives at places he’s familiar with, like the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

“If you’re the king of Wakanda, where else would you go?” he said.

Marvin King, professor of political science and African-American history, met Holland as an alumnus and said he believes his background in history research has made his fiction writing stronger.

“He brings a lot of knowledge about the subject,” he said. “He’s done so much prior research about historical matters of race in America. He’s worked in a lot of different places, so he’s been exposed to a lot of different stories as a reporter, and I think that’s all coming together in his latest project.”

Holland said he incorporated as much of the real world as possible, but shied away from including much politics.

“I did do a little flavor of what the world would be like if these characters were real. How would the politics of a hidden country in Africa play with America?” he said. “But this is a superhero story – I had to make sure there were enough punches being thrown. I don’t delve too much into ‘meat grinder’ politics. I tried to look at it from the point of view from someone from Wakanda.”

The movie shattered box office records and is expected to earn $218 million domestically and $387 million worldwide for the four-day holiday weekend. Malco’s Oxford Commons Cinema Grill was overflowing with crowds to see “Black Panther” for the film’s opening. Holland went to go see it with his kids Thursday night.

On the film’s significance, Holland stressed the importance of having an African-American superhero protagonist.

“Growing up, I didn’t have those type of heroes on the big screen. There were very few African or African-American superheroes on television or movies when I grew up. Today, kids will have these characters – they will be able to say, ‘I want to be that,’” he said. “I got the chance to take my kids Thursday night, and they were transfixed because out of all the superhero stories they’ve seen, never have they been to a superhero movie where everybody looks like them. That’s so important for the kids, and I’m just happy that I got to play a small part in crafting this character for the new century.”

UM students win Southeast Journalism Conference championship

Posted on: February 18th, 2018 by ldrucker

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.

Husni partners to help magazine students with financial needs pursue dreams

Posted on: February 9th, 2018 by ldrucker

For many college students, the idea of working in the magazine industry is a dream, but not a reality. That’s because many can’t afford to work for free and don’t have money to cover expensive housing costs in New York City, even if they were awarded an internship.

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, is trying to change that. Husni’s Magazine Innovation Center has teamed with the MPA: Association of Magazine Media to create an endowment to help magazine students with financial needs pursue their dreams.

“We are teaming to start an endowment to help send students on internships and jobs,” Husni said. “We called it the Magazine Innovation Center/MPA Endowment.”

Dr. Samir Husni speaks on stage at the American Magazine Media Conference 2018 on Feb. 6, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for The Association of Magazine Media)

Husni recently shared the idea with magazine executives during the American Magazine Media Conference in New York City Feb. 6. “I was humbled and proud at the same time standing on that stage and talking about the University of Mississippi and our school of journalism,” he said.

The endowment will start with $25,000 from the MPA: Association of Magazine Media Foundation. Husni will also work to raise funds through sponsorships from the ACT Experience, his Magazine Innovation Center’s annual magazine industry event. Part of the sponsorship funds are used to help students.

“It will mainly be aimed at talented magazine media students who are in financial need to go places like New York City or Los Angeles,” he said. “So it will level the playing field among those who have and those who don’t if they share the same love and talent of the magazine media.”

Husni said he’s always felt that some students didn’t have equal access to magazine internships that can be very costly considering all expenses involved.

“I’ve always felt the inequality of the internships, especially today,” he said. “Very few people pay for interns. So not only do the students have to pay to register for the course, they have to pay for their travel. They have to pay their living expenses. So it’s really a lot if you don’t come from a hefty financial background. This is just a little effort in balancing or leveling the playing field.”

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 University of Mississippi 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 April 18. The event will be held 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.

If you are interested in donating to the endowment or learning more about it, contact Husni at 662-915-1414, 662-832-6247 or samir.husni@gmail.com.

Meek students attend viewing of “The Post” and offer reviews

Posted on: January 19th, 2018 by ldrucker

A group of Meek School of Journalism and New Media students recently gathered for a viewing of “The Post.” The crowd arrived at the Malco theater on Jackson Avenue in Oxford to watch the film starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks.

Streep portrays Katharine Graham, the first female publisher of a major American newspaper – The Washington Post. Graham and Editor Ben Bradlee put everything on the line and make a tough decision to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets related to the Vietnam War.

Meek student Madison Stewart, who attended the group viewing, said she enjoyed learning more about history from the film. “Having Meryl Streep as the owner of a newspaper company during that time really showed how women were treated and how times have changed,” she said. “… They showed how many men made up a lot of those newspaper companies back then.

A scene from the film.

“The Meek School (has) a ton of women students and professors, so it really shows how women have evolved in the journalism industry. The movie illustrated how important journalism is to the world. I think a lot of people do not think it is necessary sometimes. Without journalism, many people would not know what is going on in the world if journalists were not there to report on it.”

Meek student Leah Davis also attended the event.

“I absolutely loved it,” said Davis, adding that Graham’s wisdom proved to be what the paper needed. Davis said she liked the movie because it demonstrated the battle between “saving oneself and following moral standards.”

The Post’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers, though going against the government’s wishes, was guided by the burden and responsibility of the press to accurately inform the people instead of hiding behind the government,” she said. “One line that stuck out to me from the movie was, ‘The press serves the governed, not the governors.’ I think this quote sums up the job of journalists and the importance they have in society.”

To read more about journalism movies, check out this recent NewsLab.org post.

Meek School launches first Mississippi Capitol Press Corps class

Posted on: January 8th, 2018 by ldrucker

After discussions with professors at the Michigan State University School of Journalism and the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism in Indiana, who provided advice about how to launch a state government reporting class that live publishes stories, the first Mississippi Capitol Press Corps class was launched during the wintersesssion at the University of Mississippi.

Organized and led by UM professor LaReeca Rucker and Fred Anklam, co-editor of Mississippi Today, the class was designed to give Meek School of Journalism and New Media students hands-on experience as state government reporters.

Reporters spend part of their week at the University of Mississippi and the rest at the state capitol interviewing state leaders about important issues. They write and file stories that are published on OxfordStories.net, a statewide student news wire service, and Mississippi Today. The columns and stories are made available for publication in statewide newspapers.

Class members include Briana Florez, Thomas Goris, Terrence Johnson, Kristen Bentley, Savannah Smith, Savannah Day, Deandria Turner and Davis McCool. Link to bios.

Follow our Mississippi Capitol Press reporters adventures @meekjournalism on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can read their work at OxfordStories.net and on the Mississippi Today website.

State Human Rights Campaign director speaks to public relations classes

Posted on: November 22nd, 2017 by ldrucker

Rob Hill, third from left, is the Mississippi Director for the Human Rights Campaign. This is the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization.

Hill spoke to Robin Street’s Public Relations Case Studies class Nov. 16 about the HRC’s efforts to change attitudes about the LGBTQ public in Mississippi.

Pictured with Hill and Street are IMC students in the class, Amanda Hunt, far left, and Madison Stewart, far right. Photo by Kendrick Pittman.