The Meek School of Journalism and New Media

The University of Mississippi

Posts Tagged ‘social justice’

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/

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.

Atkins inducted into East Carolina University Educators Hall of Fame

Posted on: November 2nd, 2017 by ldrucker

Joe Atkins, longtime professor of journalism in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi, was inducted into the East Carolina University Educators Hall of Fame in Greenville, North Carolina, Oct. 28.

Atkins received his undergraduate degree in English and philosophy from ECU in 1970. He later studied at the University of Munich and received a master’s degree in journalism from American University.

A veteran journalist and former congressional correspondent, Atkins has taught at Ole Miss since 1990. Sponsored by members of his graduating class at Sanford (North Carolina) Central High School, Atkins was recognized for his work as a writer, journalist, and advocate for social justice and for his many years of teaching.

New Course: ‘Documentary and Social Issues’ offered at Meek School of Journalism and New Media

Posted on: March 29th, 2017 by ldrucker

One the areas that the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media takes pride in is its history of race, civil rights and social justice reporting.

Meek School professor Joe Atkins will be offering a new journalism course in the fall called “Documentary and Social Issues.” J580 will be offered Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 10:50 p.m. as a graduate elective course, but undergraduates in their junior and senior year are welcome to register for the course.

Atkins said the course “will look at the history of documentary making and its impact on major social issues of the day.”

“From Robert Flaherty’s “Nanook of the North” in 1922 and Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will” in 1935, to Michael Moore’s films today, the documentary has brought important issues to the public’s attention and produced intense controversy,” Atkins said. “This course explores its central role in our media world past, present and future.”

Atkins said the course looks at the role – in print, broadcast, film or social media – the documentary has played in exploring and bringing light to key social problems and issues. Students will gain fuller insight into the role journalism and documentary film can play in the discussion and possible resolution of social problems and issues.

The course will improve their ability to think critically about journalism and documentary film and to write analytically, persuasively, and comparatively about film and related texts. Some of the films that may be shown in the course include:

“Nanook of the North,” by Robert Flaherty, 1922

“Triumph of the Will,” by Leni Riefenstahl, 1935

“Inside Nazi Germany,” by Jack Glenn, 1938

“Harlan County USA,” by Barbara Kopple, 1976, about coal miners.

“The Uprising of ’34,” by Stoney, Helfand and Rostock, 1995, about the bloody suppression of striking textile workers in South Carolina.

“I Am A Man,” by Jonathan Epstein, 2008, about the 1968 sanitation workers strike in Memphis.

A yet-to-be-determined film by Michael Moore.

Atkins has taught at the University of Mississippi since 1990. He teaches courses in advanced reporting, international journalism, ethics and social issues, media history, and labor and media.

He is the author of Covering for the Bosses: Labor and the Southern Press, published by The University of Press of Mississippi in 2008, and editor/contributing author of The Mission: Journalism, Ethics and the World, published by Iowa State University Press in 2002.

He organized an international “Conference on Labor and the Southern Press” at Ole Miss in October of 2003. A statewide columnist and 35-year veteran journalist, Atkins was a congressional correspondent with Gannett News Service’s Washington, D.C., bureau for five years.

He previously worked with newspapers in North Carolina and Mississippi. His articles have appeared in publications, such as USA Today, Baltimore Sun, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Progressive Populist, Southern Exposure, Quill and the Oxford American. Atkins is also author of the novel “Casey’s Last Chance,” published by Sartoris Literary Group in 2005.

  • Story by LaReeca Rucker, adjunct journalism instructor