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Mississippi artist Marshall Ramsey drawing students to his Ole Miss classroom

Posted on: August 27th, 2019 by ldrucker

An award-winning cartoonist is sharing his talents at the School of Journalism and New Media this fall.

Marshall Ramsey is a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, editorial cartoonist and editor-at-large at Mississippi Today. When his pair of illustrations published in The Clarion-Ledger memorializing the passing of Barbara and George H.W. Bush went viral in 2018, Assistant Dean and Professor Debora Wenger said Ole Miss’s School of Journalism and New Media took notice.

“When I saw that Marshall’s cartoon had captured the attention of the nation, I thought, ‘This is a man who is a good friend of our school. He’s been a Pulitzer finalist multiple times. He’s an amazing speaker and teacher. Why have we not had him on campus teaching a class before?’” Wenger said.

The course meets on Mondays from 4-6:30 p.m. Coursework involves discussions, marketing advice and weekly drawings based on current events. Since fall is an election season, Ramsey has said he will invite politicians, candidates and other newsmakers to speak in class and provide material for students of all skill levels to draw.

“You don’t need to be a fine artist to come in (to the class),” Ramsey said.

He says a good editorial cartoon is 85 percent idea.

“You have to have humor that everyone can relate to, and you have to be on top of the issues to know what’s going on,” he said. “But, truly, a great editorial cartoon has a great idea behind it. There are ideas that just sometimes speak to people, and that’s when you know you’ve succeeded in creating something.”

There are no pre-requirements for the class, and students from all majors with passions in storytelling through visual mediums were encouraged to attend.

“I hope that the chance to work with a Pulitzer-nominated cartoonist and amazing artist will intrigue students beyond journalism to see some of the creative classes we offer,” Wenger said.

Although many newsrooms across the country are cutting editorial cartoons to save money, Ramsey said cartoons are not going anywhere and are increasingly relevant in a visual-based, social-media savvy society.

“Editorial cartoons get a lot of information across very quickly,” Ramsey said. “They truly are made for these times.”

It did not take much to convince Ramsey to teach at Ole Miss, as he says the “gorgeous campus,” “many friends” and students in Oxford make it worth it.

“It recharges me because it’s fun to be around the students and their energy,” Ramsey said. “It makes me not get stagnant. I enjoy any chance I can to come up to Oxford and be able to contribute a little bit of my talent.”

This story was first published on HottyToddy.com.

Column: I was anxious to leave Delaware, but Mississippi felt like the place I belonged

Posted on: June 18th, 2019 by ldrucker

As I look back on my time as a student at the University of Mississippi, I have nothing but fond memories.

From my first day freshmen year, moving to a new state, not knowing a single soul, I met a random roommate from Minnesota who was so homesick she tried to move home the entire first month of school.

I went to the dining hall at the wrong time every day and couldn’t figure out why only half the food stations weren’t open. I even missed my first college exam because it was given on Blackboard on a Friday night, and I forgot to take it.

Now these may not sound like amazing memories to you, but they are how my college experience began. As a second semester senior, I look back on all of those memories and wish I could go back to my very first day and relive everything again. I would love to have my undergraduate experience repeat over and over again.

Alli George

Farley Hall

Fast forward to senior year. I still live with my random Minnesota roommate who turned out to be one of my best friends.

I finally found something I was really passionate about, and I switched majors from public policy leadership to integrated marketing communications.

The School of Journalism and New Media has provided me with some amazing opportunities over the past few years. My public relations class assisted me in obtaining an internship. Through experiences with my classes, I have obtained two other internships during my college career. One was last summer as a marketing intern in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The other was a marketing internship with the Oxford Community Market during my sophomore year.

Besides the academic opportunities that Ole Miss has given me, it also created an environment for me to grow as a person and grow socially. When I first moved to college, I was anxious and nervous. I had never lived anywhere besides Delaware. However, I knew I needed to move somewhere new or I might never leave my hometown.

My senior year of high school, I applied to many schools in the South. I figured at no other point in my life would I live in the South, and I wanted to experience the culture. My parents took me to visit all of the schools I was accepted into. I honestly really liked most of them, but I always felt a stronger connection to Ole Miss.

Lyceum. Photo by Alli George.

From the day I took my tour, I felt at home on the Ole Miss campus. As anxious as I was to leave home, it felt like the place I belonged. I wanted to move to a place that made me feel uncomfortable, as crazy as that might sound.

I knew Mississippi, as a state, had different political viewpoints than I did and stronger religious beliefs. I wanted to put myself in a place where I didn’t necessarily agree with everything that was going on. Mississippi proved to be a very good place to do that.

I came here with a certain perception of Mississippi, and I didn’t think that would change over my four years as a student. However, now as I’m about to leave Mississippi forever, I have such a fond view of this state. Even though there may be some aspects of the state’s past and present political views that I may not agree with, Mississippi has changed my life forever.

I will always be grateful for the state of Mississippi for building a university that provided me with much more than an education. I became a writer, joined a large Greek organization, became a leader on campus and came out of my shell socially. I have made friends that will hopefully last a lifetime.

I have had many of my “lasts” in Oxford. My last senior dinner with my sorority sisters. Finishing my last classes to get my degree in integrated marketing communications.

I’m nervous and anxious all over again, except this time, it’s about going home. I found a home in Oxford these past four years, and now I have to re-establish that home back in Delaware. I don’t have a plan for what’s next. I have applied to just about every marketing job in the state of Delaware. I have also applied to graduate school to pursue my master’s degree in business administration.

Whatever the future might hold, I am so thankful and grateful for Ole Miss. This university has helped me grow in so many ways. I’m sure if I had attended another school, I could have had a similar experience. However, I would have never had my first Saturday in the Grove, all my memories on the Square with my incredible friends, and all the sunsets I watched set over Sardis Lake.

Most importantly, I would have never been a Rebel. For the rest of my life, I will be proud and honored to say I am an Ole Miss alumnus. Hotty Toddy!

This column was written by Alli George before graduation. To learn more about our journalism and IMC programs, email jour-imc@olemiss.edu.

 

Faculty Profile: Burson teaches students to find their passion

Posted on: May 25th, 2019 by ldrucker

Mark Burson began teaching at the University of Mississippi Jan. 27, 2016, but not before spending 43 years in California.

“My only regret is that it took me so long to discover Oxford, Mississippi,” he said. “I wish I had done it 30 years ago.”

Growing up, Burson had no desire to teach. He wanted to play baseball.

“I went to a private school,” he said, “and I was the first freshman to start all four years. I made all-league those four years as well. So by the time I was a senior, I thought I was really good.”

With no collegiate offers to play ball, Burson decided to walk on at the University of Southern California. At the time, USC had a freshman team and a junior varsity team that held open tryouts for walk-on athletes. He made the team.

“I spent two weeks on that team,” he said, “and I was amazed at how good everybody else was. I soon realized that I had never seen a real curveball before. I had never seen athletes who were so fast and could jump so high.”

Reality began to set in, so he talked with the coach, asking when was the last time that someone from the freshman team made it to JV or varsity? “The coach said, ‘Oh that’s easy. Fred Lynn.’”

Fred Lynn is a former center-fielder who had an impressive career in the Major Leagues. Burson said he then realized he had to do something else with his life.

While studying art history, only because he registered late for classes, Burson discovered he really enjoyed it. “It was through art history that I developed this appreciation of just looking at the world, and then being able to tell stories about what I saw,” he said. “And while I didn’t know it at the time, that was the business that I would end up in.”

Burson graduated from USC in 1977, but decided to stick around for graduate school. He earned his master’s degree in public relations in 1979.

If you’re in the public relations business, you’ve probably heard of Harold Burson, his father, who co-founded Burson-Marsteller in 1952.

“I had no intention of ever working for my father’s company, and that happened just through serendipity,” he said.

Burson joined the Santa Monica-based firm in 1985, but left in 1997 to run the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library for seven years before returning to Burson-Marsteller.

“Through accident of birth, I was born into a PR family,” Burson said. “I didn’t have a choice; it just happened. Because of that, I’ve had a unique ringside seat to the growth of this business.”

Burson said the business that has only been around for about 100 years has changed a lot. If you’re an integrated marketing communications major at the University of Mississippi’s School of Journalism and New Media, you may have an idea of this change.

“This business used to be about relationships between the agency and the client,” Burson said, “and when I first started, that’s what really appealed to me, because you could develop, not only business relationships with the client, but also real friendships.”

Burson feels the industry has moved past these relationships and is now in a more “What can you do for me today?” state of mind. He said the things he loved most about the business has been slowly vanishing and transitioning into what he calls PR or publicity stunts – doing a random act to attract the public’s attention.

“That’s not what I signed up for,” Burson said.

With the nature of the business changing, Burson said he knew he wasn’t going to be able to do the things he really liked doing, so he developed an interest in endurance competitive cycling. After competing in several signature events, Burson thought about starting a company that would help promote those events, but nothing took off.

It wasn’t until a friend invited him to guest lecture a course at USC Annenberg School of Communications, Burson thought: “Wow. This is a pretty cool gig.”

With two of his children out of the house and the third about to graduate high school, Burson began to consider teaching. When his daughter graduated high school, she decided to attend the University of Mississippi because she heard about it through Burson’s father, Harold Burson, who earned his degree from UM.

Burson moved his daughter to Oxford and said, “I just fell in love with Oxford and the university and inquired about how to get a teaching job here in the school of journalism, and what would I teach,” he said. “The subject that I knew most about was how to put together a campaign from start to finish, and then build an environment within that team that would optimize success. So that’s what I teach here and why I’m here.”

Burson doesn’t just teach a class; he makes connections with each student, and he builds relationships that last. Anessa Guess, who took a class under Burson, said he is a wonderful teacher whose aim is to positively impact student lives.

“In just a short time, he inspired a classroom full of hopefuls to go beyond the normal realm of dreaming and tear down the veil to seek limitless dreaming with a sturdy foundation to start with,” she said. “He is a teacher capable of so many things, and the most important is instilling hope, grounding, diligence, and character in the youth of tomorrow with tools learned from the past.”

Audrey Ryan, who was also enrolled in a class Burson taught, said he is her favorite instructor. “His enthusiasm for not only IMC, but teaching is inspiring,” she said. “He is interested in each individual’s path and wants to learn about every student he teaches.

“You can tell his passion is teaching just by the way he interacts with his students, and the way he can build a bond with each student, and always have a way to relate to them. He is phenomenal at what he does, and as a person.”

Burson has found his passion, and he teaches students to never give up searching for what you’re passionate about. Take chances. Live life. Do what makes you happy, no matter where it might take you.

This story was written by Brandon Hancock for OxfordStories.net. To learn more about our program, email jour-imc@olemiss.edu.

UM School of Journalism and New Media graduates were stylish from head to toe

Posted on: May 12th, 2019 by ldrucker

University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media students showed off their graduation style from head to toe Saturday.

Many members of the class of 2019 sported creatively designed high heels and unique caps with funny or meaningful messages.

While some featured iconic elements of the Ole Miss campus, such as the Walk of Champions, others became canvases for paintings of the graduates, Bible verses and celebratory messages.

Take a look at the gallery of photos we snapped. Photos by students Halle Ames, Benton Dodd and Ingrid Valbuena.

School of Journalism and New Media professor named Chair of the Americas at University of Rennes

Posted on: May 9th, 2019 by ldrucker

University of Mississippi journalism professor Kathleen Wickham served as Chair of the Americas/Chair of the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Rennes in Brittany, France, while on sabbatical this spring.

It was Wickham’s second trip to France to teach. In 2016, while researching her book We Believed We Were Immortal: Twelve Reporters Who Covered the 1962 Integration Crisis at Ole Miss, about the killing of French journalist Paul Guihard in Oxford, she gave lectures at the Pantheon Sorbonne University and the University of Rennes 2.

“Paul Guihard serves as the link between Brittany and Ole Miss,” Wickham said. “He is the only reporter killed during the civil rights era. The fact that it occurred on our campus is a shame, but it also creates an opportunity today to let the world know we are not the same campus that we were in 1962.”

UM journalism professor Kathleen Wickham (standing) talks with students in her media ethics class. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

After that visit in 2016, Wickham learned of the Chair of the Americas position, applied and was approved to go this spring.

Wickham lectured on a variety of topics related to media coverage of civil rights and media ethics, specifically on “fake news” and the status of American media. She is also working to further relations between Ole Miss and the University of Rennes by serving as a link between the two universities to develop a student exchange program.

“Our Office of Global Engagement is working with their Rennes’ counterparts,” Wickham said. “The goal is to start a one-on-one student exchange and then expand as interest develops.”

Wickham said she always wanted to work abroad and has been grateful for the opportunity to do so this semester.

“The administration, faculty and students have been supportive, welcoming and engaging,” she said. “We have shared stories of academic life, discussed research and world affairs. Student issues are universal; faculty life similar with research, service responsibilities and committee work.”

Wickham believes her students also have benefitted.

“For most, it was the first time they have interacted with an American,” she said. “I am an animated teacher who asks students questions to generate a discussion.

“They all follow American politics and know far more about American culture than, I expect, American students know about France. I hope they viewed me as a good ambassador of the U.S. and Ole Miss.”

Her future Ole Miss students will benefit from her experiences in France, as well.

“I am going to add more international examples to my ethics casebook to expand the worldviews of my students. I also plan on developing a course on ‘fake news’ based on the course I taught in France.

“The issue is universal, and news organizations are now staffing desks with personnel whose task it is to ascertain the accuracy of facts, photographs and sources.”

Documentary UM student helped create wins Student Edward R. Murrow Award

Posted on: May 4th, 2019 by ldrucker

A documentary that a University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media student helped create has won the Student Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Digital Reporting.

The 2018 Carnegie-Knight News21 documentary “Hate in America” that UM student Brittany Brown helped create also recently won a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in the college category.

Brown was one of the students selected to participate in the national investigation into hate crimes in the U.S. as part of the 2017 Carnegie-Knight News21 multimedia reporting initiative.

The Quitman native has worked for the Student Media Center as a digital content producer, anchor and correspondent for NewsWatch Ole Miss, and as writer and assistant news editor for The Daily Mississippian.

She was an intern at WTOK-TV in Meridian and a research intern in the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Summer Research Program. She is former president of the University of Mississippi Association of Black Journalists.

Previously, Brown was honored for her work by the Radio-Television Digital News Association, the Broadcast Education Association and the Editor & Publisher EPPY Awards honoring the best in digital media.

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, joined Cronkite students for the 2018 investigation. They examined the major issues surrounding hate crimes in America.

The students participated in a spring semester seminar in which they conducted research, interviewed experts and began their reporting. The seminar was 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 in a news release.

Following the seminar, students moved into paid summer fellowships, during which they worked out of a newsroom at the Cronkite School in Phoenix and traveled 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 in a news release. “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.

UM Students Host Live Production at BEA Festival of Media Arts in Las Vegas

Posted on: April 29th, 2019 by ldrucker

UM School of Journalism and New Media students in a special topics class recently traveled to Las Vegas to host a live production during the Broadcast Education Association (BEA) Festival of Media Arts award show. Professors Iveta Imre, Mike Fagans and Ji Hoon Heo led the group of students.

The BEA Festival of Media Arts is an international exhibition of award-winning works chosen through these various competition categories: news, sports, documentary, and scriptwriting.

This year, the BEA Festival competition for faculty and students awarded 295 entries from more than 300 participating schools and had over 1,500 annual entries from around the world, according to their website.

The UM students in the class were each tasked with different responsibilities ranging from creating video features to on-screen graphics.

Sophomore Brian Barisa said his experience at the festival is something you just can’t get inside a classroom.

“At the BEA festival, I got more real-world experience,” Barisa said. “I got to learn what it’s like to work in these other roles of production outside of just NewsWatch and basic classwork.”

Festival Creative Director and UM Assistant Professor Iveta Imre has been attending the conference since 2005 and was officially tasked with hosting this year’s event.

“I think the biggest thing for the students was to get a different experience from everything else that they’ve been doing in the broadcast program,” Imre said. “They got to experience what it’s like to have a real live production in front of an audience, and you don’t really get a chance to do that often.”

Imre said her favorite part of the show was watching student features along with the crowd and hearing their reactions.

“We got some laughs and cries,” she said. “It was just so rewarding to see all these months of hard work come together to make this show a success.”

Irme will remain creative director for the next two years, she said, and UM students will continue to host the BEA festival during that time.

Aside from hosting the BEA award show, students who traveled to Las Vegas also got the opportunity to attend the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Conference.

The NAB Conference is an annual trade show that highlights and showcases various new media, entertainment, and technology.

“My favorite part about the trip would be the NAB show,” Barisa said. “I am a pretty big tech guy, so it was a lot of fun to go check out new gear and equipment that is now available in the industry.”

This story was written for HottyToddy.com by By Alec Kyzer-Andre. For more information about our program, email jour-imc@olemiss.edu.

Q & A with national Society of Professional Journalists winner Madison Scarpino

Posted on: April 29th, 2019 by ldrucker

University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media student Madison Scarpino will be honored for her 2018 work by the National Society of Professional Journalists.

Scarpino was the winner in the television breaking news category of the national SPJ competition. Her entry “Ole Miss community reacts to controversial Facebook post” aired on NewsWatch Ole Miss. In it, she explored both sides of the controversy.

SPJ Mark of Excellence judges pick one winner and up to two finalists in each category in the 12 regions, then the top winners in each region compete against one another for the national awards. All of the biggest and most prestigious universities enter SPJ.

We asked Scarpino a few questions about her win.

Q. How did you feel when you learned you won the award?

A. I was shocked at first. I never thought one of my news packages would get such recognition, especially on a national level. I feel so incredibly honored and humbled to have won.

Q. For those who don’t know, for which story did you win the award?

A. I won the breaking news category for the National Society of Professional Journalists. The news package that won was titled “Ole Miss Community Reacts to Controversial Facebook Post,” and it focused on the controversy surrounding Ed Meek’s arguably racist Facebook post.

Q. Why do you think the judges selected your story or work for this award?

A. I think the judges selected my story because it focused on an issue that is prevalent in today’s society. I also got opinions from both sides on the situation, whether being against or for Ed Meek’s post, to ensure the story was not biased.

Q. What are your career aspirations?

A. My dream in life is to host a national show and focus on soft news, entertainment, lifestyle, etc. I would absolutely love to be in front of the camera on a show such as “Good Morning America,” “The Today Show” or “E! News.” Regardless of where my career path takes me, I have such a passion for news and storytelling, so I would be happy with any on-camera reporting job.

Recent graduate Ariel Cobbert was also a finalist in the photography breaking news category of the national SPJ compeition. Cobbert is being honored for one of her Daily Mississippian photos from the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination anniversary event in Memphis.

If you are interested in joining the SPJ, email ldrucker@olemiss.edu to learn more.

University of Mississippi journalism student among Hugh M. Hefner Foundation honorees

Posted on: April 4th, 2019 by ldrucker

The Hugh M. Hefner Foundation will honor a University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media student at its annual First Amendment Awards event May 15, 2019, at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Grace Marion, a journalism student who serves as the Society of Professional Journalists president, will be honored with others recognized for their efforts to help protect and enhance First Amendment rights for all Americans and to raise awareness of modern-day challenges to freedom of speech and expression.

As the former editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper, The Playwickian, Marion fought against school censorship after she saw about a dozen articles censored.

“Marion was able to publish her final jaw-dropping article during her last year at the school, which outed the school for the lack of sexual misconduct records for its teachers,” the foundation news release reads.

SPJ President Grace Marion, center, at the recent Nashville SPJ conference. She is pictured with UM journalism student, Brooke McNabb, SPJ vice president, right.

According to the Freedom Forum, more Americans are concerned about their First Amendment rights than at any time in the past 25 years, the release reports.

“Recent concerns stem from censorship issues on school campuses and social media, attacks on reporters and threats to the press, and the growing threat of new technology, such as tracking devices and facial recognition software,” the release reports. “As threats to the press reach an all-time high, the Newseum, the Freedom Forum Institute and the Student Press Law Center have declared 2019 as the Year of the Student Journalist.”

Christie Hefner, founder and chairman of the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Awards said Americans’ First Amendment freedoms are under assault like never before.

“From a reporter being stripped of his White House press pass, to newsrooms being threatened and attacked, members of the press are being viciously targeted while ‘fake news’ has become a common term used by politicians and the public,” Hefner said in the news release. “Millions of students are exposed to a censorship culture within our education system as free speech violations take place at our schools and on college campuses. We cannot allow First Amendment threats to become commonplace in our country.”

Christie Hefner established the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Awards in 1979 to honor her father’s lifelong commitment to defending the First Amendment. Since 1979, the Foundation has recognized 150+ free speech advocates at their annual awards events. Previous honorees include high school students, lawyers, librarians, journalists and educators. A complete list of past award winners and judges can be found here.

“Because of the dedication and commitment of Americans who refuse to be censored, threats to the First Amendment do not go unchallenged,” Christie Hefner continued in the news release. “We honor and recognize America’s unsung heroes: the individuals who put themselves and their organizations at risk by bravely defending their constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression. The Foundation is honored to recognize this year’s award winners who were carefully selected from hundreds of nominations. Assaults to the First Amendment cannot go unnoticed. We’ll continue to raise awareness of these violations and recognize America’s brave free speech heroes.”

The 2019 honorees also include:

  • Law: Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr., a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and global co-chair of the firm’s Litigation Group, for his work on behalf of CNN and Jim Acosta in connection with the restoration of Acosta’s White House press credentials.
  • Government: Dr. George Luber, former chief of the Climate and Health Program in the Division of Environmental Health Science and Practice at the National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). After the 2016 election, Dr. Luber was directed to cancel a conference on climate change with Al Gore; he refused on the basis of science education and was outspoken on the issue. The CDC sent Dr. Luber home on administrative leave. After taking a public stand, the CDC withdrew Dr. Luber’s proposed termination.
  • Book Publishing: Greg Lukianoff, president and CEO, FIRE, & Jonathan Haidt, social psychologist, NYU’s Stern School of Business, for their book, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.
  • Education: Christian Bales, an openly gay and gender non-conforming student, who was not allowed to deliver his valedictorian commencement speech at his Catholic high school’s graduation ceremony. Bales decided to deliver his speech with a bullhorn following the graduation ceremony surrounded by students and faculty.
  • Lifetime Achievement: Floyd Abrams, senior counsel, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, for his lifelong devotion to constitutional law. Abrams has argued numerous significant First Amendment cases in the U.S. Supreme Court. Many arguments he has made orally and in his briefs to the Court have been adopted by it as binding precedent protecting freedom of speech and the press from infringement by the government.

After a public call for nominations issued by the Foundation, the awardees were selected by an independent panel of judges: Karen Tumulty, a columnist and former national political correspondent for The Washington Post who writes frequently on free speech and the First Amendment; Neal Katyal, the Paul and Patrician Saunders Professor of Law at Georgetown University, a partner at Hogan Lovells, and former acting solicitor general of the United States; and Michael B. Keegan, president of People for the American Way and People for the American Way Foundation.

The Hugh M. Hefner Foundation was established to work on behalf of individual rights in a democratic society.  The primary focus of the foundation is to support organizations that advocate for and defend civil rights and civil liberties with special emphasis on First Amendment rights and rational sex and drug policies.

AP reporter Emily Wagster Pettus wins Silver Em award

Posted on: March 31st, 2019 by ldrucker

The Silver Em Awards Ceremony was held Wednesday, April 3, at the Inn at Ole Miss, the same evening dozens of journalism and integrated marketing communication students received awards for excellence.

Emily Wagster Pettus, who has been reporting on Mississippi government since 1994, was selected as the 2018 Silver Em winner.

As news staffs shrink across the country, state government reporters like Pettus have become an endangered species. Those who remain in the role understand the importance of their work in our democracy.

Emily Wagster Pettus

“When there are fewer news outlets sending local reporters to cover the state capitol, there is less coverage of local issues considered by the Legislature,” she said.

Pettus, who grew up in Texas, spent a year between high school and college as an exchange student in West Germany, then attended the University of Mississippi, majoring in journalism and German. She graduated in 1989 and worked for nearly a year at the Vicksburg Evening Post.

In May 1990, she began working for The Clarion-Ledger as the Rankin County reporter. Two years later, she moved to Ocean Springs in 1992 to work as the newspaper’s one-person Gulf Coast bureau reporter.

“It was a great job because my editors were hours away and they trusted me to cover the biggest stories in the region,” Pettus said.

During the fall of 1993, Pettus was on loan from The Clarion-Ledger to USA TODAY in Virginia, working as a copy editor for the international edition of USAT. In 1994, she was back in Jackson working as a legislative reporter for The Clarion-Ledger.

She began working for the Associated Press in January of 2001 covering mostly Mississippi politics. Pettus said she’s aware the job is particularly important during challenging times for news organizations.

The latest Pew Research Center study about statehouse reporters found that there were around 1,500 U.S. journalists who work to inform the public about the actions and issues of state government. Of those, nearly half do it full time, averaging 15 full-time reporters per state, even though numbers vary per state, often depending on population.

Emily Wagster Pettus during a recent Overby Center program about Mississippi Politics.

“I always think it’s better having more reporters covering state government, obviously, to hold the government accountable to the general public,” Pettus said. “In Mississippi, we used to have a full-time press corps of eight people. That declined a while, but it has actually gone back up in the last couple of years.”

Pettus estimates the number of Mississippi statehouse reporters is equal to the Pew Research Center study’s national average of 15 per state.

The Pew study also reported:

  • Fewer than a third of U.S. newspapers assign any kind of reporter – full time or part time – to the statehouse.
  • A majority of local TV news stations – 86 percent – do not assign even one reporter – full or part time – to the statehouse.
  • About one in six, or 16 percent, of all statehouse reporters work for nontraditional outlets, such as digital-only sites and non-profit organizations.
  • Students account for 14 percent of statehouse reporters.
  • Around 9 percent of all state legislative reporters work for wire services like Pettus. The majority of wire service reporters work for the AP.

While her main responsibility has been covering Mississippi government – (you can read her observations in real time at the hashtag #msleg on Twitter) – Pettus said she has covered a variety of stories.

“One of the greatest things about having a general assignment job is I’ve gotten to cover some interesting civil rights stories,” she said. “In 2005, I covered the trial of Edgar Ray Killen, who was convicted for the 1964 killings of civil rights activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in Neshoba County. In 2007, I covered the federal trial of (Ku Klux Klan member) James Ford Seale, who was convicted in the kidnapping that led to the death of two young black men, Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee, in Southwest Mississippi, also in 1964.”

Pettus said she is honored to be among other Silver Em award winners and proud she spent part of her career working for UM’s campus newspaper The Daily Mississippian and The Oxford Eagle.

Will Norton, Ph.D., dean of the UM School of Journalism and New Media, said Pettus is smart, a hard worker, and a terrific reporter.

“She has more than a quarter of a century experience,” Norton said. “She has devoted herself to covering Mississippi. She has reported in-depth, on deadline and always accurately . . . Emily is a person of integrity. She can be trusted.”

Curtis Wilkie, Overby Fellow and assistant professor of journalism, agrees that Pettus has earned the trust of her readers.

“She is one of the best reporters around and has been for as long as she has been reporting, quickly and reliably, all the news out of Mississippi for the Associated Press,” he said.

The Silver Em award dates to 1958, and recipients must be Mississippians with notable journalism careers or journalists with notable careers in Mississippi.

This article was written by LaReeca Rucker. For more information about the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media’s programs, email jour-imc@olemiss.edu.