School of Journalism and New Media

The University of Mississippi

Alumni Update: J. Mark Bryant (’79)

Posted on: April 24th, 2017 by jheo1

I arrived at Ole Miss in the fall of 1975 with high expectations as I entered the Pre-Med curriculum.

It took only one semester for me to turn the rudder in another direction (I still don’t understand the difference between Meiosis and Mitosis). But once I returned from Christmas to find out that 85 percent of my class had failed, the “C” that I earned didn’t look as bad as I first thought.

Having received an English scholarship for some articles I had written in high school, I turned my interest to Journalism.

I was shocked when I was expected to turn in “three stories a week” to The Daily Mississippian. There were many days after I graduated that I wrote five articles in a day.

I was among the lucky ones, as I was offered a job during Christmas of my senior year to work in Pascagoula, at my hometown newspaper: The Mississippi Press. I would stay there for 19 years, the majority in sports but the final two years as Managing Editor. In that time, I remembered covering the Super Bowl in New Orleans one day and a junior high basketball tournament the next.

By this time I had fallen in love, and followed my fiancée to Birmingham. One of the two daily papers at that time was a fellow Newhouse publication, and I was able to transfer in 1998. We remained there until 2003, when I was allowed to transfer to Mobile because of my mother’s health. So until 2012, I had worked 33 years for the same company.

Then we saw the report about the Times-Picayune being gutted. We knew immediately all the Newhouse papers in Alabama and Mississippi would follow. I was prepared to return to my reporting duties, but even those positions were soon gone.

I was given 11 months of severance. I thought this would give me plenty of time to find a job. Several friends were surprised that I was staying in Mobile, because all I had ever done was work for a daily newspaper. Since moving back to the Gulf Coast, I had purchased a house and had fallen in love with my new town.

Then reality sunk in for a 55-year-old job seeker. In the first nine months, I applied for 100 jobs. The few interviews I received said the same thing: “overqualified.” I then read an article on Linked In about this same situation and what to do.

Next up was an interview to be a secretary for the Mobile County Health Department. Once I got seated, they said I had a great résumé but was “overqualified.” Because of the article, I quickly responded with “Thank You!” They were stunned, but I continued. “This is a government job with a fixed pay scale? There is no negotiating salary? So don’t you want the most overqualified person you can get?”

The next day they called and offered the job. I was completely bored 50 percent of the time, but I was paying my mortgage. I quickly learned to beg people for extra work, which they were happy to provide.

I did take a promotion to serve as Grant Writer, but it was a disaster. The technical aspects of the job were something that I failed to grasp. The job was vital, since our health department is independent and receives no tax funding. After one year, I resigned the post and went back into the secretarial pool.

Then a former Press-Register colleague left as Public Information Officer for another entity. The administrators were desperate to complete the daily duties. I began to “volunteer” and was soon the de facto PIO. When the job officially was opened to candidates, I still had to apply through the county’s Personnel Board and go through the interview process.

Thanks to my months of filling in as a temp, I already had my foot in the door. But it wasn’t until they told me in person of their final decision that I could breathe again.

I have certainly enjoyed the job. They all laughed when I told them I actually started at Ole Miss in Pre-Med, but the labs kept me from getting a good seat for happy hour at The Gin. MCHD serves an important role in the community, and just celebrated its bicentennial in 2016.

On the side, I have kept busy writing a sports column for a weekly newspaper in Mobile called “Lagniappe.” It is a French term for “a little something extra.” I joke that MCHD pays my mortgage while Lagniappe covers my bar tab. When I told this to one of the paper’s owners, their response was that they were obviously paying me too much.

As for my personal life, I am happily married with no children. This Fourth of July will mark 30 years since I met my Donna, but we did not get married until 1999. She actually proposed to me at a Valentine’s Day dinner.

If you remember Mike Wixon, he still lives in Pascagoula. He left the newspaper world many years ago, and has been involved with real estate. He is a very happy grandpa who rides his bike (his bad back from basketball won’t allow him to play golf anymore).

I was on the Ole Miss campus last week. I have been telling people I felt like I was at Epcot because it was all too perfect.

If you would like to see some of my sports writing, please visit

As for my “real” job, we just uploaded our 2016 Annual Report to