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The Almost Martyr: A tribute to Rep. John Lewis

Posted on: July 31st, 2020 by drwenger

In 2014, students from the School of Journalism & New Media explored the impact of the Voting Rights Act in the Delta, 50 years after its passage. As part of that series of stories, student reporter Clancy Smith produced the following piece, which profiles Rep. John Lewis. We thought it fitting to publish it again in honor of the passing of this venerable civil rights leader.

Sunlight filters through tall leafy oak trees in the center of the Ole Miss campus as graduates and parents wait restlessly for law school commencement.

On a shaded wooden platform, Georgia Congressmen John Lewis, the featured speaker, is flanked by two flags. On his right waves the American flag, on his left the Mississippi flag with the age-old symbol of the Confederacy in its upper right-hand corner. Lewis doesn’t give it a glance. He could speak about the troubled history of this most southern of southern schools, how in 1962 a bloody riot accompanied the enrollment of its first black student, James Meredith. He could speak of how, just a few weeks ago, some students placed a hangman’s noose around the neck of the statue or Meredith on the same campus. He could speak of how he was once beaten nearly to death of the cause of the civil rights.

Instead, he preaches a sermon of hope, a sermon of love. “If someone had told me when I first came to Mississippi on the Freedom Ride that I would be standing here today, I would have said you are crazy, you’re out of your mind, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” he says. But today, at 74, he says he loves Mississippi. “When people tell me nothing has changed in Mississippi, I say walk in my shoes! This is a different state. We are better people.

…It doesn’t matter if we are black or white. We are one people and one family. We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters and live in peace.” When he is done, the overwhelmingly white audience gives him a standing ovation, a stark contrast to what he experienced when he visited the state for the first time in 1961. At that time no one would listen to him at all.

Even now, almost 50 years later, it is hard to watch the film. John Lewis leads a band of unarmed protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. Suddenly, state troopers attack with billy clubs. Deputies on horseback charge the marchers.

A defenseless John Lewis is clubbed to the ground from behind. The blows crack his skull, rendering him unconscious.

The images of that attack helped prod Congress into passing the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965, which changed the face of the South by making it easier for black people to vote.

For Lewis, Selma was just another day at the office. During the 1960s, he absorbed hate and violence like few ever have. He was hit over the head with a Coca-Cola crate, pummeled with the fists of angry white men, jailed 40 times, all for daring to challenge segregation.

Through it all, he never abandoned his vow of non-violence, never stopped believing that one day race would no longer be an issue in this nation so long divided by the color of a man’s skin.

Today, the young preacher boy who couldn’t get a public library card or drink from the  “Whites Only” water fountain is the Democrats’ deputy whip in the U.S. House of Representatives, a senior statesman of civil rights whose gentle spirit is legend.

As a young boy growing up in the country outside of Troy, Ala., John Lewis was acutely aware that black and white were treated differently. He didn’t like the overcrowded classrooms, hand-me-down books or raggedy school bus that drove him and his friends past the newly renovated school for white children.

“I kept asking questions. Why? Why?” Lewis said. “And my mother and father and grandparents would say, “That’s the way it is. Don’t get in the way. Don’t get in trouble.”

In 1957, at 17, Lewis applied to all-white Troy State University without telling his family. The college never responded. Instead of giving up, Lewis wrote a letter to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I told him I needed his help. He wrote me back and sent me a round-trip Greyhound bus ticket,” said Lewis. “He invited me to come to Montgomery to meet with him.”

Meanwhile, Lewis’s mother, who worked in the laundry room at a Southern Baptist orphanage, learned about the American Baptist Theological Seminary for black students in Nashville. In September of 1957, Lewis hopped on a Greyhound bus to Nashville to study religion and philosophy, working his way through school. At spring break, Lewis accepted King’s invitation and traveled to meet him at the First Baptist Church of Montgomery.

“I was lost for words to say, and he said, ‘Are you the boy from Troy? Are you John Lewis? And I said, ‘Dr. King, I am John Robert Lewis.’ I gave him my whole name,” said Lewis. “And that was the beginning.”

Lewis and King became fast friends.

“I loved him, “ said Lewis. “He was my hero and if it hadn’t been for him, I don’t know what would have happened to me. He gave me a way out.”

King offered to help Lewis file suit to get into Troy State.

He urged Lewis to talk with his parents before making a decision.

“I went back and my mother and father were so frightened,” said Lewis. “They didn’t want to have anything to do with my attempting to go there. They thought they would lose the land, my home would be bombed or burned.” Lewis returned to Nashville to continue his education, working first in the kitchen, then on the food line and eventually as a janitor in the administration building. The janitorial position became particularly helpful when the student sit-in movement swept through the South.

“I was able to get a secretary in administration to do the typing,” said Lewis. “And I liberated a ream of paper and we had these do’s and don’ts: don’t laugh out loud, don’t talk back, look straight ahead, read your book, do your homework, sit up straight and all of that.”

He graduated while imprisoned in 1961.

“I didn’t even march or participate in my graduation,” Lewis said.

Instead, he was in a maximum-security cell at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, more famously known as Parchman Prison. In the spring of 1961, he had joined the Freedom Riders who traveled on buses through the South to help desegregate interstate transportation, including bus station restrooms and cafes.

One bus was attacked and burned as the riders narrowly escaped. During a stop in Montgomery, white thugs ambushed the Freedom Riders and beat them. Dozens were injured. “I was hit in the head with a wooden crate, a Coca-Cola crate of all things,” said Lewis. “Had to get a big patch on my head.” When the riders got to Jackson, they were shipped off for a 44-day stay at Parchman. There, prisoners were not allowed to go outside and only showered twice a week.

“Once people were singing their freedom songs and the guards would say, ‘If you don’t stop singing your freedom song, we are going to take your mattress,’” said Lewis. “So, people started improvising and making up songs so they couldn’t take our mattress.”

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy invited a small group of civil rights leaders to the White House. Lewis, who only days before had been named chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was the youngest of the group that included Martin Luther King, Jr. and A. Phillip Randolph, among others. They told Kennedy they planned a peaceful march on Washington. On August 28, 1963, that dream became a reality. What leaders expected to be 60,000 to 70,000 participants turned into 250,000. The dramatic scene is credited with helping pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“We were coming down Constitution Avenue, and we saw hundreds and thousands of people coming out of Union Station, so we knew then it was going to be many more people,” said Lewis. “It was very moving, just gratifying.”

Lewis, the youngest of six speakers at the March on Washington, was 23 the day he stepped up to the podium between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

“I looked to my right. I saw all these young people, black and white, standing there cheering me on, and then I looked straight ahead and I saw all those young people, men, women,” said Lewis. “I’ll never see a sight like that again.”

In 1964, what would later be called “Freedom Summer,” thousands of students from the North came south to help register black voters. As chairman of SNCC, Lewis recruited people to travel to Mississippi. “Back in 1964, the state had a very large African-American population, but only a few people were registered to vote,” said Lewis. “We wanted to change that.”  Few people registered that summer, but the group made progress in organizing and energizing young blacks.

They were also met with violence. Three civil rights workers, James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael “Mickey” Schwerner, went missing that summer near Philadelphia, Mississippi. Murdered by the Ku Klux Klan, their bodies were discovered six weeks later.

“That was a very sad and difficult time,” said Lewis. But the seeds of political activism had been planted. “I think in Mississippi, during the summer in those early years, the African-American community in the state became probably the most politically involved and aware of any African-American community of any other southern state,” Lewis said. Though progress remained slow, Lewis said Freedom Summer had an impact not only on Mississippi, but on the entire nation.

“What happened that summer and years following, it helped educate and sensitize and motivate people all across America,” he said.

A year later, a peaceful march in protest of the killing of a young man shot by a state trooper stands out as one of Lewis’ most frightening experiences. SNCC began its protest walk from Selma to Montgomery on March 7, 1965. Lewis came prepared. He assumed the group would be arrested so he wore a backpack with two books to read, an apple and orange to eat and toothpaste and a toothbrush to brush his teeth. When they paused to pray after being ordered to disperse, state troopers and deputies advanced, hitting people with nightsticks and bullwhips, trampling then with horses and releasing tear gas. “I thought I was going to die,” said Lewis, who suffered a concussion. “I thought I saw death, but somehow I survived.”

Amidst the beatings, hatred and imprisonment, Lewis never considered giving up. Fear never hindered him.

“For a lot of people, fear is natural for them,” he said. “But you come to that point, you lose that sense of fear and you find something that you believe in that is so right and so necessary that you’re prepared to stand up for it, fight for it, and if necessary, die for it.”

Through his many trips to Washington, D.C., and conversations with elected officials, Lewis got interested in politics as a way to change things. When Robert Kennedy announced that he was running for president, Lewis offered to help.

Soon he found himself organizing voter registration efforts for the RFK campaign in Indianapolis. It was there, on April 4, 1968, that he heard of King’s assassination.

“I was stunned and saddened, and I cried like the great majority of the people,” said Lewis. “I went back to Atlanta and helped prepare for the services, and sort of dropped out of the campaign for a week or so. Then I got back on the campaign trail.”

Lewis worked hard, knocking on doors to help Kennedy win the Democratic primary in California. On election night, after the victory, Kennedy invited Lewis and a few others to his hotel suite to celebrate.

Kennedy joked lightheartedly with his visitors and invited them to stay while he went down to give a speech.

“So we watched his speech on television that evening, and later when this bulletin came on that he had been shot we all just dropped to the floor and cried, and I just wanted to get out of L.A.,” said Lewis. “I just wanted to make it back to Georgia.”

Disheartened by the passing of two dear friends, Lewis made a promise to himself to continue the work of those leaders whom he so greatly admired.

“I said to myself then that if I could do something to pick up where Robert Kennedy and Dr. King and others left off, I would do it,” said Lewis.

After losing a first race for Congress, Lewis went to work for President Jimmy Carter in Washington, D.C. He returned to Atlanta after three years and got elected to the city council. A U.S. House seat in Atlanta came open again in 1986 when incumbent Rep. Andrew Young resigned to become Carter’s ambassador to the United Nations. Lewis ran again. This time, he was elected.

“And I haven’t had a tough race since,” he said. “This year, not anyone is running against me.”

“Lewis is a member of the Ways and Means committee, dealing with issues related to taxes, revenue, Social Security and Medicare. He is also heavily involved in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform. In fact, his most recent arrest in October 2013 centered on a protest against the lack of immigration reform.

It marked the fortieth time Lewis has been arrested while standing up for what he believes is right.

“It’s a form of speech almost,” said Lewis. “As Dr. King would say, you have a right to protest for what is right. You have a right to petition the government. So, it’s a different way, a different means of petitioning your government, to make your concern known, to help to dramatize the issue.”

After the U.S. Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act, Lewis began pushing a new voting rights law to restore some of the protections the court eliminated. He wants to make voting less complicated and more accessible so everyone can participate.

“My own feeling is that the national election, the general election, should be a holiday,” Lewis said. “If voting is so important to our democratic society, just make it a national holiday and let everybody vote.”

Lewis credits his faith for helping him handle the challenges thrown his way. “Without my faith, I’m not so sure I would’ve survived,” he said. “It’s that belief…, that sense of hope, that sense of optimism, that sense that you can overcome, and it’s also that sense of you have to work and believe that what you’re working toward, in a sense, it’s already done.”

Though harboring resentment would be easy, Lewis has never succumbed to anger.

“I tell young children all the time ‘never hate,’” said Lewis. “Dr. King would say ‘hate is too heavy a burden to bear.’ You destroy yourself. The best thing to do is be hopeful, be optimistic, and continue to work.”

He knows there is work still to be done, but the change he has already seen leaves him encouraged.

“I see the changes that have occurred in the state,” said Lewis. “The state of Mississippi has the highest number of black elected officials in any state. I meet people, young people, people not so young, all over the country who say, ‘I’m from Mississippi, I grew up in Mississippi, I followed you.’”



UM recent graduates sweep public relations awards

Posted on: July 30th, 2020 by ldrucker

Students win 10 out of 14 awards presented by the Public Relations Association of Mississippi, including Best in Show

School of Journalism and New Media recent graduates swept the awards for student work in the 2020 Public Relations Association of Mississippi student competition, including one student winning overall Best in Show.

JNM graduates won 10 of the 14 total awards presented in the competition open to students at all Mississippi universities.

In addition, broadcast journalism major Karsyn King was recognized for previously being named Outstanding PR Student.

“The students of the University of Mississippi set themselves apart from an outstanding field of entries,” said Rob Pettit, PRAM vice president for awards. “Our judges felt their award-winning work was exceptional.”

The students, who all earned the PR specialization, entered public relations campaigns they created in Senior Lecturer Robin Street’s advanced PR class. Each campaign was designed to increase awareness or change opinion on a topic of their choice.

The awards were presented in a webinar July 22, replacing the previously scheduled April ceremony that was delayed by COVID-19 issues.

Awards were given at three levels, based on the number of points judges award each entry. The top award is the Prism, followed by the Excellence and Merit awards. Multiple students can win in the same award if they earn the required number of points.

IMC major Sarah Biedermann of Keller, Texas, won a Prism and Student Best in Show award for her campaign “Empower Her.”

“I created Empower Her to educate women on their legal rights,” Biedermann said. “I truly believe that when women are educated on their rights, they are empowered to become the best that they can; every woman deserves that opportunity.”

Also winning Prism awards were IMC majors Tristen Bloxsom of Uvalde, Texas, for “Live Life Uninterrupted” on preventive college health and Hannah Williamson of Maumelle, Arkansas, for “Conquering Grief: Anger, Justification and Healing.”

Williamson’s campaign was inspired by her personal experience.

“The Anger, Justification, Healing” in the title summarizes the five stages of grief but also represents the initials of my late cousin, who I lost right before starting this project,” Williamson said. “I’m so thankful for all Ms. Street taught me through the process of creating this campaign while also allowing me a unique way to heal as a grieving college student.”

Four IMC majors won Excellence Awards.

  • Bridgette Carbon of Bloomingdale, Illinois, won for “Are you Ready?” about “adulting” skills.
  • Rachel Lane of Kennett, Missouri, won for “Planned Puppyhood” on spaying and neutering.
  • Jacob Palmer of Grenada won for “Go Green Mississippi” on climate change.
  • Clay Patrick of Meridian won two awards, one for “More than Medication,” on the importance of pharmacists, and another for graphics.

Two students won Merit Awards.

  • IMC major Courtney Pugh of Tupelo won for “Rebel-ing Against Depression,” on clinical depression.
  • Marketing and Corporate Relations major Sommer Grace Weldon of Brentwood, Tennessee, won for “Spend, Save, Soar” on budgeting.

Each campaign required multi-faceted skills including writing news articles, shooting video and photos, planning attention-getting events, conducting research and creating social media posts.

“Today’s communication specialists require skills in research and planning, as well as in all forms of communication including writing, designing, photography, video, social media and website creation,” Street said. “These students demonstrated that they excel in this diverse skill set thanks to the preparation they received from all the faculty members at the School of Journalism and New Media.”

Register now for these hybrid journalism and IMC classes that offer face-to-face instruction

Posted on: July 30th, 2020 by ldrucker

The University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media still has openings in two hybrid courses that offer face-to-face interaction this fall.

Hybrid 2 ~ Fall Section 2 for Jour 101 Media, News and Audience will be offered MWF from 8 a.m. to 8:50 a.m. in Brevard Room 134. It will be taught by Roy Alan Frostenson.

The class is described as an introduction to the various facets of communication from the world of news media to the persuasive realms of marketing, advertising, public relations, and social media. The course will also strengthen your knowledge of the media and communication industries, their history and current practices, their content, and their effects on us, as individuals, and society.

media web design

media and web design

Hybrid 3 ~ Fall Section 3 for IMC 104 Introduction to Integrated Marketing Communications will be offered MWF from 3 p.m. to 3:50 p.m. in Farley Room 202. It will be taught by Deborah Woodrick Hall.

The class introduces the basic disciplines of IMC: advertising, sales promotion, public relations, direct marketing, database marketing, Internet marketing communication, and relationship marketing.

Register now.

What do you miss about Oxford? School of Journalism and New Media students respond

Posted on: July 20th, 2020 by ldrucker

Samir Husni, Ph.D., director of the Magazine Innovation Center, professor and Hederman Lecturer, asked his students a simple question recently via text. What do you miss about Oxford?

What follows are the responses of more than 50 students from 16 states, the United Kingdom and Japan.

This story is part of our series called Postcards From Oxford: Wish You Were Here. We’ll be sharing iconic photographs of Oxford from our student journalists and videos from some who are living through the pandemic.

Postcards from Oxford

Postcards from Oxford

What do you miss about Oxford?

  1. “Walking around our beautiful campus, getting to bump into people you know and hug them and chat. That’s what gets me through my days, and you can’t do it from home.
  2. “What I miss most about campus is my dorm and the friends that I made in there. I also miss Raising Canes a lot, and the closest one to Huntsville is two hours away.
  3. “I miss everything about campus, honestly.”
  4. “I miss the Grove. Because I live in Oxford, I can just drive to campus any time I want, so I got to see it yesterday, but I still miss living on campus and seeing the Grove with my friends.”
  5. “I miss how pretty it is in Oxford in the spring and just being outside walking around campus.”
  6. “I miss the beautiful spring flowers and view at the Grove!”
  7. “Being around all of my friends and meeting new people.”
  8. “I miss the Union. I miss walking around and seeing people I know.”
  9. “What I miss most on campus is everything. Ole Miss is my second home and not being there is breaking my heart. Hopefully, we will all be back soon!”
  10. “I miss seeing the Grove. I imagine the trees are beginning to look great for summer.”
  11. “I miss seeing people every day.”
  12. “I miss the new life I had adjusted too in Oxford, and I am quite upset to miss the second semester living there.”
  13. “I miss walking around campus and seeing all the welcoming faces of the students and faculty at Ole Miss.”
  14. “I miss the atmosphere and being with all of my out-of-state friends.”
  15. “I miss seeing my friends on campus and meeting new people. I just moved here January, so it sucks having to leave so soon.”
  16. “I miss being with my sorority and baseball games.”
  17. “I miss a lot of things from campus, walking to class is one of my favorite things, especially in the spring time.”
  18. I miss walking through the Grove to go to my morning classes. It was always so beautiful and relaxing especially in the morning.”
  19. “I’ve also missed our beautiful campus a lot. I love just walking around and seeing friendly faces.”
  20. “What I miss about campus is being able to go to my fraternity house to eat and hangout with my friends.”
  21. “I miss everything about our beautiful campus. In my dorm, I have a tapestry on my wall that says “Mississippi is my happy place.” I also miss my friends, specifically, my roommate and I because we are best friends and sorority sisters, so it’s hard being away from her.”
  22. “I really miss seeing my friends and sorority sisters!”
  23. “I miss just about everything from campus. If I could go back, I would in a heartbeat.”
  24. “I also miss all my friends living five minutes away from me when I was on campus.”
  25. “I miss the community, friends just everything as a whole. Being a freshman was scary at first, but turned out to be the best experience, and I’m sad it got cut short.”
  26. “I miss walking to class through the Grove and studying in the J.D. Williams Library.”
  27. “I miss learning in person, I like in person lectures as opposed to online classes. I also miss getting to eat lunch at my sorority house with my friends every day.”
  28. “Walking to class in the Grove!”
  29. “I miss the general atmosphere, the hustle and bustle of fellow students doing the same as me, trying to better themselves.”
  30. “I miss walking to class. I loved to look at the campus and all the squirrels and just seeing my friends. I really think I took advantage of not walking more around campus, but I miss walking through the Grove the most.”
  31. “I miss my friends and the spirit on the campus.”
  32. “This was my first semester at Ole Miss so I miss everything the campus and Oxford had to offer.”
  33. “I miss seeing the flowers in the spring and seeing friends!”
  34. “I miss the beautiful campus. I always walked through the Grove on my way to your class, and I’m sure it is really green and pretty right now. Sitting out there in the sunshine would be nice.”
  35. “I miss the Union.”
  36. “I miss all my friends and living in a dorm with everyone. Also, I just miss campus in general.”
  37. “More than all I miss being in Oxford, and I miss living with my roommate, and not being on campus is a bummer.”
  38. “I miss walking through the Grove and the library and the Circle and the uplifting atmosphere.”
  39. “I miss being able to walk to my classes on campus. I enjoyed those walks.”
  40. “I miss being able to use flex to buy food.”
  41. “I miss everything about campus! From class, to the dorms, to baseball games, it all is so sad!”
  42. “I miss the Grove and my sorority house the most.”
  43. “I miss walking on campus every day and seeing all my friends. Campus is so beautiful in the spring, so I really miss seeing all the flowers and the trees.”
  44. “I miss walking in the Grove and looking at the beautiful landscape. I also miss my dorm and the people I was living with.”
  45. “Something I miss from campus would definitely be my privacy.”
  46. “I miss being on campus with my friends and walking around.”
  47. “I miss everything about the Ole Miss campus, but specifically I miss the walk from my class in Lamar to my class in Brevard so I could walk through the Grove and the Circle. It was the most peaceful walk.”
  48. “I miss everything from campus. I miss walking around and seeing how beautiful it is. I’m especially mad about missing it this time of the year when everything is blooming and the tulips are back. But mostly, I miss seeing my friends every day.”
  49. “I miss the Circle on campus. Walking past it every day made me really happy to see the tall trees and the flag.”
  50. “I miss seeing friends while walking from class to class on campus. That and the cute little robots!”
  51. “I miss being on campus because of friends and just my life. I love it and it’s really bewildering to me that we are in times like this. But, this too shall pass!”
  52. “The campus was always so beautiful and always gave off good, positive vibes. I also loved how I could walk to class and always count on seeing someone I know. I also miss my college friends so much. They always made me so happy and always encouraged me to do what made me happy. I was upset that second semester was cut short, but hopefully we are all able to return in the fall and get back on track.”

UM journalism professor publishes American Journalism article about civil rights coverage

Posted on: July 1st, 2020 by ldrucker

A University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media professor has published an academic journal article about civil rights coverage.

Dr. Kathleen Wickham, professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media, published The Magnifying Effect of Television News: Civil Rights Coverage and Eyes on the Prize in the recent edition of American Journalism.

Kathleen Wickham

Kathleen Wickham

Dr. Wickham’s research on the article started when she held a research fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis.

The key to the article was the discovery of audio tapes in the Washington University archives from the pre-production sessions where Executive Producer Henry Hampton invited civil rights activists, journalists and historians to put the events in time and place. The article was accompanied by an author interview.

UM senior working on News 21 project wins top college honors in Louisiana-Mississippi AP competition

Posted on: June 29th, 2020 by ldrucker

The Reward of Public Service

A University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media student, who is spending his summer reporting for News 21 – an award-winning investigative reporting project from the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University – recently won two top awards in the college division of the Louisiana – Mississippi Associated Press Broadcasters and Media Editors competition. Matthew Hendley won first place in the TV Reporter category, and his television reporting work was named Best In Show.

The two-state competition, which received more than 1,200 entries, is sponsored by the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. The AP is a not-for-profit news cooperative representing thousands of U.S. media organizations.

“I believe it was for my 2019 reporting reel, in which I covered the pro-Confederate marches, the Associated Student Body resolution to move the Confederate statue, and several feature stories, including one on Ole Miss’ male cheerleaders and another on student-firefighters at Ole Miss,” said Hendley, who was happy to be recognized for stories he was interested in telling.

“The awards have been fantastic and very affirming,” he said. “But the last few years have taught me that the real reward in journalism is knowing that you’ve done a public service, that your work has made a positive impact and has instituted real change.

“That’s why I’m pursuing a career in this field. I hope to be able to say that is what my work has accomplished at the end of my career. The stories are what matter, not the awards.”

Matthew Hendley at 60 Minutes.

Hendley is now participating in the national investigative reporting project News 21. Each year, partner universities nominate top students to participate in the spring seminar and summer project that investigates a relevant topic. UM graduate Brittany Brown participated in News 21 in 2018 that explored the topic “Hate in America.”

“This summer, our project is ‘Kids Imprisoned,’” Hendley said. “We’re investigating the ins and outs of the juvenile justice system, from the school-to-prison pipeline to the across-the-board disparities that minority youth face,” he said. “I’m diving into two main storylines this summer: one being an in-depth investigation into gang-affiliated youth and their involvement in the juvenile justice system, and the second is an investigation into what juvenile justice looks like for Native American youth.

“It has really been a blessing because last fall I got to witness and be a part of such thorough research and storytelling at ’60 Minutes.’ A few months later, I joined this project and started filling research binders and developing source contacts for News 21. I’m quite literally using every skill I learned both at ’60 Minutes’ and at Ole Miss. It’s been a very fulfilling project so far.”

Hendley said he’s part of an excellent News 21 team this year.

“Most of our reporting is being done virtually from an Airbnb in Phoenix because of COVID-19,” he said. “But our editors are allowing us to use this opportunity to tell these stories in an unconventional way rather than letting the virus limit what we can do.”

Terry Cassreino, a 1985 graduate of the University of Mississippi with a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and radio and TV, worked more than 24 years in Mississippi newspapers before becoming the communications director and journalism teacher at St. Joseph Catholic School in Madison. He taught Hendley before he enrolled in UM.

“During the spring of his junior year at St. Joe, Matthew auditioned for an anchor spot on Bruin News Now for the fall,” Cassreino said. “Up to this point, Matthew had never delved into journalism. I could tell, though, from his audition that he had the potential to be a strong anchor for our weekly video school newscast, Bruin News Now.”

By midway through the first quarter of his senior year, Cassreino said he could tell Hendley had strong news instincts and could easily connect with the audience as anchor.

" Matthew had the ‘IT’ factor, the intangible quality that made him strong in front of the camera. He also did some news reporting and put together some strong features. But his strength was anchoring the newscasts. He became our regular weekly anchor with other co-anchors rotating every week.”
Terry Cassreino
Terry Cassreino

“Matthew had the ‘IT’ factor, the intangible quality that made him strong in front of the camera,” Cassreino said. “He also did some news reporting and put together some strong features. But his strength was anchoring the newscasts (he became our regular weekly anchor with other co-anchors rotating every week).”

Hendley also produced the Coach’s Pre-Game show, a weekly 10-minute radio show that preceded the student-produced live coverage of St. Joe varsity football that streamed live over Bruin Sports Radio and aired live over WJXC Jackson, Mississippi Catholic Radio.

This, like the Bruin News Now newscasts, was student-produced, student-hosted and student-driven. Again, Hendley demonstrated a strong voice for the radio and was a natural fit for the live sports programming.

“Matthew was a dedicated, hard-working student who took my class – and his responsibilities of being the chief news anchor – seriously,” Cassreino said. “His dedication and steadily growing interest was evident. He eventually went on to win Best News Anchor at the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association state convention in the spring of his senior year.”

News 21
The News 21 project

Cassreino said he has kept in touch with Hendley as much as possible and has followed his UM career.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of his accomplishments,” he said. “I told him that if he was interested in broadcast journalism that he would enter Ole Miss with a distinct advantage over other freshmen because he took my class.

“It came as no surprise when I learned he won an anchor spot at NewsWatch Ole Miss in his freshman year. And the AP award he received for radio work was for a live program he and another of my alumni, JoJo Katool, produced for Ole Miss radio about the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) sanctions against the football program. I listened to the show. It was great.”

With his “60 Minutes” internship and his work with News 21, Cassreino said Hendley is positioning himself to have an incredibly successful career as a broadcast journalist.

“He can do anything he wants,” he said. “Matthew can write his own ticket. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him anchor a major network nightly news cast – he is that talented and determined. He is hard-working, talented, determined and honest. He gets journalism. He understands the importance of solid journalism.”

Dean Debora Wenger, Ph.D., said nothing Hendley achieves surprises her.

“He is just one of those students who is always willing to work harder and grab more opportunities to grow as a journalist,” she said. “We look forward to the day when Matthew is an investigative reporter for a major national news outlet and comes back to campus to help the next crop of students on their way.”

Right now, the UM senior plans to return to campus this fall.

“I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t love having my face on TV and feeling that what I’m saying matters to people,” he said. “I think that comes from fighting for attention as the youngest child. Being on-air is very stimulating. Ideally, though, I’d like to take the anchor chair on a network newscast – after earning my stripes reporting in the field, of course.”

Hendley said he would be remiss if he didn’t speak up on what’s happening in our country and on our campus, subjects he’s currently learning more about in the News 21 project.

“To address underclassmen directly, we have a role to play in the battle for equality in law and society,” he said. “Students are enrolling in our j-school at a very critical point in our university’s history. You don’t want to graduate feeling as if you could have done more to fight for truth. Take advantage of the role we’ve been given as journalists – there’s no reason that we can’t make our campus a better place.”

To learn more about the News 21 project, visit the website here. The project will launch at the end of July. You can follow Hendley on Twitter @MattHendley.

There were a number of University of Mississippi students who won awards in the Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press Broadcasters and Media Editors competition. For a list of all winners, visit this website.

UM School of Journalism and New Media adds new Fashion Promotion and Media Specialization this fall

Posted on: June 28th, 2020 by ldrucker

Have you ever dreamed of working in the fashion industry or owning your own fashion business? You can get your start at the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media with the new Fashion Promotion and Media Specialization by taking only three classes.

The specialization was the idea of Assistant Professor Scott Fiene and Instructional Assistant Professor of Integrated Marketing Communications Mike Tonos.

It requires a nine-hour set of courses that introduces students to the world of fashion merchandising and promotion. Classes cover topics, such as trends, communications, budgeting, forecasting, buying and merchandising.

“The specialization is the result of student demand and interest,” Tonos said. “We added it because students wanted it, and we were looking for electives to make the IMC program more interesting and diverse.”

In late 2017 and early 2018, Tonos and Fiene were discussing possible electives when Fiene mentioned several students had expressed interest in fashion courses.

“I followed up with a student survey and got positive responses from 28 students, most of whom attended a March 28 meeting to discuss their ideas for such a program,” Tonos said. “Joe Sherman, a former executive at McRae’s department store, joined us as an adjunct and taught the first fashion merchandising course in spring 2018.

“We followed that with the Fashion Promotion and Media course. With those two courses in place, we were able to approve the specialization, which takes effect in fall 2020.”

fashion specialization

fashion specialization

The required classes include the following:

IMC 309 – Fashion Promotion and Media – This course introduces students to the communication, promotion, media, and branding of fashion in domestic and international markets.

IMC 376 – Commercial Photography – This class focuses on using the storytelling elements of photojournalism to create images that connect with specific audiences. Students will practice what it takes to create strong storytelling images that are both candid and contrived and create campaigns with those images. Students will use photo-editing software to produce images and campaign materials.

JOUR 361: Journalism Explorations I – New York City Internship Experience. This course focuses on covering emerging issues or specialized content related to the broad fields of journalism and new media.

Or students may take a pre-approved three-credit fashion-themed course or a pre-approved three-credit fashion-themed internship instead of JOUR 361.

“We hope students become knowledgeable enough about the fashion industry that they can find a good job in the field or can start their own fashioned-related enterprise,” Tonos said.

Among the job possibilities: buyers, department managers; store managers (boutiques); merchandisers for manufacturing companies; integrated marketing communication for a fashion company; fashion blogger; fashion writing and media.

Fiene said the Fashion Promotion and Media Specialization was driven by demand from students who were asking if we offered any fashion courses.

“We piloted a special topics course on it and offered that a few times,” he said. “It was wildly successful, and so we packaged that course into a nine-credit optional specialization that’s available to both IMC and journalism majors.

Dean Debora Wenger

Dean Debora Wenger. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

“It joins seven other specializations we already had, and is one more example of how we’re allowing students to customize their majors based on interest. We think this will be one of the more popular specializations in our school.

Dean Debora Wenger, Ph.D., said the specialization is important to the school because of the growing interest in fashion industry careers.

“Last year a group of about 50 of our students got together to produce our school’s first online fashion magazine,” she said. “They did it outside of the classroom experience on their own time because of their passion for fashion.

“Now, UM Velvet is adding even more students to the project for the fall. When you have this much grassroots enthusiasm for a subject, you know you need to do more to help students learn as much as they can.”

UM associate professor featured in election documentary presented June 25 in Oxford

Posted on: June 22nd, 2020 by ldrucker

A University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media faculty member is featured in the election documentary “Win, Lose or Draw Straws” that will be presented Thursday, June 25 in Oxford.

Associate Professor Charlie Mitchell provides insight about the Eaton/Tullos race with other journalists and legal scholars weighing in about other races. The film will be presented at 8 p.m. by the League of Women Voters Oxford/North Mississippi during the Oxford Film Festival’s Drive In Series at the OFF Drive In movie site in the Cannon Motor parking lot.



Election ties happen far more frequently than the public may think. But the absence of a single deciding vote can have far reaching implications. Such is the powerful message in the film “Win, Lose, or Draw Straws.”

This is a rare political film that brings together Left and Right by exposing a little known oddity in U.S. electoral politics – the existence and resolution of races that end in exact ties. Told by people who experienced the highs and lows of political campaigns determined by games of chance, this film exposes the way luck often determines the winner.

The film was produced by Casey W. Phillips, a former political strategist, who worked on Delbert Hosemann’s 2007 race for Mississippi secretary of state. Highlighted in this nationwide story is the tie of the 2015 Mississippi House of Representatives race between Bo Eaton and Mark Tullos.

Drawing of straws is the Mississippi law to break ties, but come view the film to learn how the loser was seated.

Tickets may be purchased at this link. Discount tickets are available for League of Women Voters members.

For more information about the film, the Oxford Film Festival can be reached at

UM journalism professor to lead Freedom of Information Q&A Zoom online event June 23

Posted on: June 17th, 2020 by ldrucker

The University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media will co-sponsor a Zoom event Tuesday, June 23 that will discuss open meetings, public records and what the public is entitled to know about COVID-19.

Professor Ellen Meacham, of the School of Journalism and New Media, will lead the 11 a.m. event that is open to the public featuring Leonard Van Slyke, a long-time media law attorney who mans the hotline for the Mississippi Center for Freedom of Information.

Tune into the Zoom meeting Tuesday, June 23 at 11 a.m. by clicking this link.

Freedom of Information

Freedom of Information event with Leonard Van Slyke and Ellen Meacham.

“Although this is designed with journalists in mind, public records and public meetings laws are for all members of the public, so anyone can attend,” said Meacham, who will take questions from the audience.

The event is also sponsored by the Mississippi Press Association Education Foundation, the Mississippi Broadcaster’s Association and the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics.

“We will talk about some of the most common questions Mr. Van Slyke gets on the Freedom of Information hotline,” she said. “We will especially focus on what should be available for  reporters and other member of the public relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We will talk about what issues must be talked about in open meetings and when a government board can and cannot go behind closed doors. We’ll talk about what information should be available and how to get information about law enforcement too.”

Meacham said she hopes those who attend the online event realize that the work that public officials do is paid for by the taxpayers and belongs to them.

“Of course there are a few exceptions,” she said, “but, in general, the public’s business should be done in public, and residents and the reporters who represent them are on solid ground when they seek that information. I hope people who attend this will learn what they can get and what options they have if they run into obstacles.”

New Media Leadership Certification introduced at UM School of Journalism and New Media

Posted on: June 14th, 2020 by ldrucker

Media leaders have traditionally learned on the job through trial and error. Early mistakes sometimes derail careers. Others never fully develop. The most successful leaders usually benefit from informal mentorships.

That’s why the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media is introducing a new Media Leadership Certification designed to give mid-career leaders a solid foundation for developing a successful leadership style.

Hank Price, director of leadership and development at the School of Journalism, has had a 30-year career as a television general manager, leading television stations for Hearst, CBS and Gannett. He will lead the Media Leadership Certification program.

“Leadership theory, practical application and a framework of introspection will provide the opportunity for individualized development of leadership skills,” Price said. “Skillsets will be enriched by a number of classes already taught in the IMC graduate program.”



Price is a frequent speaker to television industry groups about the future of media. He spent 15 years as senior director of Northwestern University’s Media Management Center, teaching in both the domestic and international executive education programs. He is the author of Leading Local Television (BPP, 2018) and co-author of Managing Today’s News Media: Audience First (Sage, 2015) a management textbook.

At the end of 2018, Price retired from Hearst and opened a boutique media-consulting firm. In addition to his consulting work and writing, he is recognized for his presentations on leadership and brand strategy, subjects he believes are foundational to the success of any modern business.

Price said the Media Leadership Certification is designed for mid-career professionals who aim to someday run media companies. Candidates will ideally have some level of management experience.

“This will be a unique program nationally, designed to fill an educational void in media leadership,” he said. “Our aim is for this program to become an essential tool and credential for future media leaders across the country.”

Annette S. Kluck, Ph.D., dean of the UM Graduate School and a professor of leadership and counselor education, said there are many reasons individuals obtain graduate certificates. They allow individuals to continue their education learning a defined set of skills or developing a targeted area of expertise.

“In many cases, certificates are designed for individuals who are already working and have great real-world experience that they bring to the courses,” she said. “This enables those earning the certificates to learn how the material and ideas directly apply to their work and how other professional environments implement ideas and practices that they learn about in the courses.”

Kluck said certificates are carefully designed to provide maximal impact. Courses included in certificate programs are selected to be cohesive and complementary to help students quickly gain expertise in a particular area.

“Certificates are also time-limited so students can often complete them in one year,” she said. “This allows students to quickly build their resume. And, having a certificate on one’s resume (or CV) shows current and prospective employers that an individual has developed advanced expertise in a particular area and engages in continuous professional development.”

Annette S. Kluck

Annette S. Kluck

Kluck said both the added expertise from the certificate and the demonstration that one is invested in learning and professional growth are appealing to hiring supervisors. The certificate shows that one can be successful in growing themselves as a professional.

“Certificates have become quite popular in the last few years,” she said. “Part of the reason is the ability to complete the certificate in about a year. The shorter commitment of a graduate certificate often fits well with the realities of working professionals who may not only have a full-time job, but may have family obligations and other commitments.”

The certificates also allow individuals to “test the waters” of graduate study, she said, which is quite different from undergraduate learning experiences. Courses are much more narrowly focused on gaining the expertise needed in your discipline.

Kluck said many individuals who start with a graduate certificate decide to go on and complete a master’s degree. In many cases, the courses completed to earn the graduate certificate may also be part of the curriculum for a master’s degree within the same discipline.

“When there is substantial overlap, and the courses are taught by the same institution and faculty that teach in a master’s program, credit hours completed in pursuit of the graduate certificate might also count towards the master’s degree,” she said. “For a master’s degree program that is 30 credit hours, the graduate certificate might mean that someone only needs 18 additional credit hours to earn a master’s degree.”

Kluck said she believes colleges and universities offer graduate certificates because they know there are adults who are seeking additional training and education in areas related to their work responsibilities or career goals.

“Certificates allow us to expand access to graduate study for busy working adults,” she said. “They are a way to ensure that working professionals can gain knowledge and skills needed for their career success while engaging with faculty experts. At the University of Mississippi, providing access to education for adults is a foundational value. We want people to be able to pursue their educational goals and to help set them up for success.”

Dean Debora Wenger

Dean Debora Wenger. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

UM School of Journalism and New Media Dean Debora Wenger said the school decided to add the Media Leadership Certification to its curriculum because there is a real need for leadership education for those in media organizations.

“As in many fields, you often get promoted into a position of leadership because you are very good in other roles, but you may not ever receive training in how to effectively lead teams and people,” she said. “This certificate is designed with that person in mind.”

Many colleges and universities are now offering certificates. Wenger said they are a great way to try out the School of Journalism and New Media.

“Our Media Leadership Certification is designed in such a way that, if you do well, you can apply the credits you’ve earned to a Master’s of Science in Integrated Marketing Communication degree, and you’ll already be a third of the way through the program,” she said.

Wenger said she hopes the school will offer more certifications in the future.

“We have rich expertise in many areas that would be of value to those in the media world, so I hope we will begin to develop more,” she said.

For more information, contact the school at