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Registration is underway for J361 ‘Black Mirror, The Twilight Zone and Media’ summer class

Posted on: May 5th, 2020 by ldrucker

Registration is underway for a class the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media will be offering online during the second summer session called J361 “Black Mirror, The Twilight Zone and Media.” If you’re a fan of either show, you may enjoy studying them from an academic viewpoint while envisioning the future of media and  technology.

“Black Mirror” is a British science fiction Netflix anthology series set in the near future that explores the potentially dark consequences of technology and social media. Each episode has a different cast with a unique story and, like most science fiction, it offers a speculative warning about what could happen if we lose control and allow technology to control us.

Black Mirror

 

The show, created by Charlie Brooker, was first broadcast on British television in 2011. It is now a Netflix original series, and some have called it a modern day “Twilight Zone.” Recognizing its potential for the discussion of modern and future media, some colleges and universities across the country have incorporated “Black Mirror” into their journalism and communications classes.

“The Twilight Zone,” which ran on CBS for five seasons from 1959 to 1964 and had several revivals, likely needs no description unless you just moved to Earth.

Professor LaReeca Rucker will teach the “Black Mirror, The Twilight Zone and Media” class. She encourages “Black Mirror” and “Twilight Zone” fans to register and enter a new dimension. Read the class Q & A below to learn more.

Q. Why were you inspired to create a class inspired by “Black Mirror” and “The Twilight Zone?”

A. After watching all the episodes of both series, I thought many of them tapped into important issues happening in our society regarding media and technology, offering a visionary warning about scenarios we could face if we aren’t careful. The episodes offer near future visions about issues involving social media, cyber security, cyber crime, digital privacy, digital voyeurism; technological inventions like drones, digital contacts and self-driving cars; and digital disconnection. Many of these scenarios are already happening in our world. We read about them daily in news stories. From city governments that become targets of ransomware attacks, to people who film crimes and accidents on their cell phones to share on social media rather than intervening and helping victims. And our world is very much influenced by social media. You’ll see eerie near future visions of this in “Black Mirror.”

LaReeca Rucker

LaReeca Rucker

Q. Is “Black Mirror” used by others in education?

A.Black Mirror” has been used by many people from different fields of study. If you take a look at some of the academic journal articles that have been written about the series, you’ll find papers written by experts in the fields of media and communication, sociology, science, technology, criminal justice, law, art, music, and literature, among others. Some papers discuss technological surveillance and privacy issues; the future of tech products, such as wearables; artificial intelligence; cultural issues, such as racial inequalities; and other philosophical topics that blend technology and spirituality.

Q. Are we living in a “Black Mirror” moment?

A. Yes. Some might say that we are currently living in a “Black Mirror” moment. We are on the verge of a situation that could go either way depending on how we respond now and in the future. If we seemingly resolve the current COVID-19 situation, some scientists have said it’s only a matter of time before another strain of this virus or another emerges to cause another pandemic. This is largely due to how we, as citizens of the planet, are handling many things, including negligently destroying forests and animal ecosystems, selling wild animals in wet markets, and factory farming, writers and scientists have said. These are the things that have led to viral spillovers. Authors and filmmakers have been warning us about this since 2011 in books like “Spillover” and movies like “Contagion,” and we weren’t prepared.

Today, when anything happens, it is amplified by technology. So one of the things we’ve seen during this crisis is an abundance of information. But much of that information has been conflicting, and it seems to indicate what can already be presumed – we don’t exactly know what’s happening or how this is going to turn out – but we have new information about it every second of the day.

There are also thoughts by some that “the media,” which for some includes everyone with a social media account these days, is influencing the events. I believe we – everyone on social media – are collectively influencing the response to this situation by voicing our opinions, and that is an interesting and somewhat disturbing thing to think about – the power we now have with social media to influence situations that we didn’t have in the past. You will see this scenario happening in several episodes of “Black Mirror.”

Q. Why is “Black Mirror” or “The Twilight Zone” educational? What can we learn from it?

A. “Black Mirror” has been called a modern version of “The Twilight Zone.” We’ll also be watching episodes of “The Twilight Zone” in this class. Rod Serling, the narrator of the show, was a brilliant writer with a heart for social justice. That comes through in many of his pieces that offer dystopian visions of society. Remember the iconic “Eye of the Beholder” episode with native Southerner Donna Douglas (of “The Beverly Hillbillies”) who just wants to look normal like everyone else, so she endures many operations to look like other members of her society, but ultimately does not succeed in her transformation, and she is devastated?

In the end, the audience sees that she looks like a model, but she has been having multiple operations to look like the “normal” people of her world with their distorted, frightening faces who live in a place ruled by a dictator. This is just one example of a “Twilight Zone” episode set in a dystopian world void of freedom and individuality. And what better way to talk about journalism, the First Amendment, the Constitution, and American freedoms than to contrast these privileges with fictional and real life examples of modern day government dystopias in which citizens have none of the freedoms that we as Americans enjoy.

Q. What can science fiction teach us about our society?

A. Anything that offers a prophetic warning can teach us things to avoid. In addition to offering warnings about our culture and society, there is a business angle that could be beneficial to companies. Futurism is a business concept that uses science fiction and forward thinking to predict long-term strategies and outcomes for companies. Some major companies have brought in teams of science fiction writers who can use their research and writing skills to predict what lies ahead for that company. This may help them make profitable decisions and avoid future crises that company leaders haven’t thought about. None of us can predict the future, but we can make smarter decisions with research, knowledge and innovation.

Class Description

Recognizing the show’s potential as a discussion starter about modern and future media, students will watch specific episodes of “Black Mirror” and think critically about the program. Through class discussions and writing exercises, they will envision the future of social media and technology. Some selected content will be hosted on a Black Mirror Project website.

This mind-bending class will also analyze topical developments and news stories related to the impact of social media on society. Students will read academic articles that have been written about “Black Mirror” and “The Twilight Zone.” Other science and speculative fiction movies and television shows will be examined. We’ll speculate about what the future holds, good and bad, with media and technology. And we’ll discuss what we can learn about journalism and a free society from science fiction visions of dystopias.

How will the class be taught?

Students who take this class will receive daily lesson plans on Blackboard with work they should complete before the following day. They may be asked to give short video presentations via Zoom, or to upload a video to YouTube so that other students can view their presentations.

We also plan to have weekly, state- and nationally-recognized speakers who can share their thoughts on the media and technology topics we discuss that will be broadcast in an optional live Zoom meeting or via video. Students will be asked to complete some writing projects that could be featured on our “Black Mirror” website: https://blackmirrorideas.wordpress.com/

They will be asked to engage in discussions in our Blackboard Discussion Forum with their classmates. They will be watching episodes of “Black Mirror” and “The Twlight Zone” on  Netflix (so they need a temporary subscription) throughout the course. We’ll also use social media platforms, such as Twitter, to communicate on some assignments. And we will (optionally) explore virtual reality, so it might be a good idea to purchase some inexpensive ($10 or less) VR glasses.


Harvard Political Review recently published the article Primetime Paranoia that mentions Rucker’s “Black Mirror” Project. The article explores “Black Mirror” and modern anxiety. You can read the story here: https://harvardpolitics.com/culture/primetimeparanoia/

You can also read student stories on The Black Mirror Project website at  https://blackmirrorideas.wordpress.com/

Those interested in learning more about the class may register or email Rucker.

 

 

Global communications lead of League of Legends franchise speaks to UM students

Posted on: January 30th, 2020 by ldrucker

Ryan Rigney, the global communications lead of the League of Legends franchise, was the first speaker of the spring semester at the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media.

He addressed an audience in the Overby Center auditorium Wednesday, Jan. 29, and was also one of the featured panelists during the 2020 Jobs Conference Thursday, Jan. 30 in Farley Hall.

Ryan Rigney

Ryan Rigney

Rigney, 28, a native of Poplarville, Mississippi, about 30 minutes south of Hattiesburg, said he enrolled in the University of Mississippi in 2010 with dreams of becoming a magazine journalist.

“While still in high school, I landed some gigs writing about video games for – first – websites, and later, small-press magazines like GamePro (R.I.P.),” he said in an interview. “By the time I was in college, I’d worked my way up the ladder of the magazine world enough to write for magazines like PC Gamer, and later WIRED and EDGE.”

Rigney wrote about mobile games, which culminated in the publication of his book Buttonless about iOS games. After graduating, he moved to Los Angeles to work for a gaming-adjacent startup. About a year later, he landed his first job at Riot Games.

“The past five years have been sort of a blur since then, but over time, I basically converted from a creative/editorial writer into a communications strategist, a.k.a. a PR guy,” he said.

The League of Legends logo.

The League of Legends logo.

Riot Games is the developer and publisher of League of Legends, which, by player count, is the world’s most popular PC game and biggest esport, Rigney said. The company’s annual Worlds championship has drawn about 100 million unique viewers for a couple of years.

Riot Games was founded in 2006 by Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill with the intent to change the way video games are made and supported for players. In 2009, the company released its debut title League of Legends to worldwide acclaim. The game has since become the most played PC game in the world and a key driver of the explosive growth of esports. Riot Games is headquartered in Los Angeles and has 23 offices worldwide.

“We also do a bunch of insane stuff like music videos that get over 300 million views on YouTube alone,” he said. “The ‘champions’ (characters) from League appear in virtual hip hop groups, in clothing partnerships with brands like Louis Vuitton, and soon in an animated series.”

Rigney said League of Legends is mostly known as a single video game today, but within a few years, people will know it as a series of 10+ games and pop culture media that isn’t limited to any one form.

A still photo from League of Legends showing some of the characters.

A still photo from League of Legends showing some of the characters.

“My job is global communications lead – League of Legends franchise,” he said. “On paper, I’m a people manager. I lead a team that includes our editorial lead and a quartet of senior/mid-level comms strategists who run all communications on three of Riot’s games. I operate at the ‘franchise’ level, which is just a fancy way of saying that they call me whenever we do something that covers more than one game.

“I’m a little unusual in that I also work as an individual contributor. I write a lot of Riot’s messaging directly. I act as a spokesperson for the company on social media (Reddit/Twitter especially), and I guide our overall approach to communications. Mostly, I sit in meetings and help developers figure out how to say stuff to players.”

Rigney predicts the games industry will get bigger and more ambitious. He said college students should consider pursuing it because there are more entry points and viable careers now than ever before.

Ellen Meacham, a professor with the UM School of Journalism and New Media, said Rigney arrived on campus as a student with big ideas and a lot of energy.

“He was a hard worker too,” she said. “In 2012, he won the university’s Gillespie Award for best business plan.”

Inside the Riot Games headquarters.

Inside the Riot Games headquarters.

Rigney, the overall Gillespie winner, was awarded $4,000 for his business plan, Utah Raptor Games. The competition is designed to foster entrepreneurship by encouraging students to develop business ideas.

“I think he will also have a lot to say about what the esports and gaming world is like now, what’s in the future, and how his work in communications will shape and be shaped by that,” she said.

Rigney said writing was one of the most valuable skills he learned at the UM School of Journalism and New Media.

“My j-school professors taught me how to write,” he said. “Which is to say, they taught me how to think clearly, and to structure information in a way that’s digestible for other people. Even though my job doesn’t match the degree I earned from Ole Miss, I think the lessons I learned about writing are 100 percent applicable to my current job.”

Inside the Riot Games headquarters.

Inside the Riot Games headquarters.

Rigney also remembers the professors who encouraged him to pursue his passion.

“I don’t know what sort of encouragement the current crop of Ole Miss students need, but I’d love to listen to their questions and share what limited knowledge I have to help them along their own paths,” he said. “I think sometimes people from Mississippi don’t think they can do the sort of work that successful people in the film industry, or literature, or gaming do. It all seems very distant, when you grew up in the woods, like I did. I would love to help people understand how achievable their goals are, if they’re strategic about their career.”

He said he doesn’t believe in one-size-fits-all advice, but Rigney’s learned a few things about the business world.

“You have to ask for something if you’re going to get it,” he said. “That applies to jobs, and career opportunities, and chances to grow.”

For more information about our journalism or IMC programs visit jnm.olemiss.edu.

This story was written by LaReeca Rucker.

University of Mississippi School of Journalism grad among Columbia University’s Alfred I. duPont winners

Posted on: January 28th, 2020 by ldrucker

Columbia Journalism School recently announced the 16 winners of the 2020 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards. One of those winners is a University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media graduate.

Sharyn Alfonsi, who now works as a reporter for “60 Minutes,” was one of the winners awarded a Silver Baton at Low Memorial Library Jan. 21, 2020 in a ceremony hosted by CNN and PBS’s Christiane Amanpour and The New York Times/The Daily’s Michael Barbaro, the Columbia website reports.

This was the school’s 50th year hosting the duPont-Columbia Awards.

Sharyn Alfonsi. Photo from HottyToddy.com

Sharyn Alfonsi. Photo from HottyToddy.com

“This important work is all coming at a time of increased mistrust in powerful institutions,” said Cheryl Gould, duPont jury chair and former NBC News executive, on the school’s website. “Journalists are playing a critical role in holding the powerful accountable, and we are proud to honor these duPont winners for their commitment.”

Alfonsi’s work with “60 Minutes” about the border crisis led to her award. “On the Border” is a piece described as “nuanced and newsmaking reporting” that “looked at the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the Mexican border, from the poignant lens of aspiring immigrants going through it.”

Founded in 1942, the duPont-Columbia Awards ​uphold the highest standards in journalism by honoring winners annually, informing the public about those journalists’ contributions and supporting journalism education and innovation, the Columbia website reports.

You can read the entire news release here.

Check out these recent stories about her.

Variety: Sharyn Alfonsi starts to broaden her profile at ’60 Minutes’

CBS News: 60 Minutes reporting on border crisis wins Columbia Journalism duPont Award

Hotty Toddy: It’s “Showtime” for Star Reporter and UM Alumna on “60 Minutes Sports”

University of Mississippi graduate now leading The Clarion Ledger newspaper in Jackson, Mississippi

Posted on: January 28th, 2020 by ldrucker

The Clarion Ledger has reported that a Mississippi native and University of Mississippi graduate has taken the lead as the editor of the newspaper.

Mary Irby-Jones has been named top editor of The Clarion Ledger and the Hattiesburg American.

Screenshot of Mary Irby-Jones from The Clarion Ledger.

Screenshot of Mary Irby-Jones from The Clarion Ledger.

“Being chosen to lead the state’s top newspaper is an honor that I never dreamed possible for a girl who grew up in a small rural Mississippi town,” Irby-Jones said in The CL news article announcing her new role.

The CL reports that Irby-Jones has most recently worked as the digital director at the newspaper where she oversaw a regional digital operation for the eight newsrooms in the Deep South.

“She returned to Gannett in May after 12 years of working in a converged newsroom for Cox Media Ohio in Dayton, Ohio, where she oversaw a 24/7 digital team for three Ohio newspapers and WHIO-TV and Radio,” the Ledger reported. “Other roles she performed at Cox include Senior Editor of the Dayton Daily News and Managing Editor for WHIO-TV.”

Click here to read the full story about Irby-Jones.

UM School of Journalism faculty members remember Harold Burson and his legacy

Posted on: January 14th, 2020 by ldrucker

University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media faculty members are proud to have known Harold Burson, a UM graduate who founded Burson-Marsteller, a company that grew to become the world’s largest public relations firm.

The World War II veteran was a friend and colleague to many who passed away at the age of 98. But in October, Burson visited the school to sign copies of his book The Business of Persuasion and spoke to a room of faculty and students during a presentation moderated by Senior Lecturer Robin Street, who specializes in public relations and integrated marketing communications.

Senior Lecturer of Journalism Robin Street stands behind Harold Burson and former Chancellor Robert Khayat.

Senior Lecturer of Journalism Robin Street stands behind Harold Burson and former Chancellor Robert Khayat in October. Photo by LaReeca Rucker.

“One of the greatest joys in my teaching career was the chance to spend time with Harold Burson, and even better, to have him speak to my students several times,” Street said via email, adding that his name and significance in the PR world are among the first things she teaches her students in the Introduction to Public Relations class.

“I tell them that what Elvis Presley was to rock and roll, Burson was to PR,” she said. “He truly helped the profession evolve, change and grow. . . This man was a giant in the PR world. Yet, he was soft-spoken and humble when he spoke to students. After he spoke, he always patiently posed for photo after photo with the students.”

Burson got his start as a writer for The Daily Mississippian and later became one of the most influential public relations figures in the world. He spent more than 50 years serving CEOs, government leaders, and heads of public sector units.

This week, his life has been chronicled in national newspapers and on websites such as PR Week, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

Harold Burson, former University of Mississippi Chancellor Robert Khayat, and journalists Curtis Wlkie and Peter J. Boyer were among those who attended the faculty meeting with Burson.

Harold Burson, former University of Mississippi Chancellor Robert Khayat, and journalists Curtis Wlkie and Peter J. Boyer were among those who attended the faculty meeting with Burson. Photo by LaReeca Rucker.

Burson, who spoke to faculty and signed copies of his book before addressing students in the Overby Center, was born in 1921. He said his father came to the United States from England and served in the British Army before establishing a career in the cotton business.

Ellen Meacham, a professor with the School of Journalism and New Media, said Burson covered the Nuremberg trials for the American Forces Network as a 24-year-old radio journalist.

“His work stands as an essential witness to both the atrocities of the Nazis and the values that the U.S. aimed to uphold,” she said. “As he spent days and days watching the documents and footage taken by the Nazi’s themselves from the concentration camps entered into evidence, it must have taken a tremendous personal emotional toll, yet his demeanor and writing remained unshakably professional.”

From left, Harold Burson, former University of Mississippi Chancellor Robert Khayat, and journalist Curtis Wlkie were among those who attended the faculty meeting with Burson.

From left, Harold Burson, former University of Mississippi Chancellor Robert Khayat, and journalist Curtis Wilkie were among those who attended the faculty meeting with Burson. Photo by LaReeca Rucker.

Meacham said the scripts he wrote demonstrate timeless journalistic values, the same ones professors try to teach today.

“Tell the truth as best you can,” she said. “Tell it square, with out fear or favor. Know your audience. Help them understand what they want to know and what they need to know. Make them see, hear, and, most importantly, FEEL the story. Be the witness to history, and write its first draft. He set a great example for generations to come.”

Harold Burson signed copies of his book The Business of Persuasion.

Harold Burson signed copies of his book The Business of Persuasion.

Burson told faculty during the fall that when he decided to create his own business in the 1930s, he wrote a letter to a potential businessman asking him to be his first client. The recipient agreed and found Burson an additional client. Six years later, he had a team of five employees.

Throughout his career, he has worked on many important projects at the local, state, and federal level.

One of his most high profile PR cases happened in the 1980s when he was hired by the company Johnson & Johnson after news broke that several people had died after bottles of Tylenol were found to have been tainted by cyanide.

Burson discussed the case in the Overby Center, explaining that it was not just a threat to the pharmaceutical industry; it was also dangerous for the entire food industry whose products could be easily penetrated with needles, etc.

Street said she has taught about this classic crisis case for years, but didn’t know Burson was the PR expert helping with it until he casually mentioned it one day.

“The last time he spoke was in October, and he held the rapt attention of a room full of college students,” she said. “That is something even few professors can do.”

Although she met him only a few times, Meacham said Burson made a deep impression.

“He had an intense focus, on you, on the business at hand, and on the larger context,” she said. “He seemed to notice everything and remember every detail. He was a great storyteller, too, which is what made him, early on, a good reporter and, later on, a public relations visionary.”

Will Norton Jr., dean of the School of Journalism and New Media, described Burson as a quiet man who was incredibly insightful about human nature. He was a man of integrity who wasn’t afraid of anything, he said.

“His company created integrated marketing communications,” he said. “The IMC field is his legacy to our world.”

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that those who wish to celebrate Burson’s life and lessons to make a donation to the Harold Burson Legacy Scholarship Fund at the School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi.

Friends and colleagues are invited to leave a comment, an anecdote or a note of remembrance at the following email: mmburson99@gmail.com.

For more information, contact Mark Burson, instructional assistant professor, University of Mississippi, School of Journalism and New Media, mmburson@olemiss.edu; 805-390-1767.

This story was written by LaReeca Rucker.

Remembering Harold Burson: 1921-2020

Posted on: January 10th, 2020 by drwenger

Harold Burson, a veteran of World War II, a graduate of the University of Mississippi, founder of Burson-Marsteller, friend and colleague to many, husband to Bette Ann and father to Scott and Mark has passed away at the age of 98. The family made the announcement today in Memphis, TN.

“Our family is saddened by the loss of our beloved father. We grieve and mourn his passing. And yet our spirits are lifted by the belief that he is now “gathered” with his loving wife and faithful companion of 63 years – Bette Ann. We pray they will now rest together for all of eternity,” the family said in a released statement.

Memorial services will be held in New York City and at the University of Mississippi. He will be entombed in the Columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family asks those wanting to celebrate their father’s life and to insure the lessons he taught us all live on to make a donation to the Harold Burson Legacy Scholarship Fund at the School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi.

Friends, colleagues and Burson-Persons all over the world are invited to leave a comment, an anecdote or a note of remembrance at the following email: mmburson99@gmail.com.

For further information, contact: Mark Burson, Instructional Assistant Professor, University of Mississippi, School of Journalism and New Media, mmburson@olemiss.edu; 805/390-1767.

 

 

 

 

Street takes PR students on a Memphis field trip to FedEx and St. Jude

Posted on: November 4th, 2019 by ldrucker

Students enrolled in Senior Lecturer Robin Street’s public relations classes traveled to Memphis Oct. 29 to meet with public relations professionals, including several JNM alumni, at FedEx and St. Jude.

Assistant Dean Scott Fiene accompanied the group, along with adjunct instructor Bill Dabney.

 

An added bonus at FedEx was a visit from Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman PR. He was in town to meet with JMM graduate Jenny Robertson, who is FedEx vice president for corporate communications. Edelman briefly spoke to the students.

At FedEx in Memphis, Street found 10 of her former students in communication positions.

Pictured, from left, are Lillie Flenorl, communications specialist, FedEx Freight; Teresa Daniel, senior communications specialist, social media; Jenny Robertson, vice president, corporate communications; Natashia Gregoire, director of FedEx Freight communications; Street; Ed Coleman, communications advisor, internal communications (not a former student, but an alumnus); Caitlin Adams, communications principal, office of the president and COO; and Alex Shockey, manager of social media and content. Not pictured are Rachel Hammons Parks, senior marketing specialist, brand; Cacera Richmond, senior communications specialist, FedEx Freight; Janna Hughes, communications advisor, global citizenship; and Caitlin Berry, senior communications specialist, internal communications.

Photo credit: Bill Dabney

Former Fox News anchor Shepard Smith speaks at UM School of Journalism and New Media

Posted on: October 20th, 2019 by ldrucker

A week after longtime Fox News anchor Shepard Smith unexpectedly announced his resignation from the cable network, he returned to the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media to speak to students about truth and lies.

Last week, Smith left Fox viewers with a final thought: “Even in our current, polarized nation, it’s my hope that the facts will win the day, that the truth will always matter, that journalism and journalists will thrive.”

On Friday, he elaborated, telling students he understands why it has become difficult for some to distinguish between truth and lies, but he said history will reveal the liars and truth-tellers.

Shepard Smith speaks with students. All photos on this page are from professors and University Communications.

Shepard Smith speaks with students. All photos on this page are from professors and University Communications.

“I’ve been doing this since long before any of you were born,” he said. “So there is a body of work there. I am not proud of all of it, but I’m positive I never lied.”

Smith said he learned that truth is the foundation of journalism while pursuing his degree in journalism at UM. He also emphasized the importance of admitting and correcting mistakes.

“There’s no mistake you can’t undo,” he said. “You can correct every single mistake. You can stand up and be a human being about it and admit to those who count on you that you screwed it up. And you have to do the correction with the same fervor and emphasis that you made the mistake. Then you’re good. ”

Shepard Smith with Dean Will Norton Jr. spoke with students. All photos on this page are from professors and University Communications.

Shepard Smith with Dean Will Norton Jr. spoke with students. All photos on this page are from professors and University Communications.

Lies, though, are unforgivable, according to Smith.

“But the moment you realize you told a lie, you stretch the truth to make your story better, or you’ve taken the edge off of it because it’s a thing you care about, you’ve betrayed your audience. If you think it about that way, every day, you’re going to be fine.”

Smith said he attended the University of Mississippi on a music scholarship before studying journalism. He said his teachers emphasized journalism’s commitment to the public.

“You have a responsibility to people who rely on you to find out what in the world is going on,” he said, “and even if it’s just the car wreck, or the city council meeting, or the game you are writing about, you have responsibility to do as well as you can and tell the story as effectively as possible.”

Shepard Smith speaks with students. All photos on this page are from professors and University Communications.

Shepard Smith speaks with students. All photos on this page are from professors and University Communications.

Smith said he took that approach at Fox News.

“It’s a huge responsibility to have a platform where millions of people are watching you every day,” he said. “It’s really a big responsibility, and I learned that in Farley Hall. It was pounded into my head that you are going to screw up, but you’ve got to correct it. And it’s much easier to just get it right the first time. If you’re not sure, just don’t say it.”

Will Norton Jr., dean of the UM School of Journalism and New Media, said he sent Smith an email after he left Fox News. Smith responded, saying he would be in Oxford for the next game, and volunteered to speak to students.

“We asked him if he could be here in the morning,” Norton said, “and he left New York early and was in Oxford by 9:30 a.m. He was at Farley by 10:30 a.m. Many of my friends call him the best anchor on television.”

Norton said there were three key takeaways from Smith’s visit that he hopes students remember. They are:

  1. Being on this campus teaches students how to be social. This is crucial in getting the facts and in being able to relate to your audience.
  2. Your teachers know what they are talking about. Jim Pratt and Walt Hawver made a dffierence in my life.
  3. I made it, and I was in these same hallways. You can, too if you tell the story as accurately as you know how.
Shepard Smith speaks with students. All photos on this page are from professors and University Communications.

Shepard Smith speaks with students. All photos on this page are from professors and University Communications.

Debora Wenger, assistant dean for innovation and external partnerships, said she thinks Smith helped students understand how to tell a story responsibly.

“Through it all, you have to remember to respect every person you report on, every person you interview. If our students graduate with those sensibilities, we will have done our job,” she said.

In the end, Smith didn’t drop any bombshells about why he left a position he’s held at Fox News for 23 years.

“I left there because it was time for a change,” he said. “. . . I will go somewhere else at some point. In between then, I’m going to go talk to students, volunteer, and I don’t know, maybe write a book, corny as that sounds . . . I want to do longform stories, kind of like ‘CBS Sunday Morning.’ I love that show. I love Jane Pauley. I want to have a live component because I got pretty good at it. But I have a few good stories, and one of them starts right here.”

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

Alumnus Harold Burson speaks at University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media

Posted on: October 4th, 2019 by ldrucker

Harold Burson, who attended the University of Mississippi and got his start as a writer for The Daily Mississippian, recently spoke to students in the School of Journalism and New Media.

In a conversation with Professor Robin Street, he discussed what it takes to become successful in public relations.

Senior Lecturer of Journalism Robin Street stands behind Harold Burson and former Chancellor Robert Khayat.

Senior Lecturer of Journalism Robin Street stands behind Harold Burson and former Chancellor Robert Khayat.

“Strive to be the best writer you can be,” he said. “I think that you should expect long hours throughout your course of working (in) PR, and the key is to provide productivity that is always meaningful,” he said.

After graduation he created his own business and was co-founder of one of the world’s largest public relations agencies, Burson-Marsteller, known as Burson, Cohn & Wolf since a 2018 merger. For decades he was one of the most well-known and influential figures in public relations.

Harold Burson, former University of Mississippi Chancellor Robert Khayat, and journalists Curtis Wlkie and Peter J. Boyer were among those who attended the faculty meeting with Burson.

Harold Burson, former University of Mississippi Chancellor Robert Khayat, and journalists Curtis Wlkie and Peter J. Boyer were among those who attended the faculty meeting with Burson.

PR Week called him the “godfather of modern PR” and one of the founding fathers of the PR industry. He has spent more than 50 years serving as a counselor and confidante of many corporate CEOs, government leaders, and other important figures.

One of his most high-profile PR cases happened during the 1980s when he was hired by Johnson & Johnson when news broke that several people had died after bottles of Tylenol had been tainted by cyanide. Burson said it was not just a threat to the pharmaceutical industry; it also was dangerous for the entire food industry in which products could easily be penetrated with needles, etc.

From left, Harold Burson, former University of Mississippi Chancellor Robert Khayat, and journalist Curtis Wlkie were among those who attended the faculty meeting with Burson.

From left, Harold Burson, former University of Mississippi Chancellor Robert Khayat, and journalist Curtis Wlkie were among those who attended the faculty meeting with Burson.

Although Burson contributed greatly to the progress and helped rebuild public trust for the company, he credits James Burke, former CEO of Johnson & Johnson, as “the real hero of the story.” He said Burke ordered removal of all Tylenol in the supermarkets and pharmacies; a decision that cost the company $100 million.

Harold Burson signed copies of his book The Business of Persuasion.

Harold Burson signed copies of his book The Business of Persuasion.

“After a new capsule was created that was nearly impossible to penetrate, it took about six to nine months before it reached its original selling mark in the industry,” Burson said.

Burson noted that the FBI still considers it an unsolved case.

After living in New York City most of his life, Burson recently moved back home to Memphis, Tennessee. Three days a week, he works at his local public relations firm.

Student journalists Samantha Powell, Elexis Craft, Sara Kate Rushing, Ariel Jones, Lily Garner Caroline Helms and Grace Baxter contributed to this story.

For more information, contact Assistant Dean Debora Wenger, Ph.D. at 662-915-7146 or drwenger@olemiss.edu.

UM School of Journalism and New Media offers jobs site and career advice

Posted on: August 3rd, 2019 by ldrucker

Landing your first job out of college can be challenging. That’s why the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media has created a jobs website to help, but many people aren’t aware it exists.

Business leaders throughout the state and country are encouraged to submit job, internship, fellowship, scholarship and other opportunities to our jnmjobs.com site. Students are encouraged to take a look at what’s offered.

“We realized we needed one place to post jobs,” said Assistant Dean Scott Fiene. In the past, faculty members were often told about job opportunities, and if they had a student in mind, they would forward the job to them. “We thought, let’s try to build this thing on our own. It’s very informal, and it’s linked to our school website.”


The school website address is jnm.olemiss.edu. The jobs site address is jnmjobs.com.

Fiene said employers from around the country often send job opportunities to faculty and staff, and they are now posted on the jobs site. He wants to promote the site so more people will become aware of it. Visitors can also subscribe to the site and receive newly posted jobs via email.

Bobby Steele, instructional assistant professor of branding and promotions, said the website is like the school’s own LinkedIn.

“I think the website is very important because I had a professor tell me once that 75 percent of the jobs people got in integrated marketing communications (IMC) are word-of-mouth marketing,” he said. “It gives students an opportunity to see jobs that we are not necessarily recommending, but we are letting them know that they are available.”

Amanda Haley

Atlanta native Amanda Haley is a multimedia journalist for WTVA-Tupelo who graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media. Haley said it’s important to think broadly when searching for jobs after college.

“It’s important to set long-term goals,” she said, “but don’t limit yourself when job searching right after school. Apply everywhere that might work for you, and never turn down an interview or phone call with potential employers, even if you don’t see yourself working for them. Getting used to answering questions about your career goals, and getting yourself out there professionally will always be beneficial.”

Many students don’t take advantage of resources at the University of Mississippi that may help them land a job. It’s important to ask questions and reach out to faculty members who may be able to put you in touch with individuals or opportunities who can help you achieve your goals.

Haley said connecting with faculty and meeting and communicating with others in your field is an important part of the job search.

“Any conversation is an important one,” she said, “And when it comes time to look for a job, you’ll have some relationships already made, and they can help guide you or refer you to a job.”