School of Journalism and New Media

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Archive for the ‘Alumni News’ Category

Alumni Update: Mark Ray (MA, ’90)

Posted on: March 2nd, 2016 by ewrobins

Mark Ray HeadshotThis July will mark my 18th year of fulltime freelancing—mostly writing but also some editing and a little project management. It’s been quite a run, especially considering that I’ve been able to thrive on referrals and a small amount of networking.

Over the years, I’ve done regular work for The Cobb Group/Element K Journals, Humana, the Courier-Journal, Culler Media, the United Methodist Church, and the Presbyterian Church (USA), but the Boy Scouts of America has become my major client. Especially recently, the BSA has kept me extremely busy (although I think that work is going to level out some going forward). In the last two years, I’ve edited/rewritten the Bear Handbook, the Webelos Handbook, and the Boy Scout Handbook, edited a new three- volume resource called Program Features for Troops, Teams, and Crews, and written the new two-volume Troop Leader Guidebook, among other projects. I also continue to sell a couple of self-published titles for Scout leaders, The Eagle Court of Honor Book and The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook.

I haven’t abandoned magazines, however! Since 2009, I’ve written the Roundtable section for Scouting magazine (circulation 1 million), which includes six articles per issue and has a strong service-journalism component, as well as contributing the occasional feature to the magazine. Since 2005, I’ve also written most of the National Eagle Scout Association magazine, now called Eagles’ Call (circulation 138,000), typically including one or two features and 10 or 12 briefs. The strong focus in Eagles’ Call is on profiles, and I’ve profiled everyone from astronauts and Olympians to politicians and CEOs. (It’s interesting to go from interviewing a 16-year-old Eagle Scout who doesn’t answer questions in complete sentences to interviewing a 78-year-old member of the Baseball Hall of Fame!)

Although I lost my pica pole somewhere along the way, the skills I developed in the master’s program at Ole Miss continue to pay dividends. With my books, I’ve done everything—writing, editing, design, layout, production, and marketing—and on other projects I’ve been able to effectively edit both my own work and the work of other people.

Alumnus Burnis Morris chosen as a History Hero

Posted on: January 29th, 2016 by ewrobins

Meek School alumnus Burnis Morris (’72) was selected as a 2016 History Hero for his work with the Carter G. Woodson Foundation.  Read the article at

Alumni Update: Amber Lynn Murphy (’15)

Posted on: January 26th, 2016 by ewrobins

Amber Lynn MurphyI’m Amber Lynn Murphy (’15) and I recently took a job working for The Alliance Agency. Our agency works with many athletes and entertainers. At this point, I thought I was done with journalism, but I have been using my creative abilities more than ever. Everyday I use what I learned in the journalism program to help our company grow differently from other companies in our industry.

I grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana, where my choosing Ole Miss was a shock. My whole family went to Louisiana State University. At first it was hard for them to understand why, but when I started Ole Miss, I gave them a reason to understand. Needless to say, they all are Ole Miss fans, now. Thanks to the community, university, faculty and higher administration for making this journey possible.

While at Ole Miss, I held a sports anchor and reporter position with News Watch99. I had a broad range of duties from editing my own stories to anchoring a live show. I believe my experiences have enabled me to have the flexibility to excel in any tasks that are given to me now. I further refined my skills when I interned at FOX8 and WGNO in New Orleans. During these internships, I attended editorial meetings and performed research. I also prepared for presentations by writing scripts and cutting corresponding film. No story was too tough to tackle and no deadline was too quick. I worked extremely hard, and I loved having a plan and being organized. I always try to get better with each assignment, and I look forward to using these skills in any field of work.

During the academic year, I was involved in 12 student activities, while taking 21 hours and working part-time. My strong work ethic and time-management skills allowed me to successfully understand what it takes. The journalism professors provided me with constructive feedback to better my skills. Additionally, my experience as a student leader of various organizations has prepared me to make quick decisions when difficult situations arise.

I am very interested in using my talents in communication that I learned at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

Meek School alumnus David Magee to lead new Alabama Media Group initiative

Posted on: January 26th, 2016 by ewrobins

David Magee.VenturesAlabama Media Group has named award-winning journalist and author David Magee to the new executive position of vice president, Ventures.

In this role, Magee will serve as executive producer of Amazing Alabama, an original documentary series under development, and as publisher of Birmingham magazine.

Magee came to Alabama Media Group in 2013 and has served in roles across the print and digital content teams, most recently as the company’s senior director of content. He is the author of a dozen non-fiction books, including profiles on some of the world’s most prominent CEOs and brands, worked as a top editor at print and online publications in New York and Mississippi, and is a former advertising agency executive and business owner.

His new role will help position Alabama Media Group as an even stronger player in the media landscape, Bates said in announcing the appointment.

“David’s background in both business and journalism make him a fantastic choice to collaborate with our sales and content executives to expand our company’s portfolio,” Bates said. “With Amazing Alabama we have an unprecedented opportunity to celebrate the richness and vibrancy of our state. With Birmingham magazine, we have the chance to build on decades of leading our community.

“This is real demonstration of our commitment to tell stories across all platforms, and connect with businesses who want to be part of our state’s unfolding story.”

Magee assumes his new business duties immediately. The company will begin a search for an experienced, hands-on digital leader to run the day-to-day operations of news and sports teams, reporting to Vice President of Content Michelle Holmes as Magee did in his previous role.

“David has been an incredible factor in our success over the last few years,” said Holmes. “His contributions to audience growth and to high-quality, award-winning storytelling has been enormous. We’re committed to carrying on that vision and serving as the pre-eminent home of great Alabama journalism, supported by David’s success in his new role.”

Ole Miss alumnus picked to lead Jackson TV station

Posted on: December 9th, 2015 by drwenger

Michael L. Neelly, a longtime Hearst Television news executive most recently serving as a news director in Cincinnati and Louisville, has been promoted to president and general manager of WAPT-TV, the Hearst Television ABC TV affiliate serving the Jackson, Mississippi, market.

The appointment, effective January 1, 2016, marks a return to Jackson for Neelly, an Ole Miss alumnus who was a photojournalist and producer in Jackson during the early 1990s. He succeeds Stuart Kellogg, who recently announced his year-end retirement after serving as WAPT’s president and general manager since 1991.

“For the last fifteen years, Mike has successfully led two Hearst Television news operations to new heights, building award-winning newscasts, increasing audience, and launching new digital products,” said Jordan Wertlieb, Hearst Television’s President. “His accomplishments, coupled with his strong leadership style and deep Mississippi roots, make Mike an excellent successor to carry on the overall growth and commitment to the local community that has been a hallmark of the WAPT team during Stuart Kellogg’s tenure.”

Neelly has served since 2012 as news director at WLWT-TV, the Hearst Television NBC affiliate in Cincinnati. While there, he helped establish “Making a Difference for Our Youth,” a multi-platform initiative spotlighting issues facing young Cincinnatians, the resources available to them and how viewers can help. He also led a rejuvenation of the news operation, overseeing staff expansion and creating an investigative unit. In recent ratings periods WLWT has ascended to the top of Cincinnati newscast ratings in key demographics and earned a 2015 Regional Emmy Award for Special Achievement: News Excellence – the market’s first station to receive the award.

The Meek School of Journalism & New Media would like to add its congratulations to Neelly and say, “Welcome home!”

Alumni Update: Karen Crenshaw Swenson (’78)

Posted on: December 1st, 2015 by ewrobins

Karen SwensonAfter being away from Ole Miss for almost 40 years, I returned last month to visit my alma mater and the journalism program that was so dear to me from 1974 through 1978. As I was walking around campus, I was continually reminded of a poem written about an Atlanta suburb that says, “Some of the past is gone. Some of the past remains.”

My returning to the university and embracing what the school stands for had been a gradual process. In 2002 I tuned in to a weeklong broadcast on NPR detailing changes that had taken place since James Meredith was admitted.

For my visit to Ole Miss, I intentionally parked across the street from what was previously the tiny, white, one-story Brady Hall that housed the journalism department; this is where I had a part-time $2.80-an-hour reporter job a few hours each week at The Daily Mississippian. My mentor and former adviser, Dr. Will Norton, now the first dean of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, took me on a brief tour of the campus.

More than the many beautiful new buildings and landscaping, I was surprised by the diversity and larger crowds of students who passed by me as we walked from the Journalism School to the spacious, modern S. Gale Denley Student Media Center, named for one of my professors. We stopped at the James Meredith statue, walked through the Paris-Yates Chapel and Johnson Commons, visited the Student Union Starbucks and went back to the Journalism School. I later learned that the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement would move into the renovated Student Union.

I had wondered for years, deep within me, how much had really changed at Ole Miss. I have looked at the university website weekly for the last eight years. I was thrilled a few years ago to see that an African-American woman had been elected ASB president, the same year that two black women had been chosen Homecoming Queen and Miss University. “Could it really be that different?” I had asked myself.

I was told by those with first-hand experiences with minority students at Ole Miss that there are still some cruelties communicated to them through social media, more so than verbal insults of yesteryear. Two persons I visited said that what had happened at Missouri could have happened at Ole Miss. I knew that in the last 10 years there had been several forums at the university with open and ongoing communication among persons of all backgrounds and cultures. These were led by forward-thinking students, professors and administrators — definitely a step in the right direction.

I also visited the Burns-Belfry Museum and Multicultural Center in Oxford. The two tour guides told me that, for them, Oxford was “worth coming home to.” They had returned from New York and Washington, DC, to a place they now call “a gem of a city in the state of Mississippi.”

In the last three months I have read Robert Khayat’s book The Education of a Lifetime and Ronald Farrar’s Powerhouse: The Story of the Meek School at Ole Miss. In 1974 and 1975, I had ridden to the Society of Professional Journalists meetings in Jackson with Dr. Farrar, my former news reporting professor, and Dr. Ed Meek. This is how I knew them best — through humorous and interesting stories I overheard as I dozed alone in the back seat of the car.

Many Ole Miss professors and former students have published books and written for noteworthy newspapers. I have read the book The Hit by Dr. Jere Hoar. During our visit to Oxford, my sister and I looked at Ed Meek’s book Riot: Witness to Anger and Change with Larry Wells, the book’s co-editor, and publisher of Yoknapatawpha Press. I have read the writings of former Daily Mississippian staff writers Fred Anklam and Dennis Moore, previously at USA Today; Stephanie Saul and Greg Brock, formerly at the New York Times; Mac DeMere, formerly automobile reviewer at Car and Driver; as well as Susan Puckett, formerly food editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. My pride in the then-journalism department and today’s journalism school students and professors abounds.

While driving from Atlanta to Oxford, I was listening to John Grisham’s Gray Mountain, a book about strip mining in Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia. This book reminded me of the story in the annually student-published Ole Miss Magazine in 1978 about strip mining in Mississippi. And I remembered the article that I wrote about the then-newly built Lamar Law Center in that same publication; now the Robert Khayat Law School is open. I experienced another change with my ADPi sorority sisters — with several minority members — during our visit to their new house.

I had attended public and independent high schools in the early 1970s when desegregation took place throughout the South. Through Dr. Andy Mullins (my former history teacher at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Jackson and former Chief of Staff to Chancellors Robert Khayat and Dan Jones), I learned about the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation.

As a child in Jackson, Mississippi, during the 1960s, I would watch television each night and read The Clarion Ledger each day, establishing the roots of my love of journalism and writing. Occasionally, having viewed (on television) the police and dogs attacking the black people who were being forcefully hosed away from restaurants and shops, I would wake up in the middle of the night terrified that “those mean white people” might come get me because I, a white girl, empathized with what the black people were experiencing. Deep down, I truly admired them.

Fortunately, my childhood bad dreams of race riots stopped, about 37 years ago, near the time when the first African-American man, “Gentle Ben” Williams, was elected then-Colonel Rebel. This was the same time period I attended journalism school with Rose Jackson Flenorl.

As a former journalist, then hospital public relations manager and, now, librarian for the last 25 years, I have used the skills I learned at the Department of Journalism every day and in every avenue of my life. I am pleased with the changes and growth at Ole Miss. I also am proud of the minority students’ continued courage and perseverance, and I am deeply grateful for the opportunities and knowledge I’ve gained through it all.

Karen Crenshaw Swenson,


Alumni Update: Renate Ferreira (’04, ’05)

Posted on: November 17th, 2015 by ewrobins
Renate Ferreira Oath 2

Renate Ferreira accepts her Certificate of Naturalization from the Honorable Arthur B. Federman, United States judge, after taking the Oath of Allegiance.

By Darby Hennessey

South African native Renate Ferreira, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from the University of Mississippi, was awarded United States citizenship in May after living 17 years in the states, ending a journey that began when her father accepted a job on campus.

Ferreira’s family left South African in 1998 after her father, Daneel Ferreira, accepted a job at the Thad Cochran National Center for Natural Products Research. Ferreira did not apply for citizenship until May 2015, was approved on August 17, and had her Oath ceremony on Sept. 24 in Kansas City, Missouri.

“Words can’t really do justice to the emotions I felt on becoming a citizen,” Ferreira said. “The place I had called home for the last 17 years claimed me as a US citizen. That is a really great feeling.”

The ceremony was the last step in a long process. Because of complex immigration laws, the path to citizenship is often difficult, but different for every applicant. In Ferreira’s case, in simple terms, she was not eligible for citizenship until 2011 because of her status as a student, but she decided to wait until 2015 to apply officially in order to avoid extensive paperwork.

Renate Ferreira and Husband

Ferreira stands with her husband, Desmond Slade, outside of the Charles Evans Whittaker Courthouse in Kansas City, Missouri, after the ceremony.

“It was a long journey, but one I would gladly follow all over again,” she said. “I knew I wanted to become a citizen from the first time I had set foot in Oxford.”

Ferreira completed her Bachelor of Arts in 2004, and went on to earn a Master of Arts with a journalism emphasis in 2005. She also worked at The Daily Mississippian as an advertisement designer during her undergraduate years and the creative manager as a graduate student. Although she already had a bachelor’s degree in South Africa and worked in the medical field, her family’s move gave her an opportunity for a career change.

“I have always been artistically inclined and felt that I wanted a career where I could apply that creative part of me to the fullest,” she said. “Ole Miss brought many, many new opportunities and I am grateful for the education it gave me.”

While a graduate student, Ferreira took journalism classes from Dr. James Lumpp, assistant professor.

“She was very refreshing to have in class,” Lumpp said. “She had a lot of things to say. She was one of the best graduate students we ever had.”

Today, Ferreira lives in Kansas City with her husband, Desmond Slade. They met at Ole Miss. Although she has moved away from Mississippi, Oxford still holds an important place in her life.

“Simply put, Ole Miss played a tremendous role in my journey to citizenship as well as my personal development and growth,” she said. “Oxford and Ole Miss hold my dearest memories.”

Alumnus Clinton Smith releases new book

Posted on: November 6th, 2015 by ewrobins

Clint Smith croppedMeek School graduate Clinton Smith (’99) signed copies of his new book, “Veranda: The Romance of Flowers,” in Oxford recently. Smith, an award-winning journalist, is editor in chief of VERANDA magazine.

Natalie Moore working at Bar-Z in Austin, Texas

Posted on: October 28th, 2015 by ewrobins

Natalie MooreNatalie Moore (’14) is project and marketing manager at Bar-Z, a mobile app firm in Austin, Texas. She took the position in September 2014 to learn more about the digital realm of publishing with the hope to rejoin the journalism industry with this knowledge.

Her work is assigned to two departments: marketing and production.

On the production side, she works with newspapers and magazines to help them develop their digital products. Most of these are niche publications like visitor guides and high school sports apps. She guides them through the Bar-Z process and trains them on their Drupal CMS.

“This has been very eye opening since I get to see some more of the individual voice of each publication,” she wrote Dr. Samir Husni. “It has been a wonderful extension of my Morris internship because it has shown me more of how the industry works.

“On the marketing side, I have a variety of duties. I manage our social media and write content for our blog. I also assist customers with marketing tactics and write news releases for them. There is a lot of copy-editing involved, as well.”

Moore was a management intern at Morris Communications in Augusta, Georgia, during the summer of 2014. She was a public relations intern at the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal from February 2014 through May 2014 and a WHOAwomen Magazine intern from January 2014 through May 2014. From April 2013 through May 2014, she was a design editor for The Daily Mississippian, and campus and city news reporter from August 2010 through March 2012.

“I am thankful to Professor Samir Husni for passing along his wisdom,” she wrote. “I find myself telling clients a lot of what I was taught in his classes.”

Alumni Update: Josh Ellis

Posted on: October 9th, 2015 by ewrobins

Josh EllisJosh Ellis, a 2008 graduate of the Meek School of Journalism originally from Longview, Texas, has been promoted to editor-in-chief of SUCCESS. A legacy publication founded in 1897, SUCCESS is a national service magazine covering entrepreneurship along with personal and career development. It boasts a print and digital subscription base of over 500,000 and a combined social following of 4 million. Ellis joined the magazine in 2012 as its features editor.