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UM School of Journalism and New Media welcomes Better Angels March 2-3

Posted on: February 24th, 2020 by ldrucker

The University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media will welcome the Better Angels to campus March 2 and 3 in an effort to unite in a time of political division.

Better Angels is a citizens’ organization uniting red and blue Americans in a working alliance to depolarize America. They will be in Oxford Monday, March 2 and Tuesday, March 3 to host two events.

The March 2 event will be a Better Angels Debate from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the Union Auditorium. Those who attend will discuss the university’s Confederate imagery and symbolism.

“The crux is that a group of people will think together, listen carefully to one another, and allow themselves to be touched and perhaps changed by each other’s ideas,” said UM School of Journalism and New Media professor Graham Bodie, Ph.D. “When done well, everyone walks out a little closer to the truth, more aware of the validity in opposing views, and with tighter community relationships.

red and blue

red and blue

 After a participant speaks, the chair will ask for one or two questions from the body, Bodie said.

All questions will be addressed to the chair, limiting the feeling that opinions are being “challenged” and encouraging nuance and thoughtful discussion.

All speakers are encouraged to bring up new ideas as they wish, to place them in context of the prior speeches, and to directly express responses to prior speeches, Bodie said.

The March 3 event will be a Better Angels Red-Blue Workshop from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Depot. The workshop is focused on university faculty and community members.

“The crux is that 6-7 self-identified ‘Reds’ and 6-7 self-identified ‘Blues’ come together for structured conversations that aim for us all to better understand the ‘other side’ (experiences and perspectives of people with whom we likely disagree),” Bodie said.

People who do not identify with one or the other are invited to be independent observers.

Bodie said Better Angels will illustrate the power and potential of listening first to understand, to demonstrate to students, faculty, and community members that perceived difference (based on ideology, political affiliation, or perspective) is not always as vast as the things we have in common.

“If we can respect the humanity of all people, focusing not on position but on what unites us, we can work together for positive change in our community,” Bodie said.

Students who are interested in participating on March 2, should email Bodie at gbodie@olemiss.ed

Filmmaker to screen Robert Penn Warren documentary Feb. 26 in Overby Center Auditorium

Posted on: February 23rd, 2020 by ldrucker

A veteran filmmaker who created a documentary about poet and novelist Robert Penn Warren will screen his film Wednesday, Feb. 26 at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics.

Tom Thurman’s film “Robert Penn Warren: A Vision” will be shown at 5:30 p.m. in the Overby Center Auditorium inside Farley Hall. After the screening, the filmmaker will talk with professor Joe Atkins about the documentary. Thurman has also completed documentaries and projects about other notable figures, including actor Harry Dean Stanton.

Journalist Nick Tosches and Tom Thurman

Journalist Nick Tosches and Tom Thurman

“Thurman is a veteran filmmaker whose past work includes ‘Crossing Mulholland,’ a 2011 documentary about Harry Dean Stanton,” said professor Joe Atkins. “I met Tom, who lives in Lexington, Kentucky, while doing my research on the actor.”

Atkins book Harry Dean Stanton: Hollywood’s Zen Rebel is expected to be published by the University Press of Kentucky in October.

Tom Thurman

Tom Thurman’s documentary

Thurman has produced and directed 36 documentaries on art, film, music, sports and literary figures, including Nick Nolte, John Ford and Hunter S. Thompson.

As a producer/writer for Kentucky Educational Television in Lexington, Thurman produces documentaries for the series Kentucky Muse, a showcase for artists with Kentucky roots, including Stanton.

“In high school, I became interested in painting, drawing and writing,” Thurman said via email. “In college, these interests expanded to sculpture and film history. Filmmaking allowed me to collapse all of these interests into one creative process: the written word, color, composition, and storytelling. Documentary filmmaking seemed more intimate to me, and connected me closer to the oral history tradition that was a part of my (very) rural upbringing.”

On the surface, Thurman said his documentary is about Warren’s life, work and career. More pointedly, however, it is about The Civil War, Southern culture, race, and how a sense of place comes to inform the creative process.

“Ideally, viewers will be inspired to read Warren’s work: not simply his greatest book—All the King’s Men—but also his poetry, his literary criticism, and his journalistic pieces on his changing views of race relations as seen through the eyes of a Southerner born and bred in the early 1900s,” Thurman said.

Tickets are not required for the event. If you plan to attend and require accommodations for a disability, please contact Sarah Griffith at 662-915-7146 or jour-imc@olemiss.edu. For more information about our journalism or IMC programs visit jnm.olemiss.edu.

If you have a comment or question about this story, email ldrucker@olemiss.edu.

Senior Lecturer Street to retire in May ending 30-year career

Posted on: February 19th, 2020 by ldrucker

Beloved Senior Lecturer Robin Street will retire from full-time teaching May 31, ending her 30-year career with the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media.

Street has taught and influenced hundreds of future public relations and communication professionals. She hopes to teach a class or two in the future, but will no longer teach the legendary class PR Techniques that launched so many students into communications careers.

Senior Lecturer Robin Street discusses a class project with two students in her PR Case Studies class. From left, are IMC major Jessica Lanter, Street and IMC major Naiomei Young. Photo by Maddie Bridges.

Senior Lecturer Robin Street discusses a class project with two students in her PR Case Studies class. From left, are IMC major Jessica Lanter, Street and IMC major Naiomei Young. Photo by Maddie Bridges.

Reaction from Street’s former students has been overwhelming, calling the news bittersweet as they post on social media or email her.

“I’m so sad that future students won’t get the chance to experience the Robin Street PR magic,” one former student wrote.

For Street, the decision is bittersweet as well.

“The school has meant so much to me, both as a graduate student and as an instructor,” Street said. After my first class in the journalism school, I knew I had found my home.

“Dr. Will Norton, then chair of the department, encouraged me to pursue studying public relations and was my thesis adviser. Now, he continues to encourage and inspire me as our dean.”

Senior Lecturer Robin Street discusses a class project with two students in her PR Case Studies class. From left, are IMC major Jessica Lanter, Street and IMC major Naiomei Young. Photo by Maddie Bridges.

Senior Lecturer Robin Street discusses a class project with two students in her PR Case Studies class. From left, are IMC major Jessica Lanter, Street and IMC major Naiomei Young. Photo by Maddie Bridges.

Several years after earning her degree, Street was hired to teach by Dr. Samir Husni.

“Dr. Husni changed my life when he gave me a chance to teach public relations,” Street said. “I can never thank him enough for having faith in me.”

Many students credit Street with shaping their communications career. They often write her to say they are using what they learned on the job, or they still hear her voice in their head when deciding how to handle a PR situation.

Student comments from social media or written to Street about her retirement include:

  • “You’ve had such a significant impact on my life, and I am forever thankful for you. You’ve touched so many of us, and you have introduced some of us (including me) to a career path we originally didn’t consider. Anything I do in life will be attributed to you.”
  • I truly do not know where I would be without you and the information you have instilled in me.
  • “Through my time with you, I not only learned about PR, but I learned even more from you, personally. You are always in a good mood, focusing on what you are blessed with, instead of the problems ahead. You care about each person. I will never forget when you gave me a second chance … You showed me grace, and I have never forgotten that.”
  • “I honestly couldn’t do this job without having taken all three of your classes. . . . Every single day, I apply something you taught me, and am totally ahead of the game in that I’m often advising my colleagues on the appropriate approach to take as it’s still so fresh in my mind.”

Scott Fiene, assistant dean for curriculum and assessment and associate professor of integrated marketing communications, said Street has a unique way with students that fosters learning.

“Plain and simple, students love her,” he said. “And it’s not just what she does in the classroom, but the way she gets to know students personally, connects with them, and stays in touch after they graduate. She is a known public relations figure in the region, and has the respect and admiration, not only of students and former students, but others in the industry.”

Dean Will Norton, Jr. said Street’s work sets the bar for public relations.

“Because Robin has taught writing intensely, she has raised public relations instruction to a new level,” he said. “When she talks about her students, her care and concern for students is apparent. I know she will miss teaching.  It has become a part of her DNA.”

The School of Journalism and New Media is asking Street’s former students to pay tribute to her in three ways, ranging from their words to fund donations, to their presence at a celebration.

Former students are asked to write a statement of what Street meant to them and to their career, or to share their favorite story about Street. The statements will be organized into a bound volume. The statement should be written, if possible, on the letterhead of your employer. Send the statement as an attachment to Sarah Griffith at slgriff@olemiss.edu by April 15.

Second, the School of Journalism and New Media has established the Robin Street Public Relations Students Support Fund to help PR students with funding for internships, attending conferences and entering competitions. It will also be used to establish the Robin Street Outstanding Public Relations Student award to be presented annually. To donate in Street’s honor, go to ignite.olemiss.edu/street.

Finally, a celebration of Street’s career is planned for Friday evening of Homecoming weekend in fall of 2020. It will be Oct. 23, 2020,  from 6-8 p.m. in the Overby Center conference room. Former students are especially invited to attend. RSVP to Sarah Griffith at slgriff@olemiss.edu.

University of Mississippi journalism professor featured in podcast about American character actor

Posted on: February 18th, 2020 by ldrucker

A University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media professor who has written a book about an American character actor who appeared in a number of classic films was recently featured in a Washington, D.C. podcast.

Professor Joe Atkins’ book Harry Dean Stanton: Hollywood’s Zen Rebel is expected to be published by the University Press of Kentucky in October. Atkins was recently featured in the “Documental” podcast created by journalist Whitney Fishburn.

Harry Dean Stanton

Harry Dean Stanton

Professor Joe Atkins

Professor Joe Atkins

“Whitney is the niece of Harry Dean Stanton and thus had a special interest in the topic,” Atkins said.

In the podcast Family legacies that hurt: The secret heart of actor Harry Dean Stanton, Fishburn talks about Stanton, who is known for roles in “Cool Hand Luke,” “Paris, Texas,” and the HBO show “Big Love.” He was in hundreds of movies, but never in a lead role. He died in September of 2017 at the age of 91.

“For me, Atkins’ investigative work – which I have yet to read, but have discussed in part with him – will shed light on some mysteries I have carried my whole life,” Fishburn writes. “Thank you for that, Joe.

podcast

Click the graphic to listen to the podcast.

“For movie buffs, I suspect when the book is released, he will have added a worthy volume to the canon of American filmography, spanning as his biography of Harry Dean does, so many decades and so many changes in Hollywood that a scrawny Kentucky kid with a lovely lilt to his voice managed to survive and reflect back to us all.”

On Wednesday, Feb. 26, a veteran filmmaker who completed a documentary about Stanton will visit the School of Journalism and New Media to screen a documentary about poet and novelist Robert Penn Warren.

Tom Thurman’s film “Robert Penn Warren: A Vision” will be shown at 5:30 p.m. in the Overby Center Auditorium inside Farley Hall. After the screening, the filmmaker will talk with Atkins about his documentaries. You can read the story about Thurman here.

If you have a comment or question about this story, email ldrucker@olemiss.edu.

UM School of Journalism and New Media professor featured in podcast

Posted on: February 13th, 2020 by ldrucker

Check out this podcast interview with Samir A. Husni, Ph.D., director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi. He shares his thoughts on the state of journalism and the publishing industry, and why his ACT10 Experience should be on your radar.

Link to podcast

Podcasts from the Printverse

Podcasts from the Printverse

Overby Center spring lineup includes visit by Shepard Smith, latest Silver Em recipient

Posted on: February 11th, 2020 by ldrucker

The Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at the University of Mississippi has announced its spring lineup of programs, including one of the first public appearances by Shepard Smith since he stepped down as the chief anchor of Fox News.

Smith, a Mississippi native, was also managing editor of Fox’s breaking news division. Besides his appearance at the Overby Center, Smith will be returning to his alma mater to receive the prestigious Silver Em award, which is given by the School of Journalism and New Media to a Mississippi-connected journalist whose career has exhibited “the highest tenets of honorable, public service journalism, inside or outside the state.”

Shepard Smith

Ole Miss alumnus Shepard Smith hosting FOX Report live from the Grove

“This spring’s programs offer great conversations with and about nationally recognized experts,” said Charles Overby, chairman of the center. “The audience will also have an opportunity to join these conversations.”

Each event will take place in the Overby Center Auditorium at 555 Grove Loop. The programs are free and open to the public, and parking will be available in the lot adjacent to the auditorium. The spring schedule includes:

Tuesday, February 18, 5:30 p.m. – THE INTERSECTION OF RELIGION AND POLITICS
Two nationally known journalists will discuss religion and the 2020 presidential election with Charles Overby, chairman of the Overby Center.  Terry Mattingly, an Overby fellow and editor of the daily blog GetReligion, and Richard Ostling, former chief religion writer for The Associated Press and former senior correspondent for Time Magazine, have written extensively about religion.

Wednesday, February 26, 5:30 p.m. – “ROBERT PENN WARREN: A VISION”
This documentary by the award-winning filmmaker Tom Thurman offers compelling insight into the life of the acclaimed writer Robert Penn Warren, whose novel “All the King’s Men” is considered one of the great dissections of Southern politics.

Tom Thurman

Tom Thurman

Thurman, a veteran filmmaker who has produced documentaries on director Sam Peckinpah, actor Harry Dean Stanton and writer Harry Crews, probes his fellow Kentuckian’s life, work, and evolution on race. Journalism Professor Joe Atkins will lead a discussion with Thurman after the film.

Wednesday, March 4, 5:30 p.m. – GENEVA OVERHOLSER: JOURNALISM AND DEMOCRACY IN CRISIS

A former editor of the Des Moines Register and now a consultant who writes about the future of journalism, Overholser will discuss how journalists are helping — and hindering – the profession’s role in democracy.

Overholser, who served as an ombudsman with The Washington Post, will be interviewed by Charles Overby and Greg Brock, an Overby fellow. Politics is certain to be part of the conversation since the program comes the day after Super Tuesday.

Tuesday, March 24, 5:30 p.m. – “JOSEPH PULITZER: VOICE OF THE PEOPLE”
Today’s threats to press freedom would be nothing new to Joseph Pulitzer, a leading figure in journalism, who spoke of “fake news” and warned more than 100 years ago that suppression of news threatened our democracy. One of the producers of the documentary, Robert Seidman, will discuss his project for PBS with Overby fellow Curtis Wilkie.Tuesday, March 31, 5:30 p.m. – SHEPARD SMITH COMES HOME

In one of his first public appearances since leaving Fox News, Shepard Smith returns to Ole Miss, his alma mater, and his home state of Mississippi to talk about his career in broadcast journalism in a conversation with Overby and Wilkie. Smith joined the network at its inception in 1996 and is known for his former role as the chief anchor and managing editor of the breaking news division.

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

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

Tuesday, April 7, 5:30 p.m. – ROBERT KENNEDY’S 1966 VISIT TO OLE MISS
The documentary “You Asked for the Facts” traces Robert F. Kennedy’s dramatic appearance at Ole Miss after law school students invited him to speak in hopes that it would derail former Gov. Ross Barnett’s drive to be elected again. It did, after Kennedy revealed details of the deals Barnett tried to cut with the Justice Department during the James Meredith crisis in 1962. Noted civil rights lawyer Barbara Phillips and a lecturer at Ole Miss’s law school, will discuss the film with the producer, Mary Blessey.

Renowned LGBTQ Activist and Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Speaks at Overby Center

Posted on: January 31st, 2020 by ldrucker

A LGBTQ+ activist with a 53-year history of justice organizing who was nominated for a Nobel Peace prize  spoke at the Overby Center Thursday, Feb. 13.

Mandy Carter talked about “Advancing Each Other: Building Coalitions Across Communities” during an event sponsored by the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media, the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies, and the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, and Center for the Study of Southern Culture as part of their SouthTalks series.

Mark Dolan, associate professor of journalism for the UM School of Journalism and New Media, said Carter’s message was about how to build coalitions among communities to spark change.

Mandy Carter, LGBTQ+ activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee

Mandy Carter, LGBTQ+ activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee

“The goal is to have a dialogue on stage, to reveal for students who are interested in activism a way to go about it on a grassroots level – how to organize, energize, and spark change, Dolan said in an earlier interview. “This is an enormous opportunity for all students to hear the story of an activist legend.”

Mandy Carter is a Southern, Black, human-rights activist and a legend in the LGBTQ+ community. She is co-founder of Southerners On New Ground, or SONG, a human rights organization devoted to uniting LGBTQ people in the South and assisting the poor, rural and working class, immigrants and people of color, to become leaders in shaping the region’s future.

Her talk focused on personal and grassroots activism based on her 53-year movement of activism history, according to a news release and bio provided. She explored how diverse communities might unite around shared goals of peace and justice, a collective process forging strong, collaborative bonds.

Carter was first introduced to activism in 1965 when the Quaker-based American Friends Service Committee visited her high school in upstate New York. Two years later, she hitchhiked across the country to San Francisco and began working with the pacifist-based War Resister’s League. She also participated in the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1968 Poor People’s Campaign.

In San Francisco, she noticed sizable numbers of displaced gay and lesbian youth from the South who had moved to California in search of a more welcoming place. Carter never forgot their voices, wondering how she might work with others, outsiders and insiders alike, to forge stronger ties, a sense of belonging, and thus more transformed communities.

She moved to North Carolina in 1983 and co-founded SONG. Carter has been called “one of the nation’s leading African American lesbian activists,” by the National Organization for Women. In 2002, she worked to enlist the LGBTQ community to improve conditions for striking workers at the Mt. Olive Pickle Company, Inc. in Mt. Olive, North Carolina.

Carter was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as part of the 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005, recognizing the peace work of women around the world.

Underscoring the importance of electoral politics in social change movements, Carter was one of the five national co-chairs of Obama LGBT Pride, the national LGBT infrastructure for Barack Obama’s historic 2008 presidential campaign and win. She organized grassroots networks, especially people of color throughout the South.

She has also been the national coordinator of the Bayard Rustin 2013 Commemoration Project of the National Black Justice Coalition.

She worked on many national and regional lesbian and gay pride marches, including the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbians and Gays. She is dedicated to connecting communities through activism and economic justice.

During her talk at the Overby Center, she was joined on stage by two UM students: JoAnndria Brown, a senior biochemistry major, and Kendrick Wallace, a master’s student in higher ed.

She was also joined by two faculty and staff members from the Sarah Isom Center. Sarah Heying is a graduate instructor of gender studies. She is a Ph.D. student in English literature at UM, where she researches lesbian and trans aesthetics in periodicals, comics, and genre fiction.

Hooper Schultz is a second year MA student whose research focuses on the Queer South, and the history of LGBTQ activism in North Carolina.

2020 Jobs Conference Aims to Put Students to Work Thursday, Jan. 30

Posted on: January 21st, 2020 by ldrucker

School of Journalism and New Media graduates will return to discuss careers and offer advice

You can register and find out more about this event here.

Students interested in making industry connections and getting a jump-start on their post-graduation job search may want to mark their calendar for the School of Journalism and New Media’s 2020 Jobs Conference.

The event set for 10-4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30 in the Overby Center and Farley Hall is a good place to start if you’re a student looking for a job opportunity.

Mark Burson, a professor with the School of Journalism and New Media who is leading the conference, said it’s an opportunity for graduating seniors to meet industry professionals and hiring managers and launch their job search.

Dream Job Sign

Dream Job Sign

“Alumni from both worlds of IMC and journalism will be available to answer questions, seek advice, review resumes and portfolios and most importantly – network,” he said. “Seniors will get a first-hand look at the types of jobs they can expect to secure with a degree from the j-school.”

Burson said they will learn:

  • Proven ways to land your first job
  • What to say/not to say in your hiring interview
  • How to create a winning impression
  • Tips to be successful from day one
  • The importance of finding your passion
  • Ways millennials can get along with Baby Boomer and Generation X bosses and colleagues

“At the very least, students will take away a dozen business cards of successful industry professionals who all share something in common with these seniors — a degree from Ole Miss,” Burson said. “Our hope at the conclusion of the day is that these seniors will be well on their way to completing their transition from student to professional.”

Ellen Meacham, another professor with the school who helped organize the conference, said it should be a fun and valuable event for students.

“It will be a day of panel discussions about finding that first job, networking, succeeding on the job, and other good advice, with (fairly) recent graduates, as well as opportunities for students to have one-on-one conversations with them too,” she said. “We have reached out to all of our grads and put together a list of participants from those who responded,  trying to bring in as many varied backgrounds as we could.”

Meacham said they hope to make the conference an annual event, or possibly hold it each semester. Some businesses represented at the conference by former students include Northeast Mississippi Health Systems, Wye Communications, Fruit of the Loom, Gannett News, WTVA, WMC5, and many more.

Ryan Rigney, global communications lead of the League of Legends franchise, is a 2014 graduate who will be part of the event. He will also be the first speaker of the spring semester at the School of Journalism and New Media in the Overby Center auditorium at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29 before participating in the conference on Thursday.

To request an interview, contact Debora Wenger, assistant dean for innovation and external partnerships and associate professor of journalism, at 662-915-7912 or drwenger@olemiss.edu.

Tickets are not required for the event. If you plan to attend and require accommodations for a disability, please contact Sarah Griffith at 662-915-7146 or jour-imc@olemiss.edu. For more information about our journalism or IMC programs visit jnm.olemiss.edu.

National religion columnist named senior fellow at Overby Center

Posted on: December 12th, 2019 by ldrucker

Veteran journalist Terry Mattingly, known for his 31 years of work as a national religion columnist, has been named a senior fellow at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at the University of Mississippi.

His appointment, effective Jan. 1, 2020, was announced by Charles Overby, chairman of the center.

“I have followed Terry’s work for many years and consider him the premier religion columnist in the country,” Overby said. “He is a keen observer of how religion affects politics and public policy, and he will add another voice and perspective for our programs dealing with First Amendment freedoms.”

The Overby Center is housed in Farley Hall.

The Overby Center is housed in Farley Hall.

He writes a daily blog, GetReligion.org, which for 17 years has offered a daily critique of mainstream media coverage of religion news and trends. With his appointment as a senior fellow, that blog will now be based at the Overby Center. The blog also includes essays by Richard Ostling and other veteran religion-beat professionals. Ostling was nationally recognized for his religion reporting at Time Magazine and The Associated Press.

Terry Mattingly

Terry Mattingly

Mattingly also will continue to write his weekly “On Religion” column for the Universal syndicate, which distributes the column to about 300 newsrooms in North America.

“It’s impossible to do journalism about the American South, or anywhere else, without talking about the role that religion plays in the lives of millions of Americans,” Mattingly said. “I am honored to get to work with Charles Overby and the fine team at the Overby Center and the university.”

There are two other senior fellows with distinguished journalism careers at the Overby Center. Curtis Wilkie, longtime political reporter for the Boston Globe, has been a fellow since the Center opened 12 years ago. Greg Brock, who was an editor at The New York Times and Washington Post, became a senior fellow last year. Both Wilkie and Brock are graduates of Ole Miss.

Mattingly grew up in Texas and graduated from Baylor University with a double degree in journalism and history. He then earned an M.A. at Baylor’s Church-State Studies program, with classes in theology, history, political science and law. He has an M.S. in journalism and mass communications from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

Mattingly has worked as a reporter and religion columnist at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver and the Charlotte Observer and Charlotte News in North Carolina.

During his academic career, he taught at Denver Seminary, Milligan College and Palm Beach Atlantic University before founding the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities in Washington, D.C. In 2015, the program moved to The King’s College in New York City, where it joined the McCandlish Phillips Journalism Institute, led by veteran journalist Paul Glader.

The School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi is one of 40 college and university partners of the New York City Journalism Semester in journalism program.

University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media professor’s TikTok assignment goes viral

Posted on: December 11th, 2019 by ldrucker

University of Mississippi School of Journalism student Ashley Watts created a TikTok video as an assignment in her J310: Social Media in Society class led by professor Brad Conaway, and it went viral.

“It has now been viewed by 7.4 million people, has 1.5 million likes, and has been shared 14,900 times,” Watts said. “Isn’t that crazy?”

You can view the TikTok video here or click the image below. 

Ashley Watts and family.

Ashley Watts and family.

We asked Conaway a little about the assignment and viral video.

Q. Can you tell me a little about the class you are teaching?

A. Journalism 310: Social Media in Society. The version I taught this semester was an online course… Each week, students were given articles, books, podcasts, movies, web videos, etc. to consume to do an assignment (either a quiz, essay, or something that specifically had to do with the lesson.) We tried to cover all of the latest, most important social media topics and themes. From shaming to privacy to influencers … We kept up all semesters with what was going on at Facebook the last few months.

Q. Can you tell me a little about the assignment you gave students?

A. The last section/unit was on “The Future of Social Media.” TikTok is an extremely popular app among under 20 year-olds (#1 most downloaded social media app worldwide last year), and the audience is growing up, and it is becoming a go-to place for digital marketing because of the demo and… well, it’s just fun – hypnotic and addictive.

The assignment was to watch “about an hour” of TikTok and then either make a video based on a current trend or write a paper about a current trend.

Brad Conaway

Brad Conaway

Q. What did this student do, in particular?

A. Produced a series of short, funny, sequential, videos staring her family that appeared as text messages on her phone… Used a great music sample from the app (Tricky by Run DMC) and delivered the message/punchline “Happy Thanksgiving.” Giving it a “now” angle that the app loves.

Q. The TikTok assignment went viral. Why do you think it went viral?

A. It was of the moment, with the Thanksgiving message (current)… The family is attractive and delivered the jokes like you’d want your own family to (relatable). It was funny in a goofy, corny way that kids love and relate to…. It wasn’t trying too hard to be cool. Mostly, the timing was impeccable… It gained a good following immediately, and apparently made it to the For You  page, (which is where content is featured and delivered to most users)… Then steady growth for a few days.