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Global communications director of League of Legends franchise to speak to UM students

Posted on: January 16th, 2020 by ldrucker

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

He will address an audience in the Overby Center auditorium at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29. The Overby Center is located inside Farley Hall on the University of Mississippi campus.

He will also be one of the featured panelists during the 2020 Jobs Conference set for 10-4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30 in the Overby Center and 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. “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.”

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

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 For more information about our journalism or IMC programs visit

This story was written by LaReeca Rucker.

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:

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

This story was written by LaReeca Rucker.

UM grad returns to discuss possible creation of Chair of Excellence in Investigative Reporting and Opinion Writing

Posted on: December 31st, 2019 by ldrucker

James Dickerson, head of the publishing company Sartoris Literary Group, recently visited the School of Journalism and New Media.

The 1968 University of Mississippi graduate came to discuss the possibility of creating a Chair of Excellence in Investigative Reporting and Opinion Writing with a focus on newspapers, magazines and books. Dickerson also discussed the creation of a James L. Dickerson Literary Trust, making an endowment for the chair.

Read the full story on Mississippi Today.

James Dickerson

Jim Dickerson, author, journalist, musician, music historian, and alumnus of The University of Mississippi, holds up one of his music columns as he talks with students at lunch in the Overby Boardroom. Photo by Michael Fagans.

Dickerson has authored more than 30 books. He worked as a staff writer and editor at three Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers—The Commercial Appeal of Memphis, Tennessee; the Clarion Ledger/Jackson Daily News of Jackson, Mississippi; and the Delta Democrat-Times of Greenville, Mississippi.

In the 1980s, he published and edited a national magazine titled Nine-O-One Network that made history by becoming the first magazine published in the South to obtain newsstand distribution in all 50 states and overseas in countries such as the United Kingdom, Spain and Portugal.

The discussion stems from the success of his book Colonel Tom Parker: The Curious Life of Elvis Presley’s Eccentric Manager, an investigative biography.

Originally published in 2001 by Cooper Square Press, Dickerson purchased the book rights two years ago and republished it under his Sartoris imprint.

Dickerson met with staff and spoke during classes with journalism and IMC students.

Column: I am redefining what it means to be an Ole Miss Rebel

Posted on: December 22nd, 2019 by ldrucker

Coming to Ole Miss was not my first option when I started exploring colleges and what I wanted to study. At a young age, I always wanted to be a teacher like my mother, but as I grew and explored my options, I came across journalism and the excitement of the media.

I was exposed to college options and started college tours my freshman year of high school.

Academics always came first in my household, and searching for a college was a big step when continuing that search. I had visited schools in Georgia, North Carolina, Louisiana, the list goes on and on.

Never once did I visit any schools in Mississippi, but something in my heart still made me apply to Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Mississippi.

You can read more of student Jordan Majersky’s column at

Jordan Majersky

Jordan Majersky



IMC master’s student designs logo for veteran license plate campaign

Posted on: December 19th, 2019 by ldrucker

IMC master’s student Jacquelyn Lawton is the program coordinator for Veteran & Military Services on the University of Mississippi campus. VMS recently completed its Welcome Home license plate campaign, and Lawton designed the logo used for it.

We asked Lawton about her job, major, campaign and the logo.

Jacquelyn Lawton

Jacquelyn Lawton

Q. Tell me a little about your job.

A. I am the program coordinator for Veteran & Military Services (VMS). The main function of our office is to assist students with the GI Bill and process their benefits. We also provide advice, guidance, advocacy, and outreach services for our military-connected student population. Veteran & Military Services works hard to take care of all members of this unique student population. I am lucky enough to be in a position to both ensure that students receive the money they deserve, produce content for marketing, and assist military-connected students face to face.

Q. What is the campaign, and how did it come about? What is its purpose?

A. We recently completed the “Welcome Home License Plate” campaign. Our goal with this campaign was to reach 300 pre-orders for the tag to have it produced by the state of Mississippi. Once produced, $37 of every tag ordered will be sent directly to the Welcome Home Fund via the Ole Miss Foundation. This is nearly 75% of the total cost for a specialty tag going straight towards helping student veterans. Now that the initial campaign is completed, vehicle owners across the state will get a chance to purchase the tag when they go to renew their registration.

At this time, money is going towards helping furnish the new Veterans Resource Center (VRC), which will be in George Street House. This Resource Center is a place for veterans to relax, study, or meet up. Currently, the VRC is located in the back of Yerby. It is difficult to get to and is not well equipped for our students (with disabilities). George Street House is located in the center of campus and is completely accessible; making it the perfect place for our new VRC downstairs, as well as VMS upstairs.

Q. Tell me about the tag? How did you come up with the design?

A. A stars and stripes Ole Miss is something that has been used on and off by various entities on campus. When I started at VMS in 2017, Andrew Newby (assistant director of VMS) was looking to rebrand the department. We decided that our office should own the stars and stripes Ole Miss logo and make it look great in the process. I then began creating a logo based on the idea as well as created other “rules” that our designs would follow. Most content we create has a white background to ensure that our designs remain simple. This is the idea that led to a white tag with the new and updated stars and stripes Ole Miss.

Q. Why did you choose to study IMC?

A. I graduated from Auburn University in 2013 with a B.A. in mass communications. I had trouble finding a job with this degree and ended up working retail for four years. The company I was working for went out of business, and I was suddenly without a job.

At this time, my father had just accepted a job at the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media, and I saw an opportunity to move with my parents from Auburn, Alabama to Oxford, Mississippi to seek a new path in life.

Not long after moving here, I met with Debora Wenger to discuss any options she might see for someone with my degree. While she pushed the journalism graduate school, as soon as she mentioned getting a master’s in IMC, I knew it was the path for me.

It seemed like a logical choice to enhance my degree in mass communications and make my self more marketable for future employment. I was fascinated by the idea of a customer-centric approach and about using all of my knowledge about communication towards something tangible. I have since found a passion, not only for the customer-centric approach of IMC, but for marketing strategy and hope to soon find a position in this area.

You can read more about the campaign by clicking this text.

This story was written by LaReeca Rucker.

Meet the 2019-2020 Student Media Managers at the University of Mississippi

Posted on: December 18th, 2019 by ldrucker

Meet the Student Media managers for 2019-2020.

Take a look at the video below and read the profiles to learn more about our students in charge of student media this year.

Students Lucy Burnam and Ingrid Valbuena created this video and story package.

Link to Video

Link to Video

Click This Text Link or the Photo Above to Watch the Video

GRACYN ASHMORE – NewsWatch Ole Miss Manager:

Oxford native Gracyn Ashmore visited NewsWatch Ole Miss during her senior year of high school, and volunteered to help with a summer project. After that, she was hooked.

“They make you feel like a person and not a number,” Ashmore said. “I could not be happier in the journalism program.”

Ashmore, a junior broadcast journalism major with a minor in political science, has been a correspondent and graphics producer for the newscast. She was selected as NewsWatch station manager for fall semester 2019.

“I want my talent and staff to learn from me and I learn from them,” Ashmore said. “I want to help each and every person involved feel valued and to succeed.”

Ashmore oversees everything that goes into the daily, 30-minute live newscast for Lafayette County, Monday through Friday. She works with more than two dozen producers, directors, anchors and correspondents to make sure the show runs as smoothly as possible.

“It is a team effort and we run like a well-oiled machine. I adore my staff.”

During the last academic year, Ashmore worked as a weekend reporter for WTVA 9 News in Tupelo for six months. Her experience further confirmed her dream of working as a reporter after graduation.

“It was the most incredible learning experience in my work besides NewsWatch,” Ashmore said.  “I would have never had that opportunity if I had not worked for NewsWatch as a freshman at Ole Miss.”

In August, Ashmore and her staff went through training to learn how to use new equipment, after a major upgrade during summer 2019.

Nancy Dupont, journalism professor and NewsWatch adviser, said that Ashmore and Executive Producer Brian Barisa bring intelligence, skill and energy to their jobs.

“When disaster strikes, as it frequently does in preparing a live newscast, Gracyn and Brian remain calm and level-headed,” Dupont said.


BRIAN BARISA – NewsWatch Ole Miss Manager:

Brian Barisa is majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in political science. In the spring semester, he will take over as NewsWatch newscast manager, and Ashmore will become executive producer.

Barisa is from Frisco, Texas, and was impressed that he could come to Ole Miss and get involved in student media as a freshman.

“I was the senior producer after four years of classes in high school broadcast and wanted to keep working in media as quickly as I could,” Barisa said.

As executive producer, he is in charge of the scriptwriting and time setting for the daily newscast. This year he is most excited to work with the recently purchased full HD system.

“My favorite part is finding content and building up a show before anyone else has gotten started,” Barisa said.

Barisa had an internship with RealNews PR, a public relations agency based in Dallas. He created graphics, videos and content for clients.  “It was my first chance to use programs like Adobe After Effects professionally and dive deeper into how to create better content.” 

Outside of the SMC, Barisa can be found participating in the Ole Miss Esports program. “I’ve been able to get heavily involved with it because it combines my hobby of gaming with my competitive nature and drive to always win, while also being something modern and new that is groundbreaking on the campus,” Barisa said.

Barisa’s dream is to someday travel the world as a GT car racing driver.




REBECCA BROWN – Advertising Sales Manager:

Becca Brown is in her second year as advertising sales manager. Rarely does a student serve two years in the top position.

Her dream of pursuing cheerleading led her from Hallettsville, Texas, to Ole Miss. After two years as an Ole Miss cheerleader, Brown wanted to become even more involved on campus. A friend recommended her for the SMC sales position and she quickly showed her leadership potential.

Brown is a senior majoring in marketing in the business school. She supervises a staff of five account executives. Her goal for this year is to bring the best revenue numbers The Daily Mississippian has ever seen, and to grow the revenue from digital and broadcast student operations.

“I love the relationships I have made with clients and the value small business brings to the Oxford community,” Brown said. “I am always pushing our team to do the absolute best we can.”

Roy Frostenson is SMC assistant director for advertising. “It’s not often we’re able to get someone to repeat in this position so we’re excited to have Rebecca back, with her experience, leading our sales team for another year,” Frostenson said. “She’s organized, focused on details and task oriented – all qualities you want and look for in a sales manager. Rebecca brings a lot of drive and determination to the job and is a great leader for the sales team.”

In the summer of 2019, Brown served as a financial adviser intern for Edward Jones Investments, and she hopes to work there again when she graduates in May.

“I had such a wonderful experience and got to utilize some of the skills I learned with the SMC,” Brown said. “The internship this summer gave me a peek into what daily life is like for a financial adviser and I could not be more excited.”


LAUREN CONLEY – Rebel Radio Station Manager:

A radio show called “Electric Ladiez” was Lauren Conley’s first introduction to Rebel Radio in the Student Media Center. When she became a DJ and got to talk about how topics in entertainment reflected culture, she felt a certain tranquility in the booth and knew it was something she wanted to pursue.

“I would feel at peace every time I would walk into the booth because it was like a personal safe space,” Conley said.  “Now the whole station is my safe space because every time I walk in, I hear music and that is my agent of calmness.”

Conley is from Grenada, Mississippi. She is a senior broadcast journalism major with a specialization in media sales and a minor in theater arts. The summer before she became involved with the SMC, she interned as a producer with WTVA 9 news in Tupelo.

“I was met with a demanding newsroom setting full of strict deadlines and high expectations,” Conley said. “It was difficult at first, but after I got the hang of it, I became more confident in myself in this line of work. This pushed me to try out for NewsWatch and Rebel Radio.”

During her junior year, she was a DJ for Rebel Radio and also an anchor for the NewsWatch team. A year later, she is the Rebel Radio station manager. Conley said her love of producing, which started during her WTVA internship, led her to apply to lead the station. Producing attracts her because it involves deadlines, scheduling and management.

“I like being able to see my vision turn into a reality,” she said.

As station manager, Conley is in charge of 50 DJs and a staff that includes a news director, a music director and marketing directors. She schedules live remotes for events, conducts partnerships with companies in Oxford for sponsorship, and is also the person to call if something goes w rong in the studio.

“Something cool about my job is that I get to discover who my DJs are and understand why one person likes this and not that and what their musical choices say about them,” Conley said.  “We form a little community within itself here at this station. With my staff, I feel like we have gotten to know each other on a personal level. We all have a great friendship to the point where it doesn’t feel like a job, but a bunch of people that come together to make the station better.”

Her goals for Rebel Radio are to gain more exposure for the station. She wants to implement more live remotes to have students speak about different topics, and have student organization leaders on air to inform students about campus involvement. She wants to feature DJs’ shows on their YouTube channel for listeners to play their favorite shows on the go. One big accomplishment this year: She worked with SMC professional staff member Hannah Vines to redesign the radio station website.

“Lauren brings a lot of enthusiasm to her job as station manager and is constantly looking for ways to motivate her staff and improve the station,” said Roy Frostenson, adviser for Rebel Radio.

While pursuing a career in acting, Conley plans to work as a DJ or manager for another radio station after graduation in May. Most recently she was an extra for the NBC drama “Bluff City Law.”


DANIEL PAYNE – The Daily Mississippian Editor-In-Chief:

When Daniel Payne asked his SMC colleagues what word best described him, the answers all boiled down to a similar thread: passionate.

 “I don’t mean that I’m the kind of person that stands on my desk and barks orders,” Payne said. “I’m passionate in that I’ll lie awake late after work and think about the next story, next post, next paper.”

Originally from Collierville, Tennessee, Payne is a senior Honors College student majoring in print journalism and minoring in political science. He got involved with The Daily Mississippian when friends told him the DM was searching for writers. This year, he is editor-in-chief.

“When I started spending more time in the SMC, I learned so much in such a short amount of time,” Payne said. “The advisers, professors, editors and writers I worked with gave me knowledge and instincts that I can’t imagine getting anywhere else.”

Greg Brock is Daily Mississippian adviser this year. Brock is a former DM managing editor and a recently retired New York Times editor.

“Of all of the young journalists I have worked with through the decades, Daniel is the one whose talent I could not quite quantify when I began teaching him and working with him in student media,” Brock said. “It finally hit me one day:  He simply was born with journalism DNA. His talent goes far beyond his reporting, writing, editing and leadership skills, which are vast. He is the rare young journalist with an old soul, drawing on the best of the past to lead this next generation.”

         Payne said his position involves a lot of thinking about what a great publication should be and then trying to execute that vision. He spends his day thinking about how to work with many aspects of journalism at once, from reporting to motion graphics, saying it’s one of the most challenging things he’s ever done creatively but also part of what makes the job fun.

“I try to remind myself and others that it’s OK to throw out some silly ideas before you settle on one,” Payne said. “By allowing myself to be creative without judgment at first, I can find some solutions that I wouldn’t have been able to get without allowing myself to try something new. It isn’t until I’ve tried several options that I know which one is best.”

While Payne wants content to drive the pieces they create, he said one of his main goals is making the DM more relevant in the digital world since that’s where so many people, especially students, get their information.

“We have totally redesigned our online presence, which means that students can find news that matters to the community on our website and social media,” Payne said. “We want students to understand the world that is immediately around them as well as enjoy the stories that come from this special place.”

One of his favorite internships was with online publication The Globe Post in Washington, D.C. While he said it was uncomfortable at first to try to learn digital journalism skills and also learn how to produce good pieces on important events that were happening all the time, he was  obsessed with it all. One of his assignments: Cover the first trial of former lobbyist Paul Manafort.  Photo caption: During his internship in D.C., Daniel had the opportunity to attend a White House press briefing.

As DM editor-in-chief, Payne leads a staff that includes dozens of editors, writers, photographers, designers, social media coordinators, cartoonists, videographers and more.

“Working with really talented, passionate people is another great part of the job,” Payne said. “I’ve learned so much from them, and the editorial staff has become a close group of friends so quickly. I’m inspired by the work that they produce individually and proud of the work we do as a whole.”


MEGAN SUTTLES – The Ole Miss Yearbook Editor-In-Chief:

Megan Suttles always knew she wanted to attend the University of Mississippi because of her family’s love for the school. But she didn’t originally plan to become part of student media.

          “Last year’s editor-in-chief reached out to me through social media and offered me the photo editor position,” Suttles said. “Photography has always been my biggest passion and I knew I would be missing out on a great opportunity if I declined, so I took the job and it ended up being a life-changing decision.”

Suttles, a native of Meridian, Mississippi, is majoring in Arabic and journalism. This year, as editor-in-chief of The Ole Miss yearbook, she gets to lead a staff working to put together the annual for students and alumni as they reflect on their time at UM.

“That has to be the coolest part of my job,” Suttles said. “Being able to use my passion for photography to tell stories, while also getting to write and design a book with a group of other people who feel just as passionate about this school.”

While Suttles said she has big shoes to fill, she hopes to create a yearbook that’s just as good as previous yearbooks.

“I want students to be aware that their time at Ole Miss is one-of-a-kind and unlike any other year, so they should cherish the fact that there will be a book to document all of this change,” Suttles said. “I want more students to get involved with the yearbook, maybe even write or taking pictures for us, so that they can be a part of documenting everything.”

Patricia Thompson, assistant dean for student media, said Suttles did such an outstanding job as photo editor of the 2019 yearbook that she was the natural choice to lead the staff this year.

“This semester, we are enjoying watching Megan and her staff create their theme for the 2020 yearbook, design a cover to reflect that theme and assign and edit articles and photos and other content,” Thompson said. “Megan’s enthusiastic spirit inspires her staff and the rest of the SMC.”

Suttles said that if she could go back and give advice to herself on one thing, it would be to be more confident, knowing it’s OK to be insecure about where you will end up, but having confidence and doing your best can bring about some amazing things.

“I’m stressed out a lot of the time, but I think people see that I’m stressed out because I’m ambitious and I care about accomplishing my goals,” Suttles said. “I think ambitious would be a good word to describe me.”

Suttles, a senior, said her long-term goal is to be a journalist based in the Middle East.

Read more about the Student Media Center at

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.

IMC master’s student named Forbes 30 Under 30 scholar

Posted on: December 5th, 2019 by ldrucker

Ro Rhodes talks about her future with an inspiring brand of confidence that makes you believe she will succeed no matter what life throws at her.

The University of Mississippi master’s student in integrated marketing communications recently was named a Forbes 30 Under 30 scholar and invited to the Forbes Under 30 Summit. The elite program, held Oct. 27-30 in Detroit, included a star-studded speaker’s roll with tennis star Serena Williams, NBA star Kevin Durant, actress Olivia Munn, rapper 21 Savage and many more.

The event also included a community service day, music festival and breakout sessions with major figures from technology, entertainment, finance, fashion, food and philanthropy.

“To see other people who are just as eager and excited about what they are working in, and relate my story to them, was really cool,” Rhodes said. “A big takeaway was that you’re not the only one, so you need to be constantly working because there are other people all around the country trying to do whatever you’re doing.”

Ro Rhodes

Ro Rhodes

Rhodes noticed that many presenters and people she met had different stories and pathways to their success, which helped her understand more about what goes into climbing to the top.

“There are multiple ways to get to the end, but really seeing how many different paths you can take and still be someone in their field to look up to and appreciate is really cool,” Rhodes said. “It was just a really good experience to be around people like that.”

The program gives high-achieving students a well-rounded experience, said Laura Brusca, Forbes vice president of corporate communications.

“This program is designed to increase diversity and give entrepreneurial-minded, high-achieving students low-cost access to four days of programming that will help them think more broadly about social, economic and geopolitical issues impacting our world today,” Brusca said.

Rhodes, a Jersey City, New Jersey native, already has completed internships with the NFL and the NBA, and she dreams of being head of marketing for an NBA team one day.

She works as a graduate assistant in the UM Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. She deals mainly with the fan experience, helping shape the atmosphere at Ole Miss sporting events.

She believes the specialty will continue to grow, as venues find ways to compete with high-definition TV and the comfort of home to try to get people in the seats.

“I once realized none of my favorite sports experiences have been on the couch; they have always been there in the crowd and on the court,” Rhodes said.

Jason List, associate athletics director for marketing and fan experience, who supervises Rhodes, said what she brings to the team is not measurable.

“She’s the person you go to when you know something is going to be seen by 60,000 people and it has to be perfect,” List said. “But her contagious personality is her best quality. She makes the people around her better. You don’t find all that in a person her age very often.”

She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky, where her dad, Rodrick Rhodes, was a basketball standout before transferring to the University of Southern California. He was selected by the Houston Rockets in the first round of the 1997 NBA draft, and his career also included stops with the Vancouver Grizzlies and the Dallas Mavericks.

Her father has been a huge influence on Rhodes’ life, but she doesn’t drop his name to get ahead. She worked at Ole Miss for seven months before one of her coworkers even found out that her dad played for the Grizzlies, his favorite NBA team.

“I’ve just never wanted anyone to think I got to where I am because of who he is,” she said. “I have done a great job of making my own pathway, but if it comes up, it fits in the story, but I try not to lead with that because I just want people to know I put in the hard work to get to where I am.”

Rodrick Rhodes’ relentless focus on pursuing his NBA dream is an inspiration to his daughter, she said. She realized her dad accomplished something only a tiny percentage of the population ever does – getting to play professional sports. Her mother, Sharnese Johnson, also taught her persistence and how to constantly try to get better, Rhodes said.

Though her dad’s shadow is large at Kentucky, Rhodes loved working there. And while she hails from the Garden State, she fits in around Southerners, she said. She knew when she was searching for graduate assistantships that she wanted to stay in the Southeastern Conference.

“I realized that Kentucky and Ole Miss have different traditions, but they definitely value tradition as a whole,” Rhodes said. “It is something that they hold dear.

“So when I found that out and did a little more research, it just kind of felt natural to come to Ole Miss. It all just flowed. I just knew this was the next step.”

She’s found her classes rewarding, as well as being at the table during meetings in athletics and seeing how decisions are made, why they are made and how they are carried out, she said. She is on track to graduate with her master’s degree in May.

Ole Miss has prepared her well for her career path, she said.

“I have had a great time at the university, and I’m sad that it’s drawing to a close, but I know that once you’re here, you’re always welcomed back,” Rhodes said. “I know Ole Miss will always hold a special place for me as the place where I did that final push into being a grownup and transitioned into being a working professional.

“Ole Miss has given me the tools to make that transition gracefully.”

This story was written by Michael Newsom of University Communications.

Column: Being part of a military family can be challenging and rewarding

Posted on: November 29th, 2019 by ldrucker

University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media journalism student Madisyn Bornfleth, 20, is a junior from Swansboro, North Carolina. When her family moved to Meridian, she learned about the University of Mississippi. She was determined to attend Arizona State University, since most of her friends did, but after touring Ole Miss with a friend, she became a Rebel.

Madisyn Bornfleth and family.

Madisyn Bornfleth and family.

Bornfleth came to college to study nursing, but decided to pursue writing, reading and sports. She is pursuing a career in sports journalism. She hopes to intern for ESPN or the SEC network. Her dream job is to become a sports sideline reporter for the NFL.

She plans on moving back to Arizona after graduation, but now, she’s seeking an internship. Read her column about growing up in a military family on

Q & A with Matthew Hendley; 60 Minutes intern and News21 fellow

Posted on: November 27th, 2019 by ldrucker

Matthew Hendley, a University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media student, has been selected for News21, a national college journalism program that tackles one tough subject every year.

Hendley is a junior broadcast journalism major from Madison, Mississippi. He has worked as a NewsWatch Ole Miss anchor, play-by-play announcer for Rebel Radio and local government reporter at the Beat Reporter. In his freshman year, Hendley won first place in the Southeast Journalism Conference TV newscast anchoring competition.

We asked Hendley a few questions about the program and other journalism opportunities he has experienced through UM.

Q: In 2020, News21 will be examining violent crimes committed by juveniles across the country and how they are treated before, during and after incarceration. Do you think this will be an interesting topic to explore?

A: This project is going to be extremely interesting to dive into. I’ll be in a class for the entire spring semester dedicated solely to this topic. Nearly 53,000 youth are held in facilities away from home as a result of juvenile or criminal justice involvement on any given day. Though I’m still fresh on this topic, I think it will be fascinating to look deeper into the more serious crimes that juveniles commit, and how that affects their image in the eyes of the justice system, as well as society.

Matthew Hendley at 60 Minutes.

Matthew Hendley at 60 Minutes.

Q: Brittany Brown, another student who was enrolled in our program, worked with News21 recently. Have you had a chance to talk to her about her experience?

A: Brittany thinks very highly of the program. I think the experience was great for her, and the work she and her team produced is evidence of that. “Hate in America” (the name of the documentary Brown and her team produced) was excellent journalism. Brittany gave me tips for my application and even put in a good word. She and others made it a very smooth process.

Q: What led you to apply for the opportunity?

A. The school sends an application to the program on behalf of one student, so when Dr. Wenger asked me if I would consider applying, I jumped on the opportunity. I owe my gratitude to my advisors, mentors and deans. I feel very honored.

Q: What do you hope to gain from the experience?

A: It’ll be cool to be at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State. Chasing the story around the country will be fun. I look forward to working with a team of journalists from places vastly different than Mississippi. Dublin? British Columbia? That’s pretty awesome. I’m excited to see how we approach this project given our various backgrounds. My hope is that my lens continues to widen as I’m exposed to the experiences and difficulties of those involved in our investigation. The News21 teams in the past have produced impressive, award-winning works of journalism. I have faith that we’ll do the same.

Matthew Hendley at 60 Minutes.

Matthew Hendley at 60 Minutes.

Q: You are currently interning in New York with the long-running television news program “60 Minutes.” What has that experience been like?

A: “60 Minutes” is going well and just about to wrap up. It’s always interesting working in a news environment in the time we live in. Obviously, “60 Minutes” isn’t your typical newsroom. I’m observing and learning how to take it slow and really investigate a story through research and preparation. It is incredible to see how many elements are involved in creating what ends up going on air. The editorial eye here is world class, and I feel privileged that they even let me in the building.

News21’s participating universities include Butler University, DePauw University, Dublin City (Ireland) University, Elon University, Kent State University, Morgan State University, St. Bonaventure University, Syracuse University, University of British Columbia, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Illinois, University of Iowa, University of Mississippi, University of North Texas, University of Oklahoma and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. In addition, approximately a dozen ASU students will be part of the program.