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UM School of Journalism and New Media trains three new drone pilots

Posted on: May 27th, 2019 by ldrucker

The University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media has trained three new certified drone pilots.

Professors Iveta Imre, Ph.D., Bobby Steele and Michael Fagans all took professor Ji Hoon Heo’s class, then passed the test to become certified drone pilots.

Heo said UM has trained around 30 to 40 drone pilots who have passed certification. That number will likely increase to 50 after the last class completes the test, he said.

“When I first developed the course, I wanted to teach it the way I wanted to learn,” Heo said. “When I first studied for the test, I had to read 300 plus pages of the study guide that the Federal Aviation Administration had put out. It was dry. So I lecture half the class, and the other times, we go out in groups of three or four in the intramural field, and we practice flying.

“We do cone drills to develop their flying skills and also learn the types of shots you can use with a drone. We take a lot of practice quizzes and tests to get them ready for the FAA Part 107 test, which is what you need to get the certification.”

Imre, who completed Heo’s last class, is an assistant professor of visual storytelling at the UM School of Journalism and New Media.

“I wanted to become a drone pilot because I think having that skill can be very useful for teaching my broadcast journalism classes,” she said. “It was also a challenging goal I set for myself, and the more I got into studying for the exam, the more I actually enjoyed the process and flying drones. I think footage you can capture using drones can be extremely useful and can provide a unique visual perspective. “

Imre said having a license to professionally fly drones will allow her to work with students on visually compelling stories.

“The students will be able to fly drones under my supervision, get the experience and create amazing stories for their portfolios,” she said.

If you are interested in learning how the UM School of Journalism and New Media can help you become a certified drone pilot, email our school at

University of Mississippi journalism student honored for defending First Amendment at Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Posted on: May 16th, 2019 by ldrucker

There are few principles that journalists hold dearer than the First Amendment, and on the rooftop of the Newseum in Washington, D.C., Ole Miss journalism sophomore Grace Marion was honored for her work in fighting for the fundamental rights of a free press.

Marion won a Hefner First Amendment Award, and in introducing her to the crowd, Washington Post columnist and award judge Karen Tumulty indicated how impressed she was by Marion’s work.

“Many have been asking, ‘Is there even a future for journalism?’ Well, we have an answer in two words – Grace Marion.”

While in high school, Marion was editor-in-chief for The Playwickian, the student newspaper at Neshaminy High in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. In the face of much resistance, she published an investigation into the way the school handled records of sexual harassment and assault complaints against teachers.

Grace Marion

“Again, and again, Grace fought censorship,” Tumulty said. “Courage and fortitude won her this award.”

Other award winners included Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, who wrote the bestselling book, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, and attorney Ted Boutrous, Jr., who represented CNN’s Jim Acosta when Acosta had his White House press credentials pulled.

Marion said she was excited to learn about her award, but a bit overwhelmed when she learned who else had won.

“I thought, ‘Oh no, they messed up.’ My work didn’t actually do anything, and that guy got Jim Acosta’s press pass back,” Marion said.

Marion’s parents and Assistant Dean Deb Wenger were in the audience to cheer Marion on. Wenger said the school is proud to have her in the program.

“Grace has the drive and the smarts to do whatever she wants to do,” Wenger said. “I’m just glad she wants to be a journalist and that she wants to learn her craft at our school.”

Marion said her goal is to one day be a foreign correspondent. Tumulty is confident we’ll be hearing more about her in the future.

“Now a sophomore at Ole Miss, Grace Marion is just getting started,” Tumulty said.

Never Dimming Her Light: Thornton excels and overcomes obstacles to graduate

Posted on: May 15th, 2019 by ldrucker

The obstacles in the way of pursuing a college education began well before Lasherica Thornton stepped foot on the campus of the University of Mississippi.

A Type 1 diabetic and mother of two before she graduated from Bruce High School at the top of her class, Thornton was never a stranger to adversity.

“My mother passed away when I was 2 years old,” Thornton said. “She was killed in a car accident. I was dealing with that as I was growing up, and I had the typical behavioral problems that go with it.”

Thornton had her first child, Naomi, when she was 13. She had her second daughter, Aubrey, when she was in high school.

“Honestly, (Naomi) changed my life for the better,” Thornton said. “I just don’t know where I would be if it was not for her. (Aubrey) further helped me become the person I am today.”

Lasherica Thornton was named one of the Who’s Who students at the University of Mississippi Class of 2018-19. Thornton said her daughters Aubrey, left, and Naomi, middle, keep her motivated.

When it came time to pick a college, Thornton decided it was best to stay close to home and attended UM on a variety of scholarships.

“We moved to Oxford and they loved it just as much as I did,” she said.

Thornton found her calling early in life when an adviser recommended she join her high school newspaper.

“From the first moment of writing that first story, I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” she said.

Thornton hit the ground running at Ole Miss, excelling in her classwork and joining a variety of organizations. But obstacles continued. Her diabetes caused health issues, putting her in intensive care twice. Another health scare occurred when Thornton was a freshman.

“Naomi had a seizure and I had to rush her to the hospital,” she said. “When I got her home, I still had a final exam to take. I had to get her situated, get to campus and take a final. It was moments like that (that were the biggest obstacles).”

Thornton said she would not have made it through her three-and-a-half years at Ole Miss and gotten her job at The Jackson Sun, a daily newspaper in Jackson, Tennessee, without her professors, particularly Jennifer Simmons, assistant dean for student services in the School of Journalism and New Media, and Alysia Burton Steele, assistant professor of journalism.

Thornton is the education reporter at The Jackson Sun, a daily newspaper in Jackson, Tennessee.

“I owe Ole Miss so much and all of the professors so much for that,” she said.

Thornton said she looks forward to Commencement.

“I worked really hard for this,” she said. “I’m not a person who gives up, so I was never giving up, but it was about getting through those tough moments.

“More than anything, it’s about breaking statistics and letting my children be able to see that mama did this with two kids. They saw mama graduate high school as valedictorian, but mama went beyond that and got her bachelor’s.”

She said Ole Miss has taught her to strive for her goals, no matter the twists and turns it takes to get there.

“I got my first B in college,” she said. “I cried about that. Some people may have thought that was silly, but don’t let anybody stop you from crying about the things that you are passionate about.

“This university showed me (that you) don’t ever dim your light for anybody. Always be dedicated and determined to do what you want to do.”

This story was written by Justin Whitmore of University Marketing Communications. For more information about our programs, email

UM School of Journalism and New Media graduates were stylish from head to toe

Posted on: May 12th, 2019 by ldrucker

University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media students showed off their graduation style from head to toe Saturday.

Many members of the class of 2019 sported creatively designed high heels and unique caps with funny or meaningful messages.

While some featured iconic elements of the Ole Miss campus, such as the Walk of Champions, others became canvases for paintings of the graduates, Bible verses and celebratory messages.

Take a look at the gallery of photos we snapped. Photos by students Halle Ames, Benton Dodd and Ingrid Valbuena.

UM School of Journalism and New Media professor wins Vicki Mahan Ally of the Year Award

Posted on: May 8th, 2019 by ldrucker

A University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media professor has been recognized for her work to make UM more inclusive for all students.

Alysia Burton Steele, assistant professor of journalism, has been named the recipient of the Vicki Mahan Ally of the Year Award. The award recognizes individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to make the university a welcoming, accepting, and inclusive place for LGBTQ students, faculty and staff.

We asked Steele a few questions about the award.


Q. How did you feel when you were named as a winner of the award?

I was surprised and excited by the awards. Kevin Cozart, Deb Wenger, Bobby Steele and Brittany Brown created a fake reason for me to come on campus that day, and I came because I thought Brittany was receiving an award. So, they lied to me – but for a good reason. I had no idea I was nominated, and it’s quite an honor.

Q. For those who don’t know, what is the award?

The Vicki Mahan Ally of the Year Award is an award where faculty members are honored for their contributions and dedication to inclusiveness regarding the LGBTQ community. It appears a former student from five years ago, Sha Simpson, nominated me for helping her stay focused with her studies, and I encouraged her to get counseling. I assured her there was nothing wrong with getting help, and I wanted her to know that I was always going to be there for her.

When her family cut ties with her after she came out, it broke my heart to see her struggling, and after all these years, I can’t believe Sha wrote to Kevin Cozart and nominated me. When I heard Kevin reading her letter, I thought it sounded like Sha, but I wasn’t sure. At that point, I didn’t know the award was for me. I burst into tears when my name was called because the letter was touching, and well, I love Sha like a daughter.

Q. Why were you told you won the award?

I am a big supporter of people being true to themselves – no matter how they identify. I do not judge people based on sexual orientation, race, religion, ethnicity – everything that comes with diversity, I am supporting it. I am biracial, and come from a very welcoming, loving family.

From childhood, my mother Stella Duncan always instilled me in me to accept people for who they are – that we have no reason to judge. I want every student to know that my office is a safe space, and I am always willing to help. That is just who I am as a person, but I’m honored to be recognized for that.

Diversity is in everything I do, so no matter what class I teach, what scholarship I create, what service I pledge, I will always include diversity – it’s what makes this world a better place. So, I’m just going to keep being me.

Documentary UM student helped create wins Student Edward R. Murrow Award

Posted on: May 4th, 2019 by ldrucker

A documentary that a University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media student helped create has won the Student Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Digital Reporting.

The 2018 Carnegie-Knight News21 documentary “Hate in America” that UM student Brittany Brown helped create also recently won a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in the college category.

Brown was one of the students selected to participate in the national investigation into hate crimes in the U.S. as part of the 2017 Carnegie-Knight News21 multimedia reporting initiative.

The Quitman native has worked for the Student Media Center as a digital content producer, anchor and correspondent for NewsWatch Ole Miss, and as writer and assistant news editor for The Daily Mississippian.

She was an intern at WTOK-TV in Meridian and a research intern in the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Summer Research Program. She is former president of the University of Mississippi Association of Black Journalists.

Previously, Brown was honored for her work by the Radio-Television Digital News Association, the Broadcast Education Association and the Editor & Publisher EPPY Awards honoring the best in digital media.

Headquartered at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, News21 was established by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to demonstrate that college journalism students can produce innovative, in-depth multimedia projects on a national scale.

Students from journalism programs across the U.S., as well as Canada and Ireland, joined Cronkite students for the 2018 investigation. They examined the major issues surrounding hate crimes in America.

The students participated in a spring semester seminar in which they conducted research, interviewed experts and began their reporting. The seminar was taught in person and via video conference by Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of The Washington Post and Cronkite’s Weil Family Professor of Journalism, and News21 Executive Editor Jacquee Petchel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former senior editor for investigations and enterprise at the Houston Chronicle.

“We chose hate crimes and hate incidents as this year’s timely News21 topic because of the apparent increase throughout the country of such acts – from bullying and vandalism to assaults and murders – involving racial, religious, nationality, gender and sexual orientation bias,” Downie said in a news release.

Following the seminar, students moved into paid summer fellowships, during which they worked out of a newsroom at the Cronkite School in Phoenix and traveled across the country to report and produce their stories.

“We will be able to do what many newsrooms cannot, which is to deploy dozens of student journalists to investigate the culture of hate and related acts of violence in every state in the nation,” Petchel said in a news release. “Not only do recent attacks on people of different races and religions call for it, it is the right thing to do in the name of public service journalism.”

Over the past eight years, Carnegie-Knight News21 projects have included investigations into voting rights, post-9/11 veterans, marijuana laws and guns in America, among other topics.

Daily Mississippian editor-in-chief selected for Dow Jones News Fund internship

Posted on: April 30th, 2019 by ldrucker

The editor-in-chief of The Daily Mississippian has been selected for a Dow Jones News Fund internship.

Slade Rand, a senior journalism major from New Orleans, will be a business reporter at The Hartford Courant in Connecticut as part of the Dow Jones program. He’s worked at the DM since his freshman year.

The Dow Jones program is one of the most prestigious and selective journalism internships in the nation. It provides all-expenses paid training, media internships and scholarships. Slade’s training for the business reporting internship will be at New York University.

The Dow Jones News Fund website reports that 79 undergraduate and graduate students will work this summer as data and digital journalists, business reporters and multiplatform editors in paid internships at 65 of the nation’s leading news organizations through the Dow Jones News Fund. The News Fund received more than 779 applications last fall.

‘We value media companies that partner with the Fund to create these summer experiences for interns,” said Linda Shockley, DJNF managing director, in a news release. “Although, the news industry is challenged, they recognize the importance of mentoring and developing talent. Internships are among the best ways to do that.”

Interns attend one-week summer residencies at five journalism schools in May and June before reporting to work. Those returning to college at the end of a successful summer receive $1,500 scholarships, the website reports.

Seventeen students including Rand will attend the business reporting program at New York University, taught by Paul Glader, associate professor at The King’s College and award-winning former Wall Street Journal reporter.

Click this link to read more.

To learn more about our journalism and IMC programs, email

Daily Mississippian managing editor selected as one of 61 Report for America corps members

Posted on: April 29th, 2019 by ldrucker

The managing editor of The Daily Mississippian has been selected as one of 61 Report for America corps members who will be placed in 50 local news organizations across the country.

Devna Bose, a senior majoring in print journalism and minoring in English and psychology, is a member of the 2019 Report for America corps. Bose will be reporting for duty at Chalkbeat in New Jersey, a nonprofit news organization with an education focus.

Bose, a Philadelphia, Mississippi native, has been working at The Daily Mississippian since her freshman year as a writer, photographer and lifestyles editor.

“I was surprised when I heard, but I am very excited about the opportunity,” she said. “My parents are both public school teachers, so Chalkbeat was my top choice going into the final rounds of the selection process. I am honored, mostly, to have been chosen to be a part of such an incredible group.”

Bose said Report for America is a nonprofit organization that places talented journalists in community journalism-focused reporting positions all over the country. RFA aims to cover underrepresented areas and issues through concise, accurate, and fair reporting.

“For a year, I will be in Newark, New Jersey, reporting on K-12 education in the area for Chalkbeat, an online media organization,” she said. “I will aim to engage with the community through a service project and balanced writing.”

Bose said her years at The Daily Mississippian have prepared her for the position.

“At the DM, I’ve covered issues from racial reconciliation and administration transparency, and I have had to do so on a short deadline,” she said. “I’ve had to adapt quickly to changing situations and manage my time well.

“My tenure at the DM has allowed me to lead special reports, write compelling news and feature stories, and take complementary photographs. I’ve also gotten to explore print design and manage social media. I’m thrilled to bring all of those things to Chalkbeat when I join their staff next month.”

Report for America is a national service program that places talented emerging journalists into local news organizations to report for one to two years on under-covered issues and communities. The website reports that it is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, addressing an urgent need in American journalism at a time when local news deserts threaten our democracy.

“The reporters, referred to as ‘corps members,’ were chosen after a highly selective national competition that drew nearly 1,000 applications,” the website reads. “Some 70 leading journalists, editors and teachers acted as judges.”

The 2019 corps will begin reporting in June. It includes 50 newly selected journalists and 11 current Report for America corps members who will continue their service for a second year, the website reports.

“The quality of the applicant pool was mind-boggling, and their spirit—the commitment to local journalism as public service—was genuinely inspiring,” said Steven Waldman, co-founder and president of Report for America in the news release.

Corps members will attend intensive training in Houston, Texas in June, followed by the Investigative Reporters and Editors Conference before joining their newsrooms.

Three people were selected for Report for America assignments in Mississippi. They include Alex Watts, who will be reporting for Mississippi Public Broadcasting; and Eric Shelton and Michelle Liu, who will be reporting for Mississippi Today.

To read more about Report for America and the full list of reporters, visit the website here.

UM Students Host Live Production at BEA Festival of Media Arts in Las Vegas

Posted on: April 29th, 2019 by ldrucker

UM School of Journalism and New Media students in a special topics class recently traveled to Las Vegas to host a live production during the Broadcast Education Association (BEA) Festival of Media Arts award show. Professors Iveta Imre, Mike Fagans and Ji Hoon Heo led the group of students.

The BEA Festival of Media Arts is an international exhibition of award-winning works chosen through these various competition categories: news, sports, documentary, and scriptwriting.

This year, the BEA Festival competition for faculty and students awarded 295 entries from more than 300 participating schools and had over 1,500 annual entries from around the world, according to their website.

The UM students in the class were each tasked with different responsibilities ranging from creating video features to on-screen graphics.

Sophomore Brian Barisa said his experience at the festival is something you just can’t get inside a classroom.

“At the BEA festival, I got more real-world experience,” Barisa said. “I got to learn what it’s like to work in these other roles of production outside of just NewsWatch and basic classwork.”

Festival Creative Director and UM Assistant Professor Iveta Imre has been attending the conference since 2005 and was officially tasked with hosting this year’s event.

“I think the biggest thing for the students was to get a different experience from everything else that they’ve been doing in the broadcast program,” Imre said. “They got to experience what it’s like to have a real live production in front of an audience, and you don’t really get a chance to do that often.”

Imre said her favorite part of the show was watching student features along with the crowd and hearing their reactions.

“We got some laughs and cries,” she said. “It was just so rewarding to see all these months of hard work come together to make this show a success.”

Irme will remain creative director for the next two years, she said, and UM students will continue to host the BEA festival during that time.

Aside from hosting the BEA award show, students who traveled to Las Vegas also got the opportunity to attend the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Conference.

The NAB Conference is an annual trade show that highlights and showcases various new media, entertainment, and technology.

“My favorite part about the trip would be the NAB show,” Barisa said. “I am a pretty big tech guy, so it was a lot of fun to go check out new gear and equipment that is now available in the industry.”

This story was written for by By Alec Kyzer-Andre. For more information about our program, email

Q & A with national Society of Professional Journalists winner Madison Scarpino

Posted on: April 29th, 2019 by ldrucker

University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media student Madison Scarpino will be honored for her 2018 work by the National Society of Professional Journalists.

Scarpino was the winner in the television breaking news category of the national SPJ competition. Her entry “Ole Miss community reacts to controversial Facebook post” aired on NewsWatch Ole Miss. In it, she explored both sides of the controversy.

SPJ Mark of Excellence judges pick one winner and up to two finalists in each category in the 12 regions, then the top winners in each region compete against one another for the national awards. All of the biggest and most prestigious universities enter SPJ.

We asked Scarpino a few questions about her win.

Q. How did you feel when you learned you won the award?

A. I was shocked at first. I never thought one of my news packages would get such recognition, especially on a national level. I feel so incredibly honored and humbled to have won.

Q. For those who don’t know, for which story did you win the award?

A. I won the breaking news category for the National Society of Professional Journalists. The news package that won was titled “Ole Miss Community Reacts to Controversial Facebook Post,” and it focused on the controversy surrounding Ed Meek’s arguably racist Facebook post.

Q. Why do you think the judges selected your story or work for this award?

A. I think the judges selected my story because it focused on an issue that is prevalent in today’s society. I also got opinions from both sides on the situation, whether being against or for Ed Meek’s post, to ensure the story was not biased.

Q. What are your career aspirations?

A. My dream in life is to host a national show and focus on soft news, entertainment, lifestyle, etc. I would absolutely love to be in front of the camera on a show such as “Good Morning America,” “The Today Show” or “E! News.” Regardless of where my career path takes me, I have such a passion for news and storytelling, so I would be happy with any on-camera reporting job.

Recent graduate Ariel Cobbert was also a finalist in the photography breaking news category of the national SPJ compeition. Cobbert is being honored for one of her Daily Mississippian photos from the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination anniversary event in Memphis.

If you are interested in joining the SPJ, email to learn more.