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Who is the Black Panther? Former Daily Mississippian Editor Jesse Holland wrote the book

Posted on: February 21st, 2018 by ldrucker

Holly Springs native Jesse Holland crafted his most recent novel, “Black Panther: Who is the Black Panther?,” using skills he honed during his undergraduate years at Ole Miss.

Holland started at Ole Miss in 1989, immediately going to work for The Oxford Eagle. There, he covered the town of Water Valley, high school sports, and just “whatever had to be done.” One of his most memorable moments was when a writer came in the office asking if anyone wanted to interview him. That writer was John Grisham.

UM alumnus Jesse Holland Jr. has written a novel for Marvel to reintroduce its 1960s superhero ‘Black Panther,’ the main character in a new blockbuster film.

Later, Holland worked for The Daily Mississippian as a news editor before climbing to managing editor and all the way to editor-in-chief. He helped craft a comic strip along with two other students called “Hippie and the Black Guy” that made light of stereotypes for the paper, all while a full-time student double majoring in journalism and English. He also worked for Rebel Radio as a DJ for his rap show and talk show, and was a cameraman for the school’s TV newscast.

“All of the professors at Ole Miss insisted that we all learn different forms of journalism. I went from room to room in Farley Hall,” Holland said. “I tried to stick my finger in every form of journalism I could, and Ole Miss encouraged it.”

Meek School of Journalism and New Media Dean Will Norton found Holland when he was in high school in Mount Pleasant and encouraged him to come to Ole Miss.

“I would have never been at Ole Miss if it wasn’t for Dean Norton,” Holland said. “He has been to a great mentor to me all of these years.”

Norton described Holland as “exceptional” and credited his success to his work ethic.

“I wish I had his character. He is so honest and hardworking, and he never complains. If he talks about something being bad, he does so with a smile on his face,” Norton said. “When Jesse Holland tells you something, you can trust that it’s the truth. I look up to him, not just because he’s taller than me.”

Ever since his time at Ole Miss, Holland has been writing books and for The Associated Press and now lives in Washington, D.C.

Holland has been writing since 2005. His books mainly focusing on African-American history, and he was approached by an editor at Lucas Films in 2016 about writing the backstory for a character named Finn in the “Star Wars” trilogy.

“(Star Wars) was one of the first films I saw in a theater,” he said. “I jumped at the chance, and ‘The Force Awakens: Finn’s Story’ came out.”

After reading the story, an editor at Marvel contacted Holland about writing a story for the latest film about the Black Panther. A comic book fan, Holland readily agreed.

“Marvel wanted a novel retelling the origin of the Black Panther in time for the 2018 movie release so people wouldn’t have to read all of the comic books to figure out his history,” he said. “I’ve been reading them since I was 5 or 6 years old.”

Holland said he had an advantage because he wouldn’t need to be sent the comic books – he already owned them all.

“Back at Ole Miss, I used to drive from campus to Memphis to be there when the comic books came out on Wednesdays. It was a weekly pilgrimage for me and my friends,” he said. “When Marvel came to me, I said, ‘I have all of the comic books down in my basement.’ It was a great experience – it gave me an excuse to read comic books.”

Dex McCain, Holland’s fraternity brother with whom he pledged the Eta Zeta chapter of Omega Phi Psi Fraternity, Inc., the first black Greek-lettered charter at Ole Miss, remembered Holland’s love of comic books in college.

“We knew he was destined for this. The things he’s done have prepared him for this, and he has always had a passion for comic books,” McCain said. “Even in college, he would read comic books. He’s just the right person for it. I’m so proud of him. He’s always been a perennial all-star. Anything he did, he did well and with passion. To me, he tells every story like it is, and that’s what you see in his books, including ‘Black Panther.’”

Holland drew inspiration for his novel about the Black Panther from his own life, something he’s learned to do with his fiction writing over the years.

“A lot of people in my life are represented from the book. You write what you see and you write what you know. I pull from every source that I can,” he said. “The speech patterns come from people I see on a daily basis.”

Marvel gave Holland free reign to work on the book, so he started it in Washington, D.C., where he lives at places he’s familiar with, like the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

“If you’re the king of Wakanda, where else would you go?” he said.

Marvin King, professor of political science and African-American history, met Holland as an alumnus and said he believes his background in history research has made his fiction writing stronger.

“He brings a lot of knowledge about the subject,” he said. “He’s done so much prior research about historical matters of race in America. He’s worked in a lot of different places, so he’s been exposed to a lot of different stories as a reporter, and I think that’s all coming together in his latest project.”

Holland said he incorporated as much of the real world as possible, but shied away from including much politics.

“I did do a little flavor of what the world would be like if these characters were real. How would the politics of a hidden country in Africa play with America?” he said. “But this is a superhero story – I had to make sure there were enough punches being thrown. I don’t delve too much into ‘meat grinder’ politics. I tried to look at it from the point of view from someone from Wakanda.”

The movie shattered box office records and is expected to earn $218 million domestically and $387 million worldwide for the four-day holiday weekend. Malco’s Oxford Commons Cinema Grill was overflowing with crowds to see “Black Panther” for the film’s opening. Holland went to go see it with his kids Thursday night.

On the film’s significance, Holland stressed the importance of having an African-American superhero protagonist.

“Growing up, I didn’t have those type of heroes on the big screen. There were very few African or African-American superheroes on television or movies when I grew up. Today, kids will have these characters – they will be able to say, ‘I want to be that,’” he said. “I got the chance to take my kids Thursday night, and they were transfixed because out of all the superhero stories they’ve seen, never have they been to a superhero movie where everybody looks like them. That’s so important for the kids, and I’m just happy that I got to play a small part in crafting this character for the new century.”

Daily Mississippian sponsors ‘Cookies, Coffee & Conversation’

Posted on: September 13th, 2017 by ldrucker

The Daily Mississippian sponsored a “Cookies, Coffee & Conversation” open house at the Student Media Center on Wednesday evening, Sept. 13. Chancellor Jeff Vitter and his wife, Sharon, were among the guests who stopped by and met with DM editors.

Pictured with the Vitters are DM Managing Editor Slade Rand, Social Media Editor Anessa Guess, Graphics Designer Emily Hoffman and Editor in Chief Lana Ferguson.

Student Media Center celebrates successful year of work

Posted on: May 5th, 2017 by ldrucker

As graduation nears, many University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism students who are enrolled in the journalism and marketing programs will be leaving us to pursue careers in their chosen fields. They will be missed.

To show our appreciation for their hard work and dedication this year, the Meek School held a Student Media Center end-of-the-year celebration Tuesday, May 2. The group photo is of graduating seniors, many of whom have worked in Student Media all four years.

Taylor Grocery catered the event. All photos were taken by The Daily Mississippian photo editor Cameron Brooks, an integrated marketing communications major.

Meek School students win top awards at regional Society of Professional Journalists conference

Posted on: April 4th, 2017 by ldrucker

From left, Lana Ferguson and Clara Turnage.

University of Mississippi students brought home six first-place wins and 14 awards total in the Society of Professional Journalists Region 12 Mark of Excellence annual awards contest.

The Daily Mississippian won first place for best daily newspaper, and NewsWatch Ole Miss won first place for best television newscast.

Clara Turnage, Daily Mississippian editor-in-chief, won two first-place writing awards. Ariel Cobbert, DM photo editor, won a first-place photography award. NewsWatch’s Payton Green and Lauren Layton teamed up to win first place for television breaking news.

Ole Miss, which competes in categories against other large colleges, won more awards than any other university in the Region 12 competition.

“I cannot remember Ole Miss students doing better than they did in this year’s contest,” said Will Norton, dean of the Meek School of Journalism & New Media. “It is an amazing statement about the kind of work the Student Media Center has distributed this year. The M
eek School congratulates students who were honored and expresses our gratitude and respect to those faculty who worked with them. We are proud of each of you.”

Region 12 includes universities in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. SPJ selects one winner and two finalists in each category. The awards – for work published, broadcast or posted in 2016 – were announced at the regional conference on April 1 in Knoxville, Tennessee. First-place winners move on to compete against the first-place winners in the other 11 regions for national awards. National winners and finalists are expected to be announced in late spring, and honored at the SPJ national convention in September in Anaheim, California.

In the best newspaper category, entries must include three issues. The Daily Mississippian’s winning entries were April 21, October 27 and November 17.

DM Editor-in-Chief Clara Turnage not only led her staff to the best newspaper awards, but also won first place for general news reporting for “Confronting the Trust Deficit,” an article published in spring 2016 examining the university’s relationship with the IHL board, and first place for feature writing for “They Never Stopped Searching,” an article published during her summer 2016 internship at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock. Turnage also won a finalist award in feature writing for “A beautiful multitude: The ordination of Reverend Gail Stratton” published in the DM in fall 2016.

In the best television category, one newscast is entered. The winning show for NewsWatch was broadcast on April 18, when Payton Green was manager. Green also teamed with Lauren Layton for the first-place TV breaking news award for a package headlined “ASB Resolution,” and he was a finalist for online feature reporting for “Coming Out in the Christian South.”

DM Photography editor Ariel Cobbert won the breaking news photography competition with a photo from the “Occupy the Ole Miss Lyceum” protest in fall 2016.

Other finalist awards went to:

theDMonline.com, best affiliated website.

Daily Mississippian staff, online news reporting, “Ole Miss Lyceum Protest.”
Lana Ferguson, non-fiction magazine article, “Taking Care of Their Own,” from the Mississippi Miracle depth report.

The Mississippi Miracle depth report publication, student magazine.
Brian Scott Rippee, sports column writing, “Kelly leaves a legacy as one of the best.”
Jake Thrasher, editorial cartoons.

“What a spectacular year for our student journalists,” said Patricia Thompson, Meek School assistant dean for student media. “Our students have been honored so often in the past few weeks, it has been hard to keep track. The awards covered a wide range of content – news, features, sports, visuals, television, radio, multimedia. Students work many hours each to week to provide information for the campus and community, and they are getting great experience that has helped them land great jobs and internships.”