School of Journalism and New Media

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Column: I was anxious to leave Delaware, but Mississippi felt like the place I belonged

Posted on: June 18th, 2019 by ldrucker

As I look back on my time as a student at the University of Mississippi, I have nothing but fond memories.

From my first day freshmen year, moving to a new state, not knowing a single soul, I met a random roommate from Minnesota who was so homesick she tried to move home the entire first month of school.

I went to the dining hall at the wrong time every day and couldn’t figure out why only half the food stations weren’t open. I even missed my first college exam because it was given on Blackboard on a Friday night, and I forgot to take it.

Now these may not sound like amazing memories to you, but they are how my college experience began. As a second semester senior, I look back on all of those memories and wish I could go back to my very first day and relive everything again. I would love to have my undergraduate experience repeat over and over again.

Alli George

Farley Hall

Fast forward to senior year. I still live with my random Minnesota roommate who turned out to be one of my best friends.

I finally found something I was really passionate about, and I switched majors from public policy leadership to integrated marketing communications.

The School of Journalism and New Media has provided me with some amazing opportunities over the past few years. My public relations class assisted me in obtaining an internship. Through experiences with my classes, I have obtained two other internships during my college career. One was last summer as a marketing intern in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The other was a marketing internship with the Oxford Community Market during my sophomore year.

Besides the academic opportunities that Ole Miss has given me, it also created an environment for me to grow as a person and grow socially. When I first moved to college, I was anxious and nervous. I had never lived anywhere besides Delaware. However, I knew I needed to move somewhere new or I might never leave my hometown.

My senior year of high school, I applied to many schools in the South. I figured at no other point in my life would I live in the South, and I wanted to experience the culture. My parents took me to visit all of the schools I was accepted into. I honestly really liked most of them, but I always felt a stronger connection to Ole Miss.

Lyceum. Photo by Alli George.

From the day I took my tour, I felt at home on the Ole Miss campus. As anxious as I was to leave home, it felt like the place I belonged. I wanted to move to a place that made me feel uncomfortable, as crazy as that might sound.

I knew Mississippi, as a state, had different political viewpoints than I did and stronger religious beliefs. I wanted to put myself in a place where I didn’t necessarily agree with everything that was going on. Mississippi proved to be a very good place to do that.

I came here with a certain perception of Mississippi, and I didn’t think that would change over my four years as a student. However, now as I’m about to leave Mississippi forever, I have such a fond view of this state. Even though there may be some aspects of the state’s past and present political views that I may not agree with, Mississippi has changed my life forever.

I will always be grateful for the state of Mississippi for building a university that provided me with much more than an education. I became a writer, joined a large Greek organization, became a leader on campus and came out of my shell socially. I have made friends that will hopefully last a lifetime.

I have had many of my “lasts” in Oxford. My last senior dinner with my sorority sisters. Finishing my last classes to get my degree in integrated marketing communications.

I’m nervous and anxious all over again, except this time, it’s about going home. I found a home in Oxford these past four years, and now I have to re-establish that home back in Delaware. I don’t have a plan for what’s next. I have applied to just about every marketing job in the state of Delaware. I have also applied to graduate school to pursue my master’s degree in business administration.

Whatever the future might hold, I am so thankful and grateful for Ole Miss. This university has helped me grow in so many ways. I’m sure if I had attended another school, I could have had a similar experience. However, I would have never had my first Saturday in the Grove, all my memories on the Square with my incredible friends, and all the sunsets I watched set over Sardis Lake.

Most importantly, I would have never been a Rebel. For the rest of my life, I will be proud and honored to say I am an Ole Miss alumnus. Hotty Toddy!

This column was written by Alli George before graduation. To learn more about our journalism and IMC programs, email jour-imc@olemiss.edu.

 

Faculty Profile: Burson teaches students to find their passion

Posted on: May 25th, 2019 by ldrucker

Mark Burson began teaching at the University of Mississippi Jan. 27, 2016, but not before spending 43 years in California.

“My only regret is that it took me so long to discover Oxford, Mississippi,” he said. “I wish I had done it 30 years ago.”

Growing up, Burson had no desire to teach. He wanted to play baseball.

“I went to a private school,” he said, “and I was the first freshman to start all four years. I made all-league those four years as well. So by the time I was a senior, I thought I was really good.”

With no collegiate offers to play ball, Burson decided to walk on at the University of Southern California. At the time, USC had a freshman team and a junior varsity team that held open tryouts for walk-on athletes. He made the team.

“I spent two weeks on that team,” he said, “and I was amazed at how good everybody else was. I soon realized that I had never seen a real curveball before. I had never seen athletes who were so fast and could jump so high.”

Reality began to set in, so he talked with the coach, asking when was the last time that someone from the freshman team made it to JV or varsity? “The coach said, ‘Oh that’s easy. Fred Lynn.’”

Fred Lynn is a former center-fielder who had an impressive career in the Major Leagues. Burson said he then realized he had to do something else with his life.

While studying art history, only because he registered late for classes, Burson discovered he really enjoyed it. “It was through art history that I developed this appreciation of just looking at the world, and then being able to tell stories about what I saw,” he said. “And while I didn’t know it at the time, that was the business that I would end up in.”

Burson graduated from USC in 1977, but decided to stick around for graduate school. He earned his master’s degree in public relations in 1979.

If you’re in the public relations business, you’ve probably heard of Harold Burson, his father, who co-founded Burson-Marsteller in 1952.

“I had no intention of ever working for my father’s company, and that happened just through serendipity,” he said.

Burson joined the Santa Monica-based firm in 1985, but left in 1997 to run the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library for seven years before returning to Burson-Marsteller.

“Through accident of birth, I was born into a PR family,” Burson said. “I didn’t have a choice; it just happened. Because of that, I’ve had a unique ringside seat to the growth of this business.”

Burson said the business that has only been around for about 100 years has changed a lot. If you’re an integrated marketing communications major at the University of Mississippi’s School of Journalism and New Media, you may have an idea of this change.

“This business used to be about relationships between the agency and the client,” Burson said, “and when I first started, that’s what really appealed to me, because you could develop, not only business relationships with the client, but also real friendships.”

Burson feels the industry has moved past these relationships and is now in a more “What can you do for me today?” state of mind. He said the things he loved most about the business has been slowly vanishing and transitioning into what he calls PR or publicity stunts – doing a random act to attract the public’s attention.

“That’s not what I signed up for,” Burson said.

With the nature of the business changing, Burson said he knew he wasn’t going to be able to do the things he really liked doing, so he developed an interest in endurance competitive cycling. After competing in several signature events, Burson thought about starting a company that would help promote those events, but nothing took off.

It wasn’t until a friend invited him to guest lecture a course at USC Annenberg School of Communications, Burson thought: “Wow. This is a pretty cool gig.”

With two of his children out of the house and the third about to graduate high school, Burson began to consider teaching. When his daughter graduated high school, she decided to attend the University of Mississippi because she heard about it through Burson’s father, Harold Burson, who earned his degree from UM.

Burson moved his daughter to Oxford and said, “I just fell in love with Oxford and the university and inquired about how to get a teaching job here in the school of journalism, and what would I teach,” he said. “The subject that I knew most about was how to put together a campaign from start to finish, and then build an environment within that team that would optimize success. So that’s what I teach here and why I’m here.”

Burson doesn’t just teach a class; he makes connections with each student, and he builds relationships that last. Anessa Guess, who took a class under Burson, said he is a wonderful teacher whose aim is to positively impact student lives.

“In just a short time, he inspired a classroom full of hopefuls to go beyond the normal realm of dreaming and tear down the veil to seek limitless dreaming with a sturdy foundation to start with,” she said. “He is a teacher capable of so many things, and the most important is instilling hope, grounding, diligence, and character in the youth of tomorrow with tools learned from the past.”

Audrey Ryan, who was also enrolled in a class Burson taught, said he is her favorite instructor. “His enthusiasm for not only IMC, but teaching is inspiring,” she said. “He is interested in each individual’s path and wants to learn about every student he teaches.

“You can tell his passion is teaching just by the way he interacts with his students, and the way he can build a bond with each student, and always have a way to relate to them. He is phenomenal at what he does, and as a person.”

Burson has found his passion, and he teaches students to never give up searching for what you’re passionate about. Take chances. Live life. Do what makes you happy, no matter where it might take you.

This story was written by Brandon Hancock for OxfordStories.net. To learn more about our program, email jour-imc@olemiss.edu.

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.

UM journalism students win Broadcast Education Association, Associated Press and SPJ awards

Posted on: April 9th, 2019 by ldrucker

University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media students just keep winning awards.

The Broadcast Education Association has an annual Festival of Media Arts that garners thousands of entries from faculty and students nationwide.  This year, we have two national winners:

Brittany Brown

Long Form Video or Film Documentary Category

1st Place – “Hate in America” – Justin Parham, Scott Bourque, Brittany Brown and Jasmine Putney, of Arizona State University, the University of Mississippi and the University of Iowa were the winners. The winning entry came from the News21 Fellowship Brown received last year. You can watch the documentary at the link above.

Television Hard News Category

Award of Excellence – Ole Miss Alums and Students Deal with Aftermath of Hurricane Michael – Abbie McIntosh, University of Mississippi – This winning entry was the result of a school-sponsored reporting trip to Panama City, Florida this fall, right after the hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle.

“This is a really good showing in a BEA contest,” said UM professor Nancy Dupont, who has been involved in BEA for many years. “It’s tough to win anything from BEA because we’re competing with the best of the best.”

The winners receive their awards in Las Vegas at the annual BEA conference Festival of Media Arts celebration, an event that will be produced by UM School of Journalism and New Media students, including McIntosh, under the direction of professor Iveta Imre.

Regional Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists Awards

The regional AP awards banquet was Saturday in Jackson. The regional SPJ awards banquet was March 30 in Nashville.

We’re proud The Daily Mississippian, NewsWatch and Rebel Radio each won first place awards in best all-around newspaper, television and radio categories in at least one of the two contests.

SPJ includes entries from student media in four states, and AP in two states. Competing against the top student media in our region, The Daily Mississippian won first place for best student newspaper in both SPJ and AP, and NewsWatch won first place awards for best newscast in both contests, and a second place award for general excellence in AP.

As more information becomes available, we will update this story.

AP First-place awards

The Daily Mississippian, General Excellence for newspapers

NewsWatch OleMiss, Newscast

Billy Schuerman, two first-place awards, for Spot News Photo and Sports Photo.

Billy Schuerman also won a prestigious Best of Show, which includes a cash award and is given to the most outstanding student for a specific media platform. Only six Best of Show awards were given out. Schuerman won for photos published in The Daily Mississippian in 2018. This academic  year, he is studying abroad in Austria.

Rebel Radio, General Excellence for radio stations

Victoria Hosey, two first-place awards, for Radio Reporter and Radio Continuing Coverage. Hosey graduated in December and is studying and working in China this year.

Tyler Hayes, Radio Sports Story

Andranita Williams, Radio Feature Story

DeAndria Turner, Radio News Story

Abbie McIntosh, TV Reporting

Alec Keyzer-Andre, Sam Gray, Gracie Snyder, TV Documentary

 

AP Second-place awards:

NewsWatch Ole Miss, General Excellence

The Daily Mississippian, Editorials (a series of three)

Abbie McIntosh, TV News Story

Victoria Hosey, two second-place radio awards for Newscast and a shared award with Will Stribling for Radio Continuing Coverage

Will Stribling, two second-place radio awards for Feature Story and News Story, and the shared Radio Continuing Coverage award with Victoria Hosey

 

And check out our recent story about the School of Journalism and New Media’s Society of Professional Journalists Awards.

AP reporter Emily Wagster Pettus wins Silver Em award

Posted on: March 31st, 2019 by ldrucker

The Silver Em Awards Ceremony was held Wednesday, April 3, at the Inn at Ole Miss, the same evening dozens of journalism and integrated marketing communication students received awards for excellence.

Emily Wagster Pettus, who has been reporting on Mississippi government since 1994, was selected as the 2018 Silver Em winner.

As news staffs shrink across the country, state government reporters like Pettus have become an endangered species. Those who remain in the role understand the importance of their work in our democracy.

Emily Wagster Pettus

“When there are fewer news outlets sending local reporters to cover the state capitol, there is less coverage of local issues considered by the Legislature,” she said.

Pettus, who grew up in Texas, spent a year between high school and college as an exchange student in West Germany, then attended the University of Mississippi, majoring in journalism and German. She graduated in 1989 and worked for nearly a year at the Vicksburg Evening Post.

In May 1990, she began working for The Clarion-Ledger as the Rankin County reporter. Two years later, she moved to Ocean Springs in 1992 to work as the newspaper’s one-person Gulf Coast bureau reporter.

“It was a great job because my editors were hours away and they trusted me to cover the biggest stories in the region,” Pettus said.

During the fall of 1993, Pettus was on loan from The Clarion-Ledger to USA TODAY in Virginia, working as a copy editor for the international edition of USAT. In 1994, she was back in Jackson working as a legislative reporter for The Clarion-Ledger.

She began working for the Associated Press in January of 2001 covering mostly Mississippi politics. Pettus said she’s aware the job is particularly important during challenging times for news organizations.

The latest Pew Research Center study about statehouse reporters found that there were around 1,500 U.S. journalists who work to inform the public about the actions and issues of state government. Of those, nearly half do it full time, averaging 15 full-time reporters per state, even though numbers vary per state, often depending on population.

Emily Wagster Pettus during a recent Overby Center program about Mississippi Politics.

“I always think it’s better having more reporters covering state government, obviously, to hold the government accountable to the general public,” Pettus said. “In Mississippi, we used to have a full-time press corps of eight people. That declined a while, but it has actually gone back up in the last couple of years.”

Pettus estimates the number of Mississippi statehouse reporters is equal to the Pew Research Center study’s national average of 15 per state.

The Pew study also reported:

  • Fewer than a third of U.S. newspapers assign any kind of reporter – full time or part time – to the statehouse.
  • A majority of local TV news stations – 86 percent – do not assign even one reporter – full or part time – to the statehouse.
  • About one in six, or 16 percent, of all statehouse reporters work for nontraditional outlets, such as digital-only sites and non-profit organizations.
  • Students account for 14 percent of statehouse reporters.
  • Around 9 percent of all state legislative reporters work for wire services like Pettus. The majority of wire service reporters work for the AP.

While her main responsibility has been covering Mississippi government – (you can read her observations in real time at the hashtag #msleg on Twitter) – Pettus said she has covered a variety of stories.

“One of the greatest things about having a general assignment job is I’ve gotten to cover some interesting civil rights stories,” she said. “In 2005, I covered the trial of Edgar Ray Killen, who was convicted for the 1964 killings of civil rights activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in Neshoba County. In 2007, I covered the federal trial of (Ku Klux Klan member) James Ford Seale, who was convicted in the kidnapping that led to the death of two young black men, Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee, in Southwest Mississippi, also in 1964.”

Pettus said she is honored to be among other Silver Em award winners and proud she spent part of her career working for UM’s campus newspaper The Daily Mississippian and The Oxford Eagle.

Will Norton, Ph.D., dean of the UM School of Journalism and New Media, said Pettus is smart, a hard worker, and a terrific reporter.

“She has more than a quarter of a century experience,” Norton said. “She has devoted herself to covering Mississippi. She has reported in-depth, on deadline and always accurately . . . Emily is a person of integrity. She can be trusted.”

Curtis Wilkie, Overby Fellow and assistant professor of journalism, agrees that Pettus has earned the trust of her readers.

“She is one of the best reporters around and has been for as long as she has been reporting, quickly and reliably, all the news out of Mississippi for the Associated Press,” he said.

The Silver Em award dates to 1958, and recipients must be Mississippians with notable journalism careers or journalists with notable careers in Mississippi.

This article was written by LaReeca Rucker. For more information about the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media’s programs, email jour-imc@olemiss.edu.

 

University hosts annual MSPA convention for student publishers

Posted on: March 28th, 2019 by ldrucker

Hundreds of Mississippi’s aspiring writers, publishers and journalists visited Oxford in April for the 72nd Mississippi Scholastic Press Association Convention hosted by the University of Mississippi.

Students from high schools across the state came for the one-day event Monday, April 1, to hear speakers, participate in seminars and immerse themselves in the Ole Miss campus.

The convention helps high school students who work for their respective school newspapers, yearbooks, broadcasts and literary magazines realize they share a passion for publication with hundreds of peers in the state, said R.J. Morgan, MSPA director.

“(The convention) is a great opportunity for the university and a great opportunity for Mississippi high school kids to get on a college campus and see what college life is like,” said Morgan, an instructional assistant professor of journalism at UM.

“There will be a lot of these students who have never been on a college campus, so letting them see how college works and exposing them to that environment gets them thinking in terms of attending college. The convention really serves as a rallying point and pep rally in terms of helping these students understand that this is something they should feel proud of, something they can hang their hat on.”

The highlight of each year’s convention is the MSPA awards ceremony, Morgan said. This year, besides announcing more than 100 winners and finalists, including best-of honors for several publication types, the MSPA announced a new honor called the All-Mississippi recognition. Ten students were selected from a field of 20 candidates who submitted portfolios of their journalism work.

More than 700 individual pieces of work were submitted for the various prizes.

“The awards are really what the kids are most excited about,” Morgan said.

This year’s Pam Hamilton Keynote Address was delivered by Ronnie Agnew, an Ole Miss alumnus and director of Mississippi Public Broadcasting.

Agnew is a veteran of the newspaper and news industry, previously serving as the executive editor of The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson.

High school students at the 2018 MSPA spring convention listen to keynote speaker Jesse J. Holland. This year’s keynote speaker was Mississippi Public Broadcasting director Ronnie Agnew. Photo courtesy UM Division of Outreach and Continuing Education

“(Agnew’s) wealth of experience in both print and digital media, as well as his dedication to education and serving others, made him a natural choice to deliver this address to our statewide audience,” Morgan said.

Other speakers include Pablo Correa, a documentary filmmaker working on a feature-length film about Fannie Lou Hamer, and Lori Oglesbee-Petter, a nationally recognized newspaper and yearbook adviser who serves as an advocate for First Amendment rights.

“There’s never been a greater need for good communicators,” Morgan said. “The number of platforms and reasons to tell those stories has greatly diffused in the last decade, and we really need good storytellers to cut through the noise in our society.

“We hope to help these students find their voice and refine that voice and teach them going forward how to be good citizens and good communicators.”

Besides attending the convention, Correa discussed his work with the “Fannie Lou Hamer’s America” documentary team in a separate event in the Overby Center Auditorium.

The MSPA was created in 1947 to “support, promote and nurture journalism in a high school setting through workshops, competitions, conventions and online aids and advice. Membership is open to any Mississippi school that has a newspaper, yearbook, literary magazine, online publication, broadcast and/or journalism class.” It is housed at the university.

UM has hosted the spring convention since its inception. Two years ago, a fall convention was added at the University of Southern Mississippi. The event usually draws approximately 500-600 high school students, Morgan said.

For more information on the convention or MSPA, visit its website.

This article was written by Justin Whitmore of University Communications.

University of Mississippi journalism grads share insights about post-graduate careers

Posted on: February 28th, 2019 by ldrucker

They attended their last classes and took their final exams in December. Now, these School of Journalism and New Media graduates have fully launched their careers and are ready to offer advice to this semester’s seniors.

Annie Mapp

Annie Mapp is a December graduate now serving as a news reporter at WBTW News 13 in Mrytle Beach, South Carolina.

Mapp began her career at WBTW News 13 in January. A few months before graduating, she began applying to several news outlets throughout the southeast.

“There are so many outlets you can work for,” Mapp said. “I just made a list and started going to each website and applying for the jobs that seemed most interesting.”

Mapp’s advice for future graduates is to have a great resume and maintain strong relationships with professors.

“I sent my resume to several of my professors in the School of Journalism, and they helped me with the job search and choosing which career path to take,” Mapp said. “They were a great resource for me.”

Annie describes her typical day as a news reporter as different and exciting, with new ideas always circulating and several opportunities for live broadcasting.

“This career has been great so far because I have gotten experience in reacting and speaking in the moment,” Mapp said.

Brianna Bynum

Brianna Bynum is a multimedia journalist for WTOK-TV in Meridian, Mississippi.

Bynum said she knew she wanted to jump right into her career upon graduating, so she began applying for jobs in October. She believes the key to finding a job so soon after graduating is consistency.

“I took time every day to reach out to employers and apply to jobs,” Bynum said.

Bynum describes a day in her career as busy and rewarding.

“As a multimedia journalist, I do all of the shooting, editing, writing and reporting for my stories on my own,” Bynum said. “So many different factors play into the story and writing scripts.

Though still in the training process, Brianna is already participating in editorial meetings and gathering her own stories. She credits much of her success to the School of Journalism and New Media.

“The School of Journalism and New Media really prepared me for this job,” she said. “A lot of the things that I am being told to do here are things that I have already been taught at Ole Miss. The news reporting experience I gained at NewsWatch Ole Miss and in my broadcast classes have played a large role in my confidence and reporting abilities.”

Sam Farris

Sam Farris is the public address announcer for Itawamba Community College Athletics, a sports writer for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal/Itawamba Times, and a fundraising partner with St. Jude Children’s Hospital and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Farris credits his achievements to networking with former employers and colleagues.

“I worked my entire college career as a sports writer, public address announcer, and frequent radio personality,” Farris said. “The relationships I have developed have really helped give my career a great start.”

Farris has been working closely with local ESPN 95.1 The Fan in Tupelo, Mississippi, and has future aspirations to own his own business.

This story was written by Abby Adcock. For more information about the University of Mississippi School of Journalism’s programs, email jour-imc@olemiss.edu.

Anchorage to Oxford: Student travels 4,500 miles for IMC graduate school

Posted on: February 4th, 2019 by ldrucker

Chris Lawrence and his father spent eight days on the road from Anchorage, Alaska, to Oxford, going through a CD case full of classic rock, telling stories and taking in diverse landscapes on a 4,500-mile adventure to start a new journey as a graduate student at the University of Mississippi.

At the end of the voyage, Chris Lawrence enrolled last fall as an integrated marketing communications graduate student at Ole Miss. Jay Lawrence got to see the town before heading back to Alaska by plane.

“I was able to show him Oxford and Ole Miss a little bit, and that meant a whole lot,” Chris said.

After Chris earned his undergraduate degree in journalism and public communications at the University of Alaska at Anchorage, he decided he would go to graduate school and continue his education in Mississippi. His mother, Kelly Lawrence, lives in Amory, and growing up, he spent summers in the Magnolia State with her.

Kelly, Chris and Jay Lawrence take a picture with the statue of William Faulkner upon their arrival to Oxford. Submitted photo

“I thought, well, why not see what Mississippi has to offer so I could be close to my mom while continuing my education,” he said. “I did a little research and discovered Ole Miss had a great IMC program, and decided it was for me.”

Once the decision was made to enroll at Ole Miss, the daunting 600-mile-a-day, eight-day trip lay ahead of the father-and-son team. They stuffed Chris’ Dodge Caliber full of moving essentials and mementos and drove in five-hour shifts each day.

Jay enjoyed the long trip with his son and the ability to spend so much bonding time with him.

“We had a good time,” Jay said. “It was an opportunity to spend more time with him.”

The many different types of landscapes and wildlife between Anchorage and Oxford served as the main source of entertainment for the pair.

“We, unfortunately, didn’t spend a lot of time at places, but we definitely took in the sights and wonders of nature,” Chris said. “Just to be able to have a piece of a place and kind of know a little about what it’s like was nice.”

Some of the places the two stayed were the Canadian cities of Destruction Bay, Yukon; Fort Nelson, British Columbia; and Edmonton, Alberta. Cities in the United States included Bozeman, Montana; Scottsbluff, Nebraska; St. Joseph, Missouri; and Forrest City, Arkansas.

Lethbridge, Alberta, was a particular favorite.

“We drove through there and saw a 100-year-old steel viaduct and rolling hills all around town,” Chris said. “Lethbridge seemed runner- and biker-friendly, too. It was really, really cool.”

Bozeman, Montana, on the other hand, was bustling with tourists there to take in Yellowstone National Park. Besides the traffic and crowds there, Montana was lovely.

“We went over a bunch of rivers,” he said. “There was also a lot of open areas where you could see nothing but the sky. You could see for miles and miles.”

He enjoyed Montana and British Columbia for the scenery that the two places offered.

“British Columbia had a lot of open views,” he said. “You could see the gorgeous trees, rivers and lakes, so that was really awesome and majestic. We saw six black bears on the side of the road alone through B.C., and about 10 wild horses in Montana.”

To pass the time during the trip to Ole Miss, Chris and his father had conversations about past times and what lies ahead, while jamming out to rock bands such as Pearl Jam and Tom Petty.

Luck was also on their side. The two encountered few problems that slowed them down along the journey. They even said they were always ahead of bad weather.

“Surprisingly, we only saw two or three accidents the entire way so that was good traffic didn’t hold us up,” he said. “I’d say we drove through only 60 minutes of rain combined along the way.”

Once they reached Forrest City, they knew they were close to their final destination. The food was a dead giveaway.

“I had catfish with the bone-in, slaw and baked beans,” Chris said. “So I definitely knew I was home in the South.”

The father-son team was relieved to get to Oxford after that. Before Jay flew back to Anchorage, Chris and his mom showed Jay around Oxford and Ole Miss, which was special to all of them.

Chris is familiar with Oxford because he used to visit the town with his mom during summers.

“I always really liked it,” he said. “I thought it was a beautiful place.”

His mom was relieved the trip went well, and she was elated to see her son.

“When he got here, I was so happy to see him and am so excited knowing he’s at Ole Miss now,” she said.

The Lawrences made unforgettable memories over those 4,500 miles.

“It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences saying you could do a cross-country trek like that,” Chris said. “It was the end of my Alaska chapter and the beginning of my chapter here in Mississippi.”

This story was written by Kendall Patterson of University Communications.

Overby Center Spring 2019: Journalism and politics during election year in Mississippi

Posted on: January 28th, 2019 by ldrucker

The Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at Ole Miss begins its spring schedule next week with a lineup that accentuates politics and decision-making for an election year in Mississippi.

“Our programs feature a nationally known federal judge who grew up in Mississippi, journalists from The New York Times and The Washington Post, authors and political experts,” said Charles Overby, chairman of the center. “The programs offer a rich opportunity for conversations between the panelists the audiences on a broad array of subjects.”

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

Read more descriptions of upcoming Overby events below the graphic.

Monday, Feb. 18, 5:30 p.m. – INSIGHT INTO MISSISSIPPI’S ELECTION YEAR

Two seasoned journalists who cover state politics – Emily Wagster Pettus of the Associated Press and Adam Ganucheau of Mississippi Today –will provide early intelligence on the developing contests for statewide offices this year. They will talk with Overby and Overby Fellow Curtis Wilkie.

Monday, March 4, 5:30 p.m. – A PIONEER OF THE BLACK PRESS

Burnis Morris, an Ole Miss graduate who is now a journalism professor at Marshall University, returns to campus to discuss his new book based on the work of Carter G. Woodson, who was called the “Father of Black History.” He will be joined in the conversation by Alysia Steele, the author of “Delta Jewels” and a member of the journalism faculty at Ole Miss.

Wednesday, March 20, 5:30 pm. – THE TRUTH ABOUT FAKE NEWS

The chief media columnists for The New York Times and The Washington Post will weigh in on the fake news phenomenon and how it is not only undercutting a civil discourse in the country, but is also striking at the heart of our democracy. Margaret Sullivan of The Post (the former public editor of The New York Times) and Jim Rutenberg of The Times, a long-time political reporter, head up a panel on this issue that has gone from a funny catch phrase to a crucial challenge for covering the news. They will talk with Overby and Overby Fellow Greg Brock.

Wednesday, April 3, 5:30 p.m. – “THE CENTER CANNOT HOLD”

Yeats coined the term 100 years ago in his famous poem, “The Second Coming,” but the expression applies today in the nation’s bitterly divided politics. Stuart Stevens, a Mississippi native and architect of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, and David Baria, a Democratic candidate for one of Mississippi’s U.S. Senate seats last fall, will talk about the dilemma with Overby and Wilkie.

Wednesday, April 17, 5:30 p.m. – OVERCOMING A SEGREGATIONIST PAST

U.S. District Judge William Alsup of San Francisco and attorney Danny Cupit of Jackson were white high school and college friends in the segregated environment of Mississippi in the 1960s. Alsup has written a book, “Won Over,” about how he broke through the segregationist status quo to become a civil rights advocate. He and Cupit will talk with Overby and Wilkie about their experiences.

University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media graduate wins IRE fellowship

Posted on: December 3rd, 2018 by ldrucker

A University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media graduate has won an Investigative Reporters and Editors fellowship.

Bracey Harris, an education reporter with The Clarion Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, has been named IRE’s first Journalist of Color Investigative Reporting Fellow.

Harris has been with the newspaper since September 2015, according to the IRE website. She previously worked at WLBT News in Jackson as an associate morning producer.

“IRE’s new yearlong fellowship is designed to increase the range of backgrounds, experiences and interests within the field of investigative journalism, where diverse perspectives are critically important,” the IRE website reads. “The 2019 fellowship was open to U.S. journalists of color with at least three years of post-college work experience.”

As part of her fellowship, Harris will explore the effects of school integration on black families in Mississippi, the IRE website reports.

To read more, visit the IRE website.