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Houston Chronicle executive editor and Ole Miss alumnus announces retirement

Posted on: April 6th, 2021 by ldrucker

After “The Houston Chronicle” reported that Executive Editor and Ole Miss alumnus Steve Riley was retiring after a 41-year career in journalism, he told that it is time to exhale.

Riley, 62, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and received the Texas Newspaper of the Year and Newsroom of the Year award from the Associated Press Media Editors while at the Chronicle. Riley, who joined the Chronicle in 2017 as senior editor of investigations, also spent more than 30 years at “The News & Observer” in Raleigh, N.C., and also worked as a reporter in Mississippi for “The Clarion-Ledger” in Jackson, “The Sun” in Gulfport and the “Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal” in Tupelo.

A recent Chronicle story featured a quote from the newspaper’s president: “Steve’s leadership of the Chronicle’s newsroom is reflected in the outstanding coverage and investigative work done under his reign,” Hearst Newspaper President Jeff Johnson said in a statement. “This work has been recognized both statewide and nationwide, and most importantly, by our readers. Steve’s commitment to journalism and serving the Houston community is second to none, and we wish him the best in his retirement.”

Steve Riley

Steve Riley speaks to the newsroom after he was named the Houston Chronicle’s new executive editor on Thursday, May 2, 2019, in Houston. Riley has served as acting editor since Oct. 30, 2018 and was previously the deputy managing editor, investigations, beginning in November 2017, overseeing a team of reporters and a data editor. Before that, he spent more than 30 years at The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina, in roles including: senior editor for investigations, deputy managing editor, metro editor, sports editor, government editor and reporter. He also worked as a reporter in Mississippi for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, The Sun in Gulfport and the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo. His investigative teams have won more than a dozen national awards. Riley fills the role vacated by Nancy Barnes, who departed in November to become senior vice president of news for National Public Radio.

“You want the work to mean something to the people that read it, both everyday subscribers and the folks with power and influence to induce change,” Riley said. “So I’m very grateful to have been able to work in newsrooms that placed a premium on public-service journalism, deep stories that forced people to stop, think and then act. I’d like to think I’ve had some impact on the cities and states where I’ve lived and worked.”

Recently, during the Ole Miss spring semester, Riley, a graduate of Nettleton High School and one of the most distinguished graduates of the University of Mississippi, took time out of his busy schedule to speak with Journalism 102 students about the current state of a newsroom during the pandemic.

Riley talked about the transition to a more digital reporting environment in which his 200 newsroom reporters were filing stories as soon as they were complete rather than waiting for them to be printed in the paper the next day.

He also described how they moved to a more remote operation where most of the management communicates through Zoom. Even Riley lives remotely in North Carolina, and only travels to Houston when necessary.

Riley said COVID-19 has dominated the news and forced newspapers to reorganize their processes in order to cover the pandemic.

“This is a story of a generation, if not a century,” he said.

In order for the Chronicle to cover all aspects of the virus, they have had to organize their reporters to cover the Texas Medical Center, all of the different treatments for the virus, the evictions, hunger, the demise of small business and the roll out of the vaccine.

So what’s next for this accomplished journalist?

“I’d like to exhale, travel and get involved in my community a bit in ways that weren’t really possible while working as a journalist,” Riley said.

“We like to cycle, hike, and I enjoy tennis and skiing. So I don’t think I’ll get bored.”

This story was written by student Madison Malo.

University of Mississippi IMC student ‘bridges the gap’ between nonprofits, need

Posted on: March 24th, 2021 by ldrucker

Senior Natalie Pruitt develops website for students to complete assignments listed by nonprofit groups

A University of Mississippi student has created a website to help “bridge the gap” between Mississippi nonprofit organizations and Ole Miss students interested in expanding their resume through community involvement.

Natalie Pruitt, a senior integrated marketing communications major and member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, developed the project as part of her IMC capstone class and Honors College thesis project after noticing the level of need among many nonprofit organizations in the community.

“After researching and interviewing multiple local nonprofit organizations and learning about their need for assistance with projects relating specially to digital marketing and graphic design, I realized there was such untapped potential for UM students to work alongside these organizations,” said Pruitt, from Knoxville, Tennessee.

With that information in mind, Pruitt set out to develop a website exclusively for students interested in digital marketing, graphic design internships and freelance assignments. With this mindset and multiple university connections, UM Creative Connect was born.

“My hope is that a mutually beneficial relationship will form between local North Mississippi nonprofit organizations and UM students,” Pruitt said. “It was a need that I saw a fix to, so I had to try to close that gap in any way I could.”

Natalie Pruitt, a Knoxville, Tennessee native, developed the project as part of her IMC capstone class and Honors College thesis project after noticing the level of need among many nonprofit organizations in the community. Photo by Michael Taplin/University Marketing and Communications

Creative Connect helps connect Ole Miss students to Mississippi nonprofit organizations looking for assistance in a variety of areas such as digital marketing, graphic design and other freelance work. Photo by Michael Taplin/University Marketing and Communications

After two weeks of the website’s launch, seven nonprofit organizations have posted eight job listings with projects ranging from digital marketing, graphic design, social media management, photography and content creation.

Carson Harris, a sophomore integrated marketing communications major from Ocean Springs, was one of the students who applied for a website/graphic design-related job listing. Harris said Creative Connect is a great resource for students to get involved in the community while at Ole Miss.

“Having a resource like this one is crucial for students to succeed,” Harris said. “I applied for both the freelance and internship positions offered by 2nd Chance Mississippi because I find it important for students to succeed outside of the classroom.”

Harris’s perspective on the nonprofit organization is the same as Pruitt’s reasoning to build a website: students need opportunities to demonstrate their skills outside the classroom.

Natalie Pruitt, a Knoxville, Tennessee native, developed the project as part of her IMC capstone class and Honors College thesis project after noticing the level of need among many nonprofit organizations in the community. Photo by Michael Taplin/University Marketing and Communications

Natalie Pruitt, a Knoxville, Tennessee native, developed the project as part of her IMC capstone class and Honors College thesis project after noticing the level of need among many nonprofit organizations in the community. Photo by Michael Taplin/University Marketing and Communications

“This gives me the opportunity to be creative and focus on building upon my skills I have learned in the classroom,” Harris added. “I hope my creativity will help 2nd Chance Mississippi give back to our community.”

Pruitt said the project would not be possible without the nonprofit organizations that expressed interest in the project from the beginning.

“I want to thank the amazing nonprofits and community partners that took time out of their incredibly busy schedules to sit down and talk with me to provide insight into the creation of the website,” Pruitt said.

“Getting to develop relationships with these kind people and see how their lives could be made easier from it made the entire project worthwhile. I really appreciate all of the support the Oxford, Lafayette nonprofit community has given me.”

Participating nonprofit organizations include Mississippi Printers Network, 2nd Chance Mississippi, Boys and Girls Clubs of North Mississippi and Yoknapatawpha Arts Council/Lafayette Oxford-University Chamber of Commerce.

To learn more about UM Creative Connect, visit or email

This story was written by Michael Taplin for UM Communications. Click the link to view the original story.

University of Mississippi journalism team studies Climate Change in Mississippi

Posted on: March 15th, 2021 by ldrucker

Climate Change in Mississippi

Nationally and globally, much of the conversation about climate change has been territorial and political.

In Mississippi, state leaders have spoken of it rarely, if ever. However, the state’s science, industrial, agricultural and energy sectors have been working to address change and devise strategies.

A desire to explore the issue more in-depth led University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media professors and students to study the topic within the state. The result is the project Climate Change in Mississippi that focuses on what is, not what if. Practices, not policy.

Jared Poland, left, and Jacob Meyers launch a drone for video of the Steele Bayou Control Structure while working on the Climate Change in Mississippi project.
Jared Poland, left, and Jacob Meyers launch a drone for video of the Steele Bayou Control Structure while working on the Climate Change in Mississippi project.

Journalist and Professor Charlie Mitchell, who helped lead the Climate Change in Mississippi project, said the premise was that too many people have formed opinions about climate change without seeing how it relates to their daily lives. The project aims to report this relevance as a factual resource among political chatter. 

 “Climate change is a super-broad topic and much reporting is along political lines or appeals to emotion,” he said. “The students worked to identify front-line people in Mississippi dealing with change directly or indirectly and tell their stories about what’s happening, what’s being researched and what’s expected. The point was to deal with fact, not speculation or opinion.”

Anderson Jones, left, was interviewed by Climate Change in Mississippi project member Jared Poland about repetitive flooding of Jones' home in the lower Mississippi Delta.
Anderson Jones, left, was interviewed by Climate Change in Mississippi student reporter Jared Poland about repetitive flooding of Jones' home in the lower Mississippi Delta.

Jared Poland, a senior integrated marketing communications major from Chattanooga, plans to work in public relations after graduation at an agency, non-profit, or for a political action committee.

“I saw this class as an opportunity to use my public relations skills to shed light on the effects of climate change felt by everyday Mississippians,” he said. “The depth reporting class gave me the opportunity to spend time creating a series of stories that describe at length the 2019 floods in the Mississippi Delta and how the backwater flooding related to climate change and affected individuals.”

Poland said he immersed himself in the issue, traveling to the Delta twice and spoke with community leaders, locals, a climatologist, and other knowledgeable individuals about the floods and the pumps.

“I was able to see firsthand the hardships they had faced due to the flooding and was able to speak with them about the proposed pump project that almost everyone believed was the solution to the floods,” he said. “I also learned about their lives, their families, their passions and their hardships caused by the floods.”

“Climate change is a super-broad topic and much reporting is along political lines or appeals to emotion,” he said. “The students worked to identify front-line people in Mississippi dealing with change directly or indirectly and tell their stories about what's happening, what's being researched and what's expected. The point was to deal with fact, not speculation or opinion.”
Charlie Mitchell
Journalist and Professor

Students honed their research, interviewing and writing skills and worked to become better at identifying relevant facts and sources, then weaved the information into a understandable and compelling narrative.

Mitchell said the school has a history of producing relevant depth reports on national and international topics ranging from the emerging economy in post-war Sri Lanka to the intersection of good food and poor health in the Mississippi Delta.

“Former Dean Norton identified this topic as crucial, and it was decided students here and students at the University of Nebraska would tackle the topic simultaneously,” he said.

The UM student reporting team included Danielle Angelo, Anne Florence Brown, Lydia Cates, Will Corley, Abbey Edmondson, Cody Farris, Jacob Meyers, Eliza Noe, Jared Poland, Billy Schuerman, Tamara Tyes and Lauren Wilson.

Team advisers included John Baker, Michael Fagans, Charles Mitchell, Will Norton Jr., Darren Sanefski and Hannah Vines.

Jared Poland
Jared Poland

Poland said the most interesting part is it’s an issue that has affected Delta residents since the early 1900s.

“The project that is believed to be the solution to the floods was originally proposed in 1941,” he said. “I was able to speak with individuals who have spent their entire life dealing with floods and fighting for solutions to prevent them.

“As someone deeply interested in politics, I was fascinated by the pumps project and the political discourse and conflicts that have unfolded surrounding it, including the EPA’s veto of the project in 2008. It has been a heavily contested political issue and remains one today.”

Poland said others who take the course should use it as an opportunity to deeply explore the topic.

“It was the first project of this size I have ever taken on, but with the help of my instructors, it truly was one of my favorite experiences during my time at Ole Miss,” he said.

William Schumerman
William Schumerman

William Schuerman is a senior journalism major with a print emphasis and an environmental studies minor.

“I enrolled in the class because, after I heard about the project, I knew there would be an opportunity to produce content about a subject I am very passionate about,” he said.

Schuerman, who hopes to work as a photojournalist and be published in National Geographic someday, said the class was different from other classes. He traveled across the state helping other students create multimedia.

“Projects like this are where I have learned the most in my time at the University of Mississippi, so it was a logical step forward for me,” he said. “… I feel that I always learn more when working in the field than purely sitting in the classroom.”

Professor Michael Fagans, a project adviser, said he tried to ask questions to get students thinking about how to better cover their story area and how to tell it with infographics, photos or illustrations.

“As with many of our ‘outside the classroom’ reporting opportunities, students learn valuable lessons when they get out into Mississippi and meet, interview and tell the stories of our residents,” he said.

Providing feedback and encouragement leads to growth, Fagans said.

“I hope that our students were able to gain insight into how to be better journalists, what kind of effort can go into a project and the value of getting out ‘into the field,’ sometimes, quite literally,” he said.

“I hope that, because of this project, people recognize that climate change is real and it is causing real repercussions, even in Mississippi. Mississippi is rural and not nearly as populated as other areas of the country that are experiencing major effects of climate change. So I feel like it often gets overlooked in the big picture of climate change."
Abby Edmonson
Abby Edmonson
Abby Edmonson
Abbey Edmonson

Abbey Edmonson, a senior journalism major with minors in English and creative writing and an emphasis in social media, said she was curious about the effects of climate change in our state.

Her focus was on saltwater aquaculture on the Gulf Coast, where she traveled with Fagans and Schuerman.

“Throughout the trip, we interviewed several people who are involved in the commercial fishing industry, specifically the oyster industry,” she said. “We toured the last oyster-shucking house in Mississippi, watched how oysters are bred, and rode a boat out to an oyster farm. That trip is something I’ll hold onto forever because we got to interact firsthand with people who are experiencing real issues as a direct result of climate change.”

Climate Change Website
Climate Report Website

She said students also interviewed people about possible solutions in the works, which “added a bright spot to an otherwise disheartening situation.”

“I hope that, because of this project, people recognize that climate change is real, and it is causing real repercussions, even in Mississippi,” she said. “Mississippi is rural and not nearly as populated as other areas of the country that are experiencing major effects of climate change. So I feel like it often gets overlooked in the big picture of climate change.

“I wanted to learn more about it, because I honestly didn’t know much about it to begin with. I also wanted to be able to tell people about the changes that are visibly happening and, I think, are underrepresented in the media. Everything is so interconnected, and it’s important to recognize that when one area gets affected by climate change, other areas will follow.”

To learn more about the project and read student work, visit the Climate Change in Mississippi website.

UM School of Journalism and New Media student continues media work with Coca-Cola campus job

Posted on: March 11th, 2021 by ldrucker

Meagan Harkins, the face of Coca-Cola on campus, is using her undergraduate years to prepare for a career in creative media.

Harkins was named Coca-Cola campus ambassador after a friend thought she would be perfect for the position and told her about the opportunity.

The job entails sampling events, product drops, attending monthly webinars, bringing products to groups on campus, and running advertisements and information through her own social media account.

Meagan Harkins

Meagan Harkins

“One of my main responsibilities is to bring brand love,” Harkins said.

Read more of Ava Jahner’s story about Harkins on

Holland inspires University of Mississippi Association of Black Journalists students

Posted on: March 8th, 2021 by ldrucker

“There are few professions where you can make a difference and be guaranteed immortality. Journalism is one of them. Which is why you have to be so careful about what you put your name behind.”

That was just one of the memorable pieces of advice from journalism alumnus Jesse J. Holland to members of the University of Mississippi Association of Black Journalists at their March virtual meeting. Holland was one of the founders of the campus UMABJ chapter when he was a student in the early 1990s.

Jesse Holland Jr.

Holland shared anecdotes about his new book — “Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda” — and his experiences as a journalist, author, educator and comics strip creator. The new Black Panther book is an anthology of short stories from acclaimed writers like poet Nikki Giovanni, who wrote her first piece of fiction for the anthology. Holland edited the book and wrote one of the stories. It is scheduled for release on March 9.

“I truly enjoyed the session,” said AJ Norwood, broadcast journalism major and UMABJ president. “From the very beginning, I could tell that he is an absolutely amazing storyteller. The insight that he was able to provide to not only myself, but to other students that attended was so valuable.

“One of the main things that I learned from Mr. Holland was that you should utilize all of your resources and find mentors who are already doing what you’re doing. If you’re able to do that, learn from their mistakes because you shouldn’t have to make the same mistakes that they have made.  It was an honor to moderate an event with someone with the credibility and grace of Jesse Holland.”

Jesse Holland

Jesse Holland

When he was a student at UM, Holland was a multiple-platform journalist long before it was embraced as something every journalist and communications specialist should be. He was Daily Mississippian editor-in-chief — only the second African-American editor in the student newspaper’s history. He hosted two Rebel Radio shows – one was The Night Train, a rap show that aired at midnight – and worked for the TV newscast and the yearbook. He and two student editor friends created a comic strip called Hippie and the Black Guy.

After he graduated, Holland was a writer for the Associated Press for 25 years. He covered the statehouse in South Carolina, the U.S. Supreme Court, Congress and the White House, and he was on AP’s national race & ethnicity reporting team. He hosts the Saturday edition of C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, and was recently named assistant professor of journalism at George Washington University.

He is the author of two nonfiction books, but he is perhaps best known for writing two novels tied to Star Wars and Black Panther. His first Black Panther book was nominated for a national NAACP Image Award for best fiction in 2019.

“The publishing industry loves journalists because journalists know how to write, and journalists know and respect deadlines,” Holland said.

Jesse Holland

Jesse Holland

Holland’s conversation with the students lasted more than 90 minutes. He spoke at length about his work ethic – just one example: His C-SPAN gig requires him to get up at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday mornings for a show that begins broadcasting at 7 a.m. – and how he fell in love with journalism after he figured out it was “the best way to meet interesting people, go interesting places and do interesting things.”

He talked about how UM students are lucky to benefit from the passionate “fraternity and sorority” of journalism graduates all across the nation who can help them, and he told detailed and sometimes amusing stories about a few who helped him along the way.

“There’s only one job you can do and you’re literally writing history on a daily basis,” he said. “…Years from now, when people read about the donations of Rosa Parks’ archives to the Library of Congress, they’re going to read that the person who discovered Rosa Parks’ material in a warehouse in New York where it had been languishing for 15 years was a guy named Jesse J. Holland. Years and years and years from now, when historians go back and read the stories from Ferguson, Missouri, and ask who was Michael Brown and what happened, the story they’re going to pull up was written by a guy named Jesse J. Holland.”

McManus helps make University of Mississippi one of the most beautiful campuses in the country

Posted on: March 4th, 2021 by ldrucker

The University of Mississippi campus is known as one of the most beautiful college campuses in the nation. Ben Oliver, a junior majoring in public policy leadership, wrote this story for JOUR 102 Introduction to Multimedia Writing about the man who leads Landscape Services at UM.

Make no mistake, the University of Mississippi’s Oxford campus is one of the most beautiful in the nation. That can be attributed to the climate, to the weather, to any number of things, but many attribute the beauty to Jeff McManus, director of Landscape Services.

“Sixty-two percent of prospective college students will make their decision to attend a college or university in the first few minutes of a campus visit,” McManus said. “We regularly hear from parents, students, and faculty how the look and feel of the Ole Miss campus connected with them.”

McManus is known not only for his knowledge of landscaping but also for his talent as a leader. One man cannot keep an entire campus beautiful. He recognized this, so when he was hired in 2000, he made it his mission to develop his leadership skills.

Twenty-one years ago, Chancellor Robert Khayat recruited McManus. He was struck by the fact that Khayat had “started believing in Ole Miss before Ole Miss believed in herself. He knew that Ole Miss could be different.”

In one of their first meetings, they took a walk through the campus. While pointing out the different academic buildings and dorms, Khayat suddenly stopped. He reached down and pulled up a weed.

Jeff McManus

Jeff McManus

“What are you doing?” McManus asked.

“I am weeding by example,” Khayat said.

McManus believes that Khayat was a one-of-a-kind leader. He had a vision and was able to motivate people with ease. The former chancellor retired in 2009, but McManus said he continues to use what he learned from Khayat to motivate his landscaping team.

“The relationships McManus has fostered with his employees are a testament to his effective communication skills,” said Rosie Vassallo, director of Retiree Attraction for the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation. “He demonstrates how a team effort can reach great heights, as they have won national awards in landscaping.”

Five years ago, Vassallo came to McManus to work with the Economic Development Foundation to hold a Landscaping Camp. The camp showcases the work of the landscaping team, and the fourth camp will be on May 28-29 this year.

His speaking skills, as well as the many accomplishments of his team, have attracted visitors from states including Texas, Kentucky, California, Georgia, Maryland, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Alabama to join those from Mississippi.

He is a leader, Denise Hill, retired superintendent of Landscaping Services, reportedly told John Touloupis of “The Daily Mississippian”.

Hill arrived at Ole Miss in 2000 as well, just a few months before McManus. She was on the landscaping crew, working one of the gas-powered trimmers. McManus quickly saw her potential.

After a few months, McManus offered her the opportunity to be a supervisor. Instead of accepting, she turned it down. However, after a short while, she accepted.

A few years later, McManus came to her again, only this time to offer the job of landscaping superintendent. Again, she still wasn’t sure she wanted to make the step up, but McManus was persistent.

After learning the ropes, she did wonderfully, and according to McManus, she “ran the campus” up until her retirement.

It may seem like McManus was born to be the director of Landscape Services, but his career almost took a different path.

Raised in the small town of Douglasville, Ga., McManus planned on a career in marketing. After meeting a professor who inspired his love of plants, he switched to horticulture.

He said he still thinks about that professor, Dr. Harry Ponder, today.

“After weeks in the class, even though he knew all the plant names, the thing that stood out the most to me was he knew my name and every student’s name in the class,” McManus said.

Dr. Ponder was an inspiration to McManus by being knowledgeable and displaying exemplary leadership skills.

McManus earned his Bachelor of Science in Landscape and Ornamental Horticulture from Auburn University and is a certified arborist.

Since his arrival, Ole Miss has won five national landscaping championships for Most Beautiful Campus by organizations such as “Newsweek” and The Princeton Review. The university twice won the National Professional Grounds Maintenance Society Best Maintained Campus Award.

“It’s easy for someone to say, after meeting Jeff, that he loves his job and is proud of the natural beauty that can be found on the Ole Miss campus,” Vassallo said.

McManus has been married since 1994 to his wife, Suzanne. They have four children, named Sam, Nathan, Joshua, and Mark.

He has written two books: “Pruning Like a Pro” in 2015, and his latest: “Growing Weeders Into Leaders” in 2017.

“Everyone who works with Jeff takes great pride in their work product and that speaks volumes in regard to his leadership skills,” said Dr. Dennis Tosh, retired professor in the School of Business.

“It’s crucial to recognize every person is valuable and should have a voice and a seat at the table,” McManus said. “Giving people a voice, giving them some ownership of what’s happening, makes a tremendous amount of difference.”

Here’s what The Princeton Review says about the University of Mississippi.

University of Mississippi journalism professor helps judge prestigious Pictures of the Year International contest

Posted on: March 2nd, 2021 by ldrucker

A University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media professor recently served as a live judge for the Pictures of the Year International contest.

Alysia Steele, associate professor of journalism, has been virtually judging competition entries for the contest known by some as the oldest, most prestigious photo contest in the world. It started in 1943-44 and is held at the University of Missouri.

This year, Steele said there are 28 judges divided into groups of four, and the contest will continue through March 7.

“This contest is incredibly important because it acknowledges and celebrates the tremendous physical and emotional work that photojournalists do every day,” said Steele, “because it’s their life’s calling and passion, and it’s not easy work.

“Photographers risk their lives to document history – to make public what’s happening around the world, and I don’t think many people realize the dangers they and their loved ones also face. Not just about the physicality of the work in dangerous situations, but also the stress and worry their loved ones go through when they are in the field, or the support they give when the photographer works long hours and misses precious family moments. That’s real.”

In our ever-changing technological world, Steele said we don’t always see what’s happening, but the contest is one way to acknowledge and honor the work photographers contribute to the world.

“Photographs have helped change international policies and bring light to human causes,” she said. “We are not ‘just’ photographers – we are visual storytellers, who report, who also find stories, and who dedicate an immense amount of time to our work.”

Alysia Steele

Alysia Steele

Steele said she teaches that captions are just as important as visuals.

“Oftentimes photographers are still at an event or situation reporting by themselves,” she said. “They arrive early and stay late. They pay attention to details, they’re thinking about composition, moments, light, and so many other technical factors that go into creating an image, but they’re also thinking about their surroundings and the reporting of what they see and hear. Their accuracy, honesty and transparency are incredibly important to journalism, and this esteemed and well-respected competition honors the work.”

Steele said being asked to help judge the competition was one of the greatest honors she’s ever been given.

“When I read the email initially inviting me, I had to re-read it, to make sure I understood what was being asked of me – I was being asked to judge,” she said. “OMG was my response. It is a chance to collaborate, debate and provide perspective with esteemed peers, who also provide their insight.

“The conversations we had were thoughtful, respectful and in-depth. No decision was ever made lightly. We worked together for a common goal – to honor what we collectively thought was the best representation in the four categories we judged, which were Spot News, Daily Life, COVID-19 Picture Story and Local Photographer of the Year (one of the most premiere categories of photographers all over the world documenting their communities).”

Steele said they had two weeks to individually review thousands of photos and narrow down what they individually thought are the best of the best. Images that received two out of the four votes from their team made it to the next round.

“From there, we narrowed it down by additional rounds,” she said. “I think one category of finalists alone took us three hours on live stream. For example, one category had over 2,000 entries, and we narrowed the top winners and awards of excellence down to, I think, five entries.

“There is a tremendous amount of integrity in this competition, and to be asked to provide my humble professional opinion, and for this organization to see value in my small contribution, is just one way that helps justify the decision I made to become a visual storyteller in the first place. To be included in the ever-growing and long line of prolific judges, is a nod that I did something right in my career.”

Students can tune into the competition to learn more about storytelling, composition, moments, theory, ethics, newsworthiness, and how to articulate and defend photo choices. Visit to learn more.

To see a list of judges:




A number of UM School of Journalism and New Media professors judge or have judged national competitions.

  • Professor Graham Bodie, Ph.D. will soon be judging the International English Public Speaking Competition.
  • Professor Michael Fagans has judged some categories in the Evangelical Press Association competition. He also helped judge the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar’s Photo Competition pre-COVID-19.
  • Professor Debbie Hall will be serving as a judge for the American Marketing Association collegiate competition in April.
  • Professor Samir Husni, Ph.D. will be judging the Best Use of Print category for the International News Media Association Global Media Awards. There are 50 entries he will be judging from all over the world.
  • Professor Iveta Imre, Ph.D. will be judging the Broadcast Education Association documentary entries for the Festival of Media Arts.
  • Professor R. J. Morgan, Ph.D., has served as a judge for many state organizations, as well as the National Scholastic Press Association, Columbia Scholastic Press Association, Journalism Education Association, and Society of Professional Journalists Foundation.
  • Professor LaReeca Rucker has served as a judge for the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards that honors the best in collegiate journalism.
  • Professor Marquita Smith, Ed.D., just finished judging the The Robin Turner Program, or Toner Prizes, in Political Reporting at the Newhouse School of Syracuse University.
  • Professor Patricia Thompson judges several national competitions annually. She recently served once again as a juror for The Robin Turner Program, or Toner Prizes, at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University.
  • Professor Kathleen Wickham, Ed.D, will be judging the National Headliner Journalism Awards for the 11th year. The contest, founded in 1934, is one of the oldest journalism contests and the only competition to judge across all media platforms: print, broadcast, photography, magazines, radio, digital and online journalism. This year, the number of submissions topped 1,000, Wickham said. More than 3,000 medallions have been presented since the contest was created by the Press Club of Atlantic City.

Remembering Joey Embry: Rebel’s legacy continues with latest scholar

Posted on: February 11th, 2021 by ldrucker

Lillian Lindsey, a University of Mississippi freshman from Water Valley, is the 2020-21 recipient of the Joey Embry Memorial Scholarship, expanding the legacy of a beloved student and football player.

Lindsey is an integrated marketing communications major in the UM School of Journalism and New Media. She hopes to work in the field of social media marketing after receiving her undergraduate degree.

“Since I was a little kid, I have wanted to attend Ole Miss,” she said. “Both of my parents went here, and I grew up so close that it always felt like home,” said Lindsey, a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and the Ole Miss women’s club volleyball team.

Lillian Lindsey

UM freshman Lillian Lindsey, an integrated marketing communications major from Water Valley, is the 2020-21 recipient of the Joey Embry Memorial Scholarship. Photo by Keli Lindsey Photography

Joey Embry, who the scholarship was named after, was actively involved on the Oxford campus and dedicated to his academic pursuits. He excelled academically, making both the UM Athletic Association and Southeastern Conference academic honor rolls, and left a positive impression on the Ole Miss community through his leadership and commitment on and off the playing field.

Tragically, Embry died in a drowning accident May 19, 1998, just before his fourth season with the Rebels. He was expected to be a major contributor on the offensive line.

The 1998 season was dedicated to Embry, and his teammates memorialized him by wearing his number on their helmets. To have his legacy present at Ole Miss and to keep his spirit alive, the Joey Embry Memorial Scholarship Fund was established to help other UM students.

“I am so thankful to have received this scholarship,” Lindsey said. “I’ve heard my dad speak of Joey Embry in the past and how much he thought of him when they played football together at Ole Miss.”

Stephen Lindsey was a kicker for the Rebels during the 1996 and 1997 football seasons.

“I’ve also known Joey’s brother, Brad, who taught me at Water Valley High School, and I’ve known his parents for years,” Lindsey said. “Knowing them makes this scholarship even more special to me.”

Embry scholars must be from Calhoun and Yalobusha counties – the Mississippi counties in which the Embrys have lived. Students interested in applying for the scholarship should speak with their high school guidance counselor.

Gwen Embry, Joey Embry’s mother, said she and her husband, Bill, know Lindsey and her family through church and are “very proud for her.”

Likewise, Joey Embry would be honored that his legacy is continuing in this way, she said.

“Joey gave everything for there to be this scholarship, and we want to make sure it’s used to the best of its ability – that the students will devote their time and efforts to school and keep their priorities in the right direction.”

The Joey Embry Memorial Scholarship Endowment is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. Checks may be mailed to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the endowment noted in the memo line, to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655. Gifts can also be made online by visiting

This story was originally written by Bill Dabney for UM Communications.

A ‘Gentle Insistence on Excellence’​: Dr. Dupont will retire from UM School of Journalism and New Media after spring semester

Posted on: February 9th, 2021 by ldrucker

A 'Gentle Insistence on Excellence'

At the end of the spring semester, Dr. Nancy Dupont will retire from the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media. She has been a vital part of the school since 2006 – teaching across a wide swath of the curriculum and playing a critical role in the growth and achievements of the broadcast journalism program. 

While the entire faculty will miss her, that absence will be strongly felt by Interim Dean Debora Wenger, who has worked with Dupont in one way or another for more than 30 years.

Dr. Nancy Dupont teaches a class.
Nancy Dupont teaching students.

When Wenger moved to Charlotte, N.C. to produce the 11 o’clock news more than 30 years ago, Dupont was the 6 o’clock producer, supervising the station’s hour-long show.

“Despite the fact that she was under an incredible amount of pressure in that role, Nancy was always funny and fun to be around,” Wenger said.

Wenger’s responsibilities included coming into the station about 2 p.m. and monitoring the news feeds that came from the network and other sources so she could alert Dupont about any great video she should include in her show. She also helped write breaking news stories for the 6 p.m. news and led the production of the late show.

“My first impression (of Nancy) was that she was good at her job, and that I could learn something from her,” she said. “My second impression is that she was someone I wanted to be friends with because she sure knew how to make people laugh and to like her.”

Not much has changed, Wenger said.

Dean Debora Wenger
Dr. Debora Wenger, interim dean.

“After 30+ years of knowing Nancy, I still learn things from her, and I still enjoy being her friend,” she said. “When my husband, Mitch, was interviewing for a job at the University of Mississippi, Nancy was the first person to put my name forward as a candidate for an open position in the then Department of Journalism.

“Once I got the job, she was a huge help in getting me settled into my new role – and for the past 10 years, she has been a source of great ideas for making our program stronger, and she has been a great advocate for me always.”

For many years, Dupont was the faculty adviser for NewsWatch Ole Miss, and Wenger said Dupont deserves immeasurable thanks and credit for taking the program to a higher level. She was also a key driver behind the curriculum development that has made our broadcast program a much more relevant and robust component of the school. 

“My first impression (of Nancy) was that she was good at her job, and that I could learn something from her. My second impression is that she was someone I wanted to be friends with because she sure knew how to make people laugh and to like her.”
Debora Wenger
Debora Wenger
Interim dean

Dupont has served as chair of the Electronic News Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and was twice named chair of the news division of the Broadcast Education Association. In 2019, she was elected to a two-year term on the Broadcast Education Association Board of Directors. 

Dupont’s scholarship is extensive. She co-authored the book Journalism of the Fallen Confederacy in 2014 and has authored a dozen or more book chapters. She has also been a prolific presenter at national and international conferences.

“I got an education at Loyola University in New Orleans, and set out to be a reporter,” Dupont said. “I soon tired of that, because the producers boss people around all day, and I wanted to be a producer.”

Dupont joined the UM faculty in 2006 after spending 17 years as a broadcast journalist and 13 years as a journalism educator. She earned a Ph.D. from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1997.

Dr. Nancy Dupont

Wenger said one of the things she has learned from Dupont is to keep her love of breaking news alive.

“Whenever a big story emerged in the state, Nancy was always the first person on the phone to me saying, ‘Who can we send,” she said. “A ‘go-get-’em’ journalist’s heart is alive and well in Dr. Dupont, and she’s helped to keep it beating strong in me as well.”

Dupont said Wenger is the “smartest person I have ever known.”

“She has such confidence in herself,” Dupont said. “She can do anything. She taught me how to be a good producer … She taught me to take the challenge.”

Wenger said Dupont has been a role model – someone who exemplifies what it means to be a teacher first.

“Though she was an excellent researcher and contributed countless service hours, she has always focused on students,” Wenger said. “That’s why I’m so glad that one of the ways we will honor her is by naming the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association Broadcast Adviser of the Year Award after Nancy.”

R.J. Morgan
Dr. R.J. Morgan

The MSPA Board of Advisers unanimously approved a request by the University of Mississippi School of Journalism & New Media to rename its Broadcast Adviser of the Year award in honor of Dupont.

“Dr. Dupont is a highly-decorated journalism educator and the long-time faculty adviser for the award-winning NewsWatch, UM’s daily live student-run news broadcast,” said Dr. R. J. Morgan, director of the MSPA. “Throughout her career, Dr. Dupont has been a friend to scholastic journalism and a mentor to generations of young communicators.

“As such, she embodies both the spirit and substance of those educators our adviser of the year awards seek to honor, and I think I speak for the entire board when I say we are incredibly excited to have her name attached to this honor going forward.”

Morgan said the award, which honors the state’s best high school broadcast adviser,  will be awarded at the spring convention, to be held virtually on April 9. Dupont will be involved in the judging process.

According to some of Dupont’s colleagues, naming the award for her could not be more fitting.

"In all your teaching, I saw you set the highest standard of professional journalism practice, and the ‘students’ responded to that in ways that will be rewarding for them all through their careers. Your gentle insistence on excellence has been inspirational ..."
Charlie Mitchell
Iveta Imre in Croatia
Iveta Imre

Professor Charlie Mitchell said when he visited NewsWatch in action, it was clear that students were “at work” as opposed to “in a class.”

“This is not insignificant,” he said. “In all your teaching, I saw you set the highest standard of professional journalism practice, and the ‘students’ responded to that in ways that will be rewarding for them all through their careers.

“Your gentle insistence on excellence has been inspirational to me, too. While you engaged in serious scholarship, you also organized Broadcast Day and attracted every news director in Mississippi and several from Tennessee to visit campus and meet with students each year. This was truly service above self and, again, something to admire.”

Samir Husni, Ph.D., founder and director, professor and Hederman Lecturer of the Magazine Innovation Center, said the only silver lining after the horrors of Hurricane Katrina was that it provided the opportunity for the department to hire  DuPont.

“Her combination of professionalism in the newsroom and classroom is unmatched,” he said. “From day one, she put both skills into the service of our students, and she excelled as a mentor and as a teacher. I’m very proud to have had the honor of working with her as a colleague and to also call her my friend. I wish her the best in her retirement.”

Iveta Imre, Ph.D., a UM assistant professor of journalism, said she is sad Dupont is leaving.

“Your endless energy and passion have been amazing to witness during the short time I have had the pleasure to work with you,” she said. “I was always amazed at your dedication to work with NewsWatch students day in and day out for hours on end, to help them grow into budding journalists and support them on their journey. You are leaving big shoes to fill.”

WREG-TV Memphis donates set to NewsWatch Ole Miss newscast

Posted on: February 5th, 2021 by ldrucker

Thanks to WREG-TV in Memphis, NewsWatch Ole Miss has a new set for its newscast.

Wes Pollard, creative services director at WREG-TV News Channel 3, worked in December and January with Steven Miller, Student Media Center broadcast engineer, to complete the project. Pieces of the WREG desk were taken apart, delivered to campus, and then reassembled in the NewsWatch Ole Miss studio.

WREG installed a new set at its Memphis studio last year and generously offered furniture from its previous set to the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media and the SMC. WREG General Manager Ron Walter was happy to see the desk go to a good home.

NewsWatch Ole Miss

NewsWatch Ole Miss

“We are proud to support the aspiring young journalists and broadcasters in our area, knowing we may one day work alongside them,” Walter said. “The desk served our anchor teams very well, and we hope it does the same for University of Mississippi journalism students.”

Pictured in the photo at the new anchor desk are NewsWatch student staff members Madeleine Nolan, graphics producer; Artez Gibson, video producer; Brian Barisa, newscast manager; Justin Claas, sports director; and Alexandra Barfield, social media producer.

In spring semester 2021, the newscast is aired on Wednesdays and Fridays. You can learn more about NewsWatch at