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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.”

UM students win Southeast Journalism Conference championship

Posted on: February 18th, 2018 by ldrucker

University of Mississippi students won 25 awards in two major regional contests this past weekend, and were named the 1st Place Journalism Champions for the on-site competitions.

The Southeast Journalism Conference 32nd annual convention was Feb. 15-17 at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas. SEJC has more than 40 member universities in seven southeastern states, and sponsors two contests.

The Best of the South contest recognizes the best student journalist work published or broadcast in 2017. In this year’s contest, there were 412 entries from 30 universities. Each UM entry consisted of several examples of student and staff work, from The Daily Mississippian, NewsWatch Ole Miss, Rebel Radio, internships and published projects.

The on-site competitions are held during the conference, and students in attendance compete against one another to produce content on deadline in 15 separate categories. Harding reported that 170 students competed in the on-site competitions this year.

Meek School of Journalism and New Media students won five first-place awards. In the on-site competitions, first places were won by Devna Bose for arts and entertainment writing; Marlee Crawford, for sports photography; and Ethel Mwedziwendira, for current events.

In the Best of the South contest, Abbie McIntosh won first place for Best TV Hard News Reporter, and Thomas DeMartini and Austin Hille teamed to win Best Broadcast Advertising Staff Member.

Other awards won by UM students:

Second places in Best of the South: Lana Ferguson, Best News Writer; Lana Ferguson, Best Feature Writer; Madison Heil, Best Journalism Research Paper; Erin Pennington, Best Radio Hard News Reporter.

Second places in the on-site competitions: Hayden Benge for newspaper design; Clifton Carroll for public relations; Marisa Morrissette for media history/law/ethics.

Third places in Best of the South: Jake Thrasher, Best News-Editorial Artist/Illustrator; DeAndria Turner, Best Radio Journalist; NewsWatch Ole Miss, Best College TV Station. NewsWatch is a live, daily newscast, compared to some others in the competition, which are weekly recorded and edited shows.

Third places in the on-site competitions: Matthew Hendley for TV anchoring; DeAndria Turner for radio reporting.

In the Best of the South contest, some of the categories – especially the newspaper categories – attract more than 30 entries each, and awards are given out up to 10th place. Other UM students/staffs who placed in Best of the South: The Daily Mississippian, a daily newspaper competing against student newspapers published weekly or semiweekly, won fourth place for Best College Newspaper; Marlee Crawford won fifth place for Best Press Photographer; NewsWatch Ole Miss won fifth place for Best College News Video Program; Devna Bose won sixth place for Best Arts and Entertainment Writer; Ethel Mwedziwendira won seventh place for Best Newspaper Page Layout Designer; Hayden Benge won eighth place for Best Newspaper Page Layout Designer; Grant Gaar won eighth place for Best TV News Feature Reporter; Liam Nieman won eighth place for Best Opinion-Editorial Writer.

Fifteen UM students traveled to Arkansas to participate in the on-site categories, accompanied by Meek School Assistant Dean Patricia Thompson, who oversees all of the Student Media Center.

“Year after year, our students excel in both the Best of the South and the on-site competitions,” Thompson said. “Some of them are in our newsroom for many hours each day, five days a week. They use what they learn in classes to produce outstanding work, and they do so not just to gain practical experience for internships and jobs, but also because they are passionate about keeping the campus and community informed about events and issues.”

This is the sixth time in the past eight years that UM students have won SEJC’s on-site journalism grand championship award. University of Mississippi students were ineligible to compete in the on-site contest last year because the Meek School of Journalism and New Media was the host for the 2017 conference in Oxford.

SEJC’s Friday night awards banquet speaker was Sonia Nazario, who won a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing and other national awards for “Enrique’s Journey” when she was a Los Angeles Times staff writer and is now an author, activist and frequent New York Times contributor.

The conference did not have an overall theme, but it included workshops and panels focused on digital content, engaging audiences, broadcast storytelling, yearbook journalism, how to cover campus hazing issues, photojournalism, design, and a look back at the Little Rock Nine and the role journalists play in documenting stories about marginalized people.

Husni partners to help magazine students with financial needs pursue dreams

Posted on: February 9th, 2018 by ldrucker

For many college students, the idea of working in the magazine industry is a dream, but not a reality. That’s because many can’t afford to work for free and don’t have money to cover expensive housing costs in New York City, even if they were awarded an internship.

Dr. Samir Husni, professor, Hederman Lecturer, and director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media, is trying to change that. Husni’s Magazine Innovation Center has teamed with the MPA: Association of Magazine Media to create an endowment to help magazine students with financial needs pursue their dreams.

“We are teaming to start an endowment to help send students on internships and jobs,” Husni said. “We called it the Magazine Innovation Center/MPA Endowment.”

Dr. Samir Husni speaks on stage at the American Magazine Media Conference 2018 on Feb. 6, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for The Association of Magazine Media)

Husni recently shared the idea with magazine executives during the American Magazine Media Conference in New York City Feb. 6. “I was humbled and proud at the same time standing on that stage and talking about the University of Mississippi and our school of journalism,” he said.

The endowment will start with $25,000 from the MPA: Association of Magazine Media Foundation. Husni will also work to raise funds through sponsorships from the ACT Experience, his Magazine Innovation Center’s annual magazine industry event. Part of the sponsorship funds are used to help students.

“It will mainly be aimed at talented magazine media students who are in financial need to go places like New York City or Los Angeles,” he said. “So it will level the playing field among those who have and those who don’t if they share the same love and talent of the magazine media.”

Husni said he’s always felt that some students didn’t have equal access to magazine internships that can be very costly considering all expenses involved.

“I’ve always felt the inequality of the internships, especially today,” he said. “Very few people pay for interns. So not only do the students have to pay to register for the course, they have to pay for their travel. They have to pay their living expenses. So it’s really a lot if you don’t come from a hefty financial background. This is just a little effort in balancing or leveling the playing field.”

Husni has a busy season ahead of him with magazines. He is currently preparing for the ACT 8 Experience, an event organized annually by the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism set for April 17-20 in Oxford. The 2018 theme is Print Proud, Digital Smart.

And Newell Turner, one of Husni’s former University of Mississippi magazine students, who rose to become the Hearst Design Group editorial director, will be presented the Silver Em, the University of Mississippi’s highest award in journalism, at a campus event during the ACT 8 Experience April 18. The event will be held in the Overby Auditorium in Farley Hall on the UM campus at 5:30 p.m.

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

If you are interested in donating to the endowment or learning more about it, contact Husni at 662-915-1414, 662-832-6247 or samir.husni@gmail.com.

Meek students attend viewing of “The Post” and offer reviews

Posted on: January 19th, 2018 by ldrucker

A group of Meek School of Journalism and New Media students recently gathered for a viewing of “The Post.” The crowd arrived at the Malco theater on Jackson Avenue in Oxford to watch the film starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks.

Streep portrays Katharine Graham, the first female publisher of a major American newspaper – The Washington Post. Graham and Editor Ben Bradlee put everything on the line and make a tough decision to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets related to the Vietnam War.

Meek student Madison Stewart, who attended the group viewing, said she enjoyed learning more about history from the film. “Having Meryl Streep as the owner of a newspaper company during that time really showed how women were treated and how times have changed,” she said. “… They showed how many men made up a lot of those newspaper companies back then.

A scene from the film.

“The Meek School (has) a ton of women students and professors, so it really shows how women have evolved in the journalism industry. The movie illustrated how important journalism is to the world. I think a lot of people do not think it is necessary sometimes. Without journalism, many people would not know what is going on in the world if journalists were not there to report on it.”

Meek student Leah Davis also attended the event.

“I absolutely loved it,” said Davis, adding that Graham’s wisdom proved to be what the paper needed. Davis said she liked the movie because it demonstrated the battle between “saving oneself and following moral standards.”

The Post’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers, though going against the government’s wishes, was guided by the burden and responsibility of the press to accurately inform the people instead of hiding behind the government,” she said. “One line that stuck out to me from the movie was, ‘The press serves the governed, not the governors.’ I think this quote sums up the job of journalists and the importance they have in society.”

To read more about journalism movies, check out this recent NewsLab.org post.

Meek School launches first Mississippi Capitol Press Corps class

Posted on: January 8th, 2018 by ldrucker

After discussions with professors at the Michigan State University School of Journalism and the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism in Indiana, who provided advice about how to launch a state government reporting class that live publishes stories, the first Mississippi Capitol Press Corps class was launched during the wintersesssion at the University of Mississippi.

Organized and led by UM professor LaReeca Rucker and Fred Anklam, co-editor of Mississippi Today, the class was designed to give Meek School of Journalism and New Media students hands-on experience as state government reporters.

Reporters spend part of their week at the University of Mississippi and the rest at the state capitol interviewing state leaders about important issues. They write and file stories that are published on OxfordStories.net, a statewide student news wire service, and Mississippi Today. The columns and stories are made available for publication in statewide newspapers.

Class members include Briana Florez, Thomas Goris, Terrence Johnson, Kristen Bentley, Savannah Smith, Savannah Day, Deandria Turner and Davis McCool. Link to bios.

Follow our Mississippi Capitol Press reporters adventures @meekjournalism on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can read their work at OxfordStories.net and on the Mississippi Today website.

Meek School of Journalism and New Media welcomes alumni to tailgating events

Posted on: November 12th, 2017 by ldrucker

The Meek School of Journalism and New Media knows how to tailgate. Here is a gallery of photos from a recent Grove get-together before the Louisiana State University game. Meek School instructor Timothy Ivy took the photos.

The Meek School held three events this year during football game days to greet and welcome Meek School alumni. Plans are in the works to do it again next year. We hope to see you there.

WTVA news director visits NewsWatch students

Posted on: September 21st, 2017 by ldrucker

Mike Raffaele, WTVA news director, met with University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media NewsWatch students last night offering advice about improving the newscast and about getting internships and jobs.

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.

Meek students and faculty attend NABJ convention in New Orleans

Posted on: August 13th, 2017 by ldrucker

Meek School students and University of Mississippi Association of Black Journalists officers Terrence Johnson and Brittany Brown, and Assistant Dean Pat Thompson attended the National Association of Black Journalists convention in New Orleans Aug. 8-13.

While there, they spent time with UM alumni, including Fred Anklam, Jared Boyd, Lynecia Christion, Jesse Holland, Rose Jackson Flenorl, Dennis Moore, Ashley Norwood, Norman Seawright III and Kayleigh Skinner.

Terrence and Brittany also participated in NABJ’s Day of Community Service helping to rebuild homes destroyed in Hurricane Katrina.

More than 300 graduate from Meek School of Journalism and New Media

Posted on: May 14th, 2017 by ldrucker

Saturday was a beautiful day to see more than 300 University of Mississippi Meek School of Journalism and New Media students in cap and gown congregate inside the Tad Smith Coliseum to receive diplomas during commencement exercises.

Meek School Dean Will Norton Jr., Ph.D., spoke to the audience of proud family members and graduates Saturday afternoon.

“We are delighted today to join with you in recognizing your loved ones,” he said. “332 students were eligible to participate in today’s festivities, but many completed their requirements in December, and some will complete their work in August. They may not be in the ceremony today.”

Norton also recognized Meek School faculty before introducing guest speaker J. Steve Davis, who Norton described as a “major player in the culture of the United States.”

Davis, who has worked in the world’s highest levels of marketing and advertising, has worked for powerhouse brands such as Crest toothpaste, Pampers, Dawn detergent, Scope mouthwash, Bounce fabric softener, Gillette Trac II razor blades and Tropicana premium orange juice.

“Make no mistake,” said Norton. “He is not Don Draper, one of the executives of the ‘Mad Men’ television series who worked and played at one of New York City’s most prestigious ad agencies at the beginning of the 1960s.

“Our speaker today is not (only) a great business man with great knowledge, he is a spiritual man, a man of wisdom. He grasped the great desires and needs of American people. His professional career has been exceptional. He is known worldwide as an uncommonly astute strategic marketing professional. He is revered at the highest levels of integrated marketing communications.”

Davis decided in 2002 to found and fund his own private equity consulting business in San Francisco. In the spirit of sticking his neck out, he named the company “Giraffe.”

The Nebraska native was a double major who earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Nebraska College of Journalism (with an emphasis in advertising studies) and the Department of Sociology.

He later became president of J. Water Thompson’s flagship Chicago office. The agency worked to brand Sears Die Hard and Craftsman products, created the Oscar Mayer Bologna and Hot Dog campaign, and the Kibbles and Bits campaign.

Steve was named Adweek’s Adperson of the year in 1995. Today, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“Each of us were designed to serve, not to be served,” Davis said Saturday, as he talked about America’s selfie culture.

“Did you know there are over 2 billion Facebook users, who on average, spend over an hour a day on the site,” he said. “He or she checks her Facebook account, again on average, 47 times a day. How much of this truly connects us? How much separates us?”

Davis encouraged students to practice gratitude and set goals for their lives.

“Be uncommonly grateful,” he said. “It seems to be that, in spite of our collecting blessings and successes in this great country, we tend to be short on gratitude. I saw this time and again in my career.”

Davis believes gratitude is a habit one can cultivate instead of “some magnificently bestowed character of greatness received by a few souls.”

“Habit begins with practice,” he said, challenging the students to begin a daily exercise. “… Take out a blank piece of paper and write down 10 things that you are especially grateful for each day for a month. You’ll be amazed at just how easy it is to reach 300 things you’re grateful for in just a month. And if you aren’t sufficiently grateful now, you’ll be on the road to forming the habit of gratitude to carry through your life.”

To read more about where some of our Meek School of Journalism and New Media students are headed, check out this story.

  • Story by LaReeca Rucker