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Posts Tagged ‘sports journalism’

Daily Mississippian sports editor will pursue sports communication career in NYC

Posted on: May 5th, 2022 by ldrucker
Orlando native Catherine Jeffers had a stellar academic career and earned a Taylor Medal for her hard work. After serving as sports editor for the Daily Mississippian - one of the few women who has ever done so - she is eager to move to New York City to pursue a career in sports communications.

Orlando native Catherine Jeffers has had a stellar academic career and earned a Taylor Medal for her hard work. After serving as sports editor for The Daily Mississippian – one of the few women who has ever done so – she plans to move to New York City to pursue a career in sports communications.

She is just one of the school’s 2022 graduates who shared her Journey to Commencement.

Jeffers earned a dual degree in journalism and integrated marketing communications with minors in English and business. She was also a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and Delta Gamma.

Orlando native Catherine Jeffers had a stellar academic career and earned a Taylor Medal for her hard work. After serving as sports editor for the Daily Mississippian - one of the few women who has ever done so - she is eager to move to New York City to pursue a career in sports communications.

“I’ve always had a strong passion for media writing, storytelling, and good communication, which led me to study journalism and IMC,” she said. “I’ve always had the desire to move to New York and start my career in communications.

“A goal of mine is to work in professional sports on the comms side, or work for an agency that works with athletes. I’m still currently applying for jobs, but I hope to move to the city after I graduate in May and land an entry-level position in communications.”

Debbie Woodrick Hall, a University of Mississippi  School of Journalism and New Media instructional assistant professor of integrated marketing communications said Jeffers is a “lifetime learner.”

“For her Honors College thesis, she analyzed 50 years of Title IX and its impact (and sometimes lack of impact) on women’s sports,” Hall said. “She was always very open to suggestions offered by Professor Cynthia Joyce, Professor Vanessa Gregory, and me. She is a confident young woman who has been an excellent student while in the IMC/journalism programs at Ole Miss. I expect great things from her.”

Orlando native Catherine Jeffers had a stellar academic career and earned a Taylor Medal for her hard work. After serving as sports editor for the Daily Mississippian - one of the few women who has ever done so - she is eager to move to New York City to pursue a career in sports communications. She is standing on a field.

Dennis Moore, student media editorial director, said Jeffers had not worked on The Daily Mississippian staff before being named Sports Editor last year, but she led The DM’s team of sports editors and writers like a seasoned pro from day one.

“With her guidance, coverage of men’s and women’s sports was equally celebratory and critical when warranted, which gained readers’, players’ and coaches’ respect,” Moore said. “In the newsroom, she was invariably smart, efficient, positive and insightful — and never reticent about offering suggestions to improve content beyond sports coverage, as well, but doing so in a way that did not make her colleagues defensive.”

On his first day as editorial advisor in The DM newsroom, Moore said Jeffers asked for his help with a sensitive story.

“I learned quickly that collaborating with her would be a pleasure — not only on that story but also on every subsequent story,” he said.

Jeffers said she was “floored” when she received an email that she had been nominated for a Taylor Medal, the highest academic honor a student can receive at Ole Miss. It recognizes outstanding academic performance and is given to no more than one percent of the student body.

“I remembered going into the (Student Media Center) and telling a few of my coworkers and friends who let me know how important the honor was to even be nominated,” she said. “After I submitted my application after nomination, I remember how proud I was of myself to even be thought of as a potential medalist. When I received the email that I was selected as a Taylor Medalist, I was still shocked.”

Jeffers said she is proud of all that she has accomplished at UM.

“It is rewarding to be recognized for it all,” she said. “I’m very humbled to be honored alongside my peers, and I can’t wait to see all that they achieve after graduation.”

This story was written by LaReeca Rucker.

NewsWatch leader will pursue sports journalism and legal career

Posted on: May 3rd, 2022 by ldrucker
A. J. Norwood dreams of becoming a national sports reporter and an attorney. The graphic features hands stacking blocks with icons on them. The top block features a graduation cap.

He has dreams of rising in the ranks as a national sports reporter and becoming an attorney.

The sky is the limit for A.J. Norwood, a Batesville native whose desire and ability to achieve excellence left a memorable impression on University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media leaders. He is just one of the school’s 2022 graduates who shared his Journey to Commencement.

“I came into college knowing that I wanted to be a broadcast journalist,” said Norwood. “More specifically, I knew I wanted to be a sports broadcaster.”

The broadcast journalism major with a minor in legal studies has worked for NewsWatch – UM’s live, student-run news broadcast, since his freshmen year.

“Auditioning for NewsWatch Ole Miss and getting hired there was pretty much how I got my start doing that,” he said. “It opened up a lot of opportunities for me due to the work that I put in, and I was blessed to be able to make things happen as a result of it.”

Norwood started out as a sports anchor with NewsWatch, then worked his way up to sports director, overseeing sports reporters and anchors.

He also served as a school ambassador, leadership and engagement ambassador, a Luckyday team leader and media specialist, and president of the University of Mississippi Association of Black Journalists during his college career.

“Sports journalism was my first goal,” he said. “Being in college now and getting real-world experience, I know I can do news and sports.”

Student A.J. Norwood sits behind the anchor desk at NewsWatch. Norwood said he was drawn to UM because of its journalism program, and his older sister, Taylor, graduated from UM in 2020. 

He became interested in law during his sophomore year while taking JOUR 371 Communications Law, and decided to pursue legal studies as a minor. He said he’ll most likely pursue journalism first after graduating.

Assistant Dean Patricia Thompson, who leads the Student Media Center, said she has worked extensively with Norwood in her role as student media director and faculty adviser for the UMABJ.

“I recognized A.J.’s strengths as a young sports journalist and his leadership potential and helped recruit him for NewsWatch and UMABJ,” she said. “He’s here with NewsWatch five afternoons a week.

“Like many of our top high-achieving, hard-working students, he runs the risk of being tapped by different departments for too many campus activities. He rarely says no to any opportunity, and he still manages to excel in his work at the (Student Media Center), with UMABJ and in his internships.

“He was one of the students we sent to cover the Sugar Bowl for the SMC. I have no doubt he is going to have an awesome career. Any TV station in the nation would be lucky to land him.”  

LaReeca Rucker, adjunct instructional assistant professor of journalism, said Norwood showed great promise early on in a beginning journalism course.

“Some people stand out because they demand attention, and some stand out because they demonstrate a quiet excellence,” she said. “A.J. always knocked every assignment out of the ballpark. His work spoke for itself, and he took home the top honor in my class.”

Assistant Dean Jennifer Simmons said Norwood has the drive and determination for the goals he sets for himself.

“A.J. has the talent, skills, and personality to be a phenomenal broadcast journalist,” she said.

Interim Dean Debora Wenger said Norwood is a gifted communicator.

“I know he is going to be a success,” she said. “He has many talents, but he remains humble and willing to learn from everyone he encounters. No matter where he goes, he will be an asset to the organization as he was to our school — a good student, a good journalist, a good person.”

Norwood believes hands-on experience has given him the tools he needs for success.

“I think I am pretty prepared for whatever I need to do after college,” he said.

He also enjoys photography and has worked as a media specialist for Luckyday Residential College.

“I kind of do photography for both work and fun,” he said. “I figured out that it was something that I can be really good at if I just put in the time to do it.”

Norwood encourages students to pursue their interests in college.

“If there is something you are passionate about, believe in yourself and take that step,” he said. “Do it. You want to always be able to look back and say, ‘I had no regrets while I was here,’ but obviously make good decisions.”

When he’s not reporting, shooting photos, or attending classes, he enjoys spending time with friends. Some of his best memories are late-night runs to Insomnia Cookies on the Oxford Square.

Norwood, one of four children, graduated from South Panola High School, where he played football and soccer while participating in organizations and honor societies.

“Following graduation, I plan to either attend law school or pursue a career as a professional journalist,” he said. “I have a few job offers, but it’s a matter of figuring out the best decision to make for myself right now.”

His advice to students: “Do something (you’re) happy doing in college, in terms of a major. Regardless of how difficult the course load is … if you have a dream job, pursue it. Nothing is going to come easy, but the payoff will be greater in the end.

“I would also tell younger students to make the most of their time in undergrad. I understand that we are all here to get a degree, but these are supposed to be some of the best years of your life. Don’t take it for granted.”

Jena Stallings contributed to this story.

Oxford native with storytelling legacy creates his own path with NFL Films

Posted on: April 24th, 2022 by ldrucker
An Oxford native with a family journalism legacy is gaining recognition for his sports storytelling skills with NFL Films. Merrick McCool works in the camera department for the television production company and he was inducted into UM's Hall of Fame.

An Oxford native with a family journalism legacy is gaining recognition for his sports storytelling skills with NFL Films.

Merrick McCool, a University of Mississippi senior, works for the National Football League’s film and television production company that produces commercials, television programs, feature films and documentaries. He is just one of the school’s 2022 graduates who shared his Journey to Commencement.

“I think a lot of my childhood memories would center around Ole Miss athletics,” said McCool, a UM School of Journalism and New Media integrated marketing communications student who was also inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. “That, for one, kind of set me right in a field of athletics, right now, working for the NFL.”

Merrick McCool holding a camera on football field. Photo by Ally Bryan.Merrick McCool holding a camera on football field. Photo by Ally Bryan.

Merrick McCool holding a camera on football field. Photo by Ally Bryan.

McCool had many hobbies growing up, including theater, music, photography and film. He was involved in film festivals from an early age, and his mother, Leighton McCool, bought his first camera.

“He is our most passionate child,” she said. “He’s so creative. He’s got a great eye, which is what he’s doing with his film work now. He’s also extremely musical. At the age of 2, he would sit in the back seat when we would drive over from Atlanta. We would have music playing, and he would be beating on his car seat to the beat of the drum.”

Merrick McCool may have been inspired to become a journalist and storyteller by his grandfather, Curtis Wilkie, a notable author, reporter, and former UM professor.

“Journalism has kind of always been a part of my upbringing,” McCool said.

Storytelling is something he’s been focused on since age 8.

“For Christmas that year, he asked for a film camera,” Leighton McCool said. “You know, basically like a director’s camera, like one of those huge, put over your shoulder, kind of cameras. So we bought him a huge one, real expensive at the time, but a nice director’s camera.”

Merrick McCool worked with Oxford High School’s broadcast journalism team as soon as he could, serving as the sports production director and producer.

“There’s a really good journalism program at Oxford High School,” McCool said, “so I was kind of introduced to that at a pretty young age.”

McCool was co-director of “The Season: Oxford High School.” It won three Southeast Emmy Student Production Awards and received three National Emmy Student Production Awards nominations, according to The Charger online. Two episodes of “The Season” were accepted into the All-American High School Film Festival in New York, screened at the AMC theater on Times Square.

McCool knew he wanted to attend Ole Miss.

“You’re learning a lot from stories and experiences,” he said, “and you’re gaining experience in the school. There’s so many opportunities to do that, so many creative people around you, that it’s just hard not to.”

Scott Wyant, a producer and director for Ole Miss Sports, has worked with McCool.

He said Merrick is someone who never settles.

“No matter the task, he’s always going to push the limit to do the best work possible,” Wyant said. “He’s always in search of the next storyline, no matter when he sees it or where it takes him. As a sophomore, he dropped everything on a Friday night, hopped in a car and drove to Tupelo within minutes of hearing about a team meeting with the potential of a big payoff.

“That’s Merrick though. If he sees a story, he’s going to go after it full speed and, frankly, he lives life that way, and that’s why he’s going to be successful in whatever he decides to do. He’s relentless every single day.”

McCool said attending UM led him to his current job in the NFL Films camera department.

“Basically, the idea behind NFL films, when it was created, was to bring Hollywood to football,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know what NFL Films is. There’s an assumption that it’s kind of just football, and there is a lot of football involved with it – obviously, a lot of shooting football games on the weekends. But aside from that, we produce, I wanna say, probably 25-30 TV shows and feature length documentaries, a lot of which are scripted and not 100 percent football-related.”

Through his work, McCool has been given amazing opportunities and experiences, such as working on popular TV shows and meeting celebrities. He even attended the Super Bowl this year in Los Angeles.

His advice to journalism students: Get work experience while you are in school. And you have to love what you do.

“You’ve got to be able to get out and try new things and experience a lot while you’re at Ole Miss, or wherever you’re at doing journalism,” he said. “There’s so many opportunities set forth before you, wherever you are, and so a lot of people just kind of sit back, and they’re like, you don’t think about working until your done with college, but you’ve got to go out and learn things while you’re there that aren’t what you’re learning in the classroom.”

This story was written by Ally Bryan.

UM grad Maria Martin still winning the game as sports anchor, reporter at 11Alive in Atlanta

Posted on: January 24th, 2022 by ldrucker

Maria Martin, a University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media graduate, has been in the game of sports reporting since graduating in 2014. Her latest win is working at 11Alive, WXIA-TV in Atlanta.

“I am a sports anchor and reporter,” she said. “I have a podcast, a 30-minute sports show every Sunday, and the daily responsibilities and grind of being in a top market.”

A native of the West Palm Beach, Florida area, Martin graduated from UM in 2014, earning a degree in broadcast journalism with a minor in English.

“After I graduated from UM, I moved back home and worked three different jobs trying to break into the sports industry whatever way possible,” she said. “I worked in the University of Miami communications department doing everything from shooting practice video to doing sit-down interviews with players during fall camp.”

Maria Martin

Maria Martin

Martin also worked at “SEC on CBS” as a production assistant, traveling the country with the team and learning from the sideline reporter. At ESPN West Palm on WPTV, she was involved in both radio and television, preparing for an opportunity.

“A coworker of mine at WPTV told me I really needed to go somewhere where I got on-camera opportunities every day,” she said, “so I took the leap and did exactly that. I built my reel up and found my next landing spot to be Montgomery, Alabama with WSFA. This was my first full-time on-air position in the television business, and I was the weekend sports anchor and reporter.”

Martin stayed there for three years.

“It was the best decision I ever made professionally and personally,” she said. “I grew exponentially being on camera consistently every day. I covered three straight national championships, three straight SEC championships, a Final Four, a College World Series, multiple first-round draft picks in the NFL, and even the first overall pick in MLB.”

Martin said it was an incredible ride with a lot of national sports exposure and experience.

“I genuinely believe that having small market experience is crucial for young journalists,” she said.

From there, Martin took the job at 11Alive, WXIA-TV in Atlanta where much is expected daily.

“I am never not busy at work, especially in a sports market like Atlanta,” she said. “I’m always either live on location, turning a feature story, aiming to break sports news, anchoring shows, or working on long-form projects.”

Martin hosts a 30-minute sports show every Sunday called “Sports Extra,” featuring several guests who have in-depth conversations about sports teams in the market.

“Traditionally, it has been radio personalities, former athletes and beat writers in the market,” she said. “This year, I’ve started to push the show a step further and get coaches, current athletes and general managers on to keep the rotation of guests exciting.”

She also created her own podcast called “Married to the Game,” for which she “interviews coaches’ and athletes’ wives to show the side of sports the average fan never gets to hear from.”

“I am a football coach’s wife,” she said, “so it is easy for me to be empathetic towards the difficult, but an incredible lifestyle that comes with that.”

Martin said challenges in her industry include traveling a lot for work, and many companies don’t pay beginning journalists well compared to the long hours they put in. She often works until midnight or later and on holidays. Free weekends are rare in sports, she said.

Her advice to other industry professionals: Find what makes you unique and use that to your advantage.

“Find your own voice,” she said. “Oftentimes, when you’re just getting started as a journalist, you try to replicate what someone else is doing or has done. The moment you find your own voice is when you can start honing in on your craft and pushing yourself to new heights professionally.”

Tip #2: Jump out of your comfort zone often.

“It only helps you become more well-rounded as a journalist,” she said. “Don’t take yourself too seriously. I am as passionate as they come when it comes to sports journalism, and I truly hope that’s evident by you watching even two minutes of my work, but I am incredibly blessed to do this every day.

“It’s a lot of work. I’ve worked incredibly hard to get to where I am and where I know I’m going. But I’m talking about sports and meeting incredible people every day. This job is rewarding and fun, and I hope you remember that, especially when it gets hard.”

Her advice to students: Throw yourself at every opportunity that arises in college.

“That also means not putting yourself in one box when it comes to journalism,” she said. “Bosses want to know you can do it all these days. The more people you can connect with and show that you’re driven and eager to learn, the better off you are when it comes to getting a job.”

Another tip for students is: Always be willing to take criticism.

“It’s how you will grow,” she said. “Understand that this job takes tremendous sacrifice. I graduated in 2014, and after this football season will be the first time in my entire career I will have Friday and Saturday off. Sports are on the weekends. Sports happen on holidays. It’s incredibly rewarding, but just make sure you’re passionate about it.”

Her last tip: Be kind.

“Above all else, kindness wins in this industry,” she said. “It helps you break stories, build relationships, and climb the ladder in this wild business. I love talking to young, aspiring journalists, so please reach out to me.”

You can find Martin on LinkedIn.

UM School of Journalism and New Media grad student is covering Ole Miss sports for Sports Illustrated

Posted on: September 22nd, 2021 by ldrucker

A University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media graduate student is covering Ole Miss sports for Sports Illustrated magazine this semester.

John Gillespie, a native of Vardaman, said he heard about the job “through the grapevine.”

“Adjunct instructor Jeff Roberson, who I also consider a close friend, approached me about Sports Illustrated’s desire to relaunch their team website that had been dedicated to Ole Miss coverage,” Gillespie said. “The site had been dormant for about a year or so. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but then I had a conversation with my friend and classmate, Cameron Breeland, about the opening, and I thought, ‘Why not? Let’s reach out and see what they say.'”

John Gillespie

John Gillespie

Gillespie said there was a month-long process of establishing a business plan and a sales pitch to the editorial team at SI.

“But once all of those hurdles were cleared, we were up and running late last week, just in time for the Rebels’ football season-opener against Louisville,” he said “I have to give a special thanks to Matt Galatzan, a fellow Ole Miss alum, as well for helping me through this process and running the site alongside me. He also covers Texas and Texas A&M for SI, but being able to cover our alma mater for one of the nation’s premiere sports media brands is a pretty nice setup.”

Gillespie, a graduate of Vardaman High School, was valedictorian and star student of the class of 2016 with an ACT score of 34. He graduated from UM in the spring of 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and a minor in southern studies. He is now in his second year in the Master’s of Arts in Journalism program with plans to graduate in May.

“I grew up infatuated with Ole Miss,” said Gillespie. “My parents are alums of the university, and I spent many a childhood day taking rides around the campus and watching Ole Miss sports on television or listening on the radio. From a young age, I always knew I wanted to attend Ole Miss just like my parents before me. When the time came to apply and send transcripts in my latter years of high school, I only sent my transcript to one place: here. I never looked back.”

Gillespie said he’s prepared to go “wherever God leads me” after graduation.

“Part of me has a desire to teach journalism at the university level while continuing to do sports writing and other forms of journalism,” he said, “but we’ll see what doors open up.

“I will say this, however: if God wants me to stay in Oxford, Mississippi, for the rest of my life, I am totally on board with that plan. There’s a certain magic and mystique to this place that creates some of the most fertile ground for writers in America, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”