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PR News names UM School of Journalism and New Media graduate one of its Rising PR Stars 30 & Under

Posted on: November 25th, 2020 by ldrucker

PR News has named a 2018 University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media graduate as one of its Rising PR Stars 30 & Under.

As the first member of the newly formed Idea Grove PR team in Dallas, Sarah Jenne, a UM Integrated Marketing Communications graduate, played a pivotal role in developing many best practices. After just a year, Jenne was chosen to spearhead Idea Grove’s PR practice at a time when the agency was transitioning to a specialization-focused staffing model, the PR News website reports.

Sarah Jenne

Sarah Jenne

“Sarah developed the Customer Brand Ambassador program for WorkFusion, an automation technology provider,” her PR News bio reads. “Sarah was consistently getting interest from reporters seeking real-world examples, but WorkFusion lacked a bank of media-ready customers. Sarah created a fact-based recommendation for the client, developed materials for educating customers on the opportunity, and soon had multiple customers on deck for media engagement.”

Robin Street, senior lecturer at the School of Journalism and New Media before her retirement, said she was proud of  Jenne for earning this honor, because she stood out as a young professional, but she was also an outstanding student.

“I remember telling Sarah that she would be a great PR professional and that she should earn our school’s specialization in it,” Street said. “I initially was especially impressed at her writing skills, because so much of public relations work requires communicating through writing. Then I also observed I her ability to stay poised under pressure and to multi-task with ease.”

Street said Jenne took the advanced PR class in a one-month intensive summer session. The class required completing a mini-internship, multiple writing and research assignments and a full public relations campaign as a final project.

“Many students struggle to juggle all those requirements, but not Sarah,” Street said. “She did excellent work and exemplified time management skills. I still have the evaluation form her internship supervisor completed about her, and it says, ‘As this was a short time period to accomplish a lot of tasks, she did an amazing job.'”

In addition to her talents and skills, Street said, “She is also a delightful young woman who has the ability to get along with multiple types of people. Any employer is lucky to have her.”

As the impact from COVID-19 turned newsrooms upside down in March 2020, PR News reports that Jenne “tapped into her network of reporters to collect information on their changing beats and candid feedback on their receptiveness to pitches, helping clients make informed decisions about upcoming announcements and external communication strategies.”

PR News’ PR People Awards and Rising PR Stars 30 & Under competition showcases top talent, passionate professionals and budding PR leaders who, day in and day out, are making communications matter in the marketplace, according to their website.

“The winners of this annual program set the benchmark for PR and underscore the outstanding PR achievements made in the past year—and our 2020 class of honorees is no different,” it reads.

The website reports that many of this year’s award recipients acknowledged the challenging role of public relations and communications in the midst of the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and social unrest.

“In many instances, our honorees had to pivot their messaging to both internal and external stakeholders, create crisis playbooks on the fly or determine how their brands could, and should, best respond beyond statements,” it reads. “From internal communications and community relations to crisis management, media relations and beyond, the individuals recognized this year cover the wide breadth and depth of the industry. We invite you to read more about their individual accomplishments below.”

Student Column: My First Hotty Toddy experience was during the 2020 pandemic

Posted on: November 17th, 2020 by ldrucker

Before transferring to Ole Miss this semester, I was not yet a Rebels fan. I am originally from Louisiana, and my family collectively roots for one team, and one team only. That should explain why I was not a Hotty Toddy-chanting fan. But attending my first Ole Miss football game quickly changed my mind.

The game was the highly anticipated game against Alabama. The Rebels were going up against the #2 team, and it was the first time Head Coach Lane Kiffin was playing the team he had previously coached.

I had been excited about the game for weeks because there is no team I despise more than Alabama. I remember being in one of my Zoom classes when tickets went on sale. We had a little break during class, and I immediately logged into my student account to purchase a ticket.

While I was securing the ticket, the site asked if I wanted to purchase insurance for the ticket. In my mind, I thought, “There is nothing that would stop me from going to this game,” so I opted out of insurance purchase.

To my surprise, there was a tropical storm threatening the Gulf Coast later that evening. The storm developed into a hurricane overnight. Since the storm was in its early stages, I had little worry about the storm affecting the game.

Throughout the week, Hurricane Delta strengthened and was projected to make landfall on the Mississippi and Louisiana coast nearing the weekend. I still did not think the storm was going to affect any elements of the game. I didn’t even think Oxford would see any rain leading up to the game weekend.

I was wrong. The hurricane moved quickly throughout the Gulf Coast, causing the kickoff time to be moved to 6:30 p.m. instead of the original time of 5 p.m. Hurricane Delta made landfall Oct. 9, just one day before the game.

Because of all the rain Oxford was receiving, I was now afraid the game would get cancelled. For 24 hours, I felt angry with myself for not purchasing insurance for the ticket. With three hours left before kickoff, I still wondered if the game would be cancelled due to the storm.

It made me very anxious, but I was already anxious for many reasons. I was going to the football game alone, and it would be the first time I was going to a highly populated event during the pandemic.

Like I was doing all week, I was keeping an eye out for the storm. An hour before the game, the rain lightened up, and the winds died down. Fortunately, the game did not get canceled. The rain stopped 10 minutes after kickoff.

Walking into Vaught-Hemingway Stadium eased my anxiety. Seeing most people wearing a mask or face covering also calmed me a little. The feeling of being at a football game had my adrenaline pumping.

My excitement for the game tried to mask the fear of contracting the virus during the game, but it was always in the back of my mind. I kept my mask on the entire game and often sanitized my hands.

The first time the student section did the Hotty Toddy chant felt so natural to me. I had never done it before, but I surprised myself when I knew all the words. I finally felt like I belonged at Ole Miss.

It was so surreal to be at the game during these times. The game itself was one of the best games I have ever seen. The Ole Miss Rebels kept up with the Crimson Tide throughout the first half of the game, even scoring the first touchdown of the night.

At halftime, the score was tied at 21. Each team’s offense demonstrated explosive plays. The entire game was a shootout game. The game was even tied at 42 in the last quarter.

The Rebels fell short to the Crimson Tide with the final score of 48-63. Although the Rebels lost the game, there were plenty of records set.

The combined 111 points is the highest scoring game in SEC history. The Ole Miss football team had a total of 647 yards, marking the most yards the Alabama defense has ever given up.

There were many emotions felt during the game. My emotions ranged from anxious to excited to defeat and eventually to happy. I was so happy to have witness such a great game in a safe manner, and I had a lot a fun. Even though I went to the game by myself, I never felt alone.

This game made me feel like I am finally part of the Ole Miss family. I believe Ole Miss now has me as a fan for life. Hotty Toddy!

Lindsey Trinh
Lindsey Trinh

Lindsey Trinh is a junior journalism major with specializations in sports promotions and a minor in digital media studies. She is originally from Houma, Louisiana.

Trinh is the oldest of three and the only girl. Her interests are sports and music. She enjoys listening to hip hop and electronic music. One of her favorite things to do is to go to music festivals or shows with friends.

For the past two years, she has been a part of Winter Circle Productions and BUKU Music + Arts Project’s promotion team. Her favorite NFL team is the New Orleans Saints, and her favorite NBA player is Kevin Durant.

During her breaks from school, she enjoys traveling to big cities such as Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Houston. She also loves spending days inside with her cat, Chai. She says her style is inspired by streetwear.

Trinh is a part of the creative team for Square Magazine, the student-run magazine at the University of Mississippi, and a reporter for Oxford Stories. When she graduates, she would like to work with a sports or music organization in either marketing or journalism. 

Alumni Stories: UM School of Journalism and New Media grad works in PR and Influence with Ogilvy Chicago

Posted on: November 2nd, 2020 by ldrucker

Biloxi native Victoria Berry, a University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media graduate, is proof that big things can happen if you remain open to possibilities.

Berry, 27, now works as an account executive in PR and Influence at Ogilvy Chicago. Her responsibilities include daily account management, media relations, and influencer strategy.

Ogilvy has 132 offices in 83 countries and is described as a “doorway to a creative network, re-founded to make brands matter in a complex, noisy, hyper-connected world,” according to the company website.

Read Berry’s story and the stories of other School of Journalism and New Media alumni on our Alumni Stories page.

Victoria Berry

Victoria Berry

 

 

UM journalism professors lead students to win Telly Award in international video competition

Posted on: May 29th, 2020 by ldrucker

Return to Croatia

When Assistant Professor Iveta Imre, Ph.D., began her career as a student at the University of Zagreb 20 years ago, she met a professor from the University of Tennessee who came there to help lead a student workshop. Because of that connection, she began a journalism journey that eventually led her to the United States, and she is now a member of the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media faculty.

In December, life came full circle when Imre and Interim Dean Debora Wenger, Ph.D., returned to the University of Zagreb to help lead a journalism workshop and mentor students. The result was the creation of a news program that resulted in an international award.

The “Disrupt the News” project led by Imre and Wenger in Croatia in December won a second-place Silver Telly Award in the Non-Broadcast Category of an international video and television festival in New York.

For two-weeks in mid-December, Wenger and Imre led the multimedia journalism workshop in cooperation with the Faculty of Political Sciences at Croatia’s University of Zagreb (FPZG), with the support of the U.S. Embassy.

The workshop focused on preparing students and professionals for evolving careers in journalism and included instruction and practice with emerging storytelling techniques and tools, such as 360-visuals, and strategies for verifying information and building audience trust. The result was an experimental newscast and a multimedia website, Zagreb Newslab.

Iveta Imre in Croatia

Dr. Iveta Imre, a drone pilot, steers the device as students watch.

“The winning project is a half hour newscast called ‘Croatia Works,’ which explored issues related to working conditions in Croatia,” said Imre. “This newscast used innovative storytelling techniques and new tools and technologies, such as data visualization and mapping, to tell stories about international workers in Croatia, Croatian brain drain, and the gig economy, among others.”

Imre reflected on returning to her alma mater after 20 years to conduct a workshop like the one that inspired her.

"That was one of the best experiences of my education at the time,” she said, “so I understand the profound impact these kinds of workshops can have on students, and I was glad I had a chance to come back and work with the new generation of young journalists in Croatia."
Iveta Imre
Dr. Iveta Imre
Assistant Professor

Imre said she believes the project was selected as a winner because it used innovative storytelling techniques to explore an important issue that impacts a many people in Croatia.

“We had a great group of students who worked really hard to get great visuals and informative interviews with officials and people who are impacted,” she said, “and the fact that we won an award recognizes all the hard work that went into creating this newscast.”

The collaboration came about because Professor Tena Perišin, head of the journalism department at FPZG, had been following Wenger’s work for many years and because of her personal connection to Imre.

“Iveta is my ex-student, who after earning her M.A. from Zagreb, continued her academic career in the US,” Perišin said in an earlier interview. “In addition to her professional skills, which are very important, she is one who understands our Balkan mentality. It was a win-win situation considering we included 24 students, journalists and journalism lecturers from five countries to make this workshop a success.”

Croatia
Play Video

The workshop included young journalists from five European countries – Croatia, Slovenia, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Serbia.

The Telly Awards event was founded in 1979 to honor excellence in local, regional and cable television commercials with non-broadcast video and television programming added soon after, according to the award website.

With the recent evolution and rise of digital video (web series, VR, 360 and beyond), the awards today also reflect and celebrate a new era of the moving image on and offline. The awards annually showcase the best work created within television and across video for all screens. Organizers received more than 12,000 entries from all 50 states and five continents.

“I think that the students who participated in the workshop have a bright future in journalism ahead,” Imre said. “and I hope this award will inspire them to continue working hard and telling important stories.”

Column: COVID-19 experience showed me challenges and rewards of being an out-of-state student

Posted on: April 29th, 2020 by ldrucker

For as long as I can remember, I knew I wanted to attend college out of state. I never quite knew where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to leave my small Texas town.

Ole Miss was not my first choice when it came to picking a school. But, after a lot of deliberation between my mom and me, it seemed like the best fit without having to go too terribly far. By the time I had accepted my admission, I was starting my second semester as a senior in high school. As much as I loved the friends I grew up with, I was ready to see new things.

So, I graduated high school and headed west through New Orleans in August. My slate was clean, and I was scared, but ready to start four more years of school in a state I had never been to prior to my tour of the campus.

What unfolded in front of me the next three months of my fall semester and beyond was everything I wanted and never expected. I made friends with people I would never have back home. I had the ability to reinvent and find myself.  I joined the same sorority my mom was in and joined The Daily Mississippian as a designer. I focused on getting involved in these two groups as well as my grades and never looked back.

Katelyn Kimberlin

Katelyn Kimberlin, second from left, and friends.

Now, I’ve returned to the hometown I wanted to leave so much with a week’s worth of clothes, my computer, and books I brought home when I traveled for spring break. My dorm is still as I left it when I departed for the Memphis Airport on a Friday, not realizing that I wouldn’t see any of my belongings for months on end.

I was fortunate enough to trust my gut feeling to bring my computer and some of my work back with me, but many important belongings are still locked in my dorm. While I was not able to retrieve some of the items I needed when the dorms reopened, my mom was fortunate enough to drive my car from Memphis before the parking charges got too high.

Transitioning to remote learning has made me realize, like many others, I take a lot for granted. I am now almost completely reduced to my house unless I’m running essential errands for my mom. I can’t see hometown friends, go to the beach, or even go see a movie with my family.

Daily Mississippian

Daily Mississippian

I won’t design another front page until next semester, and the only reason to blame my horrible sleeping schedule on is myself. All of my college friends are up to a 23-hour drive away from me, instead of being just next door or two floors up.

I am very fortunate that I have a home to socially distance in and a functioning computer and wifi, but that doesn’t mean I can’t miss the university I’ve put so much time and effort into just to be told I won’t go back for another four months.

I know for a fact that many other students, including many of my friends, feel similar to me when I say it hasn’t been easy relocating yourself in a matter of a week. I had a coworker at The Daily Mississippian relocate back to her family in Japan. Out of all of my close friends, only one of them is a feasible driving distance from campus.

Talking to one of my hometown friends, she was shocked about how well I seemed to be taking the whole situation. I told her it was simply part of the deal of being an out-of-state student.

This conversation shocked me a little, but it made me fully realize what it meant to be a student attending a university outside of your home state. You move to the university of your choice, almost completely clean out your childhood room and leave many of the comforts you grew up knowing behind.

Family will always be there for football games and parents weekends, but you are forced to leave many of your friends and mentors behind for a chance to experience something new. The long flights and empty campuses when everyone leaves for a long weekend aren’t for everyone, but that also just comes with choosing to go out of state.

Despite this, I know I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Many might think that since I’m now spending my days in Texas instead of Mississippi, I have put my freshman experience “out of sight, out of mind” by now.

But some of the free time I have gotten since I have been home has made me realize that while there’s a lot of trouble that comes with being an out-of-state student, there’s a lot of great opportunities that come with it, too.

Katelyn Kimberlin is a designer for The Daily Mississippian. For more information about our programs, email jour-imc@olemiss.edu. 

Students Invited to Seek Career Advice from Broadcast Professionals at Annual Mississippi Association of Broadcasters Day March 4

Posted on: February 27th, 2020 by ldrucker
University of Mississippi student Torry Rees speaks with radio broadcaster Jeff Covington during a past MAB event.

University of Mississippi student Torry Rees speaks with radio broadcaster Jeff Covington during a past MAB event.

Have your resume critiqued and meet hiring managers

School of Journalism and New Media (SoJNM) students can have their resumes critiqued and seek career advice during the annual Mississippi Association of Broadcasters Day on Wednesday, March 4.

Broadcasters from around the state will visit the Student Media Center inside Bishop Hall on the University of Mississippi campus that day to meet students from 10 a.m. to noon, and from 1-2 p.m.

“Broadcasters want to meet journalism students at Ole Miss to help the students improve,” said professor Nancy McKenzie Dupont, who is leading the event. “They get some benefit, too. They get to see our students’ work first, and many internship and job offers have grown out of this day.”

Dupont said receiving a critique from a professional is key.

“Students get critiqued from professors all the time, but getting your work in front a professional is different,” she said. “They tell you what you need do to get a job or an internship. They can also tell what the job demands are. I hope students will get a real sense about what the working world is like.”

Students are encouraged to bring their laptops to show their work and a resume. Other SoJNM professors will attend, including Debora Wenger, Iveta Imre and Roy Frostenson.

“We hope that we’ll see more than just our journalism students at the event,” Assistant Dean Wenger said. “This is a chance for our integrated marketing communications students to network and explore career opportunities, too.”

Job and internship opportunities are not confined to reporting positions. Students who have participated in MAB Day have gone on to work or learn about sales, sports, digital production or news promotion.

For more details on MAB Day, contact Nancy Dupont at ndpont@olemiss.edu. For more information about our journalism or IMC programs visit jnm.olemiss.edu.

International IMC master’s graduate makes mark with massive fundraiser

Posted on: February 19th, 2019 by ldrucker

Mina Ghofrani Esfahani was pursuing a master’s degree in the University of Mississippi’s integrated marketing communication program in fall 2017 when her compassion for a critically ill child in her home country prompted her to put to practical use the theories she was learning.

Esfahani was born and raised in Iran. She took to English quickly as a teenager, began teaching others the language before she finished high school and eventually majored in English and applied linguistics as an undergraduate student in that country.

During her time as a graduate student in the UM integrated marketing communication program, Mina Esfahani organized a social media fundraiser to raise money for a seriously ill child in her home country of Iran. The campaign drew in more than $700,000 that was sent to the child’s family to help with medical costs. Photo by Megan Wolfe/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

During her time as a graduate student in the UM integrated marketing communication program, Mina Esfahani organized a social media fundraiser to raise money for a seriously ill child in her home country of Iran. The campaign drew in more than $700,000 that was sent to the child’s family to help with medical costs. Photo by Megan Wolfe/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

After immigrating to the United States with her husband, an Ole Miss student, she learned that one of her former English teaching colleagues had a child born with type 1 spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disorder that affects nerve cells that control voluntary muscles, complicating breathing and eating.

Esfahani, who also became a student at UM after moving to Oxford, was inspired by her passion and knowledge of social media to start her own campaign for the 9-month-old child, named Radin. In just six weeks on Facebook, the campaign raised more than $700,000 that would eventually make it to the boy’s family to help pay for the expensive treatment that would keep him alive.

“Let’s confirm that borders cannot stop humanity,” she said on the Facebook page. “Help him see more loving days with his loving parents. Don’t leave them alone. Every dollar would count.”

The online fundraiser appealed to donors with Esfahani’s words of compassion for the child, who, she said, reminded her of three nephews back home that she missed dearly. Within hours of the first posting in October 2017, the campaign drew in its first $1,000.

“It kept getting shared,” Esfahani said. “I invited everybody I knew, and those people invited everybody they knew and it exponentially grew. Over five weeks, we had raised $705,000 in the campaign.

“There was momentum. I would go back and see what’s going on, and every time I checked there was more.”

Robert Magee, assistant professor and director of the IMC graduate program, was one of Esfahani’s mentors at Ole Miss. Magee said he was inspired watching Esfahani’s compassion and ability to apply the theories he was teaching to a practical online campaign.

“I gave her ideas on the most effective types of messaging and, sure enough, she tried some of these and they were quite successful,” Magee said.

Esfahani and her colleagues worked countless hours and made countless phone calls to find a country that would accept the child and administer the needed medication. The family eventually made its way to Belgium and through a U.S.-based nonprofit organization, the money made it to a hospital there that treated the child.

Esfahani said she is grateful to “the donors and supporters who invested their love, trust and energy in the campaign and had my back to the last stage of transferring the funds to the hospital.” The campaign received donations from people across the globe, many from the Persian community. Donors from 37 different countries made contributions.

Nearly 70 percent of children with type 1 spinal muscular atrophy don’t make it to age 2, but Esfahani said the boy is approaching his second birthday and all indications are that he is doing well.

Longing for America

When Esfahani was growing up, she often expressed a desire to move to the United States. She learned English and started teaching it to others in less than one year.

“I wanted to emigrate when I was 15 or 16, but then 9/11 happened and that was the period to that story,” she said.

She continued her education in Iran and eventually studied English in college, earning undergraduate and graduate degrees and serving as an adjunct lecturer. She met Vahid Ghomi, an Iranian graduate student at Ole Miss at the time, during one of his visits home. The two courted, their families met and they were married in July 2015.

Esfahani then successfully applied to attend UM as a graduate student seeking a second master’s degree, moved to the United States and joined Ghomi in Oxford.

Her passion for communication, social media and effective messaging pointed her in the direction of IMC, and she reached out to Magee to inquire about a degree program in marketing communication.

“She’s always been very proactive,” Magee said. “She always had a practical orientation of what needs to be done. She’s very focused and driven – very smart. She also has a lot of initiative.

“She’s not the kind of student who will just sit back, take notes and leave class. She always has some kind of commentary or some kind of observation.”

Esfahani quickly made a home in Oxford, she said.

“I was very lucky to have the chance to study here,” she said. “I really didn’t know what a wonderful place it was before I came, but now that I have gone to other cities and colleges, I realize how great a place it was.

“Everything is vibrant and lively. You see that people are really ‘living’ here at the university.”

The university’s Office of International Programs played a major role in her adjustment to life in the U.S., Esfahani said.

“They were very kind. I really felt at home with them,” she said, noting that the office would keep her up-to-date on events to attend and organizations to join. “I said, ‘This is not just academics; it’s going to be a life here.’”

Esfahani said she is struck by how welcoming the university was of international students.

“The one way I would describe Ole Miss is ‘all-inclusive,’” she said. “There’s academics, health, sports, fun, events and, to a great extent, they really pay attention to diversity.

“When I was talking to other international students, they never complain that at Ole Miss you are disregarded or people don’t know us. All of the events are for everybody.”

During her time at Ole Miss, Esfahani never missed an opportunity to exceed expectations. The IMC master’s program does not require a thesis, but she elected to complete one anyway. She worked on her thesis while also taking a full course load and running what equated to a full-time fundraising campaign.

As the money grew and the campaign gathered more traction, red tape began piling up. Dealing with international tax law, banking codes, international sanctions and organizing people and large amounts of money began to take a toll on Esfahani. But her support group in the IMC department and the Office of International Programs was there to help.

“She got a crash course in bureaucracy,” Magee said. “She was dealing with tax treaties and all kinds of things, but she was willing to say, ‘I don’t know,’ and find help from other people.”

Esfahani and other international students contribute to a more robust education experience for all students, Magee said.

“She has a perspective, coming from the Middle East, that always enriches a classroom,” he said.

Since moving to the U.S. in 2015, Esfahani’s only interaction with her family in Iran has been through social media and phone conversations. She talks to her parents daily and keeps them updated on her studies and life.

“I show them a lot (of pictures of Oxford),” she said. “My parents, like me, love cities with a lot of green with rain and nice people – calm, quiet – and Oxford is what they would like. I was sure if they were here, they would never feel depressed.”

Looking ahead

Esfahani completed her master’s degree in August 2018. She and Ghomi split time between Jackson and Cleveland, where he is an assistant professor at Delta State University. She works as a research analyst for WDBD Fox 40 in Jackson.

The couple often visits Oxford. When in town, Esfahani frequently visits the Oxford Community Garden, where she spent a great deal of time as a student.

“I was lucky to find the community garden,” she said. “Sometimes when I felt sad or bored, I would go do some gardening.”

Ole Miss left its mark on Esfahani, but Magee said he feels she left her mark on campus as well.

“It’s been a delight to work with her,” he said. “I think she’s made a valuable contribution to the program and to student life.”

The story was written by Justin Whitmore for University Communications. The photo is by Megan Wolfe of Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services. To learn more about the journalism or IMC programs, email jour-imc@olemiss.edu.

UM School of Journalism and New Media students, faculty spend winter break on Puerto Rico reporting trip

Posted on: January 8th, 2019 by ldrucker

The University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media continues to offer students extraordinary reporting opportunities outside the mainland United States. A group of students and faculty were in Puerto Rico for Winter Intersession on a multimedia reporting trip to interview island residents about the impact of Hurricane Maria.

Brittany Brown interviews the mayor of Loíza. Loíza, in northeastern Puerto Rico, is the center of Afro-Puerto Rican culture.

Students used social media tools to identify sources before the trip, and while they were in Puerto Rico, they used social media to post frequent updates. One student was invited to join media professionals on a documentary project in Puerto Rico later this year. They were impressed with the content she posted from this trip.

A guided night tour of Old San Juan. Pictured are professors Iveta Imre and Pat Thompson, and students

The group has visited several cities and villages for interviews. Their content – articles, photos, video, audio, graphics and more – were produced for a website and available for other platforms.

Christian Johnson and Devna Bose take photos on a beach in Aguada in northwestern Puerto Rico.

 

University of Mississippi journalism professor’s Black Mirror Project mentioned in Harvard Political Review

Posted on: January 1st, 2019 by ldrucker

Last week, Netflix dropped the first feature film released by the popular, science fiction anthology series “Black Mirror.” “Bandersnatch” is the story of a “programmer creating a video game based on the fantasy novel of an unhinged genius,” Mashable reports.

This is exciting to fans and some University of Mississippi students because the UM School of Journalism and New Media has its own class that incorporates episodes of “Black Mirror.”

Harvard Political Review recently mentioned The Black Mirror Project created by a University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media journalism professor that envisions the future of media through the lens of the science fiction television series.

After learning about the history of media, professor LaReeca Rucker asks students in Journalism 101 to envision the near future of media after watching several specific episodes of the series. They are asked to use their imagination to write a synopsis of their own “Black Mirror” episode. The most creative and original responses are published on The Black Mirror Project website: https://blackmirrorideas.wordpress.com/

“Black Mirror” is a British science fiction television anthology series set in the near future that explores the potentially dark consequences of technology and social media. Each episode has a different cast with a unique story and, like most science fiction, it offers a speculative warning about what could happen if we lose control and allow technology to control us.

The show, created by Charlie Brooker, was first broadcast on British television in 2011. It is now a Netflix original series, and some have called it a modern day “Twilight Zone.” Recognizing its potential for the discussion of modern and future media, some colleges and universities across the country have incorporated “Black Mirror” into their journalism and communications classes.

 

Harvard Political Review recently published the article Primetime Paranoia that mentions Rucker’s “Black Mirror” Project. The article explores “Black Mirror” and modern anxiety.

It reads, “At the beginning of most Black Mirror episodes, viewers enter a near-future world with a technology that appears novel, even benign. Then this technology goes horribly, unpredictably wrong. In this chaos are echoes of our paradoxical anxiety, which grows worse and worse in a world becoming better and better. Black Mirror has resonated. The series has earned huge ratings, prestigious awards, and praise from figures ranging from Jordan Peele to Stephen King.”

The School of Journalism and New Media also plans to offer a different, but similar “Black Mirror” class this summer as an elective. Those who are interested may email Rucker at ldrucker@olemiss.edu.

Read the Q & A with Rucker about “Black Mirror.”

Q: What is the Black Mirror Project? Why did you get involved with it, and what results has it borne?

A: The Black Mirror Project is a website I created and an ongoing assignment I give my mass communication students each semester. After they spend most of the semester studying the history of media, we shift the focus to the future of media. I assign four specific episodes of “Black Mirror” for them to watch and ponder.

I have always been a fan of science fiction, and when this series came out, I thought it was mind-bending. I also liked that the first season of the series focused a lot on social media usage and offered some scary episodes regarding social media that seemed very plausible. I like that the show is set in the near future – not hundreds of years away. I think that makes it more frightening and relevant.

As a result of starting this project, I have been contacted by people from several different states and countries who have used “Black Mirror” in their college and high school classes. Some have reached out asking if they can submit their students’ Black Mirror Reflections to be published on our website, and I have encouraged them to do that. I love collaborating with others.

 

Q: How have you integrated Black Mirror into your teaching, and what does it add to your classroom?

My students are asked to write a Black Mirror Reflection by thinking about the episodes of the show they have been assigned while pondering technology and social media in the near future. Then they are asked to research the future of technology by Googling and reading several articles on the subject, and talking to friends, family and professors to get ideas.

They are asked to imagine that they’ve just been hired as a writer for the show. It’s their job to come up with a storyline for their own episode, but they only have a week to do it or they (fictionally) get fired. They are told to imagine it will be featured in the next season of “Black Mirror.”

Students write a one-page, double-spaced report describing their episode and the characters they imagine starring in it. They discuss what technology is used and how? They think about a scenario involving technology and social media, and take that idea to an extreme. That’s the story.

I read them and select the best ones to publish on our Black Mirror Project website. You will find a collection of creative “Black Mirror” responses there. I think the exercise helps students begin to think about their personal relationship with technology, social media and electronic communication. Some have said it was “eye-opening.”

Q: In what way is Black Mirror a “modern day Twilight Zone,” as the Black Mirror Project website says? Does the show diverge from the Twilight Zone in any noteworthy ways?

I think one of the differences is that “Black Mirror” seems to be set in the near future. To me, that makes it more frightening and plausible because many of the episodes involve scenarios that we are on the verge of experiencing now. While some of “The Twilight Zone” episodes were like this, many were set many years in the future and were often more fantastical than reality-based.

I wanted to show students several episodes of “The Twilight Zone” that could be compared and contrasted with “Black Mirror,” hoping in my research I would find some “Twilight Zone” episodes from more than 50 years ago that had envisioned the future spot on, but I had difficulty finding episodes that I thought would be a good fit. However, the Harvard Political Review article does offer up a lot of interesting points about what the “The Twilight Zone” has meant to our culture.

I do show one “Twilight Zone” episode called “Number 12 Looks Just Like You” that is about the idea of beauty and perfection, which is still very relevant to viewers today.

I think the scenarios that “Black Mirror” presents are warnings about the near future in the same way “The Twilight Zone” warned us about our world. They both were important shows with confrontational, yet helpful messages that we should pay attention to.

Science fiction is prophetic vision.