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Westbrook creates new scholarship program for IMC students at UM School of Journalism and New Media

Posted on: February 26th, 2021 by ldrucker

A champion for IMC

One never truly graduates from Ole Miss, as the alumni saying goes. Leslie Westbrook, class of 1968, has proven the truth of that statement, coming back to the university after several years of success as a consumer market specialist to work with students getting the B.S. in integrated marketing communications. Now, Westbrook has decided to create a scholarship program for eligible IMC students.

Leslie Westbrook
Henrik Syse

“I love IMC,” Westbrook said. “I believe in it. I think it’s an amazing curriculum and degree for students to be able to get.”

The scholarship is being offered to the program’s sophomores and juniors who have committed to the IMC program and plan on graduating with the degree. The application is also open to graduating seniors who plan to enter the IMC master’s program within the School of Journalism and New Media. The first awards will be made for the 2021-2022 academic year.

“Leslie Westbrook is a champion of our program and loves helping our students,” said Assistant Dean and Associate Professor Scott Fiene. “She’s a frequent guest speaker in some of our classes, makes time to meet one-on-one with students to talk about careers and has helped them land jobs.”

Westbrook earned an education degree at the University of Mississippi with plans to teach high school and marry her college sweetheart, but she felt she was being pulled elsewhere. She left behind her education degree and moved to Cincinnati to pursue a career with industry giant Procter & Gamble.

Westbrook said this first job offered her a “Ph.D. in life,” taking her all across the country to perform consumer research with a field team. She had to learn how to be independent and explore the country, while also learning about her career and what it meant to be in the business world.

She eventually started her own business, Leslie M. Westbrook & Associates, where she counted a number of Fortune 500 companies among her clients.

“I was so blown away that students can learn what I learned in 50 years of a career. They can get a four-year degree and even a graduate degree.”
Leslie Westbrook
Leslie Westbrook

In 2012, at the invitation of Fiene, Westbrook returned to the university to sit on a careers-focused panel for graduating IMC students. It was this panel that opened Westbrook’s eyes to the IMC degree and inspired her to work with students.

“I was so blown away that students can learn what I learned in 50 years of a career,” she said. “They can get a four-year degree and even a graduate degree.”

Throughout her career, Westbrook had several mentors instrumental in her growth within the industry. They inspired her to “pass it forward” and support IMC students.

One of these mentors is Jim Burke, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, who Westbrook says became her “hero” during the 1982 Tylenol crisis. You can read a Q & A with Westbrook about it here.

It is because of people like Burke that Westbrook is so passionate about students and their success, as well as connecting them with people within the IMC world who may help them in their endeavors.

Westbrook worked three jobs to put herself through college and personally understands the benefits that a scholarship can offer to students working hard in school and in a supplemental job.

She wants to focus on underserved students who show interest and potential in a career within the IMC field.

“This scholarship is so important to our school,” Interim Dean and professor Deb Wenger said. “We have some extraordinary IMC applicants who just cannot afford our program. Leslie has now helped put the advantage of a college education in the hands of some of those students. We are so grateful for her generosity.”

“This scholarship is one more way that she will make a difference, and it reiterates her commitment to our students and her belief in the IMC profession,” said Fiene.

Westbrook hopes to use the scholarship to connect with the recipients and assist them in further endeavors.

“I want them to express why IMC is important and what they believe it will mean to their lives and their future, not just work and not just your career,” she said.

To learn more about the School of Journalism & New Media’s Bachelor of Science degree in IMC or the Leslie M. Westbrook Integrated Marketing Communications Scholarship, please visit or email

Professor from Oslo’s Peace Research Institute speaks with School of Journalism and New Media class

Posted on: February 25th, 2021 by ldrucker

Building peace from below

Peace can be built from above by people who have power, but it can also be built from below.

This was one of the key messages in a lecture given by Dr. Henrik Syse, a research professor from the Peace Research Institute in Oslo who teaches peace and conflict studies at Bjørknes University College.

Syse spoke to students in Dr. Zenebe Beyene’s peace journalism class remotely via Zoom this week about “reflections on the Nobel Peace Prize and generating a conversation about peace.”

The popular public speaker served a full six-year term from 2015 to 2020 as a member of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which awards the Nobel Peace Prize. He served as its vice chair from 2017-2020.

Henrik Syse
Henrik Syse

We can all play a role in fighting for peace, Syse said, even if we don’t hold a leadership position.

“There are so many ways: personal, communal, diplomatic, political, spiritual,” he said. “… We must be able to talk about peace…We must find arenas… If we leave it to others to talk about peace, we won’t make any headway in our lives or communities.”

Can we agree on a concept of peace as a goal worth pursuing in itself across cultural boundaries, Syse asked. He said there are different conceptions of peace.

  • Negative peace: The absence of physical conflict.
  • Positive peace: A life of possibilities and fulfillment, enjoyed in confidence and predictability (within the human condition).
  • Inner peace: The tranquility of the mind.
  • Fraternal peace: Harmony between people who mean each other well.
  • Environmental peace: Harmony with the needs of the earth and its creatures.
  • Divine or philosophical peace: Harmony with God or the Cosmos.

“We need meeting points across differences,” he said.

Syse also discussed the history of the Nobel Peace Prize that came from the will of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who lived from 1833-1896.

“He wanted the money after his death to be used for the good of mankind – to award people who had done something great for the world,” Syse said.

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in chemistry, medicine, literature, peace and economics.


"This is one of the reasons why we need to work hard. It’s not only aspiring or hoping for peace; we need to work for it because we cannot have peace unless we contribute our own share."
Zenebe Beyene Ph.D.
Zenebe Beyene, Ph.D.
assistant Professor and
Coordinator of International Programs

“Individuals who don’t hold a lot of power…They can build peace from the bottom up in their society,” Syse said. “… I think we should all think about how we can contribute to peace, whether we win the Nobel Peace Prize or not.”

Syse said one way of being more peaceful and agreeing on a definition of peace is by using common sense principles like the Golden Rule, known in many religions and cultures. Treat others the way you would have them treat you.

He said journalism can be an instrument of peace.

“Disagreement can be very constructive,” he said. “… Journalism plays a huge role there. You can uncover truth in a way that uncovers peace and speaks truth to power.”

Syse, who teaches regularly at the Norwegian Defense University College, the University of Oslo, and other institutions of higher learning, is chief editor (with James Cook) of the Journal of Military Ethics. From 2005 to 2007, he was head of corporate governance for Norges Bank Investment Management, which manages Europe’s largest sovereign wealth fund, and he continued, until 2009, as an advisor and consultant on social issues for NBIM.

He was also a member of the Norwegian Press Complaints Commission from 2002 to 2016, and has been a member of the Norwegian Academy of Language and Literature since 2010. He was nominated as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2007.

Syse has written and edited approximately 20 books and many articles and essays. His publications span the fields of philosophy, politics, business, religion and ethics. He is often used as a commentator on social and ethical issues by the media.

He holds a Master of Arts degree in political philosophy from Boston College and a Dr.Art. (Ph.D.) degree in moral philosophy from the University of Oslo. He is also a Sunday School teacher – and a specialist on The Beatles.

Zenebe Beyene Ph.D.
Zenebe Beyene, Ph.D.

Beyene, an assistant professor and coordinator of international programs, said conversations about peace are important.

“I think one important takeaway point for all is, although there are different conceptions of peace, peace is something that is worth fighting for because it is the foundation for everything.

“This is one of the reasons why we need to work hard. It’s not only aspiring or hoping for peace; we need to work for it because we cannot have peace unless we contribute our own share.”

Kelby Zendejas, a student in Beyene’s class, said it was an honor to listen to professor Syse’s presentation on peace and the Nobel Peace Prize.

“I remember writing down several quotes from his lecture that resonated with me as an aspiring journalist,” she said. “My ultimate takeaway from his lecture was definitely that peace can be built from below. It’s our duty as journalists to seek out the truth and uncover the truth by telling good stories.

“One other thing he said – one that I believe is the most important skill for a journalist to acquire – is the ability to listen. To be able to listen and tell unbiased stories with hope that peace journalism can contribute to world peace as a whole.”

UM School of Journalism and New Media professor to co-host Turner Classic Movies film showing March 21

Posted on: February 17th, 2021 by ldrucker

Hollywood's Zen Rebel

When movie buff Joe Atkins, a University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media professor, recently entered a Turner Classic Movies contest, he didn’t expect to be selected as a winner. But on Sunday, March 21, at 11 a.m. CST, Atkins will co-host TCM’s showing of the 1959 rock ‘n’ roll film “Go, Johnny, Go!” on TCM TV, the national network based in Atlanta, with regular host Alicia Malone.

Atkins, whose new book “Harry Dean Stanton: Hollywood’s Zen Rebel” was published by University Press of Kentucky last November, entered the contest by listing the Top 10 movies he would like to co-host. Four were movies in which actor Harry Dean Stanton appeared, but the film TCM chose was “Go, Johnny, Go!” starring Alan Freed and Chuck Berry.

Atkins spent four years on his writing journey for the book on Harry Dean Stanton, including several trips to Los Angeles to meet some of Stanton’s actor and director friends and colleagues. 

As a charter member of Turner Classic Movies’ “Backlot,” an organization of fans and film buffs, Atkins is a lifelong lover of old and new movies.

“As a ‘Backlot’ member, I had a chance last November to enter a contest to become a co-host,” he said. “I had to list 10 movies I’d love to co-host and cite why.”

With his book published that same month (November 2020), he listed four to five Stanton movies. Number 10 on his list was “Go, Johnny, Go!,” a 1959 rock ‘n’ roll film starring famed disc jockey Alan Freed, rock ‘n’ roller Chuck Berry, singer Jimmy Clanton, and a host of famous early rock ‘n’ roll musicians like Eddie Cochran, Ritchie Valens, and Jackie Wilson.

“I had seen the movie in my hometown in North Carolina as a young teenager in the early 1960s,” he said. “TCM picked me to co-host, and that’s the film TCM picked.”

Atkins said they filmed for the broadcast via Zoom on Feb. 9.

“I was in my living room here in Oxford, and Alicia Malone was at TCM headquarters in Atlanta,” he said. “The filming went well. I did a lot of preparation, including watching the film several times beforehand. I purchased a DVD of it at a Memphis flea market years ago.”

In his discussion with Malone, he talked about the following:

“The film has a really weak plot and schmaltzy moments, but a ton of great music,” he said. “It’s a window into the early years of rock ‘n’ roll just before big things begin to change.”

Atkins said Alan Freed was a rock ‘n’ roll pioneer, the first disc jockey to play the music to a national audience (first out of Cleveland then NYC), crossing the racial divide by bringing black and white musicians together (as he does in this film), even naming the music “rock ‘n’ roll.”

“The film captures some of the rebelliousness of that early era, but also efforts to calm parents amid that rebellion,” he said. “Ritchie Valens would die in a plane crash a few months after the movie was filmed and before it was even released. This is his only screen appearance.

“Eddie Cochran would himself die in a car crash in England the next year. Also the same year the film came out, Chuck Berry would be charged with taking a teenage girl across state lines ‘for immoral purposes’ (and later go to prison for it), and the next year Alan Freed himself would get embroiled in a payola scandal that would ultimately ruin his career. So the film captures a special moment before everything changes. Just a few years later comes the British invasion.”

Atkins said he was happy he was selected to co-host the show with Malone, who brought up another TCM connection.

“Back in 2016, I published an article about character actor Nehemiah Persoff in TCM host Eddie Muller’s magazine Noir City,” he said. “During my research for that article, I interviewed noted film writer Patrick McGilligan, who happened to head the ‘Screen Classics’ series for the University Press of Kentucky. After the interview, he asked me to consider writing a book on film and later suggested a Harry Dean Stanton biography for the publisher.”

Atkins answers questions about his 203-page book “Harry Dean Stanton: Hollywood’s Zen Rebel.” We asked him how he became interested in Stanton and what he learned from his research.

Q. Can you take me through your writing journey?

A. My writing and research long focused on labor and politics, both in the U.S. South and beyond, but I’ve turned to an old love of film in more recent years, trying to incorporate that with my earlier research.

I’ve always loved character actors, the working stiffs of the big and small screen. I always used every opportunity to do interviews with and stories about them, even as a political reporter in Washington D.C., where I covered the premiere of the film “Mississippi Burning” and interviewed actor Gene Hackman back in the 1980s.

Over the years, I’ve interviewed Amanda Blake (Miss Kitty in “Gunsmoke”), Clint Walker, Hugh O’Brian, many others. In 2016, I did a magazine piece on veteran character actor Nehemiah Persoff for Noir City magazine, and in the process, interviewed well-known film writer and film biographer Patrick McGilligan. McGilligan, I found out, headed the film series for the University Press of Kentucky, and he asked me at the end of my interview (he’d earlier read and liked a column I once wrote about his biography of film director Nicholas Ray) if I’d be interested in doing a book on film. I said, “Sure.”

He told me to come up with a couple ideas. My idea was to do a collection of essays on character actors, among them Persoff and Harry Dean Stanton. McGilligan said forget the collection, how about a biography of Harry Dean Stanton? I had done many profiles as a journalist, but never contemplated doing a biography.

I wasn’t sure, but McGilligan just kept after me, emailing and calling me over the next several months. As a writer, I had never before been subject to such a flattering pursuit! So I said yes, and I’ve never regretted it.  I was able to enter a fascinating world that I otherwise would have never known.

Q. For those who haven’t read the book, how would you describe it? 

A. This is a book about a unique and compelling actor who rarely made it to the top of the marquee, but who became a legend for his performances in the supporting cast. Once called “the philosopher poet of character acting,” Harry Dean Stanton became a legend in Hollywood and among movie-goers for what director David Lynch called his “organic” acting abilities as well as for being a kind of hip, Buddhist-like persona.

He helped fuel the “New Hollywood Era” of the 1960s and 1970s in such films as Cool Hand Luke and The Godfather Part II before taking lead roles in “Paris, Texas” and “Repo Man” in the 1980s. He kept performing nearly up until his death at 91 in 2017, starring in his last film “Lucky” the year before he died.

This is also the story of a Southern expatriate who left the hard-shell Baptist world of his rural Kentucky youth to become a kind of wandering philosopher and musician as well as actor in Laurel Canyon and Hollywood, rooming with Jack Nicholson, partying with rock ‘n rollers Michelle Phillips and David Crosby, hanging out with Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson, and playing poker with director John Huston.

Yet he never could shed his Southern roots, and his music is a testament. He also spent years in a rough-and-tumble relationship with his free-spirited mother, whose artistic skills he inherited, but whose freedom-loving temperament was stronger than her maternal instincts.

Q. Why were you interested in writing a book on on Stanton? 

A. Long ago as a student in Munich, Germany, taking my first courses in journalism, I decided I wanted to have roots as a journalist, and that someday, my native South would be a great beat or focus, even though I had done everything I could to escape it. After working at newspapers in North Carolina and Mississippi, I carved out that beat as a congressional correspondent for Gannett News Service in Washington, D.C.

Over the years, I’ve kept my focus on the South and the Global South, and Harry Dean Stanton’s troubled relationship with his own Southern roots fascinated me about his story. Add to that my lifelong love of movies and film history, and the Harry Dean Stanton story was a perfect combination for me.

"This is a book about a unique and compelling actor who rarely made it to the top of the marquee, but who became a legend for his performances in the supporting cast. Once called 'the philosopher poet of character acting,' Harry Dean Stanton became a legend in Hollywood and among movie-goers for what director David Lynch called his 'organic' acting abilities as well as for being a kind of hip, Buddhist-like persona."
Joe Atkins
author and JOURNALISM Professor

Q. Can you tell me a little about the book? When will it be available? Any upcoming book signings?  

A. Harry Dean Stanton: Hollywood’s Zen Rebel is being published by the University Press of Kentucky, and it will actually be published in November (I think Nov. 1), but is already available for pre-order via Amazon, Goodreads or other sites. The cost is $34.95 for hardcover or $19.22 for a Kindle edition. The pandemic has messed marketing and book signings up greatly, but the publisher’s marketing department now is in the process of working out some things.

I just got interviewed by reporter Joel Sams for Kentucky Monthly Magazine, and Los Angeles writer Robert Crane (son of the Hogan’s Heroes star) is organizing a “conversation/launch party.” I’ve been invited to speak at the Kentucky Book Festival, the Harry Dean Stanton Film Festival, and for an appearance and/or lecture at the Filson Historical Society in Louisville, Kentucky, but with the ongoing pandemic, I’m not sure of dates or whether we’ll have to go with Zoom sessions or postponements.

My publisher told me we’ll have a second launch next summer with the hope that we can all once again interact with one another in a somewhat normal way. Hope to see the book in Square Books and other area bookstores soon.

Q. What do you hope people take away from the book about Stanton’s life? 

Well, like any writer, you want your readers to have found that this was a darned good story and that it opened up a world for them that they had not experienced before, but which perhaps also resonated in some way with their own world. A writer can’t ask for much more than that. 

UM School of Journalism and New Media graphic designer and Daily Mississippian win advertising awards

Posted on: February 12th, 2021 by ldrucker

Congratulations to University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media graphic designer Hannah Vines and The Daily Mississippian for winning awards in The Mississippi Press Association annual advertising contest.

Hannah Vines

Hannah Vines

The Daily Mississippian is a professional member of MPA and the staff and students compete against professional journalists and staff working at newspapers in the state. Judging was based on the design of print and digital ads as well as special editions produced throughout 2020.

Vines won two first-place awards and one third-place award. She won a first-place award, in competition with all newspapers in Mississippi, in the category for grocery/restaurant black and white ads for an ad about Chicory Market, and she won first place in the institutional color ads category for large newspapers for a Miss Mississippi sorority ad. She won third place in the retail color ad category for large newspapers for a CBD ad.

The Daily Mississippian won second place for General Excellence in the Class AB category, which includes the largest newspapers in the state. The Commercial Dispatch in Columbus took first place in that category.

The awards were announced in a virtual ceremony on Feb. 5 during the MPA mid-winter conference.

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
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

University of Mississippi journalism grad Payne selected for national POLITICO Fellows program

Posted on: January 29th, 2021 by ldrucker

Daniel Payne started work this month as a POLITICO Fellow. Payne graduated in May 2020 from the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media. He was in the Honors College, a Taylor Medalist, and editor in chief of The Daily Mississippian, where he led a staff that won national journalism awards. He participated in Lens Collective and had a summer internship at a Washington news website. Following graduation, he was executive editor of The DeSoto (MS) Times-Tribune.

The POLITICO Fellows program offers four journalists an opportunity to work on teams throughout the newsroom reporting full time on politics and policy. The 12-month professional fellowship also includes a robust training component and work on enterprise reporting projects on policy areas with disproportionate impact on underrepresented communities. Upon successful completion of the program, each fellow is invited to a full-time reporting role at POLITICO.

Daniel Payne

Daniel Payne at his desk in Washington.

“Daniel is foremost a thoughtful journalist who has demonstrated serious commitment to his craft,” said Robin Turner, director of editorial diversity initiatives at POLITICO. “In addition to his solid journalism chops, he demonstrated strong leadership in pushing The DeSoto Times-Tribune toward a digital-first approach as the weekly newspaper’s executive editor. In addition to his compassionate approach to serving his community, Daniel impressed our selections committee with his aggressive accountability reporting on the pandemic, his role in redesigning the newspaper, his work on newsletters, and in his savvy, but responsible social media skills.”

Turner said that Payne, as a graduate of the University of Mississippi who hails from Tennessee, also offers a geographic perspective and background that often go missing in D.C.-area newsrooms. “In short, Daniel is a talented, creative and innovative contributor with fresh insight that any newsroom would welcome.”

Turner, who designed the professional fellowship with the support of POLITICO’s Editor in Chief Matt Kaminski, said that fellows are “full colleagues from Day One.”

“Daniel will be embedded as a reporter on two editorial teams and will learn how POLITICO launches new products. We are pleased that all of our fellows – those who have served previously, and those now serving as professional fellows – know they are respected and valued team members. They also help advance POLITICO’s editorial mission for delivering strong, independent and credible journalism on politics and policy – and with diverse voices and perspectives.”

Grad students Lucy Burnam and MacKenzie Ross caught up with Payne as he started his new job this week and asked him a few questions:

Q. Daniel, why did you apply for the fellowship?

A. I have always enjoyed POLITICO and the work that comes from its newsroom, especially all the work they do innovating digital journalism. When I saw that they would be bringing two fellows on board in January, I knew I had to apply.

Q. How do you feel about being a reporter in the nation’s capital in 2021?

A. I’m very excited about it. I think, especially over the last year or so, people have focused more on the importance of understanding how policies and politicians affect day-to-day life in the U.S. That makes the job of reporting important stories all the more exciting.

Q. How did your journalism and Honors classes, and your work at The Daily Mississippian, prepare you for this fellowship?

A. My experience at UM has been foundational in preparing me for this fellowship. I feel that, though I still have a lot to learn through professional experience, I’m ready to get to work in the world of journalism. The experience I got at The Daily Mississippian has proved to be monumental in my understanding and practice of reporting and editing. I can’t imagine being able to get this fellowship without the real-world education I got at the Student Media Center.

Q. What do you hope to learn from this fellowship?

A. I hope to sharpen my reporting and writing skills, and I also hope to learn about the diversity of opportunities available to someone who wants to report on politics. POLITICO has journalists working in many unique niches of politics and policy reporting, and I think working with different people who have different interests will give me a wealth of perspective on journalism today and my future in the field.

Here is the press release from POLITICO about the new Fellows:

POLITICO Announces Inaugural Class of The POLITICO Fellows

ARLINGTON, Va. — POLITICO today announced its inaugural class of The POLITICO Fellows, a competitive professional fellowship program that offers four enterprising journalists a front-row seat covering the biggest storylines dominating Washington.

The POLITICO Fellows program, which just began this week, seeks to empower journalists seeking to advance their careers in political and policy journalism. POLITICO is pleased to share that Jonathan Custodio, Anna Kambhampaty, Marissa Martinez and Jonathan “Daniel” Payne emerged from an outstanding and competitive applicant pool impressing the selections committee with their strong journalism skills, entrepreneurial spirit and unique contributions to newsroom diversity.

“The POLITICO Fellows builds on our strong commitment to develop newsroom talent as we deliver authoritative, independent politics and policy coverage with diverse voices and perspectives,” said Robin Turner, director of editorial diversity initiatives for POLITICO. “Our incoming cohort includes four very talented journalists, each with the demonstrated ability to lead teams, innovate and break news even beyond U.S. borders. We are proud of all of our fellows – past and present – and are pleased to partner with the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) in identifying and preparing these emerging newsroom leaders.”

The 12-month program will train professionals and provides a unique opportunity to cover the White House, Congress and policy areas such as health care, trade, technology and finance. Reporting opportunities will include in-depth exploration of how key policy issues disproportionately impact underrepresented communities.

“NABJ is proud to partner with POLITICO in creating this critical pipeline of diverse journalists who will become the next generation of political reporters. Now more than ever, it is important that people who represent Black and Brown communities are leaders in reporting on the government and policy issues that impact communities of color every day. We look forward to the dynamic work that will come from the 2021 cohort and extend our support to each of them,” said Dorothy Tucker, president of NABJ.

Participants receive total compensation of $60,000, plus benefits, and are invited for a full-time reporting role at POLITICO upon successful completion of the program. This professional fellowship program also features monthly workshops, mentoring and other training as well as editorial rotations for career exploration. Anna and Daniel begin their fellowships in the POLITICO newsroom this week. Jonathan and Marissa will begin their 12-month terms in June.

The 2021 POLITICO Fellows

Jonathan Custodio brought his Bronx-honed reporting skills to POLITICO in October as an intern in the New York office, where he contributes regularly to New York Playbook and the New York Real Estate newsletter and covers city campaigns. A member of NABJ, Jonathan’s work has been featured in ProPublica’s Electionland and the immigration news outlet Documented NY. A graduate of LaGuardia Community College and Lehman College, Jonathan also served as a reporting intern at The Chronicle of Higher Education and Bronx community newspaper Norwood News. The Pulitzer Center awarded Jonathan a grant in 2019 to do groundbreaking bilingual reporting on Afro Mexicans’ struggle for political, social and cultural recognition, which helped (along with decades of activists’ efforts) lead to unanimous vote by the Mexican Senate to ensure constitutional recognition for the disenfranchised community. Jonathan is a member of NABJ.

Anna Kambhampaty has spent the past year and a half as a reporter/researcher at Time Magazine, and delivered a major scoop– Anna broke the Justin Trudeau brownface story for Time in the midst of the 2019 Canadian election. A native of upstate New York, Anna brings a mix of skills to the newsroom: She studied information science at Cornell University while writing a column for the Cornell Daily Sun, and was an interactive web development intern at CNBC and a UX engineering intern at The New York Times before landing at Time. Since mid-2019, Anna has researched and reported on art, agriculture, politics, and history for Time, but developed a specialty at the intersection of politics, race and identity. Anna is a member of AAJA.

A native of Chicago, Marissa Martinez has already made a name for herself as a newsroom leader and editor in chief of the Daily Northwestern, during a tumultuous year for higher education. Marissa managed a staff of more than 80 journalists and reported on issues of race, health and education for the city, campus and investigative desks at The Daily, which serves as the only newspaper for the city of Evanston, Ill. Marissa, who speaks Spanish and has studied Portuguese and Arabic, created the newspaper’s first diversity and inclusion editor and has been interviewed by the Columbia Journalism Review for her work in newsroom diversity. Marissa currently covers COVID-19 as a reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. She is a past participant of the POLITICO Journalism Institute and is a member of NABJ, AAJA and NAHJ.

Daniel Payne has worked to push The DeSoto Times-Tribune toward a digital-first approach as the Mississippi newspaper’s executive editor for the past year. He emphasized aggressive accountability reporting on the pandemic and redesigned the newspaper, newsletters and social media accounts. A graduate of the University of Mississippi, Oxford, Daniel was editor in chief of The Daily Mississippian, where he also helped overhaul the newspaper’s website and workflow. Daniel has interned for the Global Post in Washington, D.C., and worked as a reporter and panelist for the Lens Collective researching, filming and editing short films on civil rights activists.

Study abroad in Rome this summer with the UM School of Journalism and New Media

Posted on: January 26th, 2021 by ldrucker

If you’ve ever dreamed of traveling abroad and studying in Italy, a group of professors from the School of Journalism and New Media are planning to offer classes there this summer.

From May 25 to June 21, you can explore Florence, Rome, Sorrento and Capri while earning six hours of integrated marketing communications and/or journalism credit with professors from the school.

Study Abroad Rome

Study Abroad Rome

Choose two of four classes on topics such as smartphone photography, international writing, issues in European media, and world communication systems while experiencing Italy.

In addition to courses, you’ll have access to some of the best museums in the world (as well as the best gelato in the world), get to see beautiful small Italian towns, take an Italian cooking class, and participate in a variety of other cultural excursions around Tuscany, Rome and the Amalfi Coast.

For more information, including courses, itinerary and price, visit or email Dr. Jason Cain at

Professor seeks UM School of Journalism and New Media student volunteers for app project that provides free emotional support

Posted on: January 18th, 2021 by ldrucker

As we continue to be separated from each other due to COVID-19, several studies have documented increased levels of depression, stress and anxiety, and decreased levels of general mental well-being among students.

A University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media professor is hoping to change that by partnering with creators of an app that provides free emotional support. Professor Graham Bodie, Ph.D., is also seeking students from the school willing to participate as listeners through the app for other students in need.

Graham Bodie

Graham Bodie

The HearMe.App, created by Adam Lippin and his team,

allows people to seek and receive support at any time. Users download the app to their Android or Apple device, specify their preferred listener type (male-female, age range, time availability to chat, etc.), and either identify a topic for conversation or begin chatting.

“All conversations are text-based, and listeners go through minimal training in active and reflective listening before they are allowed to interact with users,” Bodie said. “To date, over 54,000 conversations have taken place on the app with 94 percent of support seekers reporting they ‘felt better after one chat.’”

At the outset of the pandemic, the HearMe.App team commissioned a survey of 350 American adults, Bodie said. Results indicated that a majority of 18- to 24-year-olds reported feeling less connected than before the pandemic, compared to a majority of those over 35 who reported feeling more connected.

Screenshot from website.

“Those in the traditional college-aged cohort were the least satisfied with the emotional support they are currently receiving and more readily identified texting to be a viable means of seeking support (again, compared to those in older age cohorts),” Bodie said. “Our current studies thus target a key demographic likely to benefit the most from digital forms of emotional support.”

The studies will take place at the University of Mississippi and University of Minnesota. They will examine whether broad-based, communal emotional support, delivered through a free app, can mitigate stress among college students and the negative mental health effects of social isolation and loneliness resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

By any number of measures, 2020 was stressful, and 2021 might be best described as “the year of loneliness” if we continue to be separated from each other due to COVID, Bodie said.

“In March, U.S. American higher education institutions closed down most campus operations and dormitory housing, and began encouraging or mandating online courses in an effort to manage the rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “By April, it was clear students were unlikely to return to campus for the remainder of the spring semester. As summer turned to fall, students continued to remain isolated, either at home or in a restricted and curfewed campus community.”

Bodie said general population studies find younger age groups reporting more impact from COVID-19 than older age groups, and students from disenfranchised groups are even more at risk of suffering from the consequences of the pandemic.

“Although most colleges and universities offer formal sources of support, these resources are generally underutilized,” he said.

Even if universities were able to convince more students to use mental health services, Bodie said the staffing alone would overwhelm personnel and overextend the financial capacities of higher education budgets. One answer to assisting students through crises is to strengthen social support networks.

Receiving high-quality support from friends and other informal help providers is vital for student coping, he said. However, COVID-19 precautions have disrupted students’ channels of seeking support. Some students are now socially isolated from peers, roommates, family members, and co-workers; and their social life has declined since March 2020.

Screenshot from website.

Bodie said scholars are increasingly recognizing the need for colleges and universities to prioritize early prevention and intervention programming through platforms that allow students to adequately manage their mental health on or off campus.

He is looking for students to become listeners. While some might only be available for one session each week, others may have a few hours weekly to devote to the project.

“First, it does not take long to be a supportive shoulder for people, a keen ear available to listen in times of stress,” Bodie said. “Second, we hope students will seek support through the application as the semester progresses, whether they sign up as a listener or not.”

  1. If you are interested in participating as a listener, click this link to answer the following short survey to get started.
  1. Volunteer to “listen” on the app by emailing Bodie at at

For more information about our journalism or integrated marketing communications programs visit or email