School of Journalism and New Media

The University of Mississippi

Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Meet Our Students: IMC student Ali Arnold

Posted on: March 15th, 2019 by ldrucker

Meet University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media IMC student Ali Arnold.

The Natchez native, 21, is a junior studying integrated marketing communication and general business, who spent her last two years of high school in Brookhaven, Mississippi studying visual arts at the Mississippi School of the Arts.

Arnold was determined to pursue an art degree in college, but later began thinking about studying advertising since it would allow her to channel her creativity. After learning about the IMC program, she declared a major and fell in love with her studies.

“IMC isn’t just a degree or a career path,” she said, “it’s a mindset and a philosophy on how to approach the world and solve problems.”

After an internship at Bright Rain Advertising in Orlando, Florida, Arnold decided public relations was not the right path for her. But she fell in love with brand strategy and research after taking classes on both in the IMC program.

She plans to work for an advertising agency after school in either Boston or Miami, her two favorite cities.

Meet Our Students is a new feature from Oxford Stories and the UM Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. To learn how you can become a University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media student, email jour-imc@olemiss.edu.

UM School of Journalism and New Media grad Jesse Holland talks Star Wars, Black Panther and nonfiction writing

Posted on: March 27th, 2018 by ldrucker

University of Mississippi senior Brittany Abbott had not planned to attend the latest Meek School event featuring writer Jesse Holland, but the experience proved serendipitous.

“I, honest to God, came into this talk because my teacher told me to,” Abbott said Tuesday. “I had no idea who he was. I saw the posters around class. I did not know we were coming to do this today. And when we came in and sat down, and he started telling us who he was, I was like, ‘No way. No way.’ And it just kept getting crazier and crazier.”

Abbott learned Holland was from Holly Springs, graduated from H.W. Byers High School, and was a longtime comic book fan. She is also from Holly Springs, graduated from H.W. Byers High School and loves comic books.

“This is too surreal for me,” she said, Marveling at the coincidence. “There’s no way that someone from my little nothing of a town – I mean, I graduated from a class of 40 people. He is probably the only person who understands that. I mean, nobody even knows where H.W. Byers is, so this is just crazy.”

Abbott, who plans to graduate from UM in May, also discovered she and Holland were both double majors in English and journalism.

“He is practically like related to me at this point,” she said. “I feel like he’s really an inspiration to me. We came from the same place, from the same school. We practically know all of the same people. I’m getting the same degree as him, and he’s successful.”

Holland, who has spent much of his career as an Associated Press journalist, spoke at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media Tuesday at 2 p.m. discussing his career as a journalist and nonfiction writer, his journey to writing fiction novels for two successful movie franchises, and tips for aspiring writers, including Abbott.

Holland, who grew up on a farm about 15 miles outside of Holly Springs, said he was recruited to attend UM from H.W. Byers, but college was not his first Ole Miss experience.

His mother, who was once his own English teacher at H.W. Byers, taught during the school year and spent five summers working on her master’s degree in English. While she attended classes, Holland and his older sister hung out in the campus library and took swimming lessons at Ole Miss. “So I basically grew up on campus,” he said.

Holland later worked as editor of The Daily Mississippian, as a talk show host, and ran one of the campus TV station cameras.

“The great thing about Ole Miss for me was it allowed me to experiment and learn about all types of journalism,” he said. “I got to pick and choose which one suited me. It was the only place at that time that had a student run newspaper, TV station and radio station.”

Holland always knew he wanted to be a writer, but coming from a small Mississippi town, he said he wasn’t sure what to write about. “That’s why I got into journalism,” he said, “so I could go to interesting places, meet interesting people, do interesting things.”

Holland said UM professors emphasized the value of internships. He interned locally at The Oxford Eagle, at the Birmingham Post-Herald, with the Meredith Corporation working in the test kitchen for Better Homes & Gardens, at The New York Times, and with the Associated Press in South Carolina.

After several AP reporters quit around the same time for different reasons, Holland advanced from intern to full-time journalist after graduating from UM in 1994. He has remained with the Associated Press for almost 24 years.

His first book Black Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African-American History In and Around Washington was published in 2007. Ten years later, his second book The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House was published.

“Part of my story is taking advantage of opportunities when they present themselves,” Holland said. “When it does, you have to grab it.”

Holland said he’s a proud “geek” who discusses science fiction on social media. That’s one reason a Lucasfilm book editor contacted him and asked him to write Finn’s Story, the backstory of one of the latest “Star Wars” characters. Holland, who has been a “Star Wars” fan since elementary school, said it was the first movie he saw in a theater.

A month after Finn’s Story came out, Holland received a call from a Marvel book editor who had read The Invisibles and asked if he had heard of “Black Panther.” Holland had been reading Black Panther, one of the first comic books he’d ever read, since he was 5 or 6.

“I’ve been following this character my entire life,” he said.

The Marvel editor, who had read Finn’s Story, asked Holland if he would be interested in writing Who Is the Black Panther?

“Would I be interested in doing it,” Holland asked, enthusiastically. “Am I supposed to be paying y’all, or are you paying me?”

Holland said his “Black Panther” book focuses on the character’s classic comic book mythology. He said the origin of the character was written in 1966 and stayed the same until Marvel hired a writer to update the origin in 2005. Holland was asked to take the 1966 and 2005 origin stories and update them for 2017.

He said the “Black Panther” book has sold out internationally. “It’s gone,” he said. “It’s been very well received by everyone, and I have been very well treated by Marvel.”

Holland, who fielded questions from the audience, said he credits his success to UM professors who told him he could do anything he wanted as long as he worked for it.

What does he do when he gets writers’ block? Holland said he rarely has that problem because he has worked as a journalist for the past two decades.

“One of the things you learn as a journalist is that you can’t afford writers’ block because a deadline is a deadline,” he said. “I think that’s one of the reasons I was chosen by Lucasfilm and Marvel, because they knew I was a journalist, and I knew deadlines.”

Holland said he had only a month to write the “Star Wars” novel. They wanted a junior novel of 20,000 words, but he turned in more than 40,000, and editors cut it. For “Black Panther,” they wanted 90,000 words in six months. Holland said he blew the deadline, turning it in one day late. He apologized for missing it.

Is it difficult to transition from writing nonfiction to fiction? “It is not as difficult as I thought it would be,” Holland said. “For years, I refused to write fiction because I actually have a master’s degree in creative nonfiction. When I started working on Finn’s Story, I discovered there was a common thread through my fiction and nonfiction. We, as journalists, are basically all historians.”

Holland describes his Lucasfilm and Marvel writing as “fictional history,” an oxymoron. “For me, the fictional history was easier,” he said. “I didn’t have to do any interviews. I could make up quotes that fit where I needed them to without going out and making the story fit around the quotes. I could make things happen the way I needed them to for the story.”

He said the “Black Panther” book didn’t require a lot of research because he had unknowingly already been doing it his entire life. He had most of the comic books in his basement. But writing Finn’s Story was different.

“There are fans of ‘Star Wars’ who know every single detail in that universe,” he said. “There are people out there who know exactly how many rooms there are in the Millennium Falcon. I was warned by Disney that there are people who know all of this, and you better be correct.”

Holland said this required a lot of detailed, technical research.

He’s now in discussions with Marvel about another project, but he can’t announce it. He’s also writing an outline for his next nonfiction book about a village founded by freed slaves, and he’s working on an anthology of African American narrative journalism. He also predicts he’ll be writing more graphic and science fictions novels.

Holland said it’s important for students to get hands-on journalism experience, and they can do that at the University of Mississippi.

“You can leave campus with actual journalism experience,” he said, “not just the classes and the grades. You can leave with experience running a radio station, being a live host, with camera experience, or with actual media experience where you have gone out and reported stories, published stories, and even worked on the advertising side. You can have the experience media companies want you to have without leaving school, which makes you doubly valuable to media companies.”

What is his biggest career triumph? “I consider the publication of the first Daily Mississippian with me being the editor as my first triumph,” he said.

But there’s another story. In 1994, the year he served as DM editor, it was the first year the student newspaper had Macintosh computers. Holland said the week before the semester began, S. Gale Denley, head of the Student Media Center, brought in eight Macs and told the DM staff they had a week to figure out how to network the computers and put out a newspaper.

“So, for seven days, we had to teach ourselves computer networking, pagination and printing in addition to writing the stories that had to be in the newspapers,” Holland said. “… That was fun, but I will admit, that was difficult. Just the fact that we were able to get it done was my greatest triumph. It’s a good example of what you can do when you don’t stop to think about why you can’t.”

In other words, “Do or do not, there is no try.” – Yoda

By LaReeca Rucker

Dennis Moore awarded Silver Em and journalism students honored

Posted on: April 6th, 2017 by ldrucker

From left, Debora Wenger, Dennis Moore and Will Norton Jr.

In 1975, the Memphis Commercial Appeal asked the University of Mississippi to nominate two students for potential internships. Dennis Moore was one. He traveled to Memphis and survived an odd interview with the managing editor, who asked a variety of strange questions, such as “Name the countries you fly over when traveling from Memphis to Antarctica?”

“Despite the bizarre nature of the interview, he demonstrated an ability to be removed from the chaotic nature of questioning and keep his wits,” said Will Norton Jr., Ph.D., professor and dean of UM’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media. “He has followed a similar pattern throughout his career. His achievements demonstrate that, while the Meek School has more prominence today than it had 40 years ago, its graduates have always had national stature.”

Moore was honored Wednesday night as the 58th recipient of the Samuel S. Talbert Silver Em award at the Inn at Ole Miss on the UM campus. The Silver Em is UM’s highest award for journalism. Recipients must be Mississippi natives or have led exemplary careers in the state.

Moore began his journalism career as an intern at The Germantown (Tennessee) News. He later directed breaking news coverage for USA Today, the nation’s largest circulation newspaper, on stories such as the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; the spread of Ebola from Africa to the United States; and the trial of one of the Boston Marathon bombers.

Earlier at USA Today, he was managing editor of the Life section, which put him in contact with Mick Jagger, John Grisham, Steven Spielberg and and many other notable people.

Moore said his favorite entertainment interview was with Octavia Spencer, who won an Oscar for her role in “The Help,” a book that became a movie written by fellow UM graduate Katherine Stockett set in Jackson, where Moore began his professional reporting career at The Clarion-Ledger.

Moore is now co-editor of Mississippi Today, a news website, with Fred Anklam, also a USA Today and Clarion-Ledger veteran, Ole Miss graduate and Silver Em recipient.

“When I found out I was going to receive the award, I thought I don’t measure up to the previous recipients,” Moore said Wednesday during his acceptance speech. “I don’t think my accomplishments are as stellar as theirs.

“I’ve never endangered myself and my family for editorializing about a social issue. I’ve never revealed government malfeasance. I’ve never helped the community overcome a major natural disaster. I spent most of my career covering entertainment, movies, television, music, and the slightly higher respectability chain, books.”

However, Moore said he believes the staffs he’s worked with over the years have applied the same enthusiasm, vigor and aggressive newsgathering that people on other beats did while covering the entertainment industry.

“We just had more fun,” he said.

Moore said he likes to think he’s helped people understand the importance of critical thinking. “I believe if you look insightfully, if you look aggressively at popular culture, you can find out as much about society as if you write a news story,” he said.

Moore said he’s concerned about the lack of critical thinking in modern journalism. He said journalists must present facts and provide information to defend them because, in a “fake news” era, the public questions the media.

“They don’t have the confidence,” he said. “I believe we can do that by reporting and providing context. By context, I don’t mean let’s interpret for people. Let’s get enough facts so that we can speak confidently, authoritatively and can address issues in a way that can’t be questioned.

“If there’s a problem, we can possibly offer alternatives. We can treat the people we deal with on our beats with respect. Hold them accountable, but don’t present them with our agenda. I think that’s what a lot of news organizations are starting to do now.”

While Moore is concerned about the state of journalism today, he said he’s also encouraged, because he thinks journalists are on a good path.

“We have to report with depth, insight, and then we may be able to affect change,” he said.

Moore credited several people with his success, including Norton, who he described as “inexhaustible” and a “genius.”

“He will very humbly describe himself as making connections, when actually what he does is he creates character and careers,” said Moore. “The Meek School would not be the Meek School without Dr. Norton.”

Norton said he went through issues of The Daily Mississippian from 1973 to 1975 to look at some of Moore’s work as a student journalist. He found several stories, including one titled ‘Dorm Hunting, the night I kicked my leg through the wall, I decided it was time to move.’ Moore wrote light and serious pieces for the college newspaper, including stories about UM applying again for a Phi Beta Kappa chapter and voting issues.

“Whether it was about shoddy campus housing, lack of freedom for faculty members or voting rights, tonight’s honoree always seemed to focus on important news,” said Norton, who gave attendees an update about the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

“During the 1974-75 academic year, the Department of Journalism had fewer than 100 majors, and an accreditation team made its first site visit to the campus,” he said. “The endowment of the department was less than $50,000.

“Today, the Meek School has more than 1,500 majors in Farley Hall and the Overby Center, and is raising funds for a third building that will be situated in the parking lot between Lamar Hall and the Overby Center, and the accreditation team called the Meek School a destination – and one of the elite programs in the nation.”

Norton said the endowment today is more than $13 million with a major estate committed to the future.

“The Meek School is prominent nationally now, if not globally,” he said. “Clearly, media education at Ole Miss has gained a great deal of exposure. Several times over the last few weeks, the chancellor has called the Meek School one of the two best schools on the campus. That exposure is based on the strong foundation established in 1947 by Gerald Forbes, the founding chair. He was joined by Sam Talbert and Dr. Jere Hoar. They produced outstanding graduates.”

Hoar was one of the event attendees Wednesday night, and he was recognized for his contribution to the school.

The Silver Em award is named for Talbert, the professor and department chairman, who believed a great department of journalism could be an asset to the state of Mississippi. An “em” was used in printing. In the days of printing with raised metal letters, lines of type were “justified” by skilled insertion of spacing with blanks of three widths – thin, en and em. The Silver Em blends the printing unit of measure with the “M” for Mississippi.

“The award has been presented annually since 1948 as the university’s highest honor for journalism,” said Debora Wenger, associate professor of journalism. “The requirements are that the person selected be a graduate of the University of Mississippi, who has had a noteworthy impact in or out of the state, or if not a graduate of Ole Miss, a journalist of note who has been a difference-maker in Mississippi.”

Meek journalism students were also honored during the event, which featured the Best of Meek awards ceremony.

Students who received Taylor Medals include Rachel Anderson, Katelin Davis, Hannah Hurdle and Ariyl Onstott.

The Kappa Tau Alpha Graduate Scholar was Stefanie Linn Goodwiller.

The KTA Undergraduate Scholar was Ariyl Onstott.

Graduate Excellence winners were Mrudvi Parind Vakshi and Jane Cathryn Walton.

The Lambda Sigma winner was Susan Clara Turnage.

Excellence in Integrated Marketing Communications winners were Austin McKay Dean and Sharnique G’Shay Smith.

Excellence in Journalism winners were Maison Elizabeth Heil and John Cooper Lawton.

Who’s Who winners were Rachel Anderson, Ferderica Cobb, Austin Dean, Elizabeth Ervin, Leah Gibson, Madison Heil, Cady Herring, Rachel Holman, Amanda Hunt, Hannah Hurdle, Amanda Jones, John Lawton, Taylor Lewis, Ariyl Onstott, Meredith Parker, Susan Clara Turnage, Sudu Upadhyay and Brittanee Wallace.

The Overby Award was given to Susan Clara Turnage.

Kappa Tau Alpha inductees include Brandi Embrey, Elizabeth Estes, Madison Heil, Rachael Holman, Hannah Hurdle, Tousley Leake, Taylor Lewis, Jessica Love, Hailey McKee, Olivia Morgan, Ariyl Onstott, Alexandria Paton, Natalie Seales and Zachary Shaw.

Dean’s Award winners include Madeleine Dear, Lana Ferguson, Kylie Fichter, Jennifer Froning, Dylan Lewis, Emily Lindstrom, Sarah McCullen, Dixie McPherson, Anna Miller, Rashad Newsom, Hannah Pickett, Kalah Walker, Brittanee Wallace, Kara Weller and Anna Wierman.

The Meek School of Journalism and New Media was founded in 2009 with a $5.9 million gift from Dr. Ed and Becky Meek, Ole Miss graduates with a long history of support. It is housed in Farley Hall, with a wing for the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics. Today, the Meek School has 1,570 students in undergraduate and graduate studies working toward degrees in journalism and IMC.

For more information, email meekschool@olemiss.edu.

  • Story by LaReeca Rucker, adjunct journalism instructor