UM Journalism School Wins Third Kennedy Award

Depth reporting class exposé on 50th anniversary of Voting Rights Act winner in college category

University of Mississippi student Mollie Mansfield, right, interviews civil rights activist and business owner Vernice Sanders, center, with Professor Bill Rose at Vernice's Upholstery in Leland, Miss., Tuesday, March 11, 2014. (Photo/Thomas Graning)

University of Mississippi student Mollie Mansfield, right, interviews civil rights activist and business owner Vernice Sanders, center, with Professor Bill Rose at Vernice’s Upholstery in Leland on March 11, 2014. Photo by Thomas Graning

OXFORD, Miss. – For the third time in seven years, the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi has won an annual Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Journalism Award.

UM’s depth reporting class won in the college category for “Land of Broken Promises.” The exposé examines the impact of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the Mississippi Delta 50 years later.

The winning project was led by Willard “Bill” Rose, visiting professor and a fellow of the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics; Mikki Harris, assistant professor; and Darren Sanefski, assistant professor of multiple platform journalism.

“Winning the Kennedy Award for college journalism is a testament to the quality of teaching by Mikki Harris, Bill Rose and Darren Sanefski,” said Will Norton Jr., professor and dean of the journalism school. “These three individuals have demonstrated repeatedly that they are uncommonly effective, student-oriented teachers. We are grateful to have professionals of their caliber on our faculty in the Meek School.”

Twenty-seven students spent spring break 2014 conducting interviews and photographing images for the 132-page, four-color magazine. It was published and distributed in January 2015.

Students who worked on the project included Eliza McClure, Debra Whitley, Erin Scott, Jason Burleson, Logan Kirkland, Thomas Graning, Clancy Smith, Katie Adcock, Karson Brandenburg, Phil McCausland, Cady Herring, Phillip Waller, Mary Marge Locker, Kayleigh Skinner, Alex Edwards, Allison Moore, Mollie Mansfield, Christina Cain, Taylor Davenport, Kristen Ellis, Conner Hegwood, Jessica Hotakainen, Lauren Keossian, Ignacio Murillo, Savannah Pounds, Kimberly Sanner, Madisen Theobald and Ellen Whitaker.

Three reporters both wrote and captured photographs. One worked on the design and captured photographs, and four were dedicated to photojournalism for the project.

“This was a wonderful and unique opportunity for our journalism students to work as multimedia journalists in a very diverse setting,” Rose said. “It’s one of the things I love about working here. Students who are driven to be the best can get opportunities here they won’t get at other journalism schools.”

The project focused primarily on documenting the work of activists in the civil rights movement and their struggles to help people in impoverished areas register and vote in local, state and national elections.

“These students tracked down civil rights legends Andrew Young and John Lewis and lesser known, but influential, civil rights workers to capture what happened here after the Voting Rights Act was passed,” Rose said. “They tackled the tough conversations on race and did it impressively.”

The result was a print depth report produced to raise awareness of this community.

The award is nice, but the experience with the students is the best reward, Harris and Sanefski agreed.

“We used a significant number of archival photos to tell a visual story of major events that happened in the past,” said Harris, who edited the photos to fit the written stories. “The process of spending hours looking at the AP’s archive of images was eye-opening and emotional.”

Archival images selected for inclusion in the project showed activist Fanny Lou Hamer speaking to delegates attending the Democratic National Convention in 1964, civil rights leader Lawrence Guyot as a young man in 1963, covered with marks from a police beating, and Martin Luther King, Floyd McKissick and Stokely Carmichael marching together for equality.

“The images from the 1960s provide a visual of the blood, sweat and strength that laid a foundation for today,” Harris said.

Sanefski’s digital design students spent more than a semester designing the award-winning publication.

“We were not able to accomplish it in one semester, so me and three other students from that class wrapped it up early the next semester,” Sanefski said. “Design is always about making content easier to understand. I’m very proud of my students and all the students who have pooled their talents together to create a great product.”

The journalism school has won previous RFK Awards for magazines on poverty in the Delta and attempts to help residents of an island off the coast of Belize.

“Throughout his life, my father held a deep commitment to freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “He would invite reporters and news crews to join him in the most impoverished city neighborhoods, to Indian reservations and communities in Appalachia, California’s Central Valley or rural Indiana – places that often lacked electricity and plumbing – and he would ask the press corps why it wasn’t covering those issues and these places.

“The journalists who followed his ’68 campaign created the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards in his name, to honor those who covered the issues most important to him.”

This year’s Book and Journalism Award winners were chosen from more than 300 submissions. Historian Michael Beschloss chaired the judges’ panel for the 2016 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award.

The journalism awards ceremony, in its 48th year, will be presented May 25 by Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. All honorees will receive a bust of Robert F. Kennedy in recognition of their award.

For more information about the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, visit http://meek.olemiss.edu.

UM Journalism Student Wins Statewide Public Relations Award

Honor one of many presented to Tori Olker this semester

Tori Olker, a graduating senior, was named Outstanding PR Student by the Public Relations Association of Mississippi, as well as being awarded the Taylor Medal for the highest GPA in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media recently. Olker, a print major with a PR emphasis, is pictured here with her nominating instructor Robin Street. Photo credit: Stan O’Dell

Tori Olker (left), a graduating senior, was named Outstanding PR Student by the Public Relations Association of Mississippi, as well as being awarded the Taylor Medal for the highest GPA in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Olker is congratulated by her nominating instructor, Robin Street. Photo by Stan O’Dell

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi journalism student has been named Mississippi’s Outstanding PR Student by the Public Relations Association of Mississippi.

That award is just the latest of many for Tori Olker, a senior print journalism major with an emphasis in public relations. Olker was also awarded a Taylor Medal, the university’s highest academic honor, and posted the highest GPA in the university’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

She and team partner Victoria Lanza, of Richardson, Texas, also won first place in the Southeast Journalism Conference onsite public relations competition. Olker was named the Oxford-Ole Miss PRAM chapter’s Student of the Year and to Who’s Who and Kappa Tau Alpha Journalism Honorary Society.

“Winning the Outstanding PR Student award provided me with the validation that I am on the right track as a professional journalist, and it showed me how much I want to accomplish after graduation,” said Olker, from Spring Grove, Illinois. “I am extremely proud and humbled to have been selected among so many other college students.”

During her years at UM, she has worked in all aspects of media. She has been a disc jockey on Rebel Radio, a writer for the yearbook and a feature reporter for The Daily Mississippian. She has also completed several public relations and journalism internships.

The PRAM award, which includes a $250 scholarship, was presented April 8 at the organization’s state conference in Jackson. Public relations instructors at all Mississippi universities could nominate a student to compete for the award. Robin Street, a senior lecturer at UM, nominated Olker.

A panel of PR professionals selected the winner based on the nominating letter and on factors including academic excellence, honors, public relations activities, and campus and community involvement.

“I am in awe of Tori’s multiple accomplishments and activities,” Street said. “She truly is one of the most impressive students I have ever taught. She not only excels in the classroom, but in putting that classroom work into reality through her internships and part-time jobs.”

For more information on the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, visit http://meek.olemiss.edu.

UM Offers New Minor in Digital Media Studies

Program will include four emphases with common areas of technology and problem-solving

The new minor in digital studies is designed to equip undergraduate students from many different degree majors with digital computing, design and communication skills. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The new minor in digital studies is designed to equip undergraduate students from many different degree majors with digital computing, design and communication skills. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi will offer a new interdisciplinary minor in digital studies designed to equip undergraduate students from many different degree majors with digital computing, design and communication skills to complement their main academic focus.

The new minor, offered beginning in fall 2016, will be housed and administered in the College of Liberal ArtsDepartment of Writing and Rhetoric. Robert Cummings, chair and associate professor of writing and rhetoric, will serve as director of the minor.

Faculty members affiliated with the program will meet periodically to consider changes to the curriculum and assist in the advising process.

“Students can now prepare for exciting and contemporary technology applications by combining their current major with the DMS minor, which offers a choice of emphases in computing, digital arts and/or digital communications,” Cummings said. “The digital media studies minor offers a novel pathway for students to extend their knowledge in to the creative economy of the information age.”

The College of Liberal Arts, School of Engineering and the Meek School of Journalism and New Media jointly proposed the undergraduate minor. Faculty from across academic programs, UM Libraries and Information Technology met to formulate the proposal and flesh out the courses to be included.

The DMS minor aims to teach students basic web authoring and programming skills, how to critically evaluate digital information and also how to apply digital skills and expertise in multiple fields.

Students will take 18 credit hours, which includes six hours of core classes. They choose the remaining 12 hours from an approved list of options.

The minor includes four emphases from which to choose: computing, digital communications, digital arts or a generalist track. The emphases have different, but connected paths of digital technology and problem-solving, according to the developers of the course.

Richard Forgette, senior associate dean of liberal arts and professor of political science, played a major role in the development of the program. He said there was wide interest from the student body.

“Thanks to all the faculty from across the university who made this happen,” Forgette said. “The new minor will allow students to develop skills needed for emerging career paths in web development, data analytics, computational art, graphic design, data visualization and digital media marketing.”

UM Students Win Top Awards from State Public Relations Association

Ole Miss takes 12 of 13 student awards presented

University of Mississippi public relations students and their instructor won top awards in the Public Relations Association of Mississippi Prism competition, taking 12 of 13 student awards presented. Pictured from left to right, are seven of those student winners: (front row) Victoria Lanza, a Journalism major from Dallas, Texas; Meaghan Snell, a Journalism major from Roswell, Georgia; Tori Olker, a Journalism major from Spring Grove, Illinois; (back row) Randall Haley, a Journalism graduate from Clarksdale; Katherine Stephens, an Integrated Marketing Communications major from Monroe, Louisiana; Robin Street, senior lecturer in journalism and public relations; Sydney Nutt, a Journalism major from Wichita Falls, Texas; and Lindsay Andrews, an IMC major from Collinsville, Illinois. Not pictured is IMC major Christina Figg from Santa Rosa, California. Four students who have graduated also won, but are not pictured: IMC graduates Ivey Swan from Hattiesburg and Miller Hollingsworth from Brandon; Journalism graduate Sarah Douglass from Corpus Christi, Texas; and marketing and corporate relations graduate Caitlin Vaughn from Huntsville, Alabama.

UM public relations students and their instructor won top awards in the Public Relations Association of Mississippi Prism competition, taking 12 of 13 student awards presented. Pictured, from left to right, are seven of those student winners: (front row) Victoria Lanza, Meaghan Snell and Tori Olker, and (back row) Randall Haley, Katherine Stephens, Robin Street, Sydney Nutt and Lindsay Andrews.

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi students swept the top awards in the Public Relations Association of Mississippi student competition, winning 12 of the 13 awards presented for student work.

Christina Figg, an integrated marketing communications major from Santa Rosa, California, won Student Best of Show for the best entry in the entire competition, as well as the top award in her category.

“The judges were so impressed with the work submitted by this year’s student entrants,” said Jennie Bradford Curlee, public relations director at the Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau who serves as PRAM’s vice president for awards. “They were thorough, engaging and presented a true understanding of the public relations process. The judges specifically cited Christina Figg’s research in naming her entry Best of Show and touted her immense creativity.”

Journalism major Tori Olker from Spring Grove, Illinois, was named Outstanding PR Student, competing against nominees from four other universities in the state.

“The judges commented that Tori really set herself apart from the other candidates and demonstrated that she had great drive,” said Laura Beth Strickland, Visit Vicksburg communications manager who serves as PRAM vice president of student services.

Ten other Ole Miss students and their instructor, Robin Street, also won awards, which were presented April 8 at the PRAM state conference in Jackson.

Awards were given at three levels, based on the number of points judges award each entry. The top award is the Prism, followed by the Excellence and Merit awards. Multiple students can win in the same category if they earn the required number of points.

The students, all from the UM Meek School of Journalism and New Media, entered public relations campaigns they produced in Street’s advanced public relations class during 2015. Each campaign required multimedia journalism skills, including writing news and feature articles, shooting video and photos, creating online and social media posts, and planning creative attention-getting events.

“It was overwhelming that of the 13 student awards presented statewide, 12 of those went to our students,” said Street, senior lecturer in journalism and public relations.

“Our students demonstrated that they excel in the diverse set of skills needed in PR, such as producing quality journalism, planning strategy and tactics, and conducting research. That is a real tribute to the preparation they received from all the faculty members at the Meek School.”

Prism winners were Figg; Lindsay Andrews, an IMC major from Collinsville, Illinois; Meaghan Snell, a journalism major from Roswell, Georgia; Katherine Stephens, an IMC major from Monroe, Louisiana; and Ivey Swan, an IMC graduate from Hattiesburg.

Excellence winners were Olker; Miller Hollingsworth, an IMC graduate from Brandon; Victoria Lanza, a journalism major from Dallas; and Caitlin Vaughn, a marketing and corporate relations graduate from Huntsville, Alabama. Street won two excellence awards in the professional division.

Awards of Merit were presented to journalism major Sydney Nutt from Wichita Falls, Texas, and journalism graduates Sarah Douglass of Corpus Christi, Texas, and Randall Haley from Clarksdale.

For more information on the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, visit http://meek.olemiss.edu or email MeekSchool@olemiss.edu.

UM Students Win Prestigious Awards at Journalism Conference

Sudu Upadhyay named College Journalist of the Year, Ole Miss team takes grand championship

Ole Miss junior Sudu Upadhyay won College Journalist of the Year at the SEJC Conference.

UM junior Sudu Upadhyay won College Journalist of the Year at the annual SEJC event.

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi students won top awards at the annual Southeast Journalism Conference, including College Journalist of the Year and Grand Championship Team for on-site competitions, as well as seven other first-place honors.

Sudu Upadhyay, a junior from Oxford in the UM Meek School of Journalism and New Media, received the top honor of Best of the South College Journalist of the Year. Upadhyay, who served as NewsWatch manager for the 2014-2015 academic year, continues to work for NewsWatch and Rebel Radio.

His entry into the contest included several examples of campus and international reporting as well as his extensive resume and essay about his commitment and responsibility in journalism.

He is only the second Ole Miss student to receive this award, which includes a $1,000 prize.

“It’s definitely a good feeling,” Upadhyay said. “It’s validation for all the missed meals and times I got angry texts from friends for not going out with them. It was a lot of hard work and there were a lot of nights where I didn’t sleep, but it’s all worth it when you get recognized amongst some of the best journalism students in the Southeast.”

Nancy Dupont, professor of journalism, worked with Upadhyay on an international assignment when he was a freshman. His work during his undergraduate career inspired her to submit a letter of recommendation for this award.

“Sudu impressed me from the first time I met him, so I was happy to ask him to shoot a documentary with me in Togo, West Africa,” Dupont said. “But he was only a freshman, and in the back of my mind I wondered if he’d be able to do the demanding work required by a documentary.

“It was amazing to see how he threw himself into the project using his excellent videography and editing skills. I also found him to be an excellent interviewer. He has an extremely bright future.”

The Student Media Center earned the award for Grand Championship Team for its performance in 16 on-site competitions at the conference, hosted by Austin Peay University. That award is based on the number of wins by Ole Miss contingent.

“These awards are important,” said Will Norton, UM journalism dean. “They build a reputation for the Meek School and the Student Media Center. More importantly, the awards are a reflection of a lot of hard work by students and solid faculty instruction on reporting and writing. In brief, the awards mean the Student Media Center and the Meek School are moving in the right direction.”

Ole Miss had nine first-place awards, nine second-place awards and two third-place awards.

Editor in Chief of The Daily Mississippian Logan Kirkland, senior from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, won two first-place awards, one for special event reporter/editor in Best of the South and another for sports photography in the on-site competition.

Senior students who received first-place honors include Caroline Callaway, from El Dorado, Arkansas, for on-site newspaper design; Tori Olker, from Chicago, and Victoria Lanza from Richardson, Texas, for on-site public relations; Dylan Rubino from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for sports writing in the DM; and Kelly Savage from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, for television news reporting for NewsWatch. Sophomore Jake Thrasher, of Birmingham, Alabama, won first place for his DM cartoons.

Second-place honors went to senior Drew Jansen, of St. Peters, Missouri, for on-site news writing; senior Tori Wilson, of Jackson, for on-site copy editing; senior Holly Baer, from Brandon, for on-site op-ed writing; and the multimedia team of seniors Brittany Clark, of Redondo Beach, California, Dylan Rubino and Kelly Savage for their on-site competition work.

Second-place Best of the South winners were senior Steven Gagliano, from Cumming, Georgia, for radio journalism on Rebel Radio; senior Anna McCollum, of Corinth, for journalism research; sophomore Riley Mueller, from College Station, Texas, for radio feature reporting on Rebel Radio; junior Kelsey Shumate, of Flowood, for advertising on Rebel Radio; and junior Clara Turnage, from New Hebron, for feature writing for the DM.

Other winners representing Ole Miss are:

Browning Stubbs, a senior from Memphis, Tennessee – Third place, television journalism

Cady Herring, junior, Olive Branch – Third place, magazine writing

Caroline Callaway – Fourth place, newspaper design

Morgan Burger, senior, San Antonio, Texas – Fourth place, radio feature reporting

Zoe McDonald, junior, Brandon – Fifth place, arts and entertainment writing

Madisen Theobald, senior, Normal, Illinois – Seventh place, design

Logan Kirkland – Eighth place, press photography

Brittany Clark – Ninth place, television feature reporting

The Daily Mississippian placed fourth in the Best Public Service Journalism category for its coverage of the state flag removal from campus. The DMonline.com placed 10th among news websites.

“I marvel every semester as I watch dozens of students work hard for hours each day and night, while at the same time juggling their classwork and other activities,” said Patricia Thompson, director of student media.

“They produce professional-quality work on part-time schedules, and they learn so many amazing life skills. They are passionate about our mission to seek the truth and provide information that our campus community may not find anywhere else.”

UM is slated to host next year’s SEJC conference, set for February. Thompson is president of the organization for the coming year, and DM managing editor Clara Turnage is student president.

Rose Selected for Silver Em Honor

UM's highest award for journalism to be presented April 6

Bill Rose

Bill Rose

OXFORD, Miss. – Bill Rose, who for six years has led student reporting ventures for the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi, has been selected as the Samuel S. Talbert Silver Em award recipient for 2015.

The award dates to 1958. Recipients must be Mississippians with notable journalism careers or journalists with notable careers in Mississippi – or both, which is the case with Rose, who was born and grew up in Shelby. It is the university’s highest award for journalism, named for a chairman who, as it happens, was one of Rose’s instructors.

“Bill Rose is an exceptional talent who has spent much of his career writing with exceptional clarity and helping others write well,” said Will Norton Jr., dean of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. “The Meek School has been blessed to have a person of his talent and self-effacing integrity teaching our students.”

After graduating from Ole Miss in 1969, Rose returned to the Delta, working for the Bolivar Commercial in Cleveland and later as a reporter for the Delta Democrat-Times in Greenville. During this time, he was also a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserves in Greenwood.

In 1975, Rose moved to Florida, where he worked for the next 34 years. As a Miami Herald reporter, he exposed a garbage scandal that led to a grand jury investigation of organized crime’s influence on Palm Beach County government.

His next role was as chief of the Atlanta bureau, responsible for the coverage of several major stories in the South, including the Atlanta child murders. There, he won the Paul Hansell Award for the best work by a Florida journalist, for a collection of stories about the South: everything from possum rustlers to race riots to rock-ribbed gubernatorial politics. He also covered presidential politics across the South.

For the next five years, he rose through the ranks of day city editor, urban affairs editor, deputy city editor and national editor before becoming editor of Tropic, the Herald’s Sunday magazine, which won two Pulitzers during his tenure.

Rose moved to the positions of metro editor of The Palm Beach Post, then deputy managing editor and eventually managing editor of the 220-person staff from 2004 until 2009. During that time, he formed an investigative unit that led to indictment and prison sentences for several local officials. The Post also received two Robert F. Kennedy Awards for exposing migrant slavery abuses that forced changes in state law.

His transition to the university has been as a visiting professor in the Meek School as well as a fellow of the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics.

“Bill Rose has had so many dream jobs in journalism and did them superbly,” said Charles Overby, for whom the center is named. “He is the master at blending excellence, high expectations and affability. I was privileged to work with him while we were students on the Daily Mississippian nearly 50 years ago, and I am blessed to work with him today at the Overby Center.”

Since the school was founded in 2009, Rose has led six Depth Reporting classes, resulting in six publications on topics ranging from the declining population of Greenville to the effect of the Voting Rights Act in the Mississippi Delta. One of the magazines, “The Roads of Broken Dreams,” received the Robert F. Kennedy Award for college journalism. Student work in another received a Hearst Prize, which is the college equivalent of a Pulitzer.

“Bill Rose distinguished himself as a top-notch reporter and editor at the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post, and continues to contribute to journalism today through his leadership with the award-winning, depth-reporting magazines produced by his Ole Miss students,” said Curtis Wilkie, senior Overby Fellow who also worked in the Mississippi Delta before a national and international career in journalism, mostly with The Boston Globe.

Rose’s wife, Susan, is also an Ole Miss graduate. They have two children and two grandchildren.

The Silver Em, which is the university’s highest award for journalism, will be presented at an April 6 banquet in the Overby Center at Ole Miss, starting at 6:30 p.m. Seating is limited, but reservations may be made by contacting Paula Hurdle at 662-915-7146 or pchurdle@olemiss.edu.

The Meek School of Journalism and New Media was founded in 2009, funded with an endowment gift by Ed and Becky Meek. It offers bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in both journalism and integrated marketing communications on the Oxford campus and in coordination with satellite campuses. Because of the increasing variety of media careers, enrollment continues to rise in the Meek School, where almost 1,400 undergraduate journalism and IMC majors hone their skills.

 

PREVIOUS SILVER EM HONOREES

1958 – George W. Healy Jr.

1959 – Turner Catledge

1960 – Kenneth Toler

1961 – John Oliver Emmerich

1963 – George McLean

1964 – William B. Street

1965 – Purser Hewitt

1966 – Hal C. DeCell

1967 – Paul Pittman

1968 – Hodding Carter Jr.

1969 – Willie Morris

1970 – T.M. Hederman Jr.

1971 – Joseph R. Ellis

1972 – Wilson F. Minor

1973 – Mark F. Ethridge

1975 – H.L. Stevenson

1976 – William Raspberry

1977 – Joe L. Albritton

1978 – James A. Autry

1979 – James Nelson

1980 – Mary-Lynn Kotz

1981 – Curtis Wilkie

1982 – Harold Burson

1983 – John O. Emmerich

1984 – Hazel Brannon Smith

1985 – Charles Overby

1986 – W.C. “Dub” Shoemaker

1987 – Charles Dunagin (2)

– Larry Speakes (2)

1988 – Edward Fritts

1989 – Rudy Abramson

1990 – Hodding Carter III

1991 – James L. McDowell

1992 – Rheta Grimsley Johnson

1993 – Dan Goodgame

1994 – Robert Gordon

1995 – Jere Hoar

1996 – Gregory Favre

1997 – Stephanie Saul

1998 – Lerone Bennett

2000 – Jerry Mitchell

2001 – Bert Case

2002 – Ira Harkey

2003 – Jim Abbott

2005 – Otis Sanford

2006 – Dan Phillips

2007 – Stanley Dearman

2008 – Ronnie Agnew

2009 – Stan Tiner

2010 – Terry Wooten

2011 – Patsy Brumfield

2012 – Greg Brock

2013 – W. Randall Pinkston

2014 – Fred Anklam Jr.

2015 – Bill Rose

UM Students Take First Place in Regional Public Relations Competition

Winners among 27 awards for Ole Miss in Southeastern Journalism Conference

Two University of Mississippi public relations students won first place in the Southeastern Journalism Conference competition among students from universities throughout the Southeast. Both seniors in the Meek School of Journalism, they are (left) Tori Olker, a broadcast journalism major from Chicago and (right) Victoria Lanza, a broadcast major from Richardson, Texas. (photo credit Stan O’Dell)

UM public relations students Tori Olker (left) and Victoria Lanza won first place in the Southeastern Journalism Conference competition among students from universities throughout the Southeast.  Photo by Stan O’Dell

OXFORD, Miss. – Two University of Mississippi public relations students have won first place in a competition among students from universities throughout the Southeast.

Tori Olker and Victoria Lanza, both students in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, won the Southeastern Journalism Conference on-site public relations competition hosted last month by Austin Peay University in Clarksville, Tennessee.

They were among the 27 total award winners from the Meek School in multiple competition categories. In addition, the entire team brought home the Grand Championship award.

Olker and Lanza were selected to compete by their public relations instructor, Robin Street.

“When I was asked to choose two students to compete, I immediately knew it would be Tori and Victoria,” said Street, senior lecturer in integrated marketing communications.

“To succeed in public relations, one must be able to conduct research, plan creative strategies and, most of all, write effectively. These two students excel in those skills and have done superb work in class projects and internships.”

Olker, from Chicago, is studying print journalism with an emphasis in public relations, and Lanza, from Richardson, Texas, is studying broadcast journalism with an emphasis in public relations. Both are graduating seniors.

“Ms. Street expects the highest quality of work from her students, and because of this, Victoria and I felt completely prepared and confident going into the competition,” Olker said.

In the competition, the students had one hour on-site to develop an eight-step communications plan to address a public relations situation presented by judges.

“It was not an easy task having to put together an entire campaign in an hour, but it definitely gave me a taste of a potential real-world experience,” Lanza said. “It means so much to see that our hard work was recognized.”

A list of all the student winners from the Meek School is available here. For more information on the UM journalism school, visit http://meek.olemiss.edu/.

Journalism Scholarship Helps Launch Careers

Meek School student benefits from award, opportunities

Ed Meek congratulates Lindsly Penny of Hernando, this year's recipient of the Clay and Krista McFerrin Sun-Sentinel Scholarship.

Ed Meek congratulates Lindsly Penny of Hernando, this year’s recipient of the Clay and Krista McFerrin Sun-Sentinel Scholarship.

OXFORD, Miss. – Ed and Becky Meek, namesakes of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi, established the Clay and Krista McFerrin Sun-Sentinel Scholarship to pay tribute to community newspaper editors and help students launch successful journalism careers.

This year’s scholarship recipient, Lindsly Penny of Hernando, says the award has given her a strong start toward that goal.

“All of the money that I was given was put towards my tuition bills and has helped tremendously with furthering my education,” Penny said. “I am very interested in the paths that those before me took to success, and I look forward to learning from the writing and education of writers like Dr. Meek and other such journalists.”

In addition to writing, Penny’s passions include reading and theater. In high school, she was active in the National Honor Society, National Thespian Honor Society and National Spanish Honor Society. She also served on the Hernando Mayor’s Youth Council and was selected as a Commercial Appeal academic all-star.

A scholar in the university’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College majoring in integrated marketing communications, Penny plans to pursue a career as a manager of social media accounts or as a public relations professional after her 2019 graduation. She is active in Phi Mu sorority, participates in Reformed University Fellowship and plans to serve as an Ole Miss orientation leader this summer.

Penny has great appreciation for fellow professionals in the field of journalism and said she’s grateful to be the scholarship’s recipient as she learns the trade and sculpts her own career.

Likewise, Meek has a great respect for journalists, which inspired him to create the scholarship and speaks to his own beginnings.

“I always wanted to be a weekly newspaper editor and have a great appreciation for those who serve in this role,” said Meek, who named the scholarship for his longtime friends, the McFerrins, who publish the Sun-Sentinel in Charleston. “I am particularly proud of Clay and Krista who work very hard, love our community and provide great leadership to the community we all love.”

Meek, who refers to the Sun-Sentinel as the best small-town weekly he knows, joined the paper in the seventh grade in 1953 when it was known as the Mississippi Sun. With only a few others on staff, he was a “printer’s devil,” he recalled, doing anything and everything for the paper as requested by his superiors.

During his junior year in high school, after the senior publisher had fallen ill, Meek stepped up to help run the paper. While attending East Tallahatchie High School, he worked every afternoon until 11 p.m. on Wednesdays when they put the paper to press, Saturdays and full-time in the summer before resigning to continue his journalism career at Ole Miss. In college, Meek worked for the weekly campus newspaper, the predecessor to The Daily Mississippian.

“My years at the newspaper gave me much more,” Meek said. “It gave me a career in journalism, which has blessed our family throughout our lives.”

At Ole Miss, while contributing to several publications as a freelance writer, Meek worked alongside the late Larry Speakes, who eventually became a White House press spokesman for President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1987. Meek next took on a full-time position as an employee of the university’s public relations department while completing his graduate degree.

Two years later, at age 24, he became UM’s youngest-ever department head and helped shape the university’s image for 37 years as an assistant vice chancellor for public relations and marketing and associate professor of journalism. He later started a successful publishing business.

Thanks to a $5.3 million gift from Meek and his wife, Becky, in 2009, the university’s journalism department became the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, which boasts one of the fastest-growing enrollments on campus. Degree programs – the Bachelor of Arts, the Master of Arts and the newly offered Bachelor of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications (with 38.6 percent growth this year alone) – give students an opportunity to understand the changing role of journalism from many perspectives while developing the multimedia and intellectual skills necessary to succeed in the media industry.

Oxford Conference for the Book Brings Variety of Authors to UM

Poets, journalists, scholars and readers coming to campus March 2-4 for free event

Ed Larson

Ed Larson

OXFORD, Miss. – Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, as well as first-time novelists, are part of the variety of legendary and debut writers hosted at the Oxford Conference for the Book, set for March 2-4. Poets, journalists, scholars and readers will visit the University of Mississippi for the 23rd conference.

The three-day event, which is free and open to the public, includes readings, panel discussions and lectures.

The conference is a great way for Oxford visitors and locals to explore the town and the university, said James G. Thomas Jr., conference director.

“We try to open doors with this conference, both literally and metaphorically,” said Thomas, associate director of publications at the UM Center for the Study of Southern Culture.

“By that I mean the sessions open up doors for thought and inquiry, and the venues we’re hav­ing them in are places that some Oxford residents, stu­dents, and visitors may not have had the opportunity to explore, such as the Lafayette County courthouse, the Barksdale-Isom House, the UM library’s Faulkner Room and even the University Museum.”

This year’s writers include novelists Rick Bass, Bobbie Ann Mason, Margaret McMullan, Robert Gipe, Taylor Brown and UM Grisham Writer in Residence Kiese Laymon; Mississippi historians Minion K.C. Morrison and Dennis Mitchell; historian and gender studies scholar LaKisha Michelle Simmons; poets Richard Katrovas, Rebecca Morgan Frank, Caki Wilkinson, Jericho Brown, Katie Peterson, Chiyuma Elliott and UM professors Beth Ann Fennelly and Derrick Harriell; histori­an Mark Essig; literary scholar Vereen Bell; and Pulitzer Prizewinners journalist Sheri Fink and historian Edward J. Larson.

Larson, professor of law at Pepperdine University, is the author of nine books, the most recent of which, “The Return of George Washington,” was on The New York Times bestseller list in 2015. He has lectured on all seven continents.

“I love Oxford, I have been for tailgating in the Grove since back when I was on the University of Georgia’s athletic board and the SEC was a 10-team conference,” Larson said. “Oxford has the best catfish anywhere. What I want to do next in Mississippi is to bike the Natchez Trace.”

Margaret McMullan

Margaret McMullan

Wednesday’s and Thursday’s events will take place in the auditorium of the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics, and the conference will begin with a lecture and free luncheon, sponsored by the Friends of the Library, in the Faulkner Room in Archives and Special Collections in the J.D. Williams Library, also on the UM campus. Friday’s panels and readings will take place in the main courtroom of the historic Lafayette County courthouse on the Oxford Square.

Lyn Roberts, general manager at Square Books, calls the conference a celebration of books for everyone.

“The Oxford Conference for the Book has a history and tradition of bringing authors, both debut and established, to Oxford and the University of Mississippi, allowing everyone in the community and anyone who wants to travel the opportunity to hear them read from their works and discuss books,” Roberts said.

Conference panels will explore a wide range of topics, in­cluding Mississippi history; childhood in the South; mem­oir writing; youth, activism, and life in the Mountain South; poetic responses to Langston Hughes; Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Go Set a Watchman”; the Hurricane Katrina crisis; America’s continuing debate over science and religion; and a cultural and culi­nary history of the pig.

“I’m excited to introduce Mark Essig to the OCB audience,” said Sara Camp Milam, who will moderate Friday’s 10:30 a.m. panel, sponsored by the Southern Foodways Alliance. “His work is as engaging as it is educational. ‘Lesser Beasts’ was one of my favorite food studies books of 2015. For students thinking about how to make their academic work accessible to a general audience, I’d recommend attending this session.”

A new event this year is a poetry session paired with an art exhibition by photographer Youngsuk Suh. At 4:30 p.m. Thursday, following the “Poetic Responses to Langston Hughes” session, the University Museum will host a free recep­tion.

“Thacker Mountain Radio” will host a special Oxford Conference for the Book show at 6 p.m. Thursday at Off Square Books, 129 Courthouse Square, featuring conference authors and visiting musicians. The day’s authors will be there to meet conference attendees and sign books. Each afternoon following the sessions, Square Books will host book signings for that day’s authors.

Mark Essig

Mark Essig

The Children’s Book Festival will be held March 4 at the Ford Center for Performing Arts, with more than 1,200 first- and fifth-graders from area schools. Laurie Keller, author of “The Scrambled States of America,” will present at 9 a.m. for first graders, and Holly Goldberg Sloan, author of “Counting by 7s,” will present at 10:30 a.m. for fifth graders. The Lafayette County Literacy Council sponsors the first-grade program and the Junior Auxiliary of Oxford spon­sors the fifth-grade program.

Four special social events are set on the Ole Miss campus and in town. On March 2, the Friends of the J.D. Williams Library will host an opening lunch beginning at 11 a.m. in Archives and Special Collections. The lunch is free, but reservations are appreciated. That evening is the gala opening-night cocktail reception-dinner at 6:30 p.m. in the historic Barksdale-Isom House, 1003 Jefferson Ave. A portion of the $50 ticket proceeds is tax-deductible.

At noon March 4, the Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library will host a poetry talk and lunch with poet Richard Katrovas. Both the lunch and talk are free, but reservations are appreciated.

The Oxford Conference for the Book is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, Square Books, Southern Documentary Project, Southern Foodways Alliance, Living Blues magazine, University Museum, Lafayette County Literacy Council, UM Department of English, J.D. Williams Library, Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics, Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, John and Renée Grisham Visiting Writers Fund, Junior Auxiliary of Oxford, Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library, Southern Literary Trail and the Pulitzer Centennial Campfires Initiative.

The conference is partially funded by the university, a contribution from the R&B Feder Foundation for the Beaux Arts, grants from the Mississippi Humanities Council and promotional support from Visit Oxford.

To see a full schedule of events, visit http://oxfordconferenceforthebook.com/ or contact James G. Thomas Jr. at 662-915-3374 or jgthomas@olemiss.edu.

Berryhill, Gabbert Named Bill and Jean May Mississippi Sun Scholars

Scholarship supports future journalists in honor of longtime friends of Ed and Becky Meek

Ed Meek greets 2015 Bill and Jean May Mississippi Sun scholars HartLee Gabbert (left) and Lyndy Berryhill in front of the UM Meek School of Journalism and New Media. The scholarship honors longtime friends of Ed and Becky Meek.

Ed Meek greets 2015 Bill and Jean May Mississippi Sun scholars HartLee Gabbert (left) and Lyndy Berryhill in front of the UM Meek School of Journalism and New Media. The scholarship honors longtime friends of Ed and Becky Meek.

OXFORD, Miss. – Two University of Mississippi journalism students are benefiting from scholarships established by Ed and Becky Meek of Oxford in honor of Bill and Jean May, former editors and publishers of the Mississippi Sun, now known as the The Charleston-Sun Sentinel.

HartLee Gabbert of Gulfport and Lyndy Berryhill of Brookhaven are the 2015-16 recipients of the Bill and Jean May Mississippi Sun Scholarship awards.

In her first few weeks on the Oxford campus, Gabbert quickly became involved, working as a writer for The Daily Mississippian, and was selected as a member of the Associated Student Body Freshman Council. As a print journalism major, she will utilize her scholarship toward the pursuit of a career within the industry.

“I love the thought of working at a newspaper,” she said. “My short time on staff for The Daily Mississippian has given me so much appreciation for the newspaper industry and opened my eyes to it as a future career. Developing a story and seeking out interviews and other information provides such a rush for me.”

Gabbert graduated from Gulfport High School on the Superintendent’s List with consecutive honor roll awards, having previously served as the president of the Mississippi Youth Legislature Delegates. She also is a recipient of the Rotary Youth Leadership Award.

Berryhill, a junior transfer student from Copiah-Lincoln Community College, is majoring in print journalism with a minor in history. She was a recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award, president of the Centurion History Club and was named the Social Science Student of the Year before transferring to Ole Miss.

Berryhill is also a Luckyday Scholar who hopes to pursue news reporting abroad and ultimately return to Mississippi to work in education.

“My short-term goal is to graduate from Ole Miss with my degree and a lot of reporting experience under my belt,” Berryhill said. “After graduation, I want to be a foreign correspondent.

“When I retire, I will go back to college so I can teach high school journalism and American history in Mississippi. I want to teach students who are growing up in low-income households because I want to be the teacher who tells them what my teachers told me: ‘You can do anything you set your mind to.'”

Ed Meek, whose generous gifts made these scholarships possible, said he is proud to have contributed to furthering the education of these aspiring journalists.

“It is wonderful to see these outstanding young people coming to the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, which is the fastest growing academic program on campus and perhaps in the nation,” Meek said. “Their presence pays tribute to my dear friends, the Mays, who have made significant contributions to Mississippi journalism.”

Thanks to a $5.3 million gift from the Meeks, both Ole Miss alumni, in 2009, the university’s journalism department became the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. The school’s degree programs – the Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts and the new Bachelor of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications – give students an opportunity to understand the changing role of journalism from different perspectives while developing the multimedia and intellectual skills necessary to succeed in the media industry.

Students also have opportunities to immediately apply the skills learned in the classroom by gaining paid experience at the S. Gale Denley Student Media Center, where Meek School students can be published in The Daily Mississippian or The Ole Miss yearbook, gain on-air experience by reporting for NewsWatch or Rebel Radio, or get a glimpse of the business side of journalism by working for the student-run advertising division.

Additionally, students can gain hands-on experience, working for HottyToddy.com and Experience Oxford magazine, each of which the Meeks established to support the journalism school and its students. Last year, the publications hosted 24 interns. HottyToddy.com averages 1.6 million readers and its Facebook site reached a record 2.4 million views during the week of the Ole Miss-Alabama football game.

In 1962, Ed Meek took a job as staff writer in the university’s public relations office. Two years later, at age 24, he became UM’s youngest-ever department head and helped shape the university’s image for 37 years as a former assistant vice chancellor for public relations and marketing and associate professor of journalism. His wife, Becky, earned a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in special education, both from Ole Miss.