Thursday, March 10, 2005

Fielder’s Choice
By Barry Burleson

Ole Miss visit

It was a pleasure Thursday night to sit around a table in the S. Gale Denley Student Media Center at Ole Miss and talk journalism and newspapers.

Lisa McNeece, who runs The Calhoun County Journal along with her husband Joel, invited me to speak to her class which meets once a week. She is teaching the class “on the side” and doing a great job, according to the students. I had to cancel a couple of times earlier due to conflicts but made a special effort to keep the appointment this time around despite yet another conflict.

It was my first visit to the Student Media Center named in honor of Lisa’s father. Gale Denley, who writes a weekly column for The South Reporter, had a profound impact on journalism during his 33 years at Ole Miss. He started in the journalism department at Ole Miss as a student in the 1950s. He is the former head of student media at the college.

The late Stuart Bullion, the journalism chair for many years, had this to say about his good friend Denley, “I think of him as the grand old man of Mississippi journalism.”

First, Lisa took me on a brief tour, and obviously she was filled with pride. It is a facility that the University, the students, the faculty and all journalists can boast about.

It provides the opportunity for interested students to work for “The Daily Mississippian,” the campus newspaper, Rebel Radio and the campus television station, Newswatch 12. Student Media is housed in a new, state-of-the-art facility in Bishop Hall. The Media Center is such a valuable teaching tool. The students were very busy on this Thursday evening – meeting deadlines and such – something that is very familiar to journalists. They’re obviously getting outstanding hands-on experience.

Ole Miss has always featured one of the top journalism programs in the country. The S. Gale Denley Student Media Center only boosts that outstanding reputation.

One person I saw busy at a computer station was an Ole Miss student from Holly Springs — Allen Crain. Members of the class, which I spoke to, included Emery Carrington of Byhalia and Missy Yarbrough (of Dallas, Texas), whose grandfather once owned The South Reporter. Also, Stuart Bullion’s son Braxton was in the class. Emery is serving this year as editor of The Daily Mississippian, which is a very high honor. I picked up the latest copy of one of the top campus newspapers in America. Emery and the dedicated staff are doing a great job.

The class time included a very informal discussion about newspapers. We talked about everything from the most controversial stories I’ve covered over the years to the differences in working at a daily paper versus a weekly. They asked lots of good questions.

Surprisingly, a couple of the seniors were even interested in working at a weekly newspaper, at least to begin their career. Most college students majoring in journalism want to go to the big dailies, and that’s understandable and just fine. Their goals are high ones. But I did relay my story of being from a small town, starting to work for my hometown newspaper while in high school and getting hooked on community journalism.

Going to work at a weekly out of college gives you lots of experience in lots of areas – be it crime news, features, the city hall beat, sports – and if you’re lucky you might even get to help stuff inserts into the newspaper by hand.

My trips to Ole Miss (unless the Rebels beat Alabama in a sporting event) are always special. I appreciate the good work that Samir Husni, chair of the journalism department, and Ralph Braseth, director of student media, are doing. I also appreciate their efforts of reaching out to Mississippi’s newspapers and their involvement in the Mississippi Press Association. I’ve been very fortunate to accompany them often in recent months as they make an effort to visit every single newspaper in the state.

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