Thursday, October 27, 2005

Communications Week at Rust College draws distinguished guests

Staff Writer

Rust College’s Mass Communications Week is all about bringing back graduates to the community who have excelled in their fields, said Paul Lampley with the college.

“They are here to tell their success stories,” he said.

Sharon Goodman Hill, instructor of Mass Communications, said those Rust graduates who have done well in the media profession and who have come back to share their successes can relate to Rust’s students.

“They sat where our students sat,” she said.

On hand for the keynote speech was John Johnson a former Rust grad from Hattiesburg, now news director for WTOK-TV in Meridian.

Johnson was in college with current Rust College president David Beckley, according to Lampley.

Johnson earned a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa.

He served as assistant professor in the Humanities Division at Rust, from 1972 until 1981, where he directed the theater guild, taught acting courses, speech classes and humanities seminar.

Johnson said he left Rust “not sure what I was going to do. I was a teacher here and enjoyed the college.”

Today, he is one of two Rust grads who are news directors at television stations in Mississippi. Pam Chatman is news director with ABC Channel 6 television news in Greenwood.

With no reporting experience, Johnson took a post in 1981 as investigative reporter with WLBT-TV in Jackson. He reported for a 30-minute program called “Probe” at WLBT.

The following year Johnson moved to Mobile, Ala., to report for WALA-TV, where he covered city government and federal courts.

In 1985 he was appointed news director at WTOK. He also anchors NewsCenter 11 at 6 p.m.

He attributes a rapid movement to news director to “being in the right place at the right time.”

In recent years Johnson has enjoyed regional exposure as host of Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s (MPB’s) Statewide Live, a weekly program that dealt with political and social issues and concerns of the state legislative bodies. Because of budget cuts the program was not continued this year.

Johnson said he was invited to moderate the program a couple of months after the show went on the air when the original moderator left the show.

“I had done a couple of things for public broadcasting before,” he said.

He now moderates quarterly town meetings for MPB.

Johnson noted changes at Rust over the years.

“I don’t think I could have imagined the kinds of things that are being done at this college,” he said. “This is one of the best in broadcasting in the country because your students spend time as broadcasters.

“I want you to know what a gold mine you have at this college.”

Johnson has served on numerous boards and commissions providing valuable contributions to the citizens of the state.

His wife Pranati is also a Rust graduate. The Johnsons have two daughters.

Department chair Debayo Moyo called Johnson “one of the best in the broadcasting field for his contributions to journalism.”

Other graduates participating in Mass Communications Week included Curressia Brown, a professor at Valley State, William Johnson, media specialist with the University of Memphis, Clinton Lesuer, Sharie Harvin, with WABG Channel 6 in Greenville, and Rep. Kelvin Buck of Holly Springs.

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