Thursday, October 26, 2005
College leaders come to Rust for state conference
By SUE WATSON
About 200 college administrators were in Holly Springs this week to discuss college accreditation issues, with Rust College hosting the 73rd meeting of the Mississippi Association of Colleges.
The Holly Springs community rolled out the welcome mat to the group by providing tours of Walter Place, a presidents’ dinner at Galena Plantation, and daily supplies of coffee, soft drinks and snacks.
Dr. David Beckley, president of Rust College, is serving as chair of the MAC this year. The association was established in 1927.
“I am thankful for having this opportunity to showcase Holly Springs,” Beckley said.
The conference, a first for Holly Springs and Marshall County, featured various guest speakers and workshop sessions.
Barry Burleson, editor and publisher of The South Reporter, was an invited panelist for a session on the media and higher education, Monday.
Other prominent panelists included Mark Ledbetter with WTVA, and Otis Sanford with the Commercial Appeal.
Burleson said newspaper editors strive to build relationships with local colleges by getting to know key administrators, that the media and institutions of higher learning share the common goal of building the community and the state.
Print media depends heavily on information provided by the colleges, he said.
“It’s all about being a key player in the community - the newspaper and the college,” he said. “It’s about trust. It takes a while to build that trust.
“Controversial stories can help build trust. It’s important for media to know who your contacts are in time of crisis.”
Ledbetter echoed Burleson’s remark about building personal contacts.
“We like to have contacts so when something happens, we can call and approach the subject truthfully,” he said. “I learned a long time ago, you have to cover news truthfully.”
Teresa Collier, with Mississippi Public Broadcasting, said MPB provides in-depth coverage of the issues and looks to the colleges to provide expert news analysis and opinions. MPB has a large and educated audience with 58 percent of listeners holding college degrees.
“That’s what our audience wants to hear - in-depth discussions of what is happening around the world and in Mississippi,” she said.
Kevin Richardson, with The Clarion-Ledger, said colleges should be open and honest on the negative publicity.
“The public is left wondering if media does not get information,” he said.
Richardson added that institutions of higher learning are bigger than many companies in the state and an important source of information.
Sanford said the Commercial Appeal is always looking for people who can give expert information on business, the economy, politics, social issues and even racial issues.
“It is important that you visit the newspaper occasionally,” he said. “Smart institutions don’t run away from controversial topics.”
Ledbetter said good news organizations are going to get the story so it is important for higher education to provide the facts when issues arise in education.
Taking questions from the audience, Sanford said job growth at newspapers has slowed with the Commercial Appeal losing about 40 jobs in the newsroom over the last 12 years.
He said colleges should turn out journalists who have good writing skills and interviewing skills as well as technical skills transferrable to the Internet.
“I think newspapers are headed for a multiple platform of information and the Internet is the next growth area,” he said.
Workshop facilitator Anthony Dean, with Jackson State, said media always need content and a person who can write.
“That’s one thing that has not changed,” he said. “A person who can write has the competitive edge.”
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