UM journalism students enjoy real-world experience

Published 3:24 am Sunday, November 20, 2011

Today’s front page features the first in aseries of stories produced by University of Mississippi students asa special project for The DAILY LEADER.

    The stories, which all focus on the theme of volunteerism, werewritten during a student reporting trip to Lincoln County theweekend of Oct. 28-30. The series will continue through upcomingeditions.

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    The reporting project gave the students a chance to flex theirjournalism skills in the real world while also providing The DAILYLEADER with some extra feature stories and photos.

    “We do on-site projects like this because there is no bettertraining for young students than to be taken away from the comfyconfines of the campus and Oxford and told to interview strangersand write stories for professional editors and local newspapers,”the group’s instructor, Bill Rose, explained.

    “It’s the real thing. It’s real live, working, daily journalism,”Rose continued. “Once they get a taste of the adrenalin rush ofchasing a story, most are hooked. And they better understand theirfuture profession. And they better understand their strengths andweaknesses and what to work on.

    “It’s an off-campus laboratory for them to test their skills andget deadline instruction from professionals.”

    The “reporting trips,” as Rose calls them, are not a class. Thestudents volunteer for the project and do not get automaticclassroom credit; however, some professors may opt to give extracredit for the work.

    Rose began doing the reporting trips at Dean Will Norton’s requestwhen Rose first arrived at Ole Miss in 2009. Rose is a veterannewsman who served as managing editor of the Palm Beach Post inFlorida and previously was a reporter and editor at the MiamiHerald before joining the Ole Miss faculty.

    Despite his many years in Florida, Rose is no stranger to thenuances of small town Mississippi. He is an Ole Miss graduate whoworked for the Delta Democrat Times in Greenville when he was juststarting out.

    Seven students participated in the Brookhaven trip, producing eightstories and one sidebar.

    The group included one Lincoln County resident, NathanielWeathersby, 19, of Brookhaven, who is a sophomore at Ole Miss.Other sophomores on the trip included Alex Edwards, 20, of KansasCity, Mo., and Lauren Loyles, 18, of Tyler, Texas.

    Rounding out the group were freshmen Lena Blietz, 18, of Austin,Texas; Del Mixon, 18, of Houston, Texas; Megan Smith, 18, ofCorinth; and freshman senior exchange student Oksana Demchenko ofMykolaiv, Ukraine.

    Now in his third year of reporting trips, Rose said he never failsto be impressed by the students’ enthusiasm.

    “They want to learn and are willing to work outside the classroomto get there,” he said.

    He took a group to Greenwood the first year and to Marks the secondyear. Besides Brookhaven, Rose plans to take a trip to McComb inJanuary and to Holly Springs in February.

    After the students had filed their Brookhaven stories, DAILY LEADERpublisher Bill Jacobs took them on a tour of the newspaper office,culminating in a Saturday night press run. Seeing their youthfuldelight over the papers coming off the press is the kind of thingthat “gets me fired up for this business all over again,” Rosesaid.

    The Ole Miss instructor also was impressed with the people ofBrookhaven and Lincoln County.

    “To a soul, they were cooperative and friendly and understandingand helpful,” he said.

    “In the three years we have been doing this, I found Brookhaven thefriendliest, most open and helpful place we have traveled to.

    “I also love the light of understanding that goes on in students’eyes when they ‘get’ it,’ when they learn something for the firsttime,” Rose added.

    “Nothing is better than that.”