JRSM News and Events

Dawsey slated to give annual Norm Brewer Lecture March 13

Josh Dawsey

Josh Dawsey

(Feb. 27, 2024) The University of Memphis Journalism and Strategic Media faculty and students are invited to attend the 12th annual Norm Brewer Lecture on March 13 in the Maxine A. Smith University Center Ballroom A (320A) on campus.

Josh Dawsey, who is a political enterprise and investigations reporter for The Washington Post, will give this year’s lecture. Dawsey was part of The Post team that won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for its coverage of the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol.

Before joining The Post staff in 2017, Dawsey covered the White House for Politico.

While covering the White House, Dawsey won the White House Correspondents Association’s Award for Deadline Reporting in back-to-back years, 2018 and 2019.

Dawsey began his career as a reporter with The Wall Street Journal covering New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The event is sponsored by the UofM Department of Journalism and Strategic Media in honor of Memphis journalist Norm Brewer. The evening will begin with a reception at 5:30 p.m. before the lecture at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

- Aaliyah Brown

JRSM students in Nashville

Group photo of students from Gannett’s Tennessee Journalism Academy.

(Jan. 18, 2024) University of Memphis journalism students Stevie Paige and Symone Maxwell join students from nine other Tennessee universities for Gannett’s Tennessee Journalism Academy, held in Nashville Jan. 9-11.

Taylor Ackerman joins permanent JRSM faculty as assistant professor of practice

Taylor Ackerman

Taylor Ackerman

(Oct. 6, 2023) Professor Taylor Ackerman has joined the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media as an assistant professor of practice in the fall 2023 semester as part of the public relations faculty.

 Although the position is new for Ackerman, she is not new to the department. She earned her Master of Arts in Journalism and Strategic Media in the spring of 2021from the University of Memphis, and she previously taught for three years both an adjunct professor and a visiting professor in the JRSM Department.

Prior to joining the JRSM faculty, Ackerman worked as a marketing and public relations manager for Aloha Pools. She earned her BA in the JRSM department in 2016.

 Ackerman said she wanted to continue in the department because of the mentorship she received in being part of the department.

“People are so positive and inviting here,” she said. “Our department is special in the fact that it really does get our students ready for their career. We really do make a difference here.”

Since joining the faculty as assistant professor of practice, Ackerman has pioneered the construction of multiple undergraduate public relations courses, including Intro to Strategic Media, Ethics and Advocacy and Event Planning.

With this award, the department plans to roll out more diversity-oriented programs in the coming academic year, Arant said.

- Abby Dearing

First research colloquium focuses on the media’s connection to vaccine hesitancy

35th annual Freedom of Information Congress

University of Mississippi Assistant Professor

Amanda Bradshaw

(Oct. 2, 2023) University of Mississippi Assistant Professor Amanda Bradshaw kicked off the fall JRSM graduate student colloquium series on Sept. 19 with a presentation on the influence of social media and anti-vaccine documentaries on vaccine hesitancy.

Bradshaw discussed three of her recent academic studies, the first focusing on how anti-vaccine advocates influence questioning pregnant, first-time, and new mothers on Facebook. The second study analyzed the documentary series Vaccines Revealed, and the third explored the effect that the anti-vaccine propaganda video “Vaxxed” had on college students’ opinions on the MMR vaccine.

“A strong need exists to preach to the choir,” Bradshaw said. “Positively reinforcing pro-vaccine decisions, and not taking it for granted that people are just going to vaccinate based on recommendation or the fact that they’ve done it before.” 

Bradshaw is an assistant professor of integrated marketing communications, and her research centers on the impact that social network interactions have on maternal health decision-making.

Much of her research focuses on vaccine hesitancy, which is the inclination to delay or even totally avoid vaccinations for themselves and their children. Vaccine hesitancy has major implications for public health, Bradshaw said.

The JRSM graduate student colloquium series is conducted each semester to connect students with researchers. It continues at 4 p.m. Oct. 11 and Nov. 8.

- Abby Dearing

David Arant joins the JRSM Department’s Diversity Committee in accepting its award on Sept. 20. From left to right are Arant, Chalise Macklin, Taylor Ackerman, Ryan Fisher, Deb Aikat and Otis Sanford.  PHOTO/Casey Hilder

David Arant joins the JRSM Department’s Diversity Committee in

accepting its award on Sept. 20. From left to right are Arant, Chalise Macklin,

Taylor Ackerman, Ryan Fisher, Deb Aikat and Otis Sanford.  PHOTO/Casey Hilder

JRSM Department recognized with national award for its diversity, equity

(Oct. 2, 2023) Journalism and Strategic Media Department Chair David Arant accepted an award with national significance for the department’s efforts promoting diversity and equity during a Sept. 20 ceremony at the UC River Room.

Presenting the award on behalf of the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication was Professor Deb Aikat of the University of North Carolina, president of the association.

"Fifteen years ago, we started the AEJMC Diversity Award. I have lost a lot of friends because it is so competitive, and this year was no different,” Aikat said. “There was an intense competition, and the University of Memphis Department of Journalism and Strategic Media was above everyone else."

The award aims to highlight academic departments making significant strides in diversity and inclusion. Aikat said the department has led initiatives to foster a more inclusive environment and to offer courses and workshops focusing on diverse narratives and voices within journalism.

The ceremony was part of the department’s annual Freedom of Information Congress event sponsored by student chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Association of Black Journalists.

During the award ceremony, Professor Emeritus Otis Sanford discussed the importance of diversity in journalism education.

“Making the Case for Diversity isn’t just a slogan; it’s a mission,” Sanford said.

This is not the JRSM department’s first rodeo in pushing the envelope for diversity, Sanford said. Over the past few years, the department has implemented programs aimed at promoting diversity, from scholarships for underrepresented students to organizing public lectures that address the challenges of an ever-diversifying media landscape.

Also participating in the ceremony that attracted about 70 people was student Redding Jackson, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, who introduced Sanford.

With this award, the department plans to roll out more diversity-oriented programs in the coming academic year, Arant said.

- Kittie Baldwin

Freedom of Information Congress on Thursday to make the case for diversity

35th annual Freedom of Information Congress


(Sept. 19, 2023) Journalism and Strategic Media students and faculty are invited to attend the 35th annual Freedom of Information Congress at 5 p.m. Thursday in the University Center River Room on campus.

Professor Emeritus Otis Sanford, who served 12 years as the JRSM Department Hardin Chair of Excellence before his retirement in the spring, will discuss “Making the Case for Diversity” starting at 5:30 p.m.

The event is sponsored by the U of Memphis Society of Professional Journalists and National Association of Black Journalists chapters.

The event also celebrates the JRSM department for receiving the 2023 Equity and Diversity Award from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.  AEJMC President Deb Aikat from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill will present the Equity and Diversity Award to Department Chair David Arant.

- Abby Dearing

Kena Price

Oakley Weddle provides registration information for ICON in the

lobby of the Meeman Journalism Building.  PHOTO/Kittie Baldwin

JRSM students encouraged to participate in national public relations conference

(Sept. 15, 2023) An” ICONIC” national event is being hosted by the University of Memphis’ Public Relations Student Society of America Chapter on Oct. 13 to 17 at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. 

“This event transcends ordinary conferences,” said Oakley Weddle, conference director for PRSSA. “I have designed an event tailored to today’s strategic communicators. Get ready to elevate your networking, learning, and industry connections.” 

Some of the companies that will be represented at the 2023 ICON Conference include Amazon, Delta, Lyft and The New York Times, Weddle said. The saver registration deadline is Sept. 8. The conference is a great opportunity for any media professional, and it allows students to connect with potential employers. 

The chapter is seeking volunteers to attend at a reduced rate and encourages participants to register before the saver rate ends. The student registration rate is $360 for PRSSA members and $410 for non-members. 

The Graduate Student Organization offers travel funds for events such as ICON, Weddle said. The priority deadline for the funds is also Sept. 8. 

The U of M chapter was chosen to host the event back in January, and the group has been planning since that time. 

More information is available at the U of M PRSSA website. 

- Kittie Baldwin

Department welcomes three students from Mainz, Germany, for fall semester

Mainz Students 2023

Celine Keller, Paula Hütten and Lennard Hirsch are spending the

semester at the University of Memphis. PHOTO/Abby Dearing

(Sept. 15, 2023) The Department of Journalism and Strategic Media welcomed three German students into the program for the fall 2023 semester as part of its longstanding exchange program with the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz.

Lennard Hirsch, 25; Paula Hütten, 22; and Celine Keller, 22; all study communications at their home university. Both Hirsch and Hütten are majoring in film studies while Keller majors in communication science.

While at in the JRSM Department, the exchange students are taking several courses which are more practical than they expected. Both Hirsch and Keller are enrolled in Broadcast Reporting with Professor Chalise Macklin.

“I really, really like that,” Hirsch said. “It’s more practical than I’m used to. It tries to prepare you for your job search, and that’s really new to me. … I really enjoy that.”

Keller also said she is getting plenty of practical experience in her courses.

“It’s also nice because it gives you a lot of work references,” Keller said. “And I’m getting better at speaking in front of the camera.”

Keller said she plans to become a political foreign correspondent and said that her time abroad in the United States will aid her.

“I think that studying abroad is a great way to experience living in another country, trying to adapt to another culture and understand the flow of information in that country,” she said. “You also get to know the people here, but you also get to know how journalism works in the United States.”

Both Hirsch and Hütten said their goal is to get into the film industry post-graduation. Hütten plans to become a camera operator while Hirsch focuses on documentary filmmaking.

-  Abby Dearing

Grad Student Social a success after a three-year hiatus

Grad Social 2023

JRSM graduate students and faculty gather at RP Tracks for

Grad Student Social event on Sept. 6.

(Sept. 15, 2023) JRSM faculty members hosted the annual graduate student social on Sept. 6 at RP Tracks to kick off the fall 2023 semester.

The function brought in 13 attendees, a group comprised of graduate faculty, students and friends of the department. The group gathered for food, drinks and conversation — with attendees meeting in person for the first time, as many students operate exclusively online.

The 2023 social marked the first year of the event’s continuation since its cancelation last year because of a mass shooting and the previous two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was great that we could get together finally for our graduates and faculty to get to know each other,” said JRSM Graduate Director Tom Hrach. “Our goal is to make our students always feel welcome, and we are planning other such events later in the semester.”

-  Abby Dearing

Department welcomes new faculty member with interest in public interest communication

Jasper Fessman

Jasper Fessman

(Aug. 28, 2023) Jasper Fessmann has joined the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media as an assistant professor in the fall 2023 semester as part of the faculty teaching public relations.

Fessmann has a doctorate in Mass Communication from the University of Florida, and he previously taught at West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media. Fessmann primarily conducts research that explores public interest communications. He also explores areas such as international public relations and crisis communications.

Outside of academia, Fessmann has more than 15 years of experience in the field of international public relations, having owned his own public relations firm in his home-country of Germany.

Through his work in public relations, Fessmann gained the opportunity to work with high profile figures including former German First Lady Doris Schröder-Köpf and former Russian President Boris Yeltsin.  

Since joining the university, Fessmann said that he feels excited about his new position in the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media.

“I love Memphis,” Fessmann said. “The food is great, and everybody has been really nice. This is the place I want to be.”

-  Abby Dearing

Kena Price joins the department as administrative associate in July

Kena Price

Kena Price

(Aug. 28, 2023) The Department of Journalism and Strategic Media welcomed Kena Price as the department’s new administrative associate on July 10.

As administrative associate, Price is the key person running the department and assisting with journalism and strategic media students.

Price received her Bachelor of Arts in business administration from the University of Memphis and her Master of Business in Administration from Strayer University. Price also has more than 20 years of combined experience in the areas of accounting, banking, finance and entrepreneurship. Prior to joining the department, she owned and operated a childcare center, in addition to acting as the director of operations at her local church.

Since joining the department, Price said that she is looking forward to helping the department grow, and that she enjoys seeing her fellow faculty members do the same.

“Journalism and Strategic Media is a great department to work for,” she said. “Everyone has been welcoming and helpful.”

Outside of her work at the department, Price enjoys continuing her entrepreneurial work in the areas of event coordinating and interior design. She also enjoys traveling and attending her children’s sports events.

-  Abby Dearing

Department mourns the loss of Administrative Associate Teri Hayslett

Terri Hayslett

Terri Hayslett

(Aug. 28, 2023) The Department of Journalism and Strategic Media is mourning the death of Administrative Associate Teri Hayslett, who died suddenly and unexpectedly at her home on May 6.

Hayslett, 53, served the department in administrative roles for more than 10 years. The loss has left her JRSM colleagues, students and department alumni stunned and in shock. She was eulogized at a memorial service in her honor on May 19 at the Greater Imani Church  in Memphis.

“Teri always had a smile in her voice when she greeted faculty and students,” said JRSM Department Chair David Arant. “After the other staff member relocated to Texas, Teri became the department’s only administrative staff member for many years. Teri and I had to work closely together to get all the tasks done. Given the additional responsibility, we promoted her to administrative associate. We will miss Teri so much. Her contributions to the success of the department will long be remembered.”

At the memorial service, Hayslett was remembered as a colleague and friend who touched the lives of hundreds of students in the department since her hiring in 2012. She was described as the colleague and friend who made the department the loving and welcoming place it has been for the past decade.

Speaking to eulogize Hayslett at the service were JRSM faculty members Jin Yang, Joe Hayden, Otis Sanford, Candy Justice and Tom Hrach. The service was presided over by Pastor Donna Edwards. It was attended also by her family and friends.

“She will be remembered for her kind heart and generosity. Teri’s life was a blessing to all who knew her,” was the common sentiment at the service.

Hayslett was born at Fort Ord in California, and she was described as an Army brat. She attended four different schools before graduating from Osbourne Park High School in Manassas, Va. She accepted Christ at a young age and was baptized at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. She received her B.A. in English from Fisk University in Nashville. Prior to her work in the JRSM department, she worked for 15 years at The Commercial Appeal as a library assistant, copy editor and multimedia editor.

To honor Haylsett, donors have established a fund to create the “Teri Hayslett Student Service Award. The award will annually recognize the JRSM student who provides exemplary service to the JRSM department. The award was approved by the faculty on Aug. 21.

African journalists discuss the perils, limits of a free press at Meeman event

David Waters, assistant director of the U of M’s Institute for Public  Service Reporting discusses issues with press freedom on July 28  at the Meeman Journalism Building to a group of visiting African journalists.  PHOTO/Scott Pickey

David Waters, assistant director of the U of M’s Institute for Public

Service Reporting discusses issues with press freedom on July 28

at the Meeman Journalism Building to a group of visiting African journalists.

PHOTO/Scott Pickey

(Aug. 29, 2023) Journalists from 14 African nations joined the Institute for Public Service Reporting on July 28 to discuss everything from freedom of the press to the perils of reporting news in a dangerous political climate.

The U.S. Department of state brought the group to the Meeman Journalism Building in Memphis as part of an effort to familiarize African journalists to the United States. The contingent started its 10-day American tour in Washington, D.C., came to Memphis and then concluded it in Missoula, Montana.

The group was headed by S. Najlaa Abdus-Samad, media relations officer with the U.S. State Department, who said the goal was to discuss how American journalists report news and learn about how press freedoms are respected in the U.S.A. 

Participating in the panel discussion were Marc Perrusquia, institute director; David Waters, assistant director; Chris Fulton, former intern at the institute, and Otis Sanford, retired JRSM faculty member.

It was an eye-opening discussion as journalists discussed with the panel the difficulties of reporting news in Africa, along with the dangers many journalists face. The journalists came from some of the most populous nations of Africa including Nigeria, Ethiopia and Uganda.

Some of the issues they discussed were mostly foreign to American journalists such as official government censorship, night time raids of newsrooms and fear of being photographed in public.

“Because our Constitution protects freedom of the press, it's hard for us to relate to the threats to life and livelihood African journalists face every day,’’ Waters said.

Department recognizes star students, scholarship winners and Otis Sanford at awards ceremony

Haught JRSM

Professor Matt Haught recognizes Audrey Firrone as the Most

Outstanding Graduate Student. PHOTO/Casey Hilder

(May 1, 2023) The Department of Journalism and Strategic Media honored its top students and awarded more than $25,000 in scholarships at the J+SM Awards ceremony on April 26 at the Hall of Fame building on campus.

The event attracted about 180 students and their family members. Also recognized was Professor Otis Sanford, who was showered with gifts on his retirement from the department after 11 years of service.

The top awards went to the outstanding graduating students. They were:

Audrey Firrone as Outstanding Graduate Student; Catie Grusin as the Dr. Sandra Utt Outstanding Advertising Student; Abby Dearing as the Outstanding Creative Mass Media student; Deja Davis and Andre Lacy as the Otis Sanford Outstanding Journalism Students; Ellia Parrish aș the Outstanding Lambuth Public Relations Student; Luke Smith and Jasmine Dale as the Outstanding Memphis Public Relations Students; and Keli Loveland as the Outstanding Online Public Relations Student.

“It was an honor to be recognized with the best and the brightest in our department,” Firrone said. “Being recognized for our hard work both in and out of the classroom shows that what we are doing is actually important and will help lead to better futures.”

Professor Otis Sanford shows off one of the gifts he received  on the event of his retirement from the department.

Professor Otis Sanford shows off one of the gifts he received

on the event of his retirement from the department.

PHOTO/Casey Hilder

Recognized for their outstanding skills were Emily Winegarden as the Prof. Spielberger Advertising Creative Achievement Award; Catie Grusin as Outstanding Research & Strategy and Outstanding Copywriting; Audrey Firrone as Outstanding Media Designer; Benjamin Naylor as Outstanding Media Photographer; Oakley Weddle as the Outstanding Web Designer.

The Rookies of the Year awards were won by Triniti Holliday as the Outstanding Creative Mass Media Rookie of the Year; Melissa Callejas as the Advertising Rookie of the Year; Redding Jackson as the Journalism Rookie of the Year, Reese Walker as Lambuth Public Relations Rookie of the Year; Serena Whittaker as Memphis Public Relations Rookie of the Year.

Recognized for their leadership skills were Ante Lacy as the Ida B. Wells NABJ Leadership; Oakley Weddle as PRSSA Leadership and Kameron Scott for SPJ Leadership.

Other awards went to Jackson Brown As the Marc Perrusquia Investigative Journalism Award; Deja Davis as Lurene Kelley Video Story Awards; Jackson Gaither Public Relations Textbook Award; Melek Robinson and Stevie Page as Saul Brown Press-Scimitar Awards; Jacob Wilt as Nathan Josel Memorial Award; Rowan Jane Travers as Outstanding Work for earned Media; Luke Smith as the Outstanding Work for Owned Media; Ellia Parrish as the Outstanding Work for Shared Media; Daniel Thomas as Tiger News MVP.

- Ilaria Pisoni

Pro Day connects graduating students with Memphis area professionals

   Erica Shaw, U of M career services specialist, talks with  students at the first J+SM Pro Day event on April 13 in  Meeman Journalism Building. PHOTO/Robby Byrd

Erica Shaw, U of M career services specialist, talks with

students at the first J+SM Pro Day event on April 13 in

Meeman Journalism Building. PHOTO/Robby Byrd

(May 1, 2023) The first J+SM ProDay 2023, which was conducted in the Meeman Journalism Building on April 13, offered graduating students a chance to meet with professionals, connect with prospective mentors and gain access to resources that foster career development.

The day started off with a presentation by Erica Shaw, U of M career cervices specialist. Professionals from different fields also joined the event.  

The advertising professionals who attended were Rebecca Phillips, freelance communication designer; Katie Mars, a partner at Pretty Useful; and Richard Fudge, a senior artist at Baptist Memorial Health Care.

The journalism professionals included John Klyce; reporter for the Memphis Business Journal; Soni Halmon, executive producer at Fox13; Christian Fowler, senior writer and content producer for Bluff City Media; David Royer, digital executive producer for WREG TV; Colin Cody, sports reporter for WREG TV; and Lucas Finton, reporter for the Commercial Appeal.

            In the public relations filed, attending were Beth Wilson, founder and chief PR officer for Wilson PR; Courtney Ellett, owner of Obsidian PR; and Alisha Tillery, public relations director for KQ Communications

In the creative mass media field, attending were Patrick Lantrip, photographer for the Daily Memphian; Vanessa Exernieks, art director for Fox13; Cameron Gray, senior graphic designer for Neon Canvas; and Curt Crocker, creative director for Neon Canvas.

The event had a great turnout with nearly 50 students in attendance for the one-on-one sessions with professionals.

“It’s so important for the department to create opportunities for our students to connect with industry professionals, said Associate Professor Robby Byrd. “ProDay is particularly special because it gives students a chance to network with local pros, but it also gives them the opportunity to get feedback on their resumes and portfolios. My hope is that this becomes an annual event for the entire department.”

- Ilaria Pisoni

Pulitzer Prize winner Cara Owsley discusses importance of visual journalism

(April 17, 2023) The University of Memphis hosted the 11th Annual Norm Brewer First Amendment Lecture on April 6 in the UC Theater featuring Pulitzer Prize winner Cara Owsley, director of photography for the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Cara Owsley speaks at Norm Brewer lecture

Cara Owsley of the Cincinnati Enquirer discusses her Pulitzer

Prize winning multimedia package about the opioid crisis during

the Norm Brewer First Amendment lecture on April 6 at the

UC Theater.   PHOTO/Casey Hilder

For more than 20 years, Owsley has been a photojournalist, whose photos have appeared in publications across the world. She was a member of the Cincinnati Enquirer team that won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting for its coverage of the opioid crisis in Ohio.

Owsley and her team created a compelling package called “Seven Days of Heroin: This is what an epidemic looks like.” The multimedia package focused on the heroin crisis in greater Cincinnati showing how the addiction destroyed families and communities. 

Owsley’s reporting for the series included a profile of Stephanie, a woman struggling with heroin addiction.

“One of the saddest moments of my career is before (Seven Days of Heroin was published), Stephanie overdosed and died,” Owsley said.

During her lecture, Owsley focused on the importance of multimedia storytelling. Visual media is an essential act of making a point through images. Images enhance the reading experience by giving words life and assisting the reader in understanding the plot.

“Cara’s talk hits right at what our students need to learn: multimedia skills. News industries are changing every day because of multimedia. It’s exciting, and she got me excited about so many new ideas and opportunities,” Professor Matt Haught said. 

About 60 faculty, students and guests attended the event. The Brewer lecture series was launched 11 years ago by Professor Otis Sanford to recognize Norm Brewer, a Memphis journalist and television commentator.

- Ilaria Pisoni

Department to honor student achievement, scholarships at JRSM awards event on April 26

(April 7, 2023) The Department of Journalism and Strategic awards ceremony, which recognizes student achievement and scholarships is set for 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 26 at the Penny Hardaway Hall of Fame building on campus.


No tickets are required to attend this free event, but students and their family members planning to attend are encouraged to RSVP. Hors d’oeuvres and beverages will be offered.

The awards are divided into four categories: Excellence in Advertising Awards, Excellence in Creative Mass Media Awards, Excellence in Journalism Awards, and Excellence in Public Relations Awards.

The Excellence in Advertising Awards include awards for the Professor Ron Spielberger Advertising Creative Achievement, Outstanding Research & Strategy, and Outstanding Copywriting.

The Excellence in Creative Mass Media Awards are for Outstanding Media Designer, Outstanding Media Photographer, and Outstanding Web Designer.

The Excellence in Journalism Awards include the Elinor Kelley Grusin Excellence in Writing, the Marc Perrusquia Investigative Journalism, and the Lurene Kelley Video Story.

The Excellence in Public Relations Awards include Outstanding Work for Earned Media, Outstanding Work for Shared Media, and Outstanding Work for Owned Media.

To RSVP for this event click here.

- Ilaria Pisoni

Professor Otis Sanford, retiring this semester, reflects on his 12 years in JRSM Department

Prof. Otis Sanford

Prof. Otis Sanford

 (April 4, 2023) After 12 years as the Chair of Excellence in the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media, Professor Otis Sanford will retire from the University of Memphis at the end of the spring 2023 semester.

Reflecting on his time with the department, Sanford said his focus was always on teaching students about the importance of journalism. 

“To me, it’s all about the students,” Sanford said. “That’s the thing I think I cherish most about the job.” 

One memory stands out. There was one student Sanford remembered being a bright young man who needed mentoring and direction. He took a few classes with Sanford throughout his time in the department. When that student got to graduation, he came to Sanford’s office a few days before the ceremony to tell him that he really appreciated the impact that Sanford had on him. 

Sanford also had an impact on the broader university community. Throughout his time on campus, he established the annual Norm Brewer Lecture Series and organized many other speakers and panels for UofM students and the greater Memphis community. 

Through regular newspaper columns and TV and radio appearances, Sanford also connected the greater community to Memphis' history and politics. In 2017, he wrote the book, “From Boss Crump to King Willie: How Race Changed Memphis Politics.”

JRSM Department Chair David Arant said that for several years before he hired Sanford as chair in 2010 the chair of excellence position was a one-year visiting professor position that had limited impact on the department. With Sanford, Arant reestablished the chair of excellence as a long-term position with the expectation that the chair would make a greater contribution to the university and the Memphis community. 

Before Sanford joined the department, Arant knew Sanford well after working extensively together on The Teen Appeal, the citywide, high school newspaper partnership of the department and The Commercial Appeal. 

Upon joining the department, Arant assigned Sanford the critical role of teaching the required Introduction to Media class, which serves as a major recruitment tool for the department.

 “I wanted to offer the students a welcoming front door into the department so I continued to assign Sanford to teach the class,” Arant said. 

With his rich and deep knowledge of journalism and his experience and connections in the field, Sanford offered his students an inside look into the media professions. 

Arant said that it’s difficult finding someone to fill the many roles that Sanford plays in the department.

Sanford’s one parting message to students is that there is still a future in journalism — however you choose to describe it. 

“You have to have passion in order to be successful in this job,” Sanford said. “You have to want to do it, and you have to want to constantly get better every day.” 

Sanford said he was not the same journalist he was in 1975. He is a better journalist today because he was able to learn along the way. 

“It’s all about learning and growing, taking risks, accepting challenges, and being singularly committed to doing the best job that you can do as a journalist,” Sanford said.

Sanford has more than 40 years of experience in the journalism field. Since earning his journalism degree from the University of Mississippi in 1975, Sanford worked at The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi), The Commercial Appeal, The Pittsburg Press, The Detroit Free Press, back to The Commercial Appeal, and finally the University of Memphis.

- Haley Hale

JRSM grad students, faculty present research at Southeast Colloquium in Murfreesboro

(Mar. 24, 2023) Five graduate students and three faculty members participated in the 2023 Southeast Colloquium of the AEJMC research conference on March 2 to 4 at the campus of Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.

Israel Henry presents research

JRSM grad student, Israel Henry, presents his research at

the Southeast Colloquium. PHOTO/Matt Haught

The conference brought together students and academics from many parts of the country to present research and share ideas on journalism and strategic media education. A student at the event was JRSM grad student Oakley Weddle, who presented a research paper and three research-in-progress abstracts.

Weddle presented a research-in-progress titled “Eliza Fletcher: The Media Framing of a Fatal Abduction in Memphis, Tennessee” to the Newspaper and Online News Division. He also presented “My ED Story: The Narrative of Bulimia Nervosa in YouTube Videos by Male Content” to the Community Journalism Division. He presented “The Simplification of Brand Logo Design and Typography from 2012 to 2022” as a research-in-progress to the Visual Communication Division and presented “#freepervispayne: How Social Media Discourse Affected a Capital Punishment Case in Tennessee” in the Open Division.

Chalise presenting research

Dr. Chalise Macklin presents her research at the 2023 AEJMC

Southeast Colloquium. PHOTO/Tom Hrach

Other graduate students who participated were Audrey Firrone, Israel Henry, Ilaria Pisoni, and Mikhelle Taylor. 

Firrone presented “Visualizing Diplomacy: A Content Analysis of Visuals from Official State Twitter Accounts” to the Visual Communication Division. Taylor presented “When Realities Collide: Mixed Reality Freedom of Speech versus Public Property Rights” to the Media Law Division. Henry presented “Monkey See. Monkey Do: A Content Analysis of Media Framing of 2022 Monkeypox Virus Outbreak” to the LGBTQ Division. Pisoni presented “Social Media Influencers and the Luxury Fashion Industry: Communication Through Influencer Marketing” to the Open Division.

Assistant Professor Chalise Macklin presented “A Theoretical Thematic Analysis Aimed at Improving Media Messages Through Gatekeeping and Muted Group Theory” to the Newspaper and Online News Division. Professors Matt Haught and Tom Hrach served as moderators and discussants.

- Tom Hrach


JRSM online master’s degree ranked 4th in the nation by national website

(Mar. 24, 2023) The Department of Journalism and Strategic Media, which launched the country’s first online journalism and mass communication master’s degree in 1995, was ranked fourth in the nation for its online master’s degree by the website, onlinemastersdegrees.org.

The 2023 rankings were announced in January. The website is a resource for graduate students seeking online degrees. It examines factors such as tuition affordability, online component availability, student/faculty ratio, and the accessibility of student and career support services. 

“I am pleased that our master’s program is being recognized,” said Tom Hrach, JRSM graduate director. “We were the first school to offer an online master’s program more than two decades ago, and we have continued to tailor our program to people who are outside of Memphis or unable to come to campus,” 

Rankings can be useful during the college search process as students and parents may also look at national and regional college ratings to determine how schools stack up against one another – and why some are rated more highly than other institutions.

Moreover, the right master’s degree can help everyone, regardless of their age, achieve higher career and salary goals, Hrach said. Being able to do an online master’s can make the whole process easier, as students can reach their goals from anywhere, anytime. 

“Teaching in our graduate program is one of the most fulfilling parts of my job because I get to help students push their boundaries to think in critical, big-picture ways,” said Matt Haught, JRSM assistant chair. “The fact that we can do that kind of learning in an online setting creates options and access for our community.”

- Ilaria Pisoni

New reporting course focuses on social justice, civil wrongs in Memphis and Mid-South

Laura Faith Kebede Civil Wrongs

Laura Faith Kebede teaches Social Justice Reporting in

the Meeman Journalism Building this spring semester.

PHOTO/Tom Hrach

 (Mar. 23, 2023) Laura Faith Kebede of the Memphis Institute for Public Service Reporting is teaching JOUR 4185, a new course on social justice reporting focused on researching past cases of racial terrors and connecting them to present-day injustices.

This spring the course is taking a deep dive into the Memphis Massacre of 1866.

“It’s such a forgotten piece of history that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, especially considering the historical significance of it,” Kebede said.

The Memphis Massacre of 1866 was one of the incidents that pushed the nation toward the passing of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Kebede said the goal of the course was to highlight the painful history of America and to discuss why such stories matter today.

Kebede said that the students have been incredibly engaged in the class this semester. She has 13 registered students in the course, which meets every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon.

“I think the biggest takeaway that I’ve had is that they’re curious and eager to learn about history that has been denied to them in their own education,” Kebede said. “Especially in the first week or so. I think there was so much shock that they have never heard about this — especially those who were from Memphis or from near Memphis.”

That has been a recurring theme throughout this semester — why have we never heard of these cases that are significant events both locally and federally?

By the end of the semester, Kebede said that her class will publish a podcast. The first season of the Civil Wrongs podcast was published in the fall by the Institute for Public Service Reporting.

The course also has students from outside the department. In the future, she said she hoped to open it up to students from other disciplines. With the way the course is set up, there are ways to bring together multiple majors such as journalism, history, sociology, and political science.  

- Haley Hale

Professor Jin Yang’s research shows changing racial attitudes in Japan

(Mar. 17, 2023) JRSM Professor Jin Yang is back on campus after spending the fall 2022 semester on a professional development assignment, where she spent two months in Japan conducting a research project about racial attitudes.

Dr. Jin Yang

Dr. Jin Yang

Yang presented her research paper “Can Osaka Naomi Represent Japan? An Exploration of Values in Japanese College Students’ Attitudes towards Interracial Relationships” to the faculty and graduate students on March 1. The conclusions from her research showed that Japan is changing and moving to a more tolerant and diverse society compared to 50 years ago.

Using quantitative methods, Yang spent 25 days on the J. F. Oberlin University campus conducting in-person surveys of Japanese young people. The campus is a private, liberal arts university in Tokyo.

The project used tennis star Naomi Osaka’s lighting of the torch for the 2020 Olympic games, which were held in 2021, as a guidepost for measuring interracial relationships. Osaka is half-Japanese and half-Haitian. She was also born in Japan but spent the majority of her life being raised in the United States.

Overall, Yang found that most people viewed Osaka positively. More than half of respondents said that they would engage in an interracial relationship, and one-third would not engage in one but approve of others doing so. 

Yang said that her research shows that Japan is changing economically, socially, and culturally. Young people in the country are no longer fitting into the old picture of the Japanese attitude toward interracial relationships. More young people believe in universalism and self-direction. Yang also found women to be a strong contributing factor to the changes in attitudes. She found that women are a major force in pushing for Japan’s blending. 

- Haley Hale

JRSM students well represented at Tennessee Press Association annual convention

JRSM students at TN Press Association 2023

U of M journalism students Rebecca Garland and Justin  Braden (front)

and Kameron Scott (back) attend the 2023 Tennessee Press Association

winter conference in Nashville on Feb. 23. PHOTO/Tom Hrach

(Mar. 17, 2023) Five U of M journalism department students participated in the Feb. 23 Tennessee Press Association winter conference in Nashville, an event that featured newspaper journalists and students from around the state.

Students at the event were Rebecca Garland, Kameron Scott, Justin Braden, Sheronda Braxton and Giovanna Rodriguez. Also representing the U of M were Journalism and Strategic Media faculty members David Arant, Tom Hrach and Otis Sanford.

The annual conference at the Holiday Inn hotel in downtown Nashville was conducted in person this year for the first time since 2020. Speakers at the event were Allison Gerber, editor of the Chattanooga Free Press; Mark Humphrey, photojournalist; and Amanda Little, founder of media platform for teenagers. 

The conference also brought Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Tennessee Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally as the post-lunch speakers. The two leaders answered questions from students and journalists about school funding and support for higher education.

The students were sponsored by the Tennessee Press Association Foundation, which is dedicated to helping students connect with newspaper media professionals. The association represents newspapers from across the state and lobbies on behalf of the newspaper industry.

- Tom Hrach

JRSM alum, Tiger athlete gets premier spot on Memphis sports talk radio

(Feb. 28, 2023) Gabe Kuhn, University of Memphis JRSM department alum and former Tiger football player, has started a new role at 92.9 FM ESPN Sports Radio in one of the premier spots for drive-time sports talk radio in Memphis.

Gabe Kuhn

Former Tiger football player and JRSM alum Gabe Kuhn,

offers his insights on sports on his 92.9 FM ESPN Sports

Radio show. PHOTO/Gabe Kuhn

Started on Feb. 6, “The Gabe Kuhn Show” airs from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday. Kuhn replaced long-time host Gary Parrish, also a JRSM alum.

Kuhn graduated with a degree in journalism in 2016. He played football for the Tigers from 2014 to 2017 as an offensive lineman.

Journalism runs in Kuhn’s family — his father and brother were both journalism majors. When he got to campus, he knew journalism was something that he wanted to do. The general area of broadcast was always something that Kuhn was interested in, so radio came naturally to him.

Immediately after graduation, Kuhn didn’t enter into the journalism world. He continued with football playing in a rookie minicamp with the New Orleans Saints and ended up with the Memphis Express of the Alliance of American Football. After he was released from the Express in 2019, he joined WHBQ Sports56 in Memphis as an intern.

After about three weeks of his internship with Sports56, he landed a full-time position as a producer. He spent two and a half years as a producer before becoming a host of an afternoon show. He worked as a host for Sport56 until he was hired at his current position on 92.9 ESPN.  

“I’m not trying to replicate his style,” Kuhn said when asked about the station’s switch from Parrish to himself. “I’m going to do my brand of radio.”

One of the advantages Kuhn brings to his new position is being not too far removed from the locker room. He does not just want to talk about sports. He wants to show the inside world of sports through interviews with coaches and players.

Brad Carson, station manager of 92.9, said Kuhn has found his voice in just a few weeks on the air.

“If there were expectations, I think he’s knocked it out of the park,” Carson said. “If you’ve heard him on the air, he sounds great.”

Carson said Kuhn relies on the things he is good at. He cited several examples of former athletes and coaches whom Kuhn has had on his show, including Joey Magnifico, a former tight end with the Tigers.

To keep up with Kuhn, you can follow him on Instagram and Twitter (@g_kuhn71).

- Haley Hale

Two JRSM grad students named to Memphis Flyer’s list of top upcoming citizens under 30

(Feb. 27, 2023) Two JRSM graduate students were named to the Memphis Flyer’s “20 under 30 list,” which recognizes young people making a positive difference in the city of Memphis.

Oakley Weddle

Kirsten Desidero

Oakley Weddle

Kirsten Desidero   

This year’s list came out in the magazine on Jan. 25. It recognized Oakley Weddle and Kirsten Desiderio as two “outstanding young people who are doing their best to make the Bluff City a better place.” The list is a review of people who likely will shape Memphis in the future.

Desiderio was described as a full-time marketing coordinator for a commercial real estate company while pursuing integrated strategic media as part of her MA in Journalism and Strategic Media.

“It kind of encompasses journalism, public relations, marketing, advertising — all of the things that I like in one very long name,” Desiderio told the Flyer. 

Desiderio also serves as vice president of communications for the U of M Graduate Student Association.

Weddle was described as a young man who started his own public relations firm and working full-time as a marketing manager for an IT firm.

“I majored in public relations as an undergrad, and I’m getting my master’s right now in journalism and strategic media. So I’m all about communications,” Weddle told the Flyer. “I think it’s incredibly important.”

U of M reporting institute hires grad student intern for spring 2023

(Feb. 27, 2023) The Institute for Public Service Reporting at the University of Memphis recently hired Jake Lankford as its new student intern for the spring semester.

 Lankford is an alum of the university, and he is starting his first semester of graduate school in the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media.

Jake Langford

Jake Langford

Lankford first heard about the work that the institute does after reading about the Civil Wrongs series put together by the institute. After some research into the organization, he wanted to support the effort and be a part of it.

Before joining the institute, Lankford also wrote for DH.com, where he mostly covered event stories. He’s still with DH.com in addition to being a show host for The ROAR, the U of M’s radio station. To read some of his stories, click here.

“I’m mostly looking forward to just being able to really feel like working in a real professional newsroom,” Lankford said. “Learn this new beat, learn this whole new style of journalism and really just take my time at the Institute and use it to go on to bigger and better things.”  

The institute was created in 2018, and its office is in 316 Meeman. While housed in the same building as the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media, the institute functions as an independent entity. In addition to getting real-life experiences, institute interns are also compensated for their work.

To keep up with all the stories coming from the Institute visit its website and sign up for its email newsletter.

- Haley Hale

The ROAR streaming radio moves to new home in Meeman Journalism building

Star Lewis ROAR show

Journalism student Star Lewis broadcasts from the new studios of

The ROAR streaming radio service on a Thursday afternoon.

PHOTO/Tom Hrach

(Feb. 21, 2023) The University of Memphis’ streaming radio station, The ROAR, has moved its location to the first floor of the Meeman Journalism building from its former home in the basement of the Theater building.

The station currently has about 16 or 17 shows running and about 30 students participating and providing content for listeners 24 hours a day every day of the week. The new studios are in 113 Meeman.

TK King, assistant professor of practice and faculty advisor for The ROAR, said she is pleased ROAR made the move.

“I think it’s just a really, really good idea to have all of us — all of the media outlets — in-house,” King said.

King said being in the journalism building is a win for the department faculty and students because of increased visibility.

Many students that King advises at The ROAR have taken her Intro to Radio course, so they are already familiar with the station’s equipment and how it works. King is always there to train students who wish to join.

Students working for The ROAR have a lot of freedom in the content that they produce. Most of the students do a one-hour show, and some students have 30-minute shows as a way to help them dip their toes in the water.

In addition to running 24/7 online, The ROAR also has a partnership with WYXR 91.7 FM. This partnership gives students a chance to get experience with a broadcast radio station.

Students interested in joining The ROAR can contact TK King at tsking@memphis.edu or fill out an interest form online.

- Haley Hale

Three new exchange students from Germany in JRSM department for spring

(Feb. 21, 2023) Three students from Germany have joined the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media for the spring 2023 semester as part of its exchange program with Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz.

Mainz students Spring 2023

Greta Hüllman (left), Daniel Thoma and Hannah Bitzer enjoy the

 UofM campus as exchange students from Germany.

 PHOTO/Tom Hrach

The three students are Hannah Bitzer, 23; Greta Hüllman, 25; and Daniel Thoma, 23. All three are enrolled in journalism and strategic media courses such as TV news producing and multimedia storytelling, which they said will help them achieve their career goals. 

“The journalism classes I have are really interesting,” Bitzer said. “You work very practical here, and we learn a lot about journalism in the US compared to Germany. Some topics are quite difficult because we didn’t really talk about them at our home university, but then it’s even more useful to learn it.”

Students often are interested in a university experience that is globally focused so they can learn and be exposed to different cultures. Therefore, universities are investing more in global engagement to stay competitive.

The journalism department has a regular exchange program with the university in Mainz, Germany, which is named after Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the movable type printing press. The department is again planning to send UofM students to Mainz in May as part of the exchange program.

Exchange programs open doors for participants to learn, grow and collaborate with others to find solutions to common issues and assure a bright future. Future leaders who innately recognize the importance of international cooperation, understanding, and empathy are produced by exchange programs.

That is true for the three students from Germany this spring semester.

“Learning how to adapt to new surroundings, getting in contact with many people and practicing my English will also help me later when looking for a job in TV journalism” Bitzer said.

Fun fact about Mainz: every February the city celebrates “Fastnacht," a special carnival where people dress up and there are different celebrations all over the city. 

- Ilaria Pisoni

U of M’s public relations student group awarded bid to host international conference

(Feb. 21, 2023) The University of Memphis Public Relations Student Society of America chapter has won its bid to host PRSA’s 2023 International Conference, which will take place in Nashville on Oct. 15 to 17.

Icon 2023 Logo

The conference will take place at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. It will be a great networking opportunity for students as hundreds of public relations professionals will be there to share insights and help the students develop their careers.

“As one of the most involved and fastest-growing student organizations on our campus, I have full confidence that UofM PRSSA will exceed the expectations that come with putting on such a prestigious event,” said U of M President Bill Hardgrave in a statement.

Four U of M graduate and undergraduate students studying strategic media are going to be responsible for planning this once-in-a-lifetime event — Oakley Weddle, conference coordinator; Angel Williams-Federick, program director; Kirsten Desiderio, logistics director; and Taylor Ann Carpenter, communication director.

The 2022 conference was hosted by Texas Christian University in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Weddle and his team spent hours working on the 40-page proposal that eventually won them the bid. Since the minute they heard they secured the bid, Weddle said they hit the ground running. Some of the steps they have taken include getting sponsorships, planning programming, working and meeting with the national PRSSA conference team, and talking through the logistics.

“It’s intense, but it’ll be an incredibly rewarding process,” Weddle said.

When he met with Professor Kim Marks-Malone, the U of M PRSSA advisor, last spring, they made it one of their goals to build the chapter big enough the host the international conference.

“As the president, I’m extremely proud of the whole team,” Weddle said. “This is one of, if not the biggest, achievements a PRSSA chapter can accomplish, and I’m honored to be a part of that legacy.”

- Haley Hale

Panel examines media coverage, policing issues in Tyre Nichols tragedy

(Feb. 15, 2023) A panel discussion sponsored by Professor Otis Sanford and the JRSM Department examined the news coverage issues surrounding the beating death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis and featured four prominent area journalists along with a former Memphis police chief.

More than 100 students and faculty members attended “Covering the Nichols Tragedy: A Real-time and Historical Perspective” Feb. 9 in the Meeman Journalism Building.

JRSM Tyre Nichols panel

Professor Otis Sanford introduces JRSM chair David Arant at the start of a

Feb. 8 panel discussion on the Tyre Nichols tragedy. PHOTO/Casey Hilder

Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, was beaten by Memphis police officers on Jan. 7 and later died from his injuries. The death and subsequent Jan. 27 video release of the beating attracted nationwide attention to Memphis and the issue of police brutality. 

The panelists were reporters Julia Baker of the Daily Memphian, Rebecca Butcher of ABC Local 24 and Lucas Finton of The Commercial Appeal. Also participating were Jerome Wright, former police reporter for The Commercial Appeal, as well as Toney Armstrong, former Memphis police director.

The discussion centered on how the local news media reports police brutality. Panelists offered advice on how the local media can continue to report on the Nichols tragedy. Armstrong even offered advice to future journalists reporting on news stories with high emotional impact involving police.

“Tell the truth. Don’t sensationalize. Don’t add to it. Don’t take away from it. Don’t 

put a slant on it,” Armstrong said. “I don’t care as long as you tell the truth. I don’t care if it is a negative story. I don’t care if it puts me in a bad light, as long as you tell the truth. We are at a point now where that’s the issue – who’s telling the truth, and who’s not telling the truth. So just as people want to have confidence in their police department, they want to have the same level of confidence in you too.”

Info session on JRSM study abroad to Mainz set for Tuesday

Mainz in May 2023(Feb. 3, 2023) Department of Journalism and Strategic Media students who want to study abroad in May at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, should join Dr. Matt Haught for an information session about the trip at 4 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 7, in Meeman 108. 

Haught will teach the course “Science Journalism” in Mainz May 5-26. Six spots have been allocated for UofM students to participate in the course, which also will involve students from the university in Mainz. 

The three-week program includes a weekend trip to Amsterdam. The deadline for students to apply for the program is March 1.  

“We’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of the program this trip, so students will get to see a bit more of the history of the program on this trip,” Haught said. “We’re planning a special celebration with our partners at JGU and with ZDF television.”

Studying abroad allows students to experience valuable new cultures and extend their worldview. 

More information is available on the University's Study Abroad in Mainz website.

- Ilaria Pisoni

JRSM grad student named Student Communicator of the Year by Memphis public relations society

(Jan. 24, 2023) Denzel Alexander, a JRSM alum and current graduate student at the University of Memphis, has been named the 2022 Student Communicator of the Year by the Memphis chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

Denzel Alexander

Denzel Alexander

In addition to pursuing his graduate degree, Alexander is a social media manager at KQ Communications. He’s also a content creator and photographer with a strong social media presence in the city of Memphis. His work as a digital creator has led to partnerships with Bonvoy Marriot, the NCAA and Target.

“Winning the Student Communicator of the Year award is such an honor, and confirmation that I’m on the right path in my career,” Alexander said. “I am excited to accept this award as both a PR professional and a proud student of the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media.”

This isn’t the first honor that Alexander has received. In April 2022 he received the Creative Achievement Award from the U of M Graduate School at the President’s Honors Assembly and Leadership Awards. 

In addition, Memphis PRSA has named James R. Downing, the president and CEO of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, as the 2022 PRSA Memphis’s Communicator of the Year. Downing and Alexander will receive their awards at the monthly PRSA luncheon at 11 a.m., Feb. 2, at the University Club, 1346 Central Ave.

Tickets are available for the luncheon. Non-PRSA members can register for $25 and students for $15. Registration is available here.  

- Haley Hale

Five JRSM grad students to present research at academic conference in March


(Jan. 23, 2023) Five graduate students from the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media had their research paper accepted for the 48th annual AEJMC Southeast Colloquium, which is scheduled for March 2 to 4 at Middle Tennessee State University.

Audrey Firrone, Israel Henry, Ilaria Pisoni, Oakley Weddle, and Mikhelle Taylor will head to Murfreesboro to present their work. 

“This is my first research conference, and it’s given me the confidence I needed to not only present in Murfreesboro, but also to continue my research,” Weddle said. 

The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conducts the Southeast Colloquium every year in the spring as one of the premier regional conferences focusing on journalism research.

Firrone will present her research-in-progress paper titled “Visual Media and Visualizing Diplomacy: A Content Analysis of Visuals From Official State Twitter Accounts” which was accepted to the Visual Communication group. 

Henry’s paper “Monkey See. monkey Do: A content analysis of media coverage of 2022 Monkeypox Virus Outbreak” was accepted into the LGBTQ division. 

Weddle had one full paper and two research-in-progress papers accepted. The full paper titled “#freepervispayne: How Social Media Discourse Affected a Capital Punishment Case in Tennessee” was accepted in the open division. The first research-in-progress paper titled “Eliza Fletcher: The Media Framing of a Fatal Abduction in Memphis, Tennessee” was accepted into the online news division, whereas “The Simplification of Brand Logo Design and Typography from 2012 to 2022” was accepted into the visual communication division.  

Pisoni’s paper “Social Media Influencers and the Luxury Fashion Industry: Communication Through Influencer Marketing” was admitted into the open division. 

Taylor had a full paper titled “When Realities Collide: Mixed Reality Freedom of Speech versus Public Property Rights" accepted for presentation in the law division. 
“We’re doing valuable research for the field and to have the biggest association recognize that is a lovely beginning to the semester and for most of us, our research careers” Weddle said. 

- Ilaria Pisoni

Department offering more than $40,000 in scholarships; Feb. 1 is deadline to apply

Tiger Scholarship Manager logo

(Dec. 15, 2022) The Department of Journalism and Strategic Media is offering more than $40,000 in scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students in the department majoring in advertising, public relations, and journalism.

The key to accessing these scholarships is for students to apply through the Tiger Scholarship Manager by the Feb.1 deadline.

Once students complete the general application at Tiger Scholarship Manager, they will be automatically matched with all the scholarship opportunities for which they are qualified. Department scholarships will be awarded at the JRSM student awards program in April.

Most of the scholarships will require students to write a personal statement that tells the selection committee why the student is applying for the scholarship. The chances of receiving a scholarship are greatly improved when a student includes a well-written statement. Additionally, some scholarships will ask students to upload a current resume and a link to a media portfolio as part of the application. 

To apply, students should access the Tiger Scholarship Manager.

Journalism alumni event filled with star power, outstanding graduates

(Dec. 14, 2022) UofM’s Journalism and Strategic Media Alumni Club honored 10 alumni, an advertising student and a journalism faculty member at its 2022 Outstanding Alumni Awards banquet on Nov. 17 at the Penny Hardaway Hall of Fame.

Alumni Awards Dinner 2022

Catherine Grusin receives the Emerging Media Professional award from David

Arant, department chair; and Joe Birch, WMC Action News 5 anchor; along with

Jerome Wright, journalism alumni president, on Nov. 17 at the alumni awards

ceremony at the Hardaway Hall of Fame building. PHOTO/Jeremy Jackson

Because the banquet was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year recognized honorees chosen in 2021 as well as 2022. The event attracted about 100 people, who also enjoyed a social hour before the banquet.

WMC Action News 5 anchor Joe Birch was emcee for the awards ceremony. Alumnus Jerome Wright, president of the JRSM Alumni Club, hosted the event.

The 2021 honorees were Young Alumni recipients Ryan Poe and Melissa Hass Gray; Herbert Lee Williams Award recipient Glenn Carver; and Charles E. Thornton Award recipients Tom Graves and Dorchelle Spence.

The 2022 honorees were Young Alumni recipients Chelsea Boozer and Preston McClellan (who did not attend); Herbert Lee Williams award recipient Linda Simon; and Charles E. Thornton Award recipients Jacintha Jones and Phillip Tutor.

Catherine Grusin, a current JRSM student, was honored with the Emerging Media Professional Award. Associate Professor Tom Hrach was honored with the D. Mike Pennington Outstanding Mentoring Award.

JRSM alumnus Jeremy Jackson, a UofM advancement communication and multimedia strategist took photos of the event and award winners, which can be seen at this link


U of M students make their mark at international public relations conference in Texas

(Dec. 1, 2023) Four students from the University of Memphis PRSSA along with PR Professor Kim Marks attended the ICON 2022 conference in Texas Nov. 13-15 for three days of social events, workshops, and panels.


Students from the U of M PRSSA chapter attend the ICON 2022 conference in

Grapevine, Texas. They are (from left) Oakley Weddle, Ilaria Pisoni, Brianna Moore,

Taylor Carpenter and former student Destiny Hinton. PHOTO/Oakley Weddle

Every year, the Public Relations Society of America along with its student chapters host an International Conference that brings professionals and students together from around the world for three days.

This year, the ICON conference was at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas. The ICON conference featured guest speakers such as Katty Kay, a BBC journalist with more than 20 years of experience who appears weekly on NBC News’ Morning Joe. 

The PRSSA International Conference gives one the opportunity to adapt and develop one’s professional abilities and connections with students from different parts of the United States. Marks Malone said attending the conference was a great opportunity for students to learn how to approach professionals and grow their connections.    

“It was great to be back in person after three years at ICON,” Marks Malone said. “It’s an opportunity for students to network with each other, learn best practices for managing and leading their local PRSSA chapters and, more importantly, hear about best practices and network with PR professionals from around the world.”

Students who attended were Oakley Weddle, Ilaria Pisoni, Brianna Moore, and Taylor Carpenter.

“Being in proximity with thousands of students and professionals that understand and are passionate about public relations made me feel incredibly seen,” Weddle said. “As PR pros, we’re constantly explaining our worth and fighting for a seat at the table.”

- Ilaria Pisoni

Memphis PRSA chapter names JRSM’s Kim Marks Malone as member of the year

(Nov. 22, 2023) Each year, the Memphis Public Relations Society of America names a chapter member of the year, and this year Kim Marks Malone of the U of M Department of Journalism and Strategic Media won the top honor.

Vox Awards

Prof. Kim Marks Malone (second from right) poses

with Prof. Taylor Ackerman (third from right) and a group

of U of M PR students at the annual Vox awards on Nov. 3

at the Old Dominick Distillery in Memphis.

PHOTO/Ilaria Pisoni

The Memphis VOX Awards ceremony recognizes outstanding public relations and communication activities in the Memphis community and the Mid-South.  After two years of being held virtually due to the pandemic, the VOX Awards were conducted at the Old Dominick Distillery in Memphis on Nov. 3. More than 200 professionals and students attended. 

"Being recognized for my efforts locally in the chapter while also representing the Memphis chapter as the Southeast District Chair this year is amazing," Marks Malone said. "I feel so appreciated and supported by my friends and colleagues on the board and in the chapter." 

The Public Relations Student Society of America, a UofM student organization, brought 16 students to the event for a networking opportunity with professionals and to support Marks Malone on her award.

Marks Malone is the University of Memphis faculty advisor for the PRSSA chapter. She plays a key role in the chapter's development and assists students in further their studies and beginning jobs in communications.

The VOX Awards are a great way for students to connect with PR professionals, create more impactful connections and increase their visibility, Marks Malone said.

Also recognized at the ceremony was JRSM faculty member Sheri Neely, who won an award in the special event category for the Memphis 13 Springdale Elementary Mural Kickoff event. 

-Ilaria Pisoni




Journalism student organizations reborn, and sponsoring events in fall semester

(Nov. 21, 2023) The JRSM department’s two professional journalism student organizations were re-launched in the fall semester with successful events on Nov. 9 and 10 after a hiatus caused by the COVID-19 panic that prevented in-person meetings.

NABJ Broadcast Panel

Panelists April Thompson, Sydney Neely, Avery Braxton, and Jeremy

Pierre discuss their journalism careers on Nov. 9 in Meeman 100.

PHOTO/Tom Hrach

The U of M chapters of the National Association of Black Journalists and the Society of Professional Journalists are now active and accepting new members.

NABJ president Deja Davis and her members hosted a Journalism Panel Discussion on Nov. 9 in Meeman 100. It featured four prominent Memphis broadcast journalists who discussed their careers

SPJ Civil Wrongs

Laura Faith Kebede of the Memphis Institute for Public Service

Reporting discusses her multimedia reporting series “Civil Wrongs”

on Nov. 10 in Meeman 100. PHOTO/Tom Hrach

Participating were April Thompson, anchor and reporter for News Channel 3; Sydney Neely, JRSM alumna, and lifestyles host and producer for Local ABC 24 and CW30; Avery Braxton, sports anchor and reporter for Local ABC 24; and Jeremy Pierre, reporter for Fox 13. About 60 students and faculty attended.

SPJ President Kameron Scott and his members hosted the annual Freedom of Information Congress event on Nov. 10 in Meeman 100. It featured Laura Faith Kebede of the Memphis Institute for Public Service Reporting.

Kebede conducted a listening event about the first part of her multimedia reporting project called “Civil Wrongs.” The first part of the series focused on the lynching death of Ell Persons in Memphis in 1917 and how that event still reverberates today across Memphis. About 45 students and faculty attended.

Both groups are seeking new members and planning events for the spring 2023 semester.

- Tom Hrach


Social media lab opens thanks to Obsidian Public Relations of Memphis

(Nov. 16, 2022) Obsidian Public Relations founder Courtney Ellett unveiled the new Obsidian Public Relations social media lab as she cut the ribbon in the Meeman Journalism Building on Nov. 3.

Obsidian Social Media Lab opening

Department of Journalism and Strategic Media faculty and Obsidian Public

Relations staff members participate in the opening of the Obsidian Public

Relations social media lab on Nov. 3. From left to right: Matt Haught,

Kim Marks Malone, David Arant, Courtney Ellett, Whitney Nolan and

Lauren Hannaford.  PHOTO/Jeremy Jackson

A graduate of the University of Memphis Department of Journalism and Strategic Media, Ellett said she was looking to give back. When presented with the possibility of funding a new social media lab, Ellett loved the vision and thought it was a good fit for her support.

“I’m just happy that maybe this contributes to another student’s experience here and really prepares them for post-graduation life,” Ellett said. “If there’s anything I believe in, it’s about preparing students to have a really successful transition into the profession.”

Ellett said that the lab will help give students real-world knowledge of social media listening and how it relates to strategy.

The Obsidian lab gives the department’s faculty and students access to sophisticated social media listening tools for use in their research. Students using the lab’s social media listening tools in their class projects will be better prepared for their strategic media careers.

“Our students now are going to be able to get hands-on, real-world experience using industry-standard tools,” said Kim Marks Malone, JRSM assistant professor of practice.

“So when they go out and they apply for internships, or they apply for jobs, they can with confidence say that they know how to do social media listening, that they’ve used analytical tools, that they know how to do research to help inform decisions in an agency environment,” Marks said. “I think it’s going to give them a leg up compared to some of their peers from other schools.”

Social Media Listening Lab

The Obsidian Public Relations social media lab contains equipment for

students and faculty. PHOTO/Jeremy Jackson

In addition to teaching students to social media listening skills in class projects, faculty can use the lab in doing their own academic research.

The Obsidian Lab classroom will also be the official home of Meeman 901 Strategies, the department’s student-run strategic communications firm.

Department leadership plans to open the lab to faculty and students in other university programs with the hope of stimulating more interdisciplinary collaboration.

Social media labs like this have been launched at many universities in the last three to five years. In developing the Obsidian Lab, Professor Marks and JRSM assistant chair Matt Haught visited social media labs at Clemson University, the University of South Carolina, and FedEx.

Marks added, “I think having this lab is going to help us put ourselves on the map and become a resource region-wide—not just for schools and universities and programs, but for media and other agencies and nonprofits and all those kinds of people who need this kind of information to do their jobs.”

- Haley Hale

Department welcomes experienced journalist as new assistant professor of practice

Prof. Casey Hilder

Prof. Casey Hilder

(Oct. 27, 2022) Casey Hilder, a former magazine and newspaper journalist, this fall joined the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media as an Assistant Professor of Practice.

Hilder received both his B.A. and M.A. from the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media and while a student here served as The Daily Helmsman’s editor-in-chief. After graduation, he worked as the editor-in-chief of Click magazine, a local lifestyle publication. 

Before joining the department full-time, Hilder had served the department as an adjunct, teaching writing, reporting, editing, web publishing, and print publication design courses. In 2019, he joined the university full time as media coordinator for the College of Communication and Fine Arts, a position he held until becoming assistant professor of practice in August.

Hilder’s interests include photojournalism, newspaper and magazine writing, and publication design. He has also written more than one magazine feature about kudzu jelly.

- Ilaria Pisoni

JRSM students tour Memphis advertising agency; meet ad professionals

American Advertising Federation mixer

U of M advertising students listen to executives at Loaded for Bear in

Memphis on their tour of the advertising agency on Sept. 29.

(PHOTO/Joel Nichols)

(Oct. 27, 2022) The American Advertising Federation in Memphis hosted a mixer on Sept. 29 at the Memphis advertising firm Loaded for Bear for students to meet local advertising professionals.

About 20 University of Memphis Department of Journalism and Strategic Media and Department of Art students as well as students from the University of Mississippi and Christian Brothers University participated in the mixer. Students also had the opportunity to share their resumes and portfolios for review and critique.

“This was more of a speed dating type of scenario,” said Assistant Professor Joel Nichols, who teaches classes in advertising, marketing, branding, and creative strategy.

Nichols said that AAF Memphis is hoping to host another event focusing more on sit-down discussion and break out groups for students to meet and talk to professionals about portfolios and resume and receive some interview coaching.

Networking is vital, he added, and the AAF Memphis mixer gave students the chance to get their names out there in the professional world.

“Students don’t always like to do it or even have the opportunity to do it, particularly with professionals,” Nichols said. “The overall goal was, again, to expose students to the advertising industry.”  

Nichols said the event location was perfect for students. The mixer took place at Loaded for Bear offices at 673 Cooper St. Students were able to tour the space and see the actual environment of an agency while networking and discussing their career goals with professionals.

-  Haley Hale

New skills, insights offered to high school students as part of statewide press event

High School Workshop

Micaela Watts, Denisha Thomas, Andrea Morales and Laura Faith Kebede

participate in a panel discussion on Sept. 26 as part of the Tennessee High

School Press Association workshop at the U. of Memphis Meeman Journalism

Building. (PHOTO/Robby Byrd)

(Oct. 19, 2022)  The University of Memphis hosted the Tennessee High School Press Association’s West Tennessee journalism workshop at its FedEx Institute of Technology on Sept. 26.


The approximately 50 students attending White Station High School, Bartlett High School, and St. Mary's High School are staff members of their high school newspapers and yearbooks.

Workshop sessions taught by UofM Journalism faculty members include media writing by Chalise Maclin, photojournalism by Casey Hilder, media design by Michael Robinson, and social media and podcasting by Robby Byrd. 

The workshop ended with a panel on the challenges of being a journalist, moderated by Laura Faith Kebede, coordinator of the Civil Wrongs Project for the Institute for Public Service Reporting. Panelists included Denisha Thomas, news director at ABC24; Micaela Watts, the equity beat reporter for the Commercial Appeal; and Andrea Morales, the visuals director at MLK50. 

- Ilaria Pisoni






Outstanding Journalism Alumni Awards event returns on Nov. 17; tickets now available

(Oct. 17, 2022) The Department of Journalism and Strategic Media Alumni Association has announced the return of its Outstanding Journalism Alumni Awards banquet, set for Nov. 17 at the Penny Hardaway Hall of Fame on the University of Memphis

Alumni Awards Banquet

Florence McAtee Howard (center) is presented with the Charles E. Thornton Award at

the 2019 Outstanding Journalism Awards banquet by emcee Toni Boland-Evans and

former alumni association president Dan Hope.


The event had been cancelled the past two years due to the COVID -19 pandemic, so the club will recognize 11 outstanding alumni chosen this year and last year.

Those being honored from the 2022 class include Jacinthia (Jones) Christopher, Phillip Tutor, Linda Simon, Chelsea Boozer, Preston McClellan, and Catherine Grusin. The 2021 honorees include Tom Graves, Dorchelle Spence, Glenn Carver, Ryan Poe, and Melissa Hass Gray. WMC Action News 5 anchor Joe Birch will emcee the event.

Five awards will be given out at this year’s event: the Charles E. Thornton Outstanding Alumni Award, the Herbert Lee Williams Award, and the Outstanding Young Journalism Alumni Award. One receipt will also be recognized as the University’s Emerging Media Professional.

The Charles E. Thornton Award is named to honor a Memphis journalist who was killed on an assignment in 1985 in Afghanistan. The Herbert Lee Williams award honors the University of Memphis Department of Journalism’s founding chairperson.

The reception is at 6 p.m., and the dinner is at 7 p.m.

The public can purchase tickets for $75, and students can purchase them for $50. Additionally, tables of eight can be purchased for $600. Reservations should be made by Nov. 11. For more information on purchasing tickets or table, call or email Ryan McPhail at (901) 678-2461 or rmcphail@memphis.edu.

- Haley Hale


PR students tour KQ Communications as part of semester agency tours

(Oct. 17, 2022) Members of the U of M Public Relations Student Society of America attended their first agency tour of the fall 2022 semester on Sept. 28 at KQ Communication, an award-winning boutique public relations firm in Memphis.

PRSSA agency tour

Members of the U of M Chapter of PRSSA meet with professionals at KQ Communications in Memphis on

Sept. 28 in the first agency tour of the fall 2022 semester.  (Photo/Oakley Weddle)

About 10 members were in attendance. Oakley Weddle, U of M PRSSA president, said that agency tours are a great way for members to see what agencies do daily. Agencies such as KQ cater to a wide variety of clients.

“So many of the clients they have are businesses that everyone knows,” Weddle said.

Weddle said it was one of the best tours he has been on. From the initial meeting to passing out KQ swag to getting to tour the office and talk to employees, Weddle said, “It felt like a ride.”

KQ also works with many nonprofits and churches, which was a perfect match for this month’s PRSSA theme of nonprofits. This agency tour came on the heels of a PRSSA all-member meeting with professionals in the strategic communication field at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Kinnawa Kaitibi, the PRSSA professional advisor, works at KQ alongside other U of M alumni. Chapter members talked to public relations practitioners, social media teams, the digital marketing department, graphic designers, and account executives. The digital marketing director joined them from KQ’s other office based in Atlanta, Georgia.

In addition to talking about the field, Denzel Alexander, a current JRSM graduate student, and Destini Johnson had an open conversation with PRSSA members about struggles in college and what comes after.

PRSSA is planning more agency tours throughout the 2022-23 academic year. If you are interested in joining PRSSA, email orweddle@memphis.edu.

- Haley Hale

Next research colloquium to focus on the need for diverse media messages

Dr. Chalise Macklin

Dr. Chalise Macklin

(Oct. 10, 2022) The next JRSM grad student Research Colloquium is set for 4 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 12, and features research from faculty member Dr. Chalise Macklin’s dissertation project.

Macklin will present “The Need for More Diverse and Inclusive Media Messages to Reduce Public Risks” in Meeman 202 and also on Zoom. Macklin is completing her doctorate at the University of Alabama.

This is the second research colloquium for the fall semester. The session will also be available on Zoom at this link. It will be recorded. Grad students who want to view the recording should contact Dr. Tom Hrach at thrach@memphis.edu.

Open House returns Wednesday, featuring student media and professional organizations

(Oct. 3, 2022) All students are invited to the Meeman Journalism Lobby from noon to 2 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 5, for the Journalism and Strategic Media Open House showcasing the department’s media programs, student media outlets, and professional organizations. Refreshments will be served.

The UofM student media include The Roar Radio, the online streaming radio service; DH.com, the student online newspaper news site; Tiger News, the student broadcast news outlet; and Meeman 901, the student lead strategic media agency.

Representatives from the department’s four student professional clubs will be present to recruit advertising students for AdFed, public relations students for Public Relations Student Society of America and journalism students for both the National Association of Black Journalists as well as the Society of Professional Journalists.

The open house is also a chance for students new to the department to learn about the journalism and strategic media programs. The undergraduate majors are advertising, public relations, creative mass media and journalism. The department’s graduate programs include an M.A. in Journalism and Strategic Media and three graduate certificates – entrepreneurial media, news and storytelling and social media analysis and strategy.


Journalism department renews exchange program with German university for May 2023

(Sept. 20, 2022) The Department of Journalism and Strategic Media exchange program is set for its annual return to Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, in May of 2023.

Mainz ZDF TV tour

Students from the U of M Department of Journalism and Strategic Media tour the ZDF television studios in Mainz, Germany, as part of the 2022 student exchange program. (photo/Audrey Firrone)

Next summer’s course will focus on science journalism. Mainz is home to the headquarters of BioNTech, so this trip will allow students to learn about science writing in the city where the first COVID-19 vaccine was created. In addition to BioNTech, Mainz is also located on the Rhine River, which is currently experiencing unprecedented low water levels. This trip will allow students the opportunity to discuss both science journalism and writing about climate change.

During the three-week program, students will take day trips throughout Germany. There will also be a long-weekend trip as part of the program. Amsterdam is being considered for this trip, but the faculty want to talk to the students to get their input on where they would like to go.

Professor Matthew Haught will lead the group from May 5 to 26, 2023. There are six spots available for this trip. The cost is $3,600, and scholarships are available.

The University of Memphis has partnered with Johannes Gutenberg University for over 20 years. Haught said that this study abroad opportunity is the “only experience in the country like this for a journalism program.”

Audrey Firrone, a current UofM graduate student who went to Mainz this past summer, said she had always wanted to study abroad. She said that the department’s faculty and UofM student support was a big reason she chose this trip.

“This was one of the highlights of my college career,” Firrone said.

Firrone said the trip was one of the best experiences she has ever had. She was able to make lifelong friends and have great travel, cultural and educational experiences.

For more information, students can email Haught at mjhaught@memphis.edu or the study abroad office at tigersabroad@memphis.edu.

- Haley Hale

Voter registration drive gets help from JRSM’s Professor Sanford

(Sept. 20, 2022) The University of Memphis is promoting National Voter Registration Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday outside of the McWherter Library with help from the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media’s Professor Otis Sanford.

Prof. Otis Sanford

Prof. Otis Sanford

Volunteers will be stationed outside to help people through the process of registering to vote.

This drive will also feature a panel discussion on the “Power of the Youth Vote” from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., with Sanford as part of the panel.

Sanford said he grew up in a family where the right to vote was cherished. As a 19-year-old young man, he registered to vote when the 26th amendment was passed, and the voting age was lowered to 18. Sanford hopes to stress the importance of young people being active voters in this week’s panel discussion.

“Everything that happens with government and elected officials affects young people too,” Sanford said. “Who is elected mayor affects you. Who is elected governor affects you… Young people need to have their voices heard.”

Sanford said it is not his job to tell people for whom to vote, but he stresses to everyone—including the students in his classes—that they must in order to have their voices heard. Other panelists are Ebony Dawkins-Meeks from the Department of Political Science department and Cookie Woolner from the Department of History.

- Haley Hale

JRSM grad students invited to Live Trivia on Friday at High Cotton Brewing

Oakley Weddle

Oakley Weddle

(Sept. 13, 2022) Journalism and Strategic Media graduate students and faculty are invited to attend a Live Trivia event at 7 p.m. Friday at the High Cotton Brewing Company, 598 Monroe Ave., in Memphis to kick off the fall 2022 semester.

This event is being arranged by JRSM grad student Oakley Weddle, who represents the department on the university’s Graduate Student Association. The event is a great way to get to know fellow graduate students and faculty. It also will serve as the replacement for the student social event that was postponed from last week due to the shooting rampage.

The department has agreed to cover some snacks while drinks are on your own. For more information, contact Weddle at orweddle@memphis.edu.


Professional student media chapters for public relations, journalism conducting launch events

NABJ logo

PRSSA logo

SPJ logo

(Sept. 9, 2022) Three of the UofM student chapters of professional media organizations are holding launch events during the next two weeks and encourage public relations and journalism students to get involved in these career-building clubs.

The Public Relations Student Society of America chapter will launch its fall meetings at 4:15 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 15, in Meeman 100 with a coffee and donut social. Contact chapter president Oakley Weddle at orweddle@memphis.edu for more information. The faculty adviser this year is Kim Marks Malone at ksmarks@memphis.edu.

The National Association of Black Journalists student chapter, inactive since 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will meet at 1 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 15, in Meeman 108. For more information, contact faculty adviser Otis Sanford, at lsnford2@memphis.edu.

The U of M chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, which has also been inactive since 2020, will meet at 4:15 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 21. For more information, contact chapter president Kameron Scott, kpscott1@memphis.edu. The faculty adviser is Tom Hrach, thrach@memphis.edu.

DH.com online news site seeking staff for fall semester

(Sept. 7, 2022) The University of Memphis student-run online news site, The DH.com, is seeking students interested in photography, reporting, writing, designing, and copy editing to join its staff.

The DH.com

If you are a UofM student interested in working with The DH.com, please contact editor-in-chief Lawrencia Grose at lcgrose@memphis.edu.

The DH.com, formerly The Daily Helmsman, has a history that dates to 1931 when it was created as The Tiger Rag. The paper rebranded to The Helmsman in 1972 before officially becoming The Daily Helmsman in 1981. It is currently being published online at dailyhelmsman.com.

In 2017, The Daily Helmsman was recognized as one of the top campus news organizations in the South by the Society of Professional Journalists. That same year, the paper finished second place in the Mark of Excellence Awards for Region 12. Previous staff members of The DH have gone on to work at careers in digital news sites, television stations, and other media.

This award-winning paper is editorially independent, which means that the students make the final editorial decisions for the paper without censorship from faculty, staff, or administration.

- Haley Hale

First colloquium of semester features research on the Black advertising agency experience

(Sept. 7, 2022) Professor Joel Nichols and graduate student Haley Hale kick off the JRSM research colloquium series with a presentation on Black advertising agencies. Students and faculty can attend in person at 4 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 14, in Meeman 206 or view it online at this Zoom link.

Hale Hale

Joel Nichols

Haley Hale

Prof. Joel Nichols

In August Nichols and Hale presented this research in their paper “The Black Creative Agency Experience: Do Black Employees in Advertising, Branding, and Marketing Feel Valued?” at AEJMC national conference in Detroit. They are now preparing the research paper for publication.
If graduate students wish to access a recording of the presentation, they should contact Tom Hrach at thrach@memphis.edu.


- Tom Hrach

Experienced PR professional joins faculty as visiting professor

(Sept. 1, 2022) The Department of Journalism and Strategic Media has welcomed Sheri Neely, a public relations professional who has operated her own agency since 2013, as a visiting professor teaching public relations for fall and spring semesters.

Prof. Sheri Neely

Prof. Sheri Neely

Neely is an alumna of the University of Memphis, earning a B.A, degree in journalism with an emphasis in public relations and an MBA. 

In 2018 Neely received a Small Business Administration Emerging Leaders Award and received the Memphis Hip Hop Female Industry MVP Award for public relations in 2020. Neely was one of only a few people from Memphis who were invited and attended the Entrepreneurship Summit and reception at the White House with the president and first lady of the United States in honor of Black History Month when she was acknowledged by the White House in 2020 as a “gamechanger in entrepreneurship.”

Her agency, “The Neely Agency,” manages campaigns from conception through implementation, assisting clients that include small business, entertainment, corporate, public sector, nonprofit and faith-based organizations. 

Neely enjoys networking, professional development, and giving back to the community through her support of multiple organizations. In 2018, she launched an initiative through her firm, and she and her team raised money and awareness for almost 20 different nonprofit organizations through “Neely Agency Mixers” also known as “NAMs” where attendees “network for a cause.” Due to the success of the initiative and the even greater needs of nonprofits, she and her partners launched the nonprofit Brinson Neely Foundation.

Neely grew up on a farm in Arkansas and is married to Victor Neely, her husband of 22 years. They have a daughter and two grandchildren. She and her husband enjoy family time, traveling, and experiencing island adventures worldwide. Her favorite quote is found in Phil. 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”         

- Ilaria Pisoni

Broadcast news veteran Chalise Macklin joins JRSM faculty

(Aug. 30, 2022) The Department of Journalism and Strategic Media welcomes Chalise Macklin this fall as a new assistant professor of broadcast journalism. On the walls of her office in 306 Meeman Journalism, she surrounds herself with photographs of women who have inspired her throughout her life.

Prof. Chalise Macklin

Prof. Chalise Macklin

Macklin is no stranger to the department and Memphis. Earning her B.A. in broadcast journalism here, she began her journalism career working at WREG News Channel 3 during her senior year. After graduation, she became a staff writer at the Evening Times in Marion, Arkansas, but returned to Memphis to work in production at WHBQ Fox 13. Her career took her next to KAIT 8 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and finally back to Memphis to WATN Local 24.

While in Jonesboro, Macklin earned her M.A. in communication studies from Arkansas State University, where she also taught journalism and public relations classes. There she discovered a passion for mentoring students, which she hopes to continue at the University of Memphis.

Macklin has also worked as a freelance writer for Memphis Magazine and Southern Soul. One of her favorite experiences was freelancing for The Grio, an African American News Outlet based in New York City.

This fall Macklin plans to complete her Ph.D. when she defends her dissertation, which addresses the need for more diversity, equity, and inclusion in media messages and the risk those messages pose to the public if they lack diversity. On a broader scale, her research interests can be defined as diversity and inclusivity in newsrooms and news coverage with an emphasis on cultural influence and potential risks to the public.

Outside of academia, Macklin loves to travel, read and spend time with her friends and family.

- Haley Hale

Exchange program with Mainz, Germany, brings three students to the UofM 

(Aug. 29, 2022) Three students from Germany have joined the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media for the fall 2022 semester as part of its exchange program with Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz.

Fall 2022 Mainz students

Leander Xynogalas, Marlene Lutz and Stefan Schüür are spending the semester at the UofM.

Exchange programs enable students to study abroad at one of their university’s partner institutions, and every semester the department hosts students from Germany. For the fall semester, the department has been joined by Marlene Lutz, 25; Leander Xynogalas, 25; and Stefan Schüür, 23. 

“It was a big dream of me to study at a U.S. college since I started university in Germany,” Xynogalas said. “So, this program was the perfect opportunity to get this experience.”

Studying in the United States is a desire that a lot of students share in Europe as it is such a different reality from what they are used to. 

A big difference is campus life. College in the United States has a robust campus culture that revolves around residence halls, sports, fraternities, sororities, and clubs. Whereas in Europe, activities are rarely centered around the university itself and more just around the city in general. 

“One of the first big differences we talked about after our arrival in Memphis is the food,” Lutz said. “On our campus in Germany, it is nearly impossible to get any kind of fast food.”

Studying abroad is overall a great opportunity for young adults as it allows them to develop highly valued skills such as intercultural communication, foreign languages, and problem-solving.

Studying abroad can also be beneficial for the future. It has been linked to increased ability to be hired and higher starting salaries. 

The department is again planning to send UofM students to Mainz in May 2023 as part of the exchange program.

Located in west-central Germany, Mainz is the birthplace of Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the movable-type printing press. It is also home to the Gutenberg Museum as well as five universities. One of Mainz’s most defining features is its 1000-year-old Romanesque cathedral.

- Ilaria Pisoni

Grad student social event set for Sept. 8 at RP Tracks

RP Tracks

RP Tracks is located at 3547 Walker Ave.

(Aug. 29, 2022) The Department of Journalism and Strategic Media is inviting all graduate students to join the staff and faculty at the annual Grad Student Social at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 8 at RP Tracks to kick off the fall 2022 semester.

The event, which had to be canceled the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is back on the calendar, thanks to Department Chair David Arant. A goal for the department for the fall 2022 semester is for students, staff, and faculty to re-engage in person after more than two years of remote learning and Zoom events. The Grad Student Social is a good way for that to happen.

The department is offering to spring for snacks, while drinks will be on your own. RP Tracks is located at 3547 Walker Ave. near the U of M campus.

- Tom Hrach


Nominations needed by Aug. 29 for top faculty award

(Aug. 23, 2022) Students, alumni and staff of the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media are asked to consider nominating their favorite faculty member for the D. Mike Pennington Award by the Monday, Aug. 29, deadline.

Jin Yang Pennington Award

Patsy Pennington (left) and David Arant (right) award the 2019 D. Mike Pennington Award to Jin Yang in 2019.

The award recognizes a current department faculty member who has been exemplary in guiding and mentoring students. To be eligible for the award, the nominee must be a current full-time faculty member who has served the department full-time for at least three years, and has not won the award within the previous four years.  

A committee appointed by department chair Dr. David Arant will review nominations and select the winner, which will be announced at the department’s alumni awards banquet on Oct. 6.

Previous award winners are Sandy Utt, Matthew Haught, Tori Cliff, Pam Denney, Robby Byrd, Kim Marks Malone, Melissa Janoske McLean, Jin Yang, Ruoxu Wang, Otis Sanford, Michael Robinson and Teri Del Rosso. 

The award is named in honor of Mike Pennington, class of 1972, who had a distinguished career serving as corporate communicator and business magazine journalist, editor and photographer, primarily in the trucking and its affiliated industries.

To nominate, please fill out this short survey.

JRSM faculty well represented at national journalism educators conference

Taylor Ackerman speaks at 2022 AEJMC

Professor Taylor Ackerman discusses her research at the 2022 AEJMC national conference in Detroit on Aug. 3.

(Aug. 23, 2022) Faculty members at the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media presented four research papers, each of which related to critical communication issues, at the 2022 AEJMC National Conference in Detroit on Aug. 3 to 5.

The Association of Educators of Journalism and Mass Communication is the premier professional organization for journalism and strategic media research. The Detroit conference was the first time the organization had met in person since 2019.

Ruoxu Wang presented “The impact of exemplars on perception gap of risk and behavioral intentions” along with co-author Chun Yang of Louisiana State University. Taylor Ackerman and Jin Yang presented “Parasocial Relationships in Social Media: A Comparative Study of Instagram Posts by Celebrities and Influencers.”

Also presenting research was Joel Nichols, who presented “The Black Creative-Agency Experience: Do Black Employees in Advertising, Branding and Marketing feel valued?” which was co-authored with graduate student Haley Hale. Kim Marks Malone presented “Who’s Teaching Future PR Professionals? Exploring Professional Credentials of Full-Time PR Faculty in Accredited Programs,” which also won second place for the top teaching research paper.

Others faculty members who attended and participate as panelists, discussants and moderators were David Arant, Matt Haught, Tom Hrach, Otis Sanford and professor emeritus Sandra Utt.

- Tom Hrach

Local TV news veteran joins team at UofM public service reporting institute

(Aug. 23, 2022) The University of Memphis Institute for Public Service Reporting has hired Scott Pickey, a second-year JRSM grad student with almost 30 years of experience in local broadcast news, as its student intern for the 2022-23 school year.

Scott Pickey

Scott Pickey

Institute Director Marc Perrusquia made the announcement on Aug. 19. The institute, which is based in the U of M journalism department, has entered its third year of its internship program. And this time, Perrusquia said he will be learning as much from the intern as the other way around, thanks to Pickey’s vast experience.

A native Memphian, Pickey graduated from Harding Academy and Christian Brothers University where he received a B.A. in Communication Arts/Journalism. While at CBU, he also worked at WKNO-FM as a news and classical music announcer.

As part of the internship, Pickey will return to WKNO where he will anchor newscasts and report from the field. He also will contribute to news coverage for the institute’s digital print partner, the Daily Memphian.

Pickey previously worked at local TV stations in Kirkersville, Mo.; Syracase, N.Y.; Wilmington, N.C.; and Odessa-Midland, Texas.

“I'm looking forward to stepping out of the news director's office for a while and getting back to my reporting roots,” Pickey said.“This internship will allow The Institute and myself the opportunity to cover local stories you won't see anywhere else in town. It’s an honor to be accepted into the internship and I greatly appreciate the opportunity.”

-Tom Hrach

Meeman Matters: The Department Newsletter  

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2020 AEJMC Southeast Colloquium  

The 45th annual AEJMC Southeast Colloquium, March 19 -21, 2020, is to be hosted virtually by the University of Memphis. Six AEJMC divisions will participate in the annual event: Electronic News, History, Law and Policy, Magazine Media, Newspaper and Online News, and Visual Communication. And there is an Open division as well, so everyone is welcome to participate.

Register here

The colloquium will be hosted in a virtual format because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pennington Abroad Awards help JRSM majors study abroad

The Department of Journalism and Strategic Media is now offering awards to study abroad through the Pennington Abroad Awards. Each recipient receives $1,000 toward a study abroad experience offered at the UofM (summer, semester or full academic year). These awards are reserved to Journalism and Strategic Media majors who have at least a 2.5 GPA. For more information, please contact Dr. David Arant

Graduate Student and Faculty Research Colloquiums and Twitter Chats

The Department plans Research Colloquiums for the 2020 Spring Semester in order to engage graduate students and faculty in research efforts. And this semester the department has two planned: Feb. 21, April 17. 

The Department also planned one twitter chats for graduate students in the 2020 Spring Semester. It is 7:30 p.m. March 5 (Thursday) using the hashtag #meemangrad.