By Kevin Edwards

When 14 University of Memphis students flew off to cover the Brazil Olympics this past summer, they were all a bit unsure of what to expect.

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David Arant, Frank Thorsberg, Megan Harris, Jonathan Capriel and Elise Mitchell are recognized at the Journalism Alumni Club Outstanding Alumni Awards on Oct. 13.

After all, none spoke Portuguese. Some had never left the boundaries of the United States. Some were questioning how such an experience would ever translate into something useful.

But after four weeks in South America, all the students returned confident that the once-in-a-lifetime experience was a huge boost to their careers in journalism.

Roxane Coche, an assistant professor in the department, came up with the idea for the trip.   

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David Arant, Frank Thorsberg, Megan Harris, Jonathan Capriel and Elise Mitchell are recognized at the Journalism Alumni Club Outstanding Alumni Awards on Oct. 13.

"In 2008, in Beijing, (the Olympic News Service) created programs to get students from English-speaking countries to come and cover the Olympics because they needed English speakers," Coche said. "And so I just sent a bunch of emails with that idea. At some point, one of those emails went through to the right person, and so we started negotiating."

The service wanted 40 students, but Coche said she just would not have the ability to get that many Memphis students.

"So I called my former dissertation adviser (at UNC Chapel Hill) and said, 'Hey, do you want to go to Rio?' And that's how we ended up with two universities doing it," Coche said.

Cody Prentiss, a UofM graduate student from Cordova, covered judo and wrestling for the three-week event.

"I'd go run after athletes after they were done fighting each other. Sometimes they would be a little bit bloody," Prentiss said.

Prentiss said his motivation to go on the trip to Rio de Janeiro was "partly because I wanted to leave Memphis for a while," and that he wanted, "the experience of covering the Olympics, something that size, and then actually covering a sports event, because I hadn't done that before."

Prentiss agreed it would be a boost to his future career, wherever his journalism degree takes him.

"I figured it was a good set of skills to learn and be useful to know, and also to be able to tell people I did it," Prentiss said.

Rebecca Butcher, a journalism student from Memphis, covered table tennis and the race walk. She has aspirations to be a broadcaster.

"Anything out of my comfort zone, anything that isn't local and even international, I'm all about," Butcher said. "I never saw myself as a sports journalist at all, more so just general news or politics, but it is really exciting."

The students stayed in Rio de Janeiro from July 29 to Aug. 22. The Olympic Games opened on Aug. 5 and closed Aug. 21.

Coche said the students did a great job representing the department and the UofM.

"I heard only good things about them," Coche said. "They had fun, but they also worked a lot. Very long hours and were able to rise up to the occasion."

As far as future opportunities go, Coche said she is not giving up for the next Olympic games in 2018. Whatever the future holds, the students who went this past summer said the trip was a career-changing event.

"I believe, and certainly hope, that we laid down the foundation for groups to take unconventional study abroad trips in the future," Williams said.

UofM journalism student Chip Williams interviews NBA star Kevin Durant during a break in the men's Olympic basketball tournament this past summer in Brazil.

UofM journalism student Sydney Neely writes an article as a reporter for the Olympic News Service this past summer in Brazil. PHOTO ROXANE COCHE

UofM journalism student Jonathan Capriel interviews French handball player
Nikola Karabatic during a break as a reporter for the Olympic News Service this past summer in Brazil. PHOTO ROXANE COCHE

A fulfilling fall leads to promising new year

We have had a full and fulfilling fall semester at the newly branded Department of Journalism and Strategic Media. At the beginning of the semester, we celebrated the triumphant return of faculty leader Roxane Coche and 14 of our students from their work on the news team of the Rio Olympics. In October we enjoyed a fabulous alumni awards banquet. In November Joe Hayden and a group of faculty led 60 of our news students' participation in Electionland, working with 12 other universities and news organizations ProPublica and USA Today to monitor voting on Election Day.

We just concluded two faculty searches, one for the advertising position vacated by the unexpected death of alumnus Ron Spielberger, whose gracious presence and institutional memory we sorely miss, and a second search, when dear friend and alumnus, Darrin Devault left his online public relations coordinator position for an administrative post at UT-Knoxville.

As we return in the New Year from our holiday break, the faculty will receive assignments for our reaccreditation self-study review. We will spend the next year and a half preparing for a site-team visit from Accrediting Council for Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC).

It seems as if we just finished our reaccreditation review, but that was 2012 when Penn State Dean Marie Hardin led a team of five reviewers to kick the tires and look under the hood of our journalism, public relations and advertising programs to see if we were still upholding the ACEJMC standards of professional media education. The 2012 site team gave a positive review of all aspects of our programs.

Coche wins 'Eye of the Tiger' award for Olympics trip

The recognition for Journalism and Strategic Media Department faculty member Roxane Coche continues to pour in for her efforts in taking students to the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

Coche was recognized as the "Eye of the Tiger" at the Nov. 12 UofM football game against South Florida. The "Eye of the Tiger" was presented to her before the game by UofM Alumni National Executive Board of Directors President Kim Barnett.

"I was surprised but happy to receive the Eye of the Tiger award," Coche said. "I joined the UofM fairly recently and am glad I did. It's been a great ride so far, and I look forward to building other unique opportunities for our students, here or abroad."

Coche joined the faculty in the fall of 2015 after completing her doctorate in mass communication at the University of North Carolina. She is a sports journalist and also is faculty adviser to Tiger News.

One of the first things she did when she arrived in Memphis was to start working on a way to get UofM students involved in the Olympics. Her efforts resulted in taking 14 students to Brazil for a month to work for the Olympic News Service. The service provided news to media outlets around the world.

The UofM joined North Carolina as the only two schools involved in the Olympic program. The award was in recognition of her efforts.

"The Eye of the Tiger Award is presented by the UofM Alumni Association to individuals or groups who contribute to the welfare and traditions of the University of Memphis and to our community," said Garner Susanna Lesley, a student assistant in the alumni office.

Other Eye of the Tiger recipients this year were Firouzeh Sabri, Jasbir Dhaliwhal, J. Helen Perkins, Warren Haggard, Gregory Washington and Linda Jarmulowicz.

Roxane Coche receives the "Eye of the Tiger" award at the Memphis-South Florida football game at the Liberty Bowl on Nov. 12 from Kim Barnett, president of the UofM Alumni National Board.

Students help the pros get the scoop on Election Day 2016

By Sarah Blevins

University of Memphis journalism students were encouraged to get involved in the 2016 election, not only to exercise their right to vote but to volunteer to help professional journalists get the inside scoop on problems that happened on Election Day.

Journalism professor Joe Hayden helped to make University of Memphis one of 13 universities in the United States to participate in Electionland, an organization that monitored voting poll problems and issues on the Nov. 8 Election Day.

"This is the first of its kind experiment involving journalism and democracy," Hayden said. "Electionland gives student journalists the opportunity to help professional journalists find stories that would otherwise cost the professional several hours to get."

The 60 students and five faculty members who participated spent the day finding and fact-checking social media posts all day and shared them with professional journalists at such organizations as ProPublica, USA Today and Gannett. That allowed those news organizations to follow story leads and ultimately turn a social media post into an investigative story."

UofM students who volunteered to be a part of Electionland were in charge of monitoring posts made on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Those posts were from individuals who posted or tweeted about issues they had seen at the polls on Election Day in Tennessee, Kentucky and Oklahoma. Students at other universities around the country covered the other states.

Students used TweetDeck and Facebook Signal to find posts that were related to voting poll problems via hashtags including #maga, #Imwithher, #VoterIDIssues, #DownPolls, #longlines and #rigged. Once a student found a post he or she deemed newsworthy, such as "I've been in line for two hours and still cannot see the doors of the polling place. #longlines," he or she was responsible for fact-checking the information or picture posted.

Intel Techniques Search Tools was used to see if the person who posted about the problem on Facebook also tweeted the same issue on Twitter. Fact checking added to the credibility of the post and eliminated the question of a hoax.

Once verified, the student shared the social media post along with the user's information and originality to the Check Verification Project online, where professional journalists could use information to start investigating whether a news story could be pulled from the Facebook or Twitter post.

"As a student who understands social media and how to find newsworthy tips, I got experience with data mining and was able to join a cause that saves professional journalists time by pushing them tips and leads to potential stories," Jacob Woloshin, journalism senior, said.

Club honors outstanding alumni, faculty members

By Kevin Edwards

The Journalism and Strategic Media Alumni Club Outstanding Alumni Awards dinner on Oct. 13 honored four outstanding alumni of the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media along with one current student and two faculty members.
Recognized were:

David Arant, professor, and chair of the department, who received the Herbert Lee Williams Award.
"The alumni and I have become good friends, and it was very touching that they reached out to me and expressed their appreciation for what I've done," Arant said. "We really appreciate the support of all our alums. We have a good relationship together and we have worked together for nearly eight years. It means a lot to me to be named and honored in the name of the original chair, Herbert Lee Williams, who basically set this department in motion."

Jonathan Capriel, a journalism student, and Daily Helmsman editor, who received the Emerging Journalist Award.
"It was really touching that people thought I deserved this, and it really meant a lot for me to see them," Capriel said. "I feel a big part of it is the journalism professors and The Daily Helmsman, both of those things I feel like really have put me where I am."

Elise Mitchell, a 1992 graduate, and CEO of Mitchell Communications Group, who received the Charles E. Thornton Award.
"My time here at Memphis was incredibly valuable," Mitchell said. "It was such an important time for me to continue to advance my career by being a student, and getting a master's degree pushed me to continue to always be a learner, which really served me well because then when I went and started a company and built a business, it always told me it's OK to say you don't know. ...You have to do whatever it takes to find out, and being a learning leader is a great thing to be. And the time here at Memphis really helped ingrain that in me."

Frank Thorsberg, a 1978 graduate and a data recovery specialist with DriveSavers Data Recovery, who received the Charles E. Thornton Award.
"I was very humbled to be chosen for the Charles Thornton Award," Thorsberg said. "I worked with Charlie at the Press-Scimitar, I saw what he did, and I can't express how gratified I am to be recognized. I am very, very humbled."

Megan Harris, a 2011 graduate, and editor at 90.5 WESA, received the Outstanding Young Alumna Award.
"I cut my teeth at The Daily Helmsman and really became a professional through the Department of Journalism at the University of Memphis," Harris said. "I am really grateful to be a part of both this awards banquet and to wear their seal for the rest of my life. It is wonderful to be a part of this and I am really thankful to have gotten started here. I really want to thank Candy (Justice) and her husband Bob (Willis) for being so patient, so kind, and being a part of all of our upbringing. Anybody who came through The Daily Helmsman knows what that was like."

Matt Haught, assistant professor, who received the D. Mike Pennington Award for Outstanding Mentoring.
"It is truly the best part of my job making sure students grow and advance themselves to be everything that they can be and everything that they want to be," Haught said. "It's the best part of my job to see students learn something, to see them get it, and to see them become the best version of themselves."


David Arant, Frank Thorsberg, Megan Harris, Jonathan Capriel and Elise Mitchell get recognized at the Journalism Alumni Club Outstanding Alumni Awards on Oct. 13.

Matt Haught is recognized after receiving D. Mike Pennington Award for Outstanding Mentoring at the Journalism Alumni Club Outstanding Alumni Awards on Oct. 13.

It's 'the new rock 'n' roll': Food writing class reconnecting millennial students

By Addie James

Pamela Denney, the food editor for Memphis Magazine and UofM journalism instructor, has taken her literary and culinary skills into the classroom.

Her goal is to teach young writers to do everything from describing a bowl of fruit to creating a metaphor for sweet treats like Oreos and Tootsie Roll Pops.

"I think food is the new rock 'n' roll," Denney said. "Food is something that is reconnecting people. I have this theory, with millennials, that many of them grew up not around a family dinner table. I think being interested in food and cooking is a way of bringing back a focus on family and close friends."

Denney's food writing class was offered for the second time in the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media in the fall 2016 semester. The class is evolving each time she teaches it, and it has become so popular with students that it likely will be offered every year.

UofM public relations senior Ana Alford gave the class a thumbs up.

"I would recommend food writing to students who are not only dedicated to their journey of journalism but for the love and interest of a different perspective on restaurants and a variety of ethnic foods, as well as interviewing people for different pieces used in the class," Alford said. "I've enjoyed learning how to write in a new way with a different perspective."

The reason, Denney said, is that food connects people and memories.

"It speaks to so many people," Denney said. "There's this universal appeal to it. Everybody can remember tastes they have from childhood. It's so real."

Food writing is not just Yelp reviews, Denney said. It takes effort, skill, and understanding.

"The most important thing for a food writer to understand is the connection between food and culture," Denney said. "You can't write about food effectively without understanding that."

Denney grasped this concept when she started the food blog at Memphis Magazine 16 years ago.

Meeman 901 Strategies remakes itself

By Cody Prentiss

Meeman 901 Strategies, the U of M's student-run strategic media firm, decided in the fall semester the group would re-brand itself.
The members started with a simple question: How do we turn the firm's youth into a positive? The firm's answer was a campaign that focused on the students' assets.

The 11 members of the firm launched a weekly MeeMo newsletter in October and regularly posted blogs about topics concerning journalism, advertising, and public relations. A logo was created, which ended up being a cartoon tiger wearing sunglasses and holding a newspaper.

The projects were designed to get traffic to the firm's website and demonstrate Meeman 901 Strategies' media prowess. In just one semester, the group planned and filmed a firm video to recruit clients, redesigned its website and updated its branding on social media.

"Meeman 901 Strategies provides our clients with the unique opportunity to work with young, fresh minds that are eager to put the skills they have learned in the classroom to work," said Audrey Chaney, firm director. "We pride ourselves on maintaining excellent client relations and putting out quality work at a competitive price."

Meeman 901 Strategies was formed in spring 2014 by instructor Darrin Devault to give students practical experience. It has evolved from a class into a three-credit-hour student practicum. Kim Marks, the firm's current faculty adviser, said the long-term goal is to get paying clients along with paid positions, similar to The Daily Helmsman.

The group met every Monday and Wednesday morning with the mission of making the group a professional media firm.

So far the firm has worked for several clients from on-campus and off-campus. An average day involved a combination of brainstorming potential campaign ideas, writing content, and planning out client strategies.

Clients from the fall semester included Innovate Memphis, Pi Beta Phi, and the American Heart Association. Several ideas were also planned but not every pitch turned into an ongoing project. Getting new clients for the firm is an ongoing effort.

Their current effort is for the Santa Cause Fundraiser and Bachelor Auction, an event benefitting the Hope House charity in Memphis. The firm made a spotlight of each bachelor and tweeted one every day until the day of the event. Campaigns like these give students an opportunity to work in a professional environment and have their work seen by a wider audience.

Firm designer Jordin Howell created a Snapchat filter for the event. She said balancing the firm with class work can be difficult, but said the effort is worth it.

"Sure, it doesn't seem like enough time in the day sometimes, but I get it all done," Howell said. "That's just life."

From left: Garrett Pilgrim, Jordin Howell, Kim Marks, James Huff, Kalyn Treece, Rachel Patterson, Arian Hill, Audrey Chaney, Landry Starks, Erin Ezell and Cody Prentiss

Advertising senior Lee named to AAF's Most Promising Student list

Brittany Lee, a senior advertising major from Memphis, has been named to the American Advertising Federation's 2017 class of Most Promising Multicultural Students.

The honor makes Lee one of the top 50 advertising students in the country and includes a weeklong trip to New York City in February to network with advertising professionals. She is the sixth student from UofM to be named to the award list.

News Briefs

NPR executive coming to UofM in February

National Public Radio executive Keith Woods is the featured speaker at the 2017 Norm Brewer First Amendment lecture, an annual event dedicated to highlighting issues of free speech and free press.

Woods has been vice president for diversity in news and operations at National Public Radio since 2010. Prior to that, he worked at the Poynter Institute, where he was the dean of the faculty for five years. He regularly writes and reports on race, ethics, and diversity.

The lecture is set for 6 p.m., Feb. 28, at the University Center Theater. The annual lecture started in 2011, and it is named for the late WREG commentator Norm Brewer who died previous year after decades reporting and commentating on news in Memphis.

Previous Norm Brewer First Amendment lecture speakers have been Douglas Brinkley, Leonard Pitts, Geneva Overholser, Hank Klibanoff and Callie Crossley.

Faculty member's book about Kerner Commission released

Journalism associate professor Tom Hrach released his first book, "The Riot Report and the News: How the Kerner Commission Changed Media Coverage of Black America" this past August.

The book is an examination of how the 1968 Kerner Commission developed its media criticism, which is considered a milestone in the history of journalism. The book offers a critical look at the report and offers some praise for the namesake of the commission, the late Otto Kerner, governor of Illinois.

The book was published by the University of Massachusetts Press.

'Sun Studios' to air in March

Country Music Television announced that its new series "Sun Studios," which was filmed in Memphis and features several UofM journalism students, will air its first episode on Feb. 23.

The show tells the story of how Sam Phillips brought Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash to their famous Sun Studios session in 1956. Filming for the series began around Memphis in April and continued through July. The show was recently re-named, having previously been known as the "Million Dollar Quartet."

Included as extras in the production were JRSM students  John Klyce, Sydney Neeley, and Mandy Hrach.

SPJ chapter well represented in New Orleans

The UofM Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists was well-represented at the 2016 Excellence in Journalism conference in September in New Orleans.

Representing the UofM journalism department were SPJ president Lauren Berry, Lois Charm, Emilee Robinson, JRSM chair David Arant and SPJ adviser Tom Hrach.

The conference attracted several hundred journalists from around the country and featured a special session with Marty Barron, former editor of the Boston Globe, who is portrayed in the Academy Award winning film, "Spotlight."