A Mississippi native who went on to become the editor of the Sacramento Bee and a vice president for McLatchy Newspapers spoke to University of Southern Mississippi journalism students in a master class held recently on the Hattiesburg campus.
Gregory Favre, a distinguished fellow in journalism values at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, discussed his career and the state of the journalism industry in his presentation, titled “Media Leadership in an Uncertain Age.” A committee of faculty members selected 20 students to participate.
He reflected on a career that started at age 10, when he helped his father with a variety of tasks at the weekly Sea Coast Echo in Bay St. Louis, Miss. Before reaching the upper echelon of the journalism industry, he was a sports reporter at the Jackson, Miss. State-Times, a time he reflected on fondly during his presentation.
“I covered high school football, basketball and baseball, travelling all over the state (at the States Item)," he said. The job was the springboard to becoming an assistant sports editor under the legendary Furman Bisher at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"I was so lucky then, doing what I was doing and now I’m lucky to look back at the career I had,” he said. “I got to go to a newsroom and get paid. What a wonderful gift.”
Favre noted how much the media industry has changed with the progression of technology, from when the sounds of typewriters, roar of the pressroom and the “perfume” of newspapers permeated newsrooms to today’s online and other digital delivery of news that lack the aforementioned sensory perceptions.
“That was then, and then along came the spider known as the internet that caught us in its web,” he said.
But even with changes in format and increased focus on meeting the economic bottom line in the media industry, he says there’s still a demand for well-trained reporters and photographers like the ones graduating from Southern Miss to serve the human desire to know what is happening, noting that “news helps us live our lives and participate as citizens.”
“What hasn’t changed is our mission to serve our audiences,” he said. “Storytelling will always be alive, whether in words or images. That’s the future of journalism, and always has been.”
Asked by students for advice, he encouraged them to “be themselves” in their pursuit of work after graduation, and to dedicate themselves to their craft. “I’m looking for what’s in your head and in your heart,” he said in describing his approach when he interviewed potential employees.
Dr. Chris Campbell, director of the Southern Miss School of Mass Communication and Journalism, said Favre has had a remarkable career and is an excellent role model for students who are preparing to enter the same field.
“He has a ton of credibility, and he offered our students a lot of very useful advice. He has a good sense of what is happening in the news business, and his was a pretty optimistic message,” Campbell said. “Plus, he offered to help specific students with their internship and job hunts, so they really appreciated that.”
Carly Tynes, a journalism student from Petal, Miss. and executive editor of the school newspaper, the Student Printz, said Favre’s presentation was inspiring.
“He spoke so highly of journalists and our industry and our calling that it was evident he followed his passion,” Tynes said. “I can only hope I am as good an asset to the field of journalism and to the public whenever I step out into the ‘real world’ and begin reporting for a news organization, be it big or small.”
For information about the Southern Miss School of Mass Communication and Journalism, online visit www.usm.edu/mcj.