April 19, 2014  

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CATCHING UP WITH DR. CHRIS CAMPBELL

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Chris Campbell serves as the director of the School of Mass Communication and Journalism at Southern Miss. Recently, Campbell took a few moments to reflect on his current responsibilities and outside interests in a question-and-answer format.

Q: What is your hometown and educational background?

A: I’m from Dayton, Ohio. I have a BA in English from Webster University in St. Louis, an MS in mass communication from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and a Ph.D. in mass communication from Southern Miss.

Q: How did you end up at Southern Miss as director of the School of Mass Communication and Journalism?

A: After getting my Ph.D. here I served as a faculty member and administrator at Xavier University in New Orleans, University of Idaho, Hampton University and Ithaca College. I had a great experience as a grad student at Southern Miss, so I jumped at the chance to return as a member of the faculty. It was a real honor to get this job.

Q: How would you define your role at Southern Miss?

A: I provide leadership to the School of Mass Communication and Journalism. It’s a little different from most academic departments because we have so much going on outside the classroom. Our students really need the experiences they get at internships and in student media, so the Student Printz, WUSM-FM and our other student organizations are really central to what we do.

Q: What do you tell journalism students who are watching the decline of newspapers?

A: That there will always be journalism -- people need to know what’s going on in the world around them – but that it’s not going to look the same in the future. The changes in technology have had a huge impact, especially on the business model. So we’re encouraging students to learn new technologies and to pay attention to media economics. Our current students are the ones who will figure out how things will work in this brave, new world.

Q:Who are some of your all-time favorite journalists and why?

A: I came of age in the 1960s, so there was a lot of heroic coverage of the war in Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement. Walter Cronkite was a dominant figure and the network news was far more important that it is now. I like a lot of long-form journalism. I remember as a kid reading John Howard Griffin's “Black Like Me” and George Plimpton’s “Paper Lion.” And I’m still into so-called literary journalists like Truman Capote, Hunter Thompson, Seymour Hersh, Rick Bragg and Joan Didion.

Q: What are the biggest challenges you face in your current position?

A: This program has produced a lot of talented alumni, but it’s always done it without great resources. So attracting support from media companies and our alumni and friends is the thing I’ve become most interested in. The university’s decision to move us to College Hall is huge, and it represents a great opportunity to raise our profile and attract resources. If you look around the top mass communication programs, you’ll see that they generally have much better facilities and larger faculties with more high profile media professionals. They also have much larger scholarship endowments. We’re hoping the move to College Hall will allow us to attract the kinds of resources we need to become one of the top programs in the Southeast.

Q: What animal best describes your personality and why?

A: I’m a dog person, but I don’t know if that describes my personality. I’m pretty optimistic and that seems like a dog trait.

Q: How do you prefer to spend your free time?

A: Lately, I’ve been on my Ipad way too much. Mostly I read newspapers and look at other news-related Web sites. I’m also into the New York Times Crossword Puzzle app. I’m an avid golfer. I grew up caddying and I guess I got addicted. I play most every weekend.

Q: What’s the best advice you ever received and from whom?

A: When I lived in St. Louis, I became friends with a journalist and author named Martin Quigley. He wrote a memoir about working as a journalist in Kansas City in the 1930s and 1940s. He signed my copy, “For Chris, who should know how it was to know how it is.” I think it’s very important for every new generation to study the things that came before. There’s a lot to learn.