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USM School of Media and Communication Home to New Roy Howard Community Journalism Center

Wed, 05/01/2024 - 09:42am | By: David Tisdale

Scripps Howard Fund Investing $3 Million in Initiative

USM School of Media and Communication

A transformational development in how the School of Media and Communication at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) trains journalists to bring coverage to under-reported communities in the state and battle disinformation across multiple media platforms will launch in fall 2024 with the establishment of the Roy Howard Community Journalism Center.

Named in honor of Roy W. Howard, former chairman of the Scripps Howard newspaper chain, the Roy Howard Community Journalism Center at USM will help educate student journalists in providing important, fact-based reporting for their readers while also engaging in efforts to dispel disinformation infecting news cycles; the Scripps Howard Fund is investing $3 million in the initiative, with the University receiving $1 million per year for three years to create and operate the Center.

“The expansion of news deserts across the country is having a profound impact on the people who live in these communities. Student journalists – who are the future of the profession – have a chance to help solve that problem,” said Mike Canan, director of journalism strategies for the Scripps Howard Fund. “We believe the investment in the Community Journalism Center at USM will provide essential news coverage in the entire Southeast Mississippi region. It also will help students learn how to reach people living in places that no longer have news coverage and might not be eager to trust journalists.”

USM School of Media and Communication


USM’s Roy Howard Community Journalism Center will be led by a team of professional journalists and instructors helping students provide reliable reporting while building relationships and trust. As part of their coverage, students will also debunk false information and seek to expose sources of misinformation.

The center will be established in three locations, including the main headquarters on the University’s Hattiesburg campus; a bureau on the USM Gulf Park Campus in Long Beach; and a bureau embedded with Mississippi Public Broadcasting in Jackson, as participating students establish geographic and subject beats while working with area media outlets to develop local and regional stories.

The Roy Howard Community Journalism Center at USM will feature:

  • Experiential learning: USM will develop a pipeline of young talent for Mississippi’s newsrooms by putting university, community college and high school students to work under the professional guidance of staff, faculty and partners.

  • Local reporting: Students will create professional-level local content, with source transparency as a fundamental value. The coverage will be available across platforms that connect with an underserved population in Southeast Mississippi.

  • Trust building: The center will operate a “What is True” section, which will monitor websites and social media streams that have a track record of disseminating misinformation in the targeted region. The team will also host a “What is True” hotline for residents, a podcast and a website to help audiences to separate fact from fiction. The community will also be invited to attend “What is True” events to discuss issues related to news coverage and build media literacy.

“At Southern Miss, we are committed to preparing graduates who are ready for life,” said USM Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Lance Nail. “The Roy Howard Community Journalism Center will do just that, as it will be the first fully realized media literacy initiative in Mississippi and will address the news desert of Southeast Mississippi.

“Now, more than ever, we must provide students with opportunities to flourish in a world where truth is often hidden, and facts are seldom the headlines. The Roy Howard Community Journalism Center at Southern Miss will serve our communities while preparing our students to seek out and share truth.”

Dr. Chris Winstead, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, expressed gratitude for the Scripps Howard Fund grant establishing the center and its potential for making a positive, lasting impact on media in Mississippi with the work of graduates trained through its programming.

“The world of journalism is undergoing profound changes in how news is collected and delivered,” Dr. Winstead continued. “However, the need for quality journalism is as great or greater than ever. This grant will help us provide real world experiences for our students, while also helping to address the need for local journalism in communities across the southern region of our state.” 

USM will also partner with the Mississippi Association of Broadcasters; Mississippi Press Association; Mississippi Public Broadcasting; Mississippi Today; and Mississippi Scholastic Press Association, whose staff will contribute expertise and awareness for the Center and distribute the journalism its students produce across the state.

“The Roy Howard Community Journalism Center at USM will redefine local journalism and education, providing students with opportunities to engage with professional newsrooms across the country,” said Dr. Edgar Simpson, director of USM’s School of Media and Communication. “In an age of misinformation, our center will hold itself to the highest of professional standards. Through transparent reporting and a commitment to ethical journalism, our community journalists will bring to life the stories that matter most to underrepresented communities.

“By actively promoting media literacy and building trust, we are poised to make a significant impact, empowering citizens to make informed decisions and engage with their communities.”

Senior journalism students Cordaveon Carter and Abigail Troth welcomed the news of the establishment of the Center; both participated in the effort to attract it to the University.

“I’m so excited that Southern Miss was chosen to receive the Scripps grant to create the Roy Howard Community Journalism Center,” said Carter, a native of Tunica, Miss. “I saw first-hand all the work that Dr. Simpson and his team put in to make this happen, and the fact that USM students were included in the process makes it even more special. I believe our diversity in the School of Media and Communication and the Student Media Center, as well as the support of our advisor Dr. Jason Beverly, was crucial in helping us land this grant.

“I believe the center will be successful in creating and distributing content to areas in Mississippi that need it the most and attracting more minorities to the fields of media and communication.”

Troth, a native of Pineville, Miss. who serves as editor-in-chief of the Southern Miss Student Media Center, believes the center will benefit both the University and the communities it serves.

“South Mississippi desperately needs reporters willing to tell their stories across multiple medias, and I definitely see this new center playing a part in that,” Troth said. “I watched my peers excel and shine in helping us be selected for this honor. We worked hard because we wanted to see our school blossom. I love this place, and I only want to see it grow.”

Learn about all the Scripps Howard Fund’s nationally recognized journalism education programs here. This funding is aligned with Press Forward, a national movement to strengthen communities by reinvigorating local news.

The USM School of Media and Communication is housed in the College of Arts and Sciences. Learn more about the School of Media and Communications, including its degree programs for students, experiential learning opportunities, and the work of its award-winning faculty.