Smith places fourth in Hearst Journalism Award

Posted on Apr 29 2015 - 9:02am by Natalie Williams


Clancy Smith, a senior journalism major, was awarded fourth in the Hearst Journalism Awards Program, the highest finish since the university began competing in 1975, and two Prism Awards in Public Relations.

As the daughter of a journalist, senior Clancy Smith has been influenced by the art of writing from a young age. It is no surprise that her time at The University of Mississippi would lead her to graduate with a degree in journalism while collecting several prestigious awards along the way.

Now, as a soon to be Honor’s College graduate, Smith reflects on the experiences she has had through the university and the Meek School of Journalism.

As a freshman, Smith was undecided about her career goals. After meeting with Will Norton Jr., dean of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, she made up her mind.

“Dr. Norton, who was also my dad’s dean, really encouraged me to try out journalism,” Smith said. “I ended up taking 102, and I could not get enough of the classes or the professors.”

Smith named several instructors specifically, including Bill Rose and Robin Street. Rose served as her thesis advisor; Street encouraged her to enter her work in the Public Relations of Mississippi Prism Awards, where she was awarded two top awards.

“I traveled to the Mississippi Delta with Mr. Rose to cover the 50th Anniversary of the voting rights act,” Smith said. “He has been a key person to develop me as a writer. Mrs. Street has also been a huge influence through her instruction and her encouragement of my work.”

Smith said her Hearst award stemmed from her trip to the Delta.

Rose said as an Honors College student and a journalism major, Smith has contributed important stories to The Daily Mississippian, gone on student reporting trips and contributed key stories to the school’s annual depth report.

Rose said the last depth report covered the struggle for voting rights in the Mississippi Delta. In the magazine, they featured Clancy’s stories on how Indianola, once the home of the segregationist Citizens Council, came together black and white to build a world class museum honoring the life of a black entertainer, legendary bluesman B.B. King, according to Rose.

Rose said Smith also wrote a revealing report on how the museum has begun an education initiative to teach kids in Indianola how to eat properly and help them with their schooling.

“Clancy Smith is one of those hard-working, smart students who blossoms when given a challenge,” Rose said. “She is proof that hard work pays off, big-time, in the world of journalism and academics.”

Smith’s award-winning story came from an interview with civil rights icon John Lewis whose beating by white cops on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama helped spark the passage of the historic Voting Rights Act.

“Her sweeping profile of Lewis won her fourth place in the annual Hearst contest for student journalists across the land,” Rose said. “Her impressive showing in a national writing contest makes it more likely that other Ole Miss students will try to follow suit.”

Smith recalled how she felt before she interviewed Lewis.

“I remember being really scared doing the interview because I only had a small amount of time to talk to him because he is such a busy person. It was an honor to speak with him.”

Robin Street said Smith’s work has always stood out as some of the very best in the class.

“Her work is always beautifully written, thoroughly researched, creatively implemented and excellently planned,” Street said. “Her attention to detail also sets her apart from many students, and she has been a joy to have as a student.”

Smith said the conversations she has with people before she writes a story are the easiest part about journalism.

“I love getting to sit down with people with different backgrounds and different stories,” Smith said. “When you are interested in what the person has to say, the conversation flows naturally. This makes the writing aspect challenging because I want to make those people proud and portray their stories accurately.”

Smith recently traveled to Ethiopia with several other journalism students, where she reported on the country’s environmental struggles and the changes they are trying to implement to make the country more environmentally friendly.

“It opened me up to a whole new world of international reporting, especially with translations,” Smith said. “I think that is what the journalism school was trying to do: expose us to these different challenges.”

Smith said she plans to carry the education and experiences she has gained from the Meek School of Journalism to the University of Alabama, where she is planning to get her masters in public relations.

“After that is a world of possibilities, and I am excited to see what the future brings,” Smith said.

Natalie Williams