MSPA Successfully Hosts 2023 Spring Convention


On March 22, more than 400 high school students representing 23 schools from all across the state gathered in Oxford to meet with professors and industry professionals at the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association’s annual spring convention. 


The MSPA was founded in 1947 to provide an environment where high school students can nurture and grow their journalistic skills through competitions, workshops, conventions and online aid. 


After a brief welcome session in the Grove that honored MSPA Director R.J. Morgan, Ph.D., MJE,  for his ten years of service as director, a packed-full day of breakout sessions began. Students were able to discuss their work, goals, and take advantage of having professionals in the journalism field, who gave them tips, advice and trade secrets on a variety of different media-related topics. 


“I thought it was a great success,” Morgan said. “All the students seemed to have a good time and were really excited about stuff coming out of their sessions.”


Students could choose sessions they attended that ranged from photography and photojournalism to reviews of the best broadcast news submissions from the students by current industry heads. Zoe Keyes, photographer for the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics, was covering the event and assisting students throughout the day. 


“There was a session I walked into about covering controversial topics where some of the students were talking about how they felt very limited by their district because they couldn’t cover anything that was deemed ‘controversial’ or would put the school in a bad light,” Keyes said. “I felt for them, and it’s disappointing that some publications are still limited in covering important topics.”


Keyes was part of MSPA during her high school journalistic career at Madison Central High School in Madison, Miss., but only attended the convention once due to the pandemic.


“I’m glad to know that we are still able to keep this going and give students these amazing outlets for their future,” Keyes said. “I know I wouldn’t be in the position I am today if it wasn’t for MSPA.”


 MSPA was able to successfully host its annual fall convention at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg last fall and in 2021, but its last spring convention before this one had been in April of 2019. The event was held remotely in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, then canceled in 2022 due to a massive tornadic weather system that swept through the state on the convention’s scheduled date.


“It was really good to get back in the swing of things and back to having events like we used to,” Morgan said. “Most of the schools that attended were veteran programs, which is really good because that means that they’ve survived the pandemic.”


For Morgan, the most important part of the convention is giving students the opportunity to network with others in the journalism field. 


“Oftentimes high school journalism, whether it’s yearbook or broadcast or whatever, is done by a really small number of people in the school,” Morgan said. “They cover everybody else’s stories, but few people really understand them or what they do. So these conventions are a chance to bring students from all over the state together so they can network and draw strength from each other, which is the point of MSPA.”


The day ended with the annual Hamilton Keynote speech and the Best of Mississippi awards program. Charles and Andrea Overby, who both led rival high school newspapers in Jackson, Miss., in the 1960s, delivered their co-keynote address as a “conversation” tracing the impact of their high school journalism experience on the rest of their careers. 


“The convention was such a success,” Charles Overby said. “It was good to see everyone back, and I am looking forward to the next one.”