Farewell column: Lana Ferguson

Posted on May 4 2018 - 5:32am by Lana Ferguson

lanaAfter 4 years of working Sunday through Thursday to put out the Monday through Friday print paper, racing to meet 1 a.m. deadlines, and having the time of my life producing award-winning content with some of the most talented people on campus, the time has come for my farewell column. This is my final byline in The Daily Mississippian.

I am one of those people who had their entire career planned out by the time they hit puberty. Being a journalist was a way I could use writing to make the world a better place, and I hope to still do that someday.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that I knew I wanted to be editor-in-chief of The DM before I even committed to Ole Miss. The opportunity to work for a daily newspaper was one of the things that got me hooked on the idea of leaving small-town Mechanicsville, Virginia, and coming to school 900 miles away.

I remember the first time I walked into the Student Media Center. I also remember the look of fear on the news editor’s face when I, a first semester freshman, told her I wanted to write but wasn’t enrolled in any journalism classes yet. She took the chance on me anyways. Thank God she did.

Now, my friends joke I should pay rent to The DM office rather than our landlord because of how much time I spend there. That space has become my home and my coworkers have become my family.

The DM gave me a purpose on this great big campus and I’m so thankful for that. I’ve gotten to witness some of the most significant moments at the university during my time here as a reporter, write stories that mattered, and give a voice to people that otherwise might not have had one.

Ole Miss is the place for a student journalist to be. Something is always happening and someone is always talking. I’ve written about the bad moments: the racial tensions, Greek life investigations, sexual assaults, students being used as confidential informants, and more. But I’ve also written about the good ones: the volunteering, organizations being formed, progress being made, and people with hope for the future.

This place and this newspaper have pushed me to grow as a journalist and person. I was exposed to views different than my own, mean emails from people who never quite thought I was doing my job right, and other things I couldn’t have predicted. It taught me to have confidence in my reporting, to have a reason behind every editorial decision I make, and to tell all of the university’s stories whether they’re good for PR or not.

I couldn’t have done any of it without a handful of people.

Assistant Dean of the Meek School Patricia Thompson, who we affectionately call Ms. Pat, has been my college mom. She always supported me when I had crazy ideas and big ambitions. She makes us believe that what we’re doing at the media center is important, but also keeps us grounded. I wouldn’t have survived my time at The DM (or college, really) without her.

Former editor-in-chief Clara Turnage, who I got to work under as managing editor, showed me what a student leader should be. She is the definition of a strong woman, unafraid of challenges, and a true journalist in every way. A lot of what I know is because of the guidance she gave me.

Former editor-in-chief Logan Kirkland showed me how to cover breaking news on a tight deadline. My old co-news editor Drew Jansen kept me sane my first year on the editorial staff and is part of the reason I stuck with it. Former sports editors Collin Brister and Brian Scott Rippee helped me through a lot of breaking sports news that decided to happen the year I became editor-in-chief.

My staff this year let me run with my ideas and create great work, like our special edition for the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination and the After the Storm Hurricane Harvey recovery website.

They (and a slew of other people) each helped mold me whether we knew it at the time or not. I hope I did that for some of the people I worked with, too.

I leave The DM in good hands. This new staff is ready for the challenge and I’m ready to watch how they grow as journalists and create a better DM than I could have imagined.