After a 27-year newspaper career, Ole Miss 1984 grad Ronnie Agnew joined Mississippi Public Broadcasting (MPB) in August 2011 as the agency’s executive director.
As head of MPB, Agnew directs the three primary areas that form the agency’s mission: Emergency preparedness and response, economic impact media and educational resource development for all projects.
Agnew is responsible for developing programming and educational content that addresses health, workforce development and tourism. As executive director, he has oversight of all MPB radio and television programming, as well as the agency’s digital initiatives.
Agnew, a native of Saltillo, Miss., had previously served as executive editor of The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson for nine years, from August 2002-August 2011. He was the newspaper’s managing editor for 18 months prior to being promoted to the top newsroom position. Under his leadership, The Clarion-Ledger won numerous state and national awards, including the Mississippi Press Association’s general excellence award eight times during his tenure at the newspaper.
Agnew is an award-winning columnist, is also active in national journalism circles. While at The Clarion-Ledger, the newspaper was a three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and was lauded nationally for its staff diversity and coverage of civil rights issues.
HottyToddy.com reporter Austin Wilkes interviewed Agnew for this question and answer article:
Q. What is your favorite memory of Ole Miss?
A. My favorite memory at Ole Miss was the first week I got on campus. I was a kid from a small town with very strict parents. While I’m grateful for my upbringing, I wasn’t exposed to very much. Ole Miss opened a whole new world. I recall being so impressed with everything — the pretty campus, the Grove, the student union. I remember going to class that first week and pinching myself that I was sitting among people who would one day be leaders across the state, country and world. That has proved to be true. I have friends doing amazing things in their careers.
Q. What was your most funny or embarrassing moment at Ole Miss?
A. This is crazy, but it involves a major prank my friends on the 5th floor of the Twin Towers (now Stockard Hall) played on me during Halloween. They concocted this elaborate hoax, which fooled me entirely. They called me while I was visiting my girlfriend (who is now my wife) to say that they had been in this huge argument and that one of them was hurt. I ran back as fast as I could to help them settle the dispute. One of them was on the floor covered with ketchup, which in the dark looked like blood. I ran over to administer help, while also reaching for the phone to call UPD. They were bowled over with laughter. My friend with the ketchup sprayed all over his shirt was laughing so hard, he was nearly in tears. I stayed mad at those guys for two weeks. They still laugh at me about that. I don’t laugh back. Heck yeah, I’m holding a grudge on that one.
Q. What is your lasting impression of Ole Miss?
A. Even though I have lived in different parts of the country, Ole Miss is still a part of my life. The lasting impression is that no matter where I go, I’m never far from Ole Miss. I have the great honor of being in the university’s hall of fame. I have the great honor of being a recipient of the Silver Em, awarded to me on the 50th anniversary of the journalism award. The thing about Ole Miss that creates a lasting impression is that I have now been away from the university for 29 years, but not a single day passes without me hearing from professors or former colleagues at Ole Miss. The university still remains a part of my daily life. And I have to say that journalism school prepared me well for what was to come. I was blessed to have a team of faculty who knew my name and cared enough to push me when they knew I could do more and better.
Q. What is your advice for soon-to-be graduates?
A. Today’s graduates are entering one of the most competitive workforces that I’ve seen. Please don’t leave the university unprepared, and if you feel you aren’t ready, go back and get ready to shore up deficiencies. They are competing for fewer jobs and there is no shortage of other graduates from around the country with strong credentials. Make sure prospective employers know what makes you special. Make sure you cast a wide net when seeking employment. You may not be able to select the city where you want to live at first. You may have to leave. After you get experience, you will be able to determine better your preference of cities or regions of the country. Above all, go into the job market with solid skills and an attitude that shows you are ready to learn.
Q. What do you enjoy doing with your free time?
A. Hanging with my family and either attending sporting events or watching sports on TV. Get this though: I get so nervous watching Ole Miss’ football team on TV that I rarely watch an entire game. I want the team to do so well and for my own health I often feel that I just need to do something else when they’re playing. My wife and I are also very active in church. We believe in giving back. If it’s up to her, she’d give away everything we have to help people.