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Mississippi, Ole Miss Years Shape USA Today Editor’s Career

Fred Anklam Jr. Photo courtesy UM Communications
Fred Anklam Jr.
Photo courtesy UM Communications

He’s working for one of the biggest newspapers in the world, but when Fred Anklam, Jr. comes back to The University of Mississippi to pick up the 2015 Samuel Talbert Silver Em Award, he’ll be coming home to the small town where he went to college.

Anklam currently serves as a senior editor at USA Today. His duties include supervising the night coverage at the paper and monitoring the production of domestic editions of the publication in the morning.

Anklam feels living and writing in the state of Mississippi has shaped his career, allowing him the opportunity to cover pivotal topics. “In the ‘70s and ‘80s, there were just a lot of things to look at,” he says of his early days as a writer, covering hot-button issues like former Mississippi William Winter’s education reform. “It was exciting to cover something that you knew, if it passed, it would have impact for generations.”

Born in Kentucky to a military family, Anklam moved to Vicksburg as a teen. Graduating from St. Aloysius High School in 1972, he went to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, before enrolling at the University of Mississippi.

After earning his degree in journalism, he spent six years at The Clarion-Ledger. In 1982, he contributed to an investigative report on Mississippi schools that won the paper a Pulitzer Prize.

The 1985 Silver Em recipient, Charles Overby, acted as executive director at The Clarion-Ledger during the same year the publication won the Pulitzer Prize.

“Fred was a go-getter from the very first. He had a lot of enthusiasm, and, of course, he had a lot of talent,” he says, adding, “Fred has long been deserving of the award.”

After his time reporting in Jackson, Anklam moved on to Gannet Media and USA Today, where he began as their first full-time U.S. House reporter in 1986. On April 9, he’ll be earning another distinction. The Silver Em is the Meek School of Journalism & New Media’s highest journalism honor. It has been awarded annually since 1958 when it was given to George W. Healy, Jr. The award is given to commemorate Mississippians who have lead distinguished careers in journalism and journalists who have done outstanding work in Mississippi

In addition to receiving the Silver Em, Anklam will be speaking at the Ole Miss New Media Conference alongside Lewis D’Vorkin of Forbes and Hank Price of WVTM-TV in Birmingham. The theme of the conference is “innovate”, a concept that has been at the crutch of Anklam’s career at USA Today, the paper that introduced national print news via satellite technology in the 1980s. “In a way, I think we were forerunners of the way most people get their news today,” he says. Even as early adopters of innovation, the paper has had to adjust for the digital age of information. “It used to be the newspaper came first, and then we did our digital stuff, (but) now it’s very clear we have a digital focus.”

Anklam hopes that his address can help attendees realize that there is no escaping technology in the media world. “The basics haven’t changed, as far as the journalism, but the delivery system has changed and it will continue to change,” he says. “You just have to be open to change and be prepared for it.”

The dinner for the presentation of the Silver Em will be held on April 8 at 6 p.m. at the Ole Miss Inn, while the Ole Miss New Media Conference will be held April 9 in the Overby Center Auditorium. For tickets to the dinner, contact Paula Hurdle at (662) 915-7146 or pchurdle@olemiss.edu. To register for the conference, visit www.olemissnewmediaconference.com or contact Susan O’Keefe at saokeefe@olemiss.edu.

Story contributed by Ole Miss journalism student Jared Boyd, jlboyd3@go.olemiss.edu.

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