By LaReeca Rucker
University of Mississippi
A new director soon will lead the University of Mississippi’s S. Gale Denley Student Media Center, which includes The Daily Mississippian newspaper, campus television station NewsWatch, Rebel Radio and the Ole Miss yearbook.
Larz Roberts joins the School of Journalism and New Media June 24 as the new SMC leader.
Roberts comes to Ole Miss from Arkansas State University, where he advised Red Wolf Radio and ASU-TV News. For the past 25 years, he has worked in student media and as a faculty member, teaching radio, television, online and print courses.
“His students have won national, regional and state awards for their work, and Larz tells us that his goal is to help our students ‘grow across platforms, think critically and gain practical experience,'” said Debora Wenger, interim UM journalism dean. “Larz joins an exceptional team in the SMC and will be able to build on what is an excellent foundation.”
Roberts said he has always been a “utility player,” and that helped him learn many aspects of operating a media organization.
“If the media outlet where I worked needed someone to do a variety of whatever, I was often one to toss myself or get tossed onto those tasks,” he said. “Once I got into academia, I relished being that utility player, being able to teach and coach a number of things both the students and my departments needed.”
Ole Miss students produce a newscast, but Roberts said he’d like to see them have an entire television channel to create a variety of television programs, telling stories from all over the area.
“I’d love to see any student with a skill set or interest they can put to use in the media center use that opportunity to stretch their legs,” he said. “Get practical, real experience with content they create added to their portfolios.”
Whether that is in journalism, advertising or marketing, Roberts hopes students will use the SMC to build their portfolios and tell stories that would not otherwise be told.
“The mass media landscape is such now that everyone should think of creating multi-platform content,” he said. “Or at least, creating content that can be adapted to run across the different media platforms.
“That’s what those who are hiring are looking at, so it’s important any students wanting media experience be aware of that as an expectation.”
It’s also important that students and the program earn recognition for their work, Roberts said.
“I want to see students bringing back multiple national and regional awards,” he said. “With what I’ve seen of the work they produce, it’s a realistic goal.
“My mind has been churning almost nonstop in the past couple of weeks. I love seeing the lightbulbs turn on over students’ heads. I can hardly wait to work with the faculty and the students there to make all that happen.”
Roberts, who earned his master’s degree from UM and his bachelor’s from Florida A&M, is president of the Arkansas College Media Association, and he is involved in the Central Arkansas Association of Black Journalists, Arkansas’ only National Association of Black Journalists chapter.
He is also the founding faculty co-adviser for the state’s first student NABJ chapter, the Arkansas State Association of Black Journalists.