Southern Regional Press Institute

Southern Regional Press Institute (SRPI) Logo

SAVANNAH – The JMC program at Savannah State University is well-known for hosting events that support Savannah State students and neighboring schools. It was no surprise, even amid COVID-19, that Savannah State University would continue to host the 70th Southern Regional Press Institute. The virtual event, “Zooming into 70th, A Legacy that Embodies Media and Education” took place from February 25th to February 27th, 2021.

The famous two-day SRPI conference brought over 30 industry professionals and 12 workshops, connecting students who were interested in journalism, public relations, and multimedia to highly respected journalists and media professionals. Award-winning journalist and CEO of Ivory Communications Lee Ivory was featured as a keynote speaker; as well as, Founder and CEO of Carriage Trade Public Relations, Majorie Young. This year’s SRPI conference overcame COVID-19 related restrictions and achieved a great turnout. 

Gathered by a virtual screen, several successful speakers and international students were able to participate and interact. The conference kicked off with an opening session with keynote speaker Marjorie Young and guest speakers: Senator Jon Ossoff and Major Van Johnson. 

Young discussed her practical tips to “increase [college students and business owners] visibility, credibility, and positive word of mouth in the community and online.” Majorie Young is mainly specialized in public relations. Her advice was informative and provided a new perspective for PR students who have attended the previous SRPI conference. Young emphasized, what most media professionals encourage, was to “start early in establishing an online presence”.

An online presence is essential now more than ever when many businesses and professions are transitioning to virtual projects. Companies read intern letters and emails with a critical eye; which is accompanied by assessing their background research of interns that are interested in their company. 

To conclude, Marjorie Young was presented the Robert S. Abbott Memorial Award for meritorious service in mass communications. The opening ceremony was an appreciable start that set the tone for the rest of the workshops. 

In the next workshop, “Print & The Pandemic: The Role of Print in the Increasing Virtual Age”, Executive Editor of the Savannah Morning News Rana Cash, Vice President & Advertising Director Tanya Milton, and Emeritus Grady College Professor John W. English educated the viewers in the changes in print during the pandemic. 

Milton explained how “some of [her] bigger advertisers have gone strictly online.” Employees of the Savannah Tribune had to take computers home and work remotely. Due to the higher cases of COVID-19, surrounding churches shut down their services resulting in the corruption of the Savannah Tribune’s circulation of newspapers. 

Rana Cash stated, “Print is still the money maker.” Although there is a strong increase in incorporating technology into almost every profession, print still has strategies to remain on the market.” 

On the other hand, Professor English shared information about revenue and profits of newspapers continuously declining. He also mentioned a newspaper filing for bankruptcy. The pandemic is constantly changing the print business. 

For the students, the speakers were able to communicate how they still expect interns to hone the skills they would have before the pandemic. The speakers encouraged students to be interesting and memorable by having a social media presence. By interacting, the student viewers and staff could ask questions and make comments in the chat feature of the online conference.

The online conference was directed by Mr. Kareem McMichael, who adjusted the SRPI’s regular commencement to fully virtual. McMichael confidently summarized his experience, “...I would say it was challenging in a way, [but] I’ve worked with a lot of the directors in the past, very closely with them, so I felt like I was prepared.” 

One of these challenges included the SRPI’s overall participation and fundraising. Although there were over 300 participants that registered, there were only about 200 participants that logged in and engaged in the virtual conference. Michael explained how this could have been avoided by “having a better cohesive effort of getting the word out into the community. It isn’t celebrated more, kind of like the film festival at SCAD.” 

Whilst SRPI could improve, it gained the impressive attention of Senator John Ossoff and the University of the Virgin Islands. For future SRPI conferences, international attention is a goal of Savannah State’s JMC program. The workshops at SRPI have lasting experiences, “A lot of students that go to SRPI, who engage, those professionals remember them. They help [students] get jobs'' stated Kareem McMichael. 

Professionals are more likely to hire interns they have communicated with before. Students are encouraged to actively engage with provided speakers and workshops that are specifically designed to aid in the student’s interest. For 70 consecutive years, SRPI has guided many Savannah State graduates into their career fields and shaped the savannah community.

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