Former USM soccer player places in top-10 at Hearst Journalism Awards

Published 11:31 am Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Mackenzie Hamilton, a recent graduate of The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) School of Communication, won eighth place in the prestigious Hearst Journalism Awards Program in the 2021-22 Television Features competition.

Founded in 1960, the Hearst Journalism Awards, also known as “the Pulitzer Prize of collegiate journalism,” offer scholarships for outstanding performance in college-level journalism and are fully funded and administered by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. This is the first time USM has placed in the Top 10.

“I consider the Hearst competition the best in the country because it makes no distinction between school size, geography or anything else. The goal is to honor the best collegiate journalism in the nation. That’s it. We have always known that our students can stand next to any in the country and more than hold their own. This honor for Hamilton and her mentor, Dr. Lindsey Conlin Maxwell, is more proof of that. We are extremely proud of both of them,” said Dr. Edgar Simpson, Director of the School of Communication.

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Participation in the awards is open to undergraduate journalism majors currently enrolled in universities accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC). Entrants must be actively involved in campus media and must have published articles, photographs or produced newscasts or multimedia pieces that can be submitted in the writing, photojournalism, broadcast journalism and/or multimedia competitions.

“Congratulations are in order for Hamilton for her work on the stories she wrote and produced. I’m so proud to have had her as a student and advisee, and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for her,” said Dr. Maxwell, lead Broadcast Professor and Advisor.

A native of Prosper, Texas, and a 2021 USM graduate, Hamilton earned a B.A. in Journalism with an emphasis in Broadcast Journalism. Most of her stories in class were about sports, her honors thesis topic was on sports reporting, and she worked with Southern Miss Athletics to produce a weekly show called “Season Pass.”

Her competition entry was judged as a whole and included stories of: Patrick Stewart, recently retired Assistant AD of Equipment Operations; Joye Lee-McNelis, Head Coach of the Women’s Basketball team; and the Mississippi Raiders’ indoor football team.

“I am extremely honored that the School of Communication entered my work into this prestigious competition and am excited that I am representing USM in the top ten,” said Hamilton.

As for the influences that impacted her professional development while at USM, Hamilton adds: “Dr. Maxwell had a significant impact on me during my time at USM. She was my advisor all four years, as well as my thesis advisor and professor for two years. Through getting involved with the Student Media Center, I also learned a lot from Chuck Cook and Dr. Wilbur Martin. Additionally, Dr. Simpson’s passion for journalism is so contagious and I am so glad that I got to experience his leadership.”

Hamilton’s passion for storytelling is also contagious. You can grasp her ability to bring powerful stories to life, as she shares more about her competition entries.

“During my senior year at USM, I was fortunate enough to launch a weekly sports report, “Season Pass,” that covered Southern Miss Athletics. I knew I wanted my first feature story to be on Patrick Stewart, who since then has retired. I was always fascinated by his job and wanted to hear about his 25 years of serving Southern Miss athletes and staff,” said Hamilton.

“Later that spring, after hearing the news of Joye Lee-McNelis‘ diagnosis of cancer, I followed along with her team’s season very closely. I was captivated by her perseverance as well as her generosity. After the women’s basketball season concluded, I had the pleasure of interviewing Coach McNelis to help tell her story of determination, as well as raise awareness for the Patient Navigation Program—an initiative with Forrest General to bring awareness and eliminate barriers to care in our community.”

“Southern Miss Athletics provided me with numerous experiences to grow as a sports reporter and I will forever be thankful for their willingness to help me bring so many different ideas to life,” she added.

“Therefore, my biggest piece of advice to current students is to take advantage of the school’s receptiveness to student media. Don’t sit around and wait for an opportunity to present itself, instead go out and create that opportunity for yourself. Start a podcast, radio show, sports report, talk show, you name it. The best way to grow is to practice.”

Hamilton is currently pursuing an MBA at Auburn University and working as a graduate assistant for War Eagle Productions, Auburn Athletics’ video department, where she continues to soar. This past semester, she had the opportunity to report on the Auburn Football Review TV show, host a tailgate segment during Auburn Football games, and serve as an analyst on a few Auburn Soccer broadcasts.

“While we never do anything just to win awards, I do think recognition such as this helps tell our story to prospective students: USM is a good choice to launch your career,” said Dr. Simpson.