Candace Mckenzie views The Purple & White as more than a campus media outlet.
“A student newspaper is a reflection of our shared similarities and differences as a campus body, and it not only allows us to be aware of a person’s experience, but it also allows us to understand another person’s experience,” said Mckenzie, who currently serves as editor-in-chief.
Mckenzie’s perspective of The Purple & White, informally known as the P&W, helps to shape her role as the current editor-in-chief of the campus paper that produced its first issue in 1909. The paper was regularly issued in a print format until it became a digital-only publication in 2014. The paper maintains an online presence at www.thepurpleandwhite.com as well as an active social media presence on Facebook and Instagram; efforts to bring back a print edition were realized in December 2019, but the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic have hindered further print editions.
Mckenzie understands the hurdles she’s facing in the face of the pandemic.
“My biggest challenge in reviving the P&W—particularly this year—is creating momentum and excitement for student journalism in a completely virtual landscape,” she said. “It’s not so much working in a virtual landscape that is challenging; rather, it’s figuring out how to position the P&W in the minds of students, faculty, and staff who are already bombarded with so many different emails, assignments, and just life-related circumstances.”
Dr. Michael Pickard, assistant professor of English and a Millsaps graduate, has worked with Mckenzie to guide the P&W’s resurgence, and praised the work she’s done.
“I am so proud of what Candace has accomplished at Millsaps; in class, and in her role as editor-in-chief of The Purple & White, she rises to every occasion,” Pickard said. “Over the last year, she has orchestrated The Purple & White’s return from the dead. The whole staff deserves credit for that accomplishment, but Candace has led the way. From running staff meetings to redesigning the website, she has put the paper back on the road to success.”
The work of producing a paper that allows students to “understand another person’s experience” also drives Mckenzie. Under her guidance, the P&W has partnered with the college’s Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Campus Center—which is part of a multi-year effort through the Association of American Colleges and Universities—to support the “My Story Monday” initiative which invites readers to share their stories about race or identity.
The P&W has also kicked off efforts to work with the All of Us partnership at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The All of Us project is researching ways to develop healthcare treatments that more intentionally focus on individual lifestyles, environments and biology rather than the more standard “one size fits all” approach. The P&W is encouraging students to enroll in the program and support its long-term research goals.
These outreach efforts are just part of what Mckenzie considers the P&W’s role in “facilitating awareness of the broader Jackson community and what this city offers in terms of job opportunities, recreational activities and volunteer opportunities.”
Mckenzie’s work at the helm of the P&W wasn’t part of her original plan when she transferred to Millsaps from Hinds Community College. Her interest in journalism grew out of her creative side.
“At 18, I was so consumed with huge aspirations of becoming a renowned screenwriter in big cities like L.A. or New York—which is not uncommon at that age,” Mckenzie recalls. “So, I was looking at big schools like Columbia College Hollywood and The University of Austin at Texas; however, I remembered my Catfish and Curiosity visit to Millsaps in my sophomore year of high school and how it embodied the essence of who I am: a small-town girl who loves to write in almost any genre.
“In my heart, I knew that large schools with as little job and life experience I had back then would completely overwhelm me. So, I scrambled back to the Millsaps website and saw the amazing list of writing-related major and minors that it offers. What sold me was that Millsaps would allow me to explore who I was as a writer in a more intimate learning experience.”
Mckenzie’s growth as a journalist has now been recognized with the announcement of her selection as the second recipient of Mississippi Today’s Emerging Reporter Fellowship, in which she will serve as an investigative reporter with a focus on public education. Mississippi Today is an online news outlet, and their fellowship aims to promote diversity in journalism by helping to create a pipeline of young investigative reporters of color who want to stay and work in Mississippi.
“I had the pleasure of working with Candace when I helped advise The Purple & White,” said Adam Ganucheau, editor-in-chief of Mississippi Today. “The day I met her in John Stone Hall, I could tell she was a deeply curious person, which is what I’d consider the most important trait in any good journalist. Then she proved over the next few months how sharp and driven she was. She’s led the effort to rebrand and reestablish the P&W as a true entity on campus, and she’s earned the respect of all her colleagues there.”
Ganucheau also noted Pickard’s work in the development of the Emerging Reporter Fellowship and the re-emergence of The Purple & White.
“His commitment to reviving the P&W and exposing his English students to the art of journalism is helping create new generations of Mississippi journalists,” Ganucheau said. “This fellowship and his student being selected for it is proof positive of that. Getting to work a couple of years with him was a pleasure.”
Growing up in Raymond, Miss., Mckenzie set her sights high. As she prepares to graduate next year with a major in communication studies and a minor in creative writing, those sights are just as high as ever.
Ganucheau has every confidence that Mckenzie will reach—and exceed—her goals.
“We can’t wait to learn from her,” he said. “I don’t say this lightly: Candace will be a household name in Mississippi in no time.”