SID SALTER: State's press slated to 'roast' Gov. Barbour

Gov. Haley Barbour demonstrated his sense of humor during the “State of the State” when he roped and branded a state legislator with a pointed joke about the decidedly serious issue of the failed beef plant in Yalobusha County.

The legislator, State Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, has sparred with Barbour on a number of issues during the governor's tenure. Holland was good-natured in his response during Barbour speech – waving a white handkerchief – and laughed at his own expense.

But in a couple of weeks, Holland will be at the microphone and have a chance to return the favor.

Barbour – the state's 63rd chief executive and only the second Republican to hold the post – has agreed to be the main course for the 2005 Mississippi Press Association Education Foundation's Annual Celebrity Roast.

The roast will be held Saturday, Feb. 5, at the Hilton Hotel in Jackson. The reception will begin at 6 p.m., with the dinner beginning at 7 p.m.

“Roasters” will include State Auditor Phil Bryant, Clarion-Ledger editorial cartoonist Marshall Ramsey, and Holland – and other surprise speakers.

Pols, press join force

The MPA annually sponsors a benefit “roast” of a well-known Mississippian to raise funds to provide journalism scholarships and internships for some of Mississippi's best and brightest students.

Over the last 15 years, the event has marked one evening each yearwhen the state's politicians and the press come together for a common goal to advance journalism education.

Over $75,000 in scholarship funds has been raised over the last decade in send-ups of U.S. Sens. Trent Lott and Thad Cochran, former 3rd District U.S. Rep. G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery, former state Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson, former Attorney General Mike Moore, the late former Agriculture Commissioner Jim Buck Ross, the late Nashville star Jerry Clower, Choctaw Chief Phillip Martin, former Ole Miss journalism professor Dr. Wil Norton and a number of Mississippi journalists including columnist Bill Minor and retired newspaper publisher W.C. Shoemaker.

Scholarships, internships

The MPA Foundation has “roasted” Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives and Mississippians white, black and red in an effort to help deserving young Mississippians with scholarships as they pursue journalism degrees at state universities and colleges. MPA also offers up to 21 annual endowed internships to state journalism students at member newspapers.

In addition, the MPA Foundation has made substantial cash grants for services and equipment at Mississippi higher education institutions including Mississippi State, University of Southern Mississippi, Delta State University, Jackson State University, Alcorn State University and several community colleges.

Like the journalism profession, journalism education in Mississippi is evolving. While traditional print and broadcast journalism education flourishes in laboratory venues like the state-of-the-art S. Gale Denley Student Media Center at Ole Miss, many universities and community colleges are starved for the resources necessary to help young people master those fields and the evolving world of cyberjournalism, “blogging” and other new media systems.

The MPA roasts are about having a few laughs, but the press and the pols are serious about raising money for the kids.

Tickets are $75 each or $500 for a table of eight. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact MPA Programs Coordinator Kimberly Haydu at kming@mspress.org, or 601-981-3060.

Sid Salter is Perspective editor of The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss. Contact him at 601-961-7084 or e-mail ssalter@clarionledger.com.