Jim Prince, publisher of the Madison County Journal and President of the Mississippi Press Association, visits with Canton native Jonece Dunigan during a meeting of the National Newspaper Associaion in Washington recently where she was the recipient of a journalism fellowship made possible by the MPA’s Education Foundation.
Jim Prince, publisher of the Madison County Journal and President of the Mississippi Press Association, visits with Canton native Jonece Dunigan during a meeting of the National Newspaper Associaion in Washington recently where she was the recipient of a journalism fellowship made possible by the MPA’s Education Foundation.
Canton native Jonece Dunigan recently traveled to Washington D.C. as a fellow of the National Newspaper Association Foundation's annual Governmental Affairs summit where she spent time on Capitol Hill.

Dunigan, a senior journalism student from the Meek School of Journalism at the University of Mississippi, was there to partake in a two-and-a-half day program to develop news literacy skills in young journalists, looking at issues from a community newspaper perspective.

Her trip was made possible through a grant from the Mississippi Press Association Educational Foundation.

During the two-and-a-half day program in Washington, Dunigan and the other fellows studied with veteran community newspaper journalists to research an issue, interview key players, work with their mentors to distinguish facts from spin and opinion (recognizing that opinion has a key role in shaping public policy), and produce a news or interpretive story for publication in hometown media.

It was good experience, but she said the pride the trip has inspired in her parents has been the best reward.

"My family doesn't make a lot of money," Dunigan said. "My dad is disabled, and my mother works three nights a week at a local hospital. When you live in a family with that dynamic, you don't expect to attend Ole Miss and take trips to Washington D.C. We were worried for a while that they were going to have to pull me out of school so I could work, and I would call home and every time my mother answered, she would say 'I hope this is good news, because I can't handle any more bad.'

"So for them to pay for my trip meant a lot to my family. My dad went to Alabama A&M. To him, Ole Miss might as well be Harvard. To see his little girl going to D.C. made him proud, so I'm very appreciative for what they've done for me."

She may be grateful, but Dunigan is doing a lot to help her own cause - that trip was just the latest example of how she's making the most of her college experience. Last summer, she interned at Quincy Newspaper Inc., a media conglomerate that owns the Quincy Herald Whig and several radio stations.

It was there that Dunigan reported on the effect of last summer's supreme court ruling on a same-sex couple in Quincy, Ill. - a story that won her first place in the 2013 Region 12 Society of Professional Journalists at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville on April 12.

That qualifies her for national recognition when SPJ's national conference convenes in Nashville on Sept. 5. She's also earned two other awards - the Excellency in Journalism Award from the Meek School and the Taylor Award, given annually to the top 1-percent of seniors at Ole Miss.

After school, Dunigan said she'd like to write for a newspaper and localize stories so she can play her small part in fixing societal problems, shedding light on under-reported stories and give a voice to folks who are otherwise powerless.

"We're delighted the foundation can give bright students like Jonice an opportunity to experience D.C.," said James E. Prince III, president of the Mississippi Press Association, chairman of the MPA Education Foundation and publisher of the Journal.