Madison's Agnew discusses new projects at MPB
Madison’s Ronnie Agnew, executive director of Mississippi Public Broadcasting, shares two deep passions in his life: journalism and family.
Agnew, 58, has done it all in the journalism world.
This makes perfect sense for a journalist whose favorite quote, according to thehistorymakers.org is, “I don’t like no. Bring me solutions, not problems.”
Since graduating from the University of Mississippi with bachelor degrees in both English and Radio/Television, Agnew has worked as the executive editor for Mississippi’s largest and most widely circulated newspaper, The Clarion Ledger, and has earned many awards for his investigative reporting and for his leadership.
Agnew has served as the diversity chairman for the American Society of News Editors, on the board of directors for the Associated Press Media Editors and as board chairman for the America’s Public Television Stations, executive committee chair for the National Educational Telecommunications Association, and a variety of other significant positions.
Perhaps his family life has been even more rewarding.
Ronnie and his wife, Melodie, live in Madison. The Agnew children, Christopher, Victoria and Rachel, are well-accomplished.
Victoria (Tori) Agnew Woodhouse describes her father as, “over protective. He loves to hear from us kids every day.”
“Family is everything to him. He especially loves being a grandaddy.
He has supported my dreams for as long as I’ve known what they were. He has always been there for me through everything. And he is a storyteller at heart.
He always managed to keep the journalism separate from being a father except when he proofread our papers. He would edit them like crazy. However, he loved the newspaper. He still keeps up with all the news, loves to write about his life as a country boy from Saltillo, Mississippi, and loves his broadcasting job.”
Agnew’s work has been remarkable. He has won many awards and honors throughout his career, such as the University of Mississippi’s Silver Elm Award for journalism excellence and being in its Alumni Hall of Fame as well as in the University of Southern Mississippi’s Journalism Hall of Fame.
Perhaps most notably, Agnew has received four President’s Rings for Gannett Co. Inc.’s best editor and his significant contributions to national coverage of civil rights issues.
Woodhouse continues, “Broadcasting has stretched him in ways that he didn’t know he could. He is always mentoring young journalists. He is the best writer I know. He brings life to anything he writes about.”
Two of Agnew’s important projects at Mississippi Public Broadcasting, are the “At-Home Learning” TV channel, which helps assist parents with their children’s educations during the COVID-19 pandemic, and co-operative plans with other states’ journalists to assist in broadening investigative journalism.
In response to Mississippi’s broadband challenge, Agnew’s At-Home Learning TV channel has recorded more than 200 classes during the last six months, enabling students K-12 to learn from home.
Teachers have been and continue to film many classes on topics ranging from basic phonics to various sciences and math.
“This has been probably the most difficult project to put together,” yet it has gained admiration in the legislature as well as from the Mississippi Department of Education. In a word, this project is simply invaluable, Agnew said.
The most recent project is funded by a $1.3 million grant from National Public Radio (NPR). MPB hired 10 staff members, including a healthcare reporter in Birmingham, Alabama; a criminal justice reporter in Jackson; and a wealth and poverty reporter in New Orleans. Their stories are broadcast on MPB radio and submitted to NPR.
“I do believe that all of these story reports will be worth NPR distribution,” Agnew said. The company’s goal of this collaborative project is not only to broadcast televised news for MPB, but also to supply National Public Radio with influential stories in order to find a “common thread of reports from all three states.”
Agnew’s passion does not stop at work. He is dedicated to helping students with a possible interest in journalism by serving on journalism advisory boards at Jackson State University, the School of Journalism at the University of Mississippi and the University of Southern Mississippi.
“Early on in my career as a young reporter on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, he paused in his busy schedule and challenged me to dream of the kind of editor that I hoped to become,” said Dr. Marquita Smith, assistant dean for graduate studies at the School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi.
“Before I knew my path, he charted it for me and so many others.”
Believing that journalism can change lives and shape people, Agnew said his journalism career has enabled him to “develop a heart for people.”
A graduate of Jackson Preparatory School, Maggie Rutledge is currently studying Integrated Marketing Communications at the University of Mississippi. Maggie is the daughter of Bryan and Ceci Rutledge of Madison.