Jay Mitchell Wenger
Sometimes life experiences can lead us to our destiny.
For DeAndria Turner, the people and situations that impacted her life led to a career of storytelling with empathy.
Turner, a University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media graduate, has known she wanted to be a reporter since 10th grade when she met her journalism role model, who was covering her beauty pageant.
Today, the Gautier native works as a reporter for WAFF 48, a Huntsville news station.
Turner’s “try and try again” attitude and passion for telling the stories of others helped her land the job. Her parents also influenced her career choice.
After the unexpected loss of her mother whose death remains a mystery, Turner realized there had been no news coverage of the tragedy. This pushed her to pursue working as a journalist and to report the news, no matter what.
Her father, who has always been supportive, taught her it was OK to start over in life and try again. His advice: Find what you’re passionate about and focus on that.
Turner said Interim Dean Debora Wenger, Ph.D., was one of her favorite professors at UM.
“DeAndria was one of the most enthusiastic and dedicated students I’ve encountered in my time at Ole Miss,” Wenger said. “She wanted to learn as much as she possibly could about storytelling across media platforms, but she had a passion for broadcast journalism.”
Turner said it’s important to get involved in the many things the university offers.
“There are many opportunities in the school of journalism to help you,” said Turner, who worked for the UM campus stations Rebel Radio and NewsWatch Ole Miss. “Being on the radio helped me with my voice, because I love to talk, but never understood how to set my tone.”
Turner said reporting for NewsWatch was one of her most helpful college experiences.
“I reported on a Trump rally in Tupelo, and it helped set me up to report on a Trump rally here in Huntsville,” said Turner, who reports on many different topics. “I report on everything happening here, so my weeks never look the same, but I only work Tuesday – Saturday.”
This schedule is Turner’s personal preference. She works on stories across the city, and has to pitch ideas at the beginning of each work day.
“It’s a rush to get things in every day,” she said, “because news you would usually see isn’t an everyday thing in most places.”
Turner said she enjoys reporting because there’s always something to do and a story to chase.
“Reporting has taught me to be empathetic and understanding of everyone’s story,” she said. “It’s important not to take the things you see home with you, because you see the really good and the really bad.”
Turner’s advice to student journalists: “Don’t give up,” she said. “There’s something for everyone out there. You just have to plug yourself into things and get the experience. It’s not always going to be your favorite, and that’s OK. There’s no rush, so just keep trying.”
Turner had enough credit hours to graduate, but stayed an extra year in college. She said she wished she had taken a marketing class because it would have helped her sell her stories to the director.
She said she hopes to grow and eventually move on from her role at WAFF 48.
“I love the Huntsville area and the people,” said Turner, but she isn’t ready to settle down anywhere just yet.
Turner said she knows she wouldn’t have gotten a job in broadcast journalism without the supportive staff and student career-oriented opportunities provided to her at the University of Mississippi.
Note: The author of this Oxford Story is the son of Debora Wenger, who is mentioned.