By Karie Grace Duncan, SIPA Assistant
Above photo taken by T.J. Maynes at the 2010 SIPA Convention.
Posted November 27, 2017
Beth Fitts, this year’s SIPA Endowment speaker, began contributing to SIPA when she first learned of the convention in 1992.
Fitts advised the newspaper, literary magazine and broadcast program at Oxford High
School, in Oxford, Mississippi. When she retired from advising, she became the director
of the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association. During her years advising and as
MSPA director, she served on SIPA's Advisory Committee and Executive Committee.
“Beth has not only given so much to SIPA but also to scholastic and Mississippi journalism. Through her time and knowledge, she has shared so much with SIPA members,” Director of Scholastic Media Organizations Leslie Dennis said. “I can think of no one better to be this year's SIPA Endowment speaker. She truly represents Southern charm and kindness.”
Fitts was introduced to the SIPA by Rick McNeil, a lifetime member and former executive committee member from Florida, when they met at an NSPA/JEA convention in Washington, D.C.
“He said it was a friendly, helpful organization that had quality speakers, worthwhile meetings and tremendous people,” Fitts said. “I went to SIPA the very next year, and I found it to be everything he said and more. I have been with SIPA ever since.”
“From the first SIPA convention Beth attended, she was involved in SIPA's work whether teaching or recruiting for SIPA,” former SIPA director Karen Flowers said. "She brought the maestro method and Buck Ryan to SIPA! She was always, always an ambassador for the organization.”
Also, Flowers remembers Fitts contributed to the Endowment from decorating to fundraising and understood the importance of its mission.
“The Endowment is a backbone for SIPA. It gives a long-lasting foundation that will undergird our organization for years to come,” Fitts said.
Fitts was the 2003 Dow Jones New Fund National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year. She spoke around the country sharing messages about the importance of faith, the impact of advisers, and the student search for the truth.
“Advising is often a thankless job of giving; they give many extra hours endless hours training students and updating their skills, much extra love and attention to the personal needs of their students, cementing basic media skills into students, and being an advocate of the student press to the faculty, administration, students and community," Fitts said. "Good advisers create good journalists. It’s as simple as that – but it takes much passion, commitment and time.”
Fitts continues her advocacy and support of journalism programs and advisers at SIPA conventions.
“There was a convention at which a first-time attendee asked for an on-site critique, which we didn’t offer at that time. She was a relatively new advisor and wanted some feedback on her newspaper, and the first person I thought of to give her that was Beth,” Dennis said. “Beth came to mind because she is able to offer sage advice and also cushion criticism in a way that is supportive and helpful without being discouraging.”
Whether it’s your first year or you’re a veteran, Fitts encourages advisers and students to continue participating in SIPA programs.
“Advisers should attend conventions and workshops like those of SIPA to learn new things and reinforce old basics that can bring fresh life into the program,” Fitts said. “It’s a growing process.”
Fitts will teach sessions at the 2018 SIPA convention and speak at the Saturday advisers luncheon. She joins previous distinguished journalism professionals David Knight, Mark Murray, Bradley Wilson and Mary Inglis as SIPA Endowment speakers.