Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fields, queen of Mississippi journalism, dies at 86

Visitation and funeral will be held Saturday in Tupelo, Miss., for Norma Fields, a longtime reporter and state-capital correspondent for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, America's largest rural newspaper. "She was well-known throughout Mississippi, and beyond, for her hard-hitting news stories, and sometimes scathing political commentary," says her obituary, written by her children.

Reporting Fields' death at 86 and recounting her career, Daily Journal veteran Joe Rutherford wrote that "Mississippi lost one of its most respected and tenacious journalistic voices Sunday," and "She was the first woman to cover the Mississippi Capitol on a full-time basis and was well-known around the state as an outspoken advocate for women's advancement in government, business and the professions."

Rutherford's story quotes the dean of Mississippi journalists, Bill Minor, who wrote in a tribute, "It didn't matter who or what rank the news subject was, Norma Fields came after him with hammer and tongs. . . . The shenanigans of the highway gang became her passion, and there's no telling how much she saved taxpayers by catching things such as change orders or overruns on highway contracts." Minor also notes that Fields was the first Mississippi woman to be admitted to the Society of Professional Journalists, then Sigma Delta Chi.

Daily Journal columnist Marty Russell of the University of Mississippi writes, "After years of failed attempts to get an open meetings law passed in this state to prevent public bodies from meeting behind closed doors, it may very well have been Norma who finally devised a scheme to get it passed," by inviting a key legislator to an SPJ meeting and passing in his presence a resolution endorsing the legislation, which passed in 1975. (Read more)

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