by Caroline Hroncich
Michael “Blake” Alsup usually finds his job as a part-time rural mail carrier in Ripley, Mississippi to be a meditative experience. He enjoys calmly driving down country roads in his Toyota Tacoma, music playing. Alsup, 22, spends around eight hours sorting and delivering letters to 500 homes in Ripley, his hometown and current city, where both his grandfather and parents have worked as mail carriers. Alsup appreciates how the job helps him meet new people in the surrounding community.
“You can kind of build relationships with people you see everyday,” he said.
The only part of the job he doesn’t like is encountering the occasional unfriendly dog. During a recent delivery, Alsup entered a car port, only to be met by an angry canine. The animal tried to bite him, but luckily, Alsup escape unharmed.
“That’s never fun,” he said.
When he’s not delivering mail, Alsup is a senior at the University of Mississippi, or Ole Miss, majoring in journalism with a minor in southern studies—a minor that focuses on the history of the southern U.S. He is also the assistant news editor at The Daily Mississippian, the university’s student newspaper. Although they may not be immediately related, Alsup views his work as a mail carrier and a journalist as different sides of the same coin.
“When you’re a reporter make the mail, you write for the newspaper that you then deliver when you’re a mail carrier,” he said.
Alsup started out as an integrated marketing and communications major at Ole Miss. But he quickly realized that he didn’t have an interest in marketing, so he switched his major to journalism. Patricia Thompson, director of student media and assistant professor of journalism at the Meek School of Journalism at Ole Miss, said she’s glad he made the switch.
“When he and his adviser realized his passion for storytelling, he switched to journalism and has never looked back, and for that we are grateful,” she said in an email.
Thompson advises the The Daily Mississippian, and said Alsup is one of the “top editors” and her “go to writer” for assignments. In April, Alsup traveled to Memphis, Tennessee to cover the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. for the paper. He spent a day at the Lorraine Motel covering the speeches of civil rights activists like Congressman John Lewis and Jesse Jackson. He called the experience “surreal.”
“I was honored to be able to cover it,” he said.
Alsup is most passionate about writing profiles of people in the local community. One memorable piece, he said, was a profile he wrote of Larry Tedford, the owner of Larry’s Barber Shop, a community staple in Oxford, Mississippi. He also wrote a piece on Shepard Smith, a Fox News anchor and former Ole Miss student. Alsup thinks telling local stories is important.
“People want news they can relate to,” he said.
Alsup will continue to do local reporting this summer, as a Dow Jones News Fund intern at the Detroit News, where he will cover local business and the automotive industry. The Dow Jones Business Reporting program is comprised of a week long business reporting intensive at New York University, followed by a 10-week internship at outlets across the country. Although Alsup is new to business reporting, he’s excited for the challenge.
“It will be a lot of work but I think it’ll be a lot of fun too,” he said.
Alsup will graduate from Ole Miss in December and hopes to move to New York City. In 2017, he spent a semester studying journalism at The King’s College. During that time he interned on the web desk at the New York Daily News. He accumulated 63 bylines throughout the four months.
“I wouldn’t trade that for anything,” he said.
His experience working in New York City helped acclimate him to the New York media industry, a market he hopes to re-enter once he’s done with school. He said his semester in New York helped solidify journalism as the right career path for him. One day, he said, he hopes to become a reporter at the New York Times.