When a tornado struck McComb in 1975, some of the first on-the-scene news reports just may have come from an elementary schooler. It’s true: a young Jim Albritton was there, talking to his friends about their experiences, recorder in hand – if only in his parent’s living room. While the equipment has gotten more sophisticated and his expertise even more so, Albritton is still telling the stories of the people of his home state.
A University of Southern Mississippi graduate in radio, television and film, Albritton is the man behind the camera of Newsocracy, a “social media” news service that covers topics in a more unique and in-depth way than traditional media can. “If there are three great soundbites,” he says, “I can leave them all in. I don’t worry about how long it has to be. I have the freedom to tell the story.”
Always a media junkie, even as a young boy growing up in South Mississippi, Albritton says he was always in front of the TV every night to watch Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley. Future plans were shaped by his love of news. “I always knew what I wanted to do,” he explains, reminiscing over a nearly thirty year career.
His college internship lead him to Voice of America in Washington, D.C. In 1989, he returned to the state to produce the city’s highest rated 5pm newscast at WJTV. Since then, Albritton has earned his stripes as a crisis communications specialist – mostly in healthcare – at such notable institutions as University of Mississippi Medical Center and Hattiesburg’s Forest General Hospital.
At 47, Albritton has his dream job as the creator of Newsocracy. He says he was never a good ‘eight to five’er.’ “I’ll put in way more than 40 hours a week, but just don’t tell me which forty they are,” he chuckles. He says he pulls many 80 hour weeks and has the proof. “I have examples of what I’ve been up to (with my video pieces). I have a tangible product you can show.”
Albritton has stayed in the healthcare sector in some regards: he’s part time at Blair E. Batson, creating videos for the state’s only children’s hospital. “It’s the richest story archive you can imagine,” he says. “If you’re looking for something get on an elevator. You can’t help but stumble upon people going through incredible, compelling things.”
With a changing dynamic for how the story is told, Albritton says he could never have imagined media turning into what it is today. He explains: “You can do all of this without a TV station – from the trunk of a car or a back pack – from anywhere in the world almost instantly.” His goal is to tell stories in a compelling and memorable way and new media paves the way. “Social media makes what I do possible. But it means I have to compete with iPhone owners. So I have to put something out there that’s quality to make people want to watch, something that stands the test of time.”
Albritton says Fondren has played a role in his success. In the fall of 2010, Dreamworks’ ‘The Help’ came to the neighborhood to film several period locations, notably The Strip and Brent’s. “I found out about it by just driving up on it (which is how 50% to 60% of my stories go),” he says. “I just started interviewing people and put together a package, two or three minutes long. It seemed like overnight, it shot through the roof.” Nearly 124,000 You Tube views later, Albritton calls that story the genesis of Newsocracy.
In demand by local non-profits and companies who want to tell their own stories, Albritton’s narrative could have been much different. “I’ve had a lot of opportunities to leave Mississippi but, after 43 job offers, I’ve always taken the Mississippi jobs,” he says. “Part of the nature of being a Mississippian is you’re always striving for more and always trying to show what you can do. But in the end, this is home and I’m glad to be able to have Mississippi as the story I get to tell.”