The editorial/writing staff of The Murmur include, from left, Rosemary Moak, John Bobo, Mary Moses Hitt and Ford Franklin.
The editorial/writing staff of The Murmur include, from left, Rosemary Moak, John Bobo, Mary Moses Hitt and Ford Franklin.
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Murmur of the heart: Editor’s zeal pumps life into student journal

Published on Thursday, February 28, 2019

By: Gary Pettus, gpettus@umc.edu

In the beginning, they called it The Murmur – “Heart Beat of the Center.” The name stuck, even if the slogan melted away.

During the nearly 50 years since its birth, the vital signs of this student newspaper/magazine have faltered, then surged, here at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, but it’s probably safe to say its pulse has never been stronger than it is right now – if visuals, variety and volume mean anything.

Its many, many pages – 68 in one particular issue – mirror the vision of John Bobo, who took over the journal last year, adding new twists, while refining several features familiar to loyal Murmur readers.

Execution has been the hallmark of its current editor-in-chief, who is also designer, photographer, seller of ads and president of the third-year medical school class. 

John Bobo standing in hall.
John Bobo is on his way to a career in medicine, but he also hopes to be in publishing "my whole life," he said.

“This is, honestly, the perfect setup,” said Bobo, who grew up in Clarksdale. “I’ve wanted to go to medical school all my life. I’ve wanted to be editor of The Murmur since I’ve been in medical school. I geek out over magazines.

“After I came to the Medical Center, I saw The Murmur improve over time, and I wanted to continue that. Now, I’ve got this publication with complete creative control. It’s kind of been my dream. I’m always dreaming about how to make things better.”

The granter of his wish was the Associated Student Body, which funds The Murmur. But even before the ASB appointed Bobo to his dream job, he had a plan.

As someone who had read the newspaper with interest, he realized he was not only curious about the goings-on around campus and town as a student, he was also curious what was going on as a student who likes to eat.

“My mom is a great cook,” Bobo said. “My family loves food. We talk about our next meal while we’re eating. At one time I did want to create a food magazine, but wisdom told me to include other things as well.

“I wanted to know what was happening in Jackson, but also what certain faculty members are like. What students are thinking. What’s going on in the rest of the world.”

So, The Murmur’s pages throb with student stories, special reports, personal essays, faculty profiles, restaurant reviews, Happy Hour dispatches, news summaries, student opinion polls, book and movie critiques, and more.

The publication has a personality – not only Bobo’s, but also those of his staff writers, who, like him, graduated from the University in Oxford and are studying medicine: Ford Franklin of Ridgeland, Rosemary Moak of Brookhaven and Mary Moses Hitt of Yazoo City.

“It’s a part of us, a part of our calling, what we enjoy,” said Hitt, who majored in biochemistry and the classics.

“When I discovered the classics department, I became a double major. I was so much happier; I felt like I was still doing all the things I loved instead of just some of them. Being a doctor is a big, important part of who we are, but The Murmur gives us an outlet to be creative and share things and write.”

The January 2019 issue of the Murmur is a mix of weighty journalism and pop culture fare.

Hitt, the pop culture specialist (“Mo’s Movie Monthly”), also compiled a new Murmur offering: the Lunch Flow Chart for the October 2018 issue. Similar to New York Magazine’s, the inquisitive diagram guides you through a maze of local eatery choices, depending on your finances, frame of mind and famishment.

“I think about food more than the average person,” Hitt said.

Franklin, a biology major, explained the Medical Center’s ceaseless buttery glow in a well-researched piece called “Follow the Yellow Brick Façade,” which appeared in the September 2018 Murmur, Bobo’s second issue as editor.

Franklin had little writing experience when he joined the staff, he said, and gets antsy just before his articles appear. “It’s almost like putting your child out there.”

Moak is, among other things, a book reviewer and party planner maven; in the Holiday 2018 issue, she explains how “anyone can throw an amazing yule tide soiree.”

“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “It had nothing to do with medicine.” Although she came to The Murmur with no magazine editing experience, she did major in English.

“[Working on The Murmur], for me, is about the writing,” Moak said. “I have a passion for it; it feels like home.”

Speaking of passion: “John is the whole reason that I’m on The Murmur staff, I have to say,” said Hitt, who has been friends with Bobo since their college days in Oxford. “He put us together, and he inspired us to keep doing this. He is behind every brainchild that happens.”

Portrait of Dr. Jerry Clark

Dr. Jerry Clark, the person who greenlighted Bobo’s ambitious children, has noticed. 

“I’m so proud of what John has done this year with The Murmur,” said Clark, chief student affairs officer and associate dean for student affairs in the School of Medicine.

“It’s been wonderful, creating a lot of positive buzz around our campus. John will be a gifted physician, but it’s clear to me that he certainly could be quite successful as a journalist, too.”

Funny he should said that. Bobo has written about food and travel for other publications. He has been a ghost writer of personal memoirs.

“I always knew I wanted to be in publishing,” he said. “I’ve always thought of myself as a writer. And I love helping people tell a story.” For inspiration, he keeps on his desk a tray full of world-class periodicals – Garden & Gun, Bon Appetit, New York.

“I love magazines,” he said. “I hope it’s not a dying art.”

At Ole Miss, he explored that art as an English minor who talked his way into a writing gig for a School of Journalism magazine; it was about food in the Delta.

When he arrived at the Medical Center in 2016, he saw The Murmur as a journalistic pantry of possibilities stocked with the ingredients necessary to satisfy his appetite for creativity. So to speak.


“He has advanced The Murmur to a significant degree,” said Dr. Luke Lampton of Magnolia, a family medicine physician, author, newspaper publisher, and editor of the Journal of the Mississippi State Medical Association.

“Under John Bobo, it has come to fruition in a more professional manner than ours did,” said Lampton, who was a Murmur co-editor his senior year in medical school, 1992-1993.

The Murmur has a long and various history, said Lampton, who researched it. Apparently, there was a predecessor: The Tumor. One can only guess what it was like.

By contrast, there’s a much clearer picture of The Murmur and its past – available in a Rowland Medical Library collection of issues running the gamut from flimsy mimeographed newsletters to today’s 8 ½ x 12-inch, glossy, content-packed, saddle-stitched (stapled) digests.

In that archive is Volume 1, No. 1, dated December 1969; its editors introduced it as a stab at filling a campus-wide “information gap,” and pledged to “serve the student body.”

Despite that sober tone, its front page is home to an essay titled “The Bic Pen Syndrome,” whose author laments the pen’s IV-like leakiness and the fact that “there are no nurses to blame this one on.”

Across the years, that spark of hilarity flamed into an inferno of edginess. There was an “advice” column: “Ask Dr. Kevorkian.”

In photos that, incredibly, some people wanted to see, the heads of prominent Medical Center personages were pasted over the bodies of swimsuit models.

In a nod to an infamous National Lampoon cover of a handgun aimed at a dog named Mr. Cheeseface, the Winter 1997 Murmur substituted a white-coated man for the star-crossed canine. And kept the gun. “Read this magazine,” says the caption, “or the doc gets it.”

That was “Our Gala Holiday Issue.”

“There were a couple of scandals where editors went over the edge,” Lampton said. “But if you look at other similar publications from that period, that seems to be the way people vented.

“It wasn’t always politically correct. It may appear very insensitive or stupid, but it was a way to release tension, a big part of how students deal with the extraordinary stress of their training and their work.”

This 1992 "Screaming Head" edition of the Murmur bears witness to the publication's edgier days.

Case in point: Lampton’s first Murmur issue was emblazoned with a screaming head drawn by co-editor and cartoonist Ilya Stone. “I think he and I were a very good match,” Lampton said. “That cover sort of set the tone for our year.

“It captures the profound fears and insecurities of being in medical school.”

On the other hand, today’s Murmur also “speaks to the interests of students at the Medical Center,” Lampton said. “Instead of just being a place you can vent, it actually provides material that contributes to the students’ daily quality of life.

“I believe John has taken The Murmur to a place it needs to be.”

That place has room for students from all schools, said Bobo, who welcomes them as contributors. Kamryn Vanlandingham, for one, the nursing student body president, argued that the School of Nursing should launch its own White Coat Ceremony, in “A Cure for the un-Common Coat.”

The roster of “Student Stories” writers has included Myriam Sanders, physical therapy; and Jenny Tran, pharmacy.

Also, a pool of regular, semi-regular or one-time contributors helps The Murmur stay fresh. Medical student John Yi broke down the opioid epidemic in “The Pill Problem.” Edgar Meyer, medical student and ASB president, tackled the intricacies of interprofessional education.

And Bobo himself took on New Orleans in a “48 Hour Travel Guide,” wherein “I ate my way around the city,” he said. But he finds that he spends more time designing The Murmur than writing for it.

“I had no experience in design when I started,” he said. “All last summer I watched YouTube videos.”

His diligence has been rewarded. For the upcoming academic year, the ASB has reappointed Bobo editor, a position that “easily” requires 20 hours of his time per week, in between his studies, he said.

“A friend of mine, who is not a student here, once said to me, ‘Are you not in medical school anymore?’

“I shouldn’t be working on a 68-page publication and be a medical student at the time,” Bobo said, wearing a smile that almost seemed to say: “But, unlike Mr. Cheeseface, no one’s holding a gun to my head.”