Less than a week before 2022 is in the books, we are closing out the year strong with news of two incredible partnerships that will strengthen our newsroom and grow good journalism in Mississippi.
Last week ProPublica announced that we’re one of its 2023 Local Reporting Network newsrooms, providing funds to support Nick Judin’s infrastructure work. Nick’s journalism exemplifies what we do best: listening deeply and telling stories beyond one-hit wonders and flashy headlines. Nick started reporting on the Jackson water crisis for the Mississippi Free Press in early 2021, helping it became a national story and doing the first real reporting on the crisis’ systemic roots. Through this year, and another severe crisis, Nick’s work has helped Mississippians and those beyond the state borders understand the systemic causes on a local, state and national level that brought the capital city to this place.
More good news came earlier in December when we learned the Mississippi Free Press is a 2023 Report for America host newsroom. That means we’ll join an expanding network of 220 newsrooms focused on critical reporting around the nation. Report for America is a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. It is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, a nonprofit media organization, and is structured to harness the skills of emerging journalists along with in-depth reporting from newsrooms like ours.
We can’t thank ProPublica and Report for America enough for helping expand journalism that makes a difference in the lives of often-ignored Mississippians. The funds from RFA will help launch our Education Equity Solutions Lab by summer 2023, which builds on and expands on the Torsheta Jackson-led and award-winning Noxubee County education segment of our “(In)Equities and Resilience: Black Women, Systemic Barriers and COVID-19” project.
This lab will bring a new kind of education reporting to counties across Mississippi. The work will focus on the systemic issues of Mississippi’s education systems and the communities that embedded inequities deeply affect. This lab continues our mission to listen deeply to Mississippians focusing on disparities, historic causes, context and solutions. Every story has a headline, but every headline isn’t the whole story.
This lab and the journalism it produces will help everyday Mississippians understand why our educational system is, quite frankly, a mess and why it is so hard to repair it. Inequitable education is one of the reasons our families often leave Mississippi and vow never to come back. It is also why we can’t attract industry and why we don’t understand the basic principles of democracy or why buzzwords like “critical race theory” are bandied about with little understanding of what it actually is. Spoiler alert: It’s not the proposed curriculum for your kid’s AP class. And it’s not just about a partisan funding debate in Jackson.
ProPublica and Report for America are resourcing our newsroom in ways we couldn’t have imagined when we started this journey in March 2020. Their support is enabling us to hire an additional general assignment reporter, bringing our reporting team to a minimum of six reporters by the time the RFA education reporter joins us in July with five internal and multiple external editors to support them and our superb freelance journalists.
This national support for our work is a big deal, and I can’t explain how excited we are to have this opportunity directly due to our impactful journalism since our March 2020 launch with one editor and one reporter. However, our newsroom needs more resources to have real impact. That’s where you come in.
Right now, members of our board of directors and advisory board are matching every donation dollar-for-dollar. That means when you give $100, we get $200. It’s another big deal to have supporters willing to invest in our team and our work. I’m asking you to give whatever you can today to help kick this project off. When readers and subscribers like you chip in, it makes a difference in our newsroom beyond the material things. It cheers us on and lifts our spirits. It keeps us going on the tough days. You cannot know how good it feels to see $5 or $500 from tiny communities around Mississippi imploring us to keep doing what we’re doing.
Give what you can today, and I promise we’ll put it to work making a difference in our state. We’ve only just begun.