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Inside view of the Mississippi legislature hall with people at work
MFP News Editor Ashton Pittman reflects on a busy week in journalism. “As exhausting as some of the news cycles can get, especially in an election year, I’m looking forward to the work we’ll do together as a team—and that you, our readers, will help us continue to do,” he writes. Photo by Nick Judin

Our Journalism Puts People First, Helps the Public Keep An Eye On Power

January is almost over, as unbelievable as that sounds. For me, that means my first month as news editor for the Mississippi Free Press will soon be in the books. After serving as Mississippi’s senior reporter for almost three years, I’m grateful to continue working in a new capacity as part of this incredible team that is inviting the nation to share in a kind of journalism that has been too rare in this state’s history.

Last week was very busy, and so was our new senior reporter, Kayode Crown. Earlier last week, he reported on a lawsuit that D’Monterrio Gibson—the Black FedEx driver who alleges that two white men chased and shot at him while he was making deliveries in Brookhaven, Miss., one year ago—filed this month.

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Then, in keeping the stories of Mississippians at the forefront, he reported on a pilot program for mental-health courts while emphasizing the case of Marvin Pernell, a Mississippi veteran who spent 18 months in jail without trial waiting for a mental-health evaluation.

Of course, there’s also the Legislature. When I told Kayode last Thursday about a controversial bill that critics say would allow white State officials to diminish Black political and legal power in Jackson, he headed straight to the Capitol that afternoon. He kept working until he turned in a nearly 3,000-word story sometime after 10 p.m. As a member of this team, Kayode knows that it’s more important to get a story right—with proper context and diligence—than to get it first.

In this role, I’ve also been working with reporter Nick Judin, who is working on a collaborative project with ProPublica’s Local News Network this year. Nick’s in-depth stories and investigations on issues like COVID-19 and the Jackson water crisis have helped drive national headlines in recent years, and I have no doubt that the work he’s doing between MFP and ProPublica will shed light on important issues that otherwise would have gone unaddressed. (Stay tuned for more on that soon!).

Though the Mississippi Ethics Commission recently said that the Mississippi Legislature is not a “public body” under state law, our team continues to work to bring transparency and ensure the public knows what those entrusted with power are up to.

But even after the legislative session ends this spring (assuming no surprises), there will still be much work to do as campaign season goes into full swing. Remember, Mississippi is one of just a few states that is holding statewide elections and legislative elections this year. Yes, we’re a state where every year is a big election year. The circus never ends. Thankfully, we plan to grow our team of journalistic acrobats this year and our capacity to cover Mississippi like nobody else. Again, stay tuned!

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As exhausting as some of the news cycles can get, especially in an election year, I’m looking forward to the work we’ll do together as a team—and that you, our readers, will help us continue to do. With the month winding down, I wanted to remind you one more time that January is MFP Member Month. You can join the MFP VIP Club for just $10 a month or $100 per year and gain access to exclusive member events. Best of all, you’ll help grow our journalism in the Magnolia State—and what could be better than that?

You make our newsroom and the work we do possible. So thanks, y’all.

This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Journalism and Education Group, the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an opinion for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and sources fact-checking the included information to We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.

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