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A crowd mingling at the The National Association of Black Journalists 2023 conference

MFP Is Leader In Inclusion, I’m Proud to Report

A few weeks ago, I attended the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Birmingham. NABJ is the largest association for Black journalists and media types in the country.  I’ve never been and wasn’t sure I’d attend. Earlier this year, one of my friends from up north said, “If you don’t go to NABJ in Birmingham, it’s going to be weird. You’ll be missed. People will be looking for you.”

I thought she was exaggerating, but after my first day, she could be right. Yesterday I sat next to a journalism professor from a toney East Coast school tasked with making her program more inclusive. I started giving her my Mississippi Free Press elevator pitch, and she looked confused, finally saying: “I know who you are. When I have a question about anything involving Mississippi, I look to your reporters.

I spend a lot of time code-switching, not in our newsroom, but in life. I have a different voice when I call certain places where I diminish my Blackness or Southern accent. I don’t use slang or words that need explanation. For example, I rarely say soror when referring to my beloved Alpha Kappa Alpha sisters. If I’m in mixed company, instead, I say my sorority sister.

Yesterday two members of the Divine Nine, the nine historically Black sororities and fraternities, did a shout-out to all of its members, and the room erupted with our signature calls. Yesterday I passed a sister in a fabulous pantsuit and hollered, “Alright, black and white,” meaning you look good in that black-and-white pantsuit.

I have many of these interactions and safe spaces in Mississippi. Still, I know that not everyone does, and these conventions are more than educational sessions, connecting with funders or finding new vendors. This is a time when Black folks who are in media industries from around the country can just breathe because we don’t have to be on in quite the same way.

It’s easy to take what we have for granted in our wonderfully diverse and inclusive team but conversations with my colleagues remind me not to do that because, well, not every newsroom has what the Mississippi Free Press has. Unfortunately, we’re an outlier with many newsrooms across the state and nation doing little to reflect the communities they serve beyond occasional window-dressing.

Mississippi is last in many things, but our newsroom that serves Mississippi is a leader in inclusivity, and for that I’m grateful.

Oh, and read a big story about our nonprofit newsroom’s rapid growth just out from the Institute for Nonprofit News. Hint: It’s about you readers, too, and how your gifts have fueled our growth into an industry leader.

Kimberly Griffin

Publisher and Chief Revenue Officer

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