What a day this is. We are celebrating the start of 22 years of Free Press journalism that began Sept. 22, 2002, at the Jackson Free Press, the predecessor of our newsroom and our ongoing strategy to uncover and inspire solutions for the state and the nation with a county-by-county approach.
Today marks the next chapter of Free Press journalism and the extraordinary accomplishments of Mississippi’s most inclusive newsroom. Since we launched as a statewide nonprofit in March 2020, our fantastic team has reimagined journalism in ways big and small. We come from all over the state: the Pine Belt, Clarke County, Neshoba County, the Gulf Coast, North Mississippi, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and so many places in between. Our writers can produce this incredible journalism because they grew up in the communities they cover.
We’ve had a remarkable ride, thanks in no small part to people like you.
The Institute for Nonprofit News named us Startup of the Year, and we’ve enjoyed over 70 awards and honors, including numerous national awards, in addition to more than 150 awards for the Jackson Free Press over the years.
To say my co-founder Donna Ladd and I are proud of this team, most of whom came with us from the Jackson Free Press, doesn’t describe how we feel. You’ll often hear us gushing about their work ethic, collaborative spirit and commitment to accurate, non-partisan journalism, as well as their commitment to you, our reader. This team is the best Mississippi has to offer. They could go to a lot of places and do a lot of things, but make no mistake, it is a choice. They’ve decided to stay in Mississippi to help make an impact.
At the Jackson Free Press, we did a lot with a little. Since we’ve transitioned to a nonprofit statewide model, we do a lot with a medium. (I don’t know if that makes sense, but you get my point.) Things are better in our newsroom. We can pay our people better, hire more freelancers, expand our reporting staff and actually buy a new computer when it breaks instead of praying over it. There was way more cussing about tech in the old days. I love the Lord, but I cuss a little.
Your support shows us we can do big things. Big things require resources. We want to hire more Mississippians to cover more parts of the state, like our Starkville-based reporter Heather Harrison, whom we snagged the month after she graduated from Mississippi State University; Kiden-Aloyce Smith, our Google News Initiative and Poynter Institute Misinformation Fellow and a senior at Jackson State University; and our new capital-city reporter Shaunicy Muhammad who hit the ground reporting hard.
Every gift to our nonprofit helps us combat Mississippi’s brain drain, showing our young people and, let’s face it, us older folks that Mississippi is not a lost cause but a place with great possibility and potential.
You’ll make me look incredibly good if you donate an amount with one or more 2s in it on our Giving 22 Day tomorrow—$2, $22, $222, $2,222, $22,222. Whatever you give goes a long way to support our work for Mississippi and the nation.
Cheers to the next 22 years!