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Former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, center, joins current Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson, left, and Mississippi State Auditor Shad White, right
AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Editor’s Note | MFP Team Hits the New Year Running

Mississippi elections end, national elections begin. We’re used to the endless and exhausting campaign seasons here in Mississippi, and 2024 will be no different. As always, we’ll be keeping an eye out for our democracy and factual campaign messaging and reporting just as we did in 2023.

For Mississippi, the new year also brings with it a new term for statewide officeholders (including Gov. Tate Reeves), a new legislative session with a new set of bills and a new House speaker. For us, it’s a new year with new challenges for covering a state whose public officials aren’t always interested in candidness and transparency.

Our excellent team of reporters has already hit the ground running.

Capital City Reporter Shaunicy Muhammad began the year reporting on the latest developments in the fight over state-imposed courts in Jackson through H.B. 1020; Democrat Ty Pinkins’ decision to renew his campaign to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker; and on Gov. Tate Reeves’ inaugural speech that, at times, sounded strangely similar to one an aspiring U.S. senator from Illinois gave 20 years ago.

Reporter Heather Harrison dove right into covering the new legislative session, reporting on the election of Jason White as the new House speaker and the bomb threats that caused evacuations at the Mississippi Capitol Building on the second day of the legislative session. And she’s continued reporting on medical marijuana in Mississippi as the largest of the two cannabis testing labs in the state had its license suspended and advocates urged officials to make medical cannabis more accessible—particularly for people with disabilities.

Educator Reporter Torsheta Jackson was among the first to report on plans to rename Mississippi University For Women to “Brightwell University”—an announcement that has stoked controversy. As is the Mississippi Free Press way, Torsheta’s report told the whole story in context, starting with the founding of the W as a school the Mississippi Industrial Institute and College for the Education of White Girls. Yes, its name has changed several times before.

And just on Thursday evening, we were delighted to publish the first report from Nick Judin in about a year. He’s spent the past year working on an investigative accountability project as part of a partnership between us and ProPublica (which is coming out soon, we promise). When the Mississippi State Department of Health announced boil-water alerts for those receiving their water supply from the cities of Jackson and Flowood because of E. coli contamination yesterday afternoon, Nick jumped back into reporting. He spoke with officials at JXN Water, who disputed MSDH’s testing results and suggested the samples may have been contaminated in the lab (MSDH denies this).

And of course, William Pittman and I will continue examining and contextualizing the Mississippi welfare investigation and the various players and look toward systemic ways to prevent such a scandal from happening again. We’ll also keep an eye on the plans of newly reinaugurated Secretary of State Michael Watson as he pushes for campaign-finance reforms and report solutions for problems we’ve reported since 2020 with the reporting of voting precinct locations.

That’s just the news side. But we can, of course, all look forward to more outstanding culture stories from Aliyah Veal, who ended 2023 with stories about celebrating women poets at Jackson State University and an album collaboration by five capital-city rappers.

We’re also now publishing the work of Mississippi reporters like Michael Goldberg who work in the Associated Press’ offices in Jackson, Mississippi’s first nonprofit newsroom with Emily Wagster Pettus’ deep institutional knowledge informing their work. We see no need to repeat or compete to report the same news every day as other outlets, so publishing excellent AP journalism will help us get more news out to you daily and free up our reporters to spend more time on their long-form, enterprise and investigative journalism, as well as daily coverage.

The new year has only just begun, but our team has already put in a lot of work in 2024. We’re proud of them. With your support, we’ll continue growing our team and giving all of our reporters more room to deeply pursue the stories our readers deserve.

You can chip in and support our nonprofit newsroom in 2024 by donating at the link here.

As always, thank you for supporting this work and this team.

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