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“It is true that our team is doing our part to protect democracy during this challenging time in a place where both state and local leadership spout fascist rhetoric and attack personal freedoms like the ability to start a family in the way you choose or can are under threat,” writes Mississippi Free Press Publisher Kimberly Griffin, seen here (center) at an MFP Solutions Circle on Feb. 1, 2024. Photo by Imani Khayyam

Publisher’s Note | How ‘You the People’ Can Protect Democracy, Grow Essential Journalism

Two weeks ago, Ashton Pittman dropped a story about former President Donald Trump encouraging Russia to attack US allies.  A journalism professor and sometimes media pundit took issue with our strategy. He admonished us to stay in our lane and stick to our knitting (really), saying we shouldn’t bother with national news during this critical time. We beg to differ.

We live in times when a combination of partisan media, misinformation and shrinking media literacy—and the often-bizarre choices of national and corporate media—is muddying the waters across our nation and either ignoring or burying important stories like Ashton’s piece that raised the Massachusetts man’s ire.

We choose to listen to you the readers instead.

Thought, Interest and Deep Concern

Over the last few weeks, you’ve shown us how critical all of our national coverage is and that you’re grateful that our work helps fill coverage gaps across Mississippi and the U.S. You’re reading our national stories as you read our local stories, with thought, interest and deep concern for your fellow Americans.

Even if you don’t live in Mississippi or come from here, you find what we write about our state informative about your own states as well as issues that should be centered more nationally.

You tell us all this on social media, in emails to us, when we call to thank you for donations and when we see you in person at gatherings around the country. (Did you know we have donors in every state?). Let’s face it: As goes Mississippi, so goes the rest of the country. Martin Luther King Jr. told us this. Lerone Bennett told us this. And our team certainly knows it.

Solutions Circles members talking at the first gathering of 2023
The first live MFP-YMP Solutions Circles occurred at New Horizon Church in Jackson on Nov. 9, 2023, with support of the American Press Institute. Photo by Imani Khayyam

Our local work is vital to Mississippians, and it is important to the nation. Our national coverage, especially about legislation our D.C. officials spearhead like Cindy Hyde-Smith blocking IVF protection this week, is important locally. The lines of demarcation are artificial and limit the flow of information.

The same can be said for most southern states. Mississippi and our southern sisters are not an anomaly; we also reflect and influence the United States’ social and political landscape. Notice how many states of the region stopped or limited abortions as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which originated in Mississippi (albeit with help from a national extremist organization). Other state officials often wait for Mississippi to do the dirty work because they know our leaders will say the quiet part out loud.

Demanding Respect With Your Words, and Your Gifts

All this talk of how national and local citizenry connect got us to thinking about our spring fundraising campaign, which starts today. Unsurprisingly, we take words seriously around here, and we’ve volleyed this one back and forth to ensure that the campaign theme rises to this moment for the MFP, the state and the nation. Inevitably, it came back to you, our readers and supporters.

This year’s spring campaign slogan is “You the People.” 

It is true that our team is doing our part to protect democracy during this challenging time in a place where both state and local leadership spout fascist rhetoric and attack personal freedoms like the ability to start a family in the way you choose or can are under threat. Supporters like you are the key to our ability to defend democracy. Your gifts, from a dollar or two up to tens of thousands have driven our rapid growth and stature on the national stage and across the state.

By contributing to our independent, nonpartisan nonprofit newsroom, you the people have an incredible impact on growing our team and reach. And, frankly, on creating necessary conversations on a national stage that many are surprised originate from Mississippi. We all know smart Mississippians have never been given full respect; we have to demand it with our work and our words. Our team does that daily.

A photo of of MFP Staffers waving their arms at a table
Mississippi Free Press readers have grown the statewide nonprofit newsroom rapidly since March 2020 launch with donations as little as a dollar or two, co-founder and Publisher Kimberly Griffin writes. Here she is pictured standing at a team meetup in early 2023. Photo by Nate Schumann

You might have seen me write or say that national and local media print many facts about Mississippi, but they don’t always tell the truth. The truth, as we see it, relies on more than just data or who and what went where.  It looks at context, history, systemic causes and solutions.  Speaking of which, if you live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast sign up for the March 5 Solutions Circle, where we talk with our community about solutions to problems that affect them. And thank you to the American Press Institute and the Knight Foundation for supporting it.

We’d love you to help us launch the campaign with a gift. As I said, any amount goes a long way to support a newsroom that didn’t start with deep pockets but has grown into Mississippi’s most inclusive newsroom because of you. And you’ll get a phone call in return—because our mamas teach us well here.

Can you support the Mississippi Free Press?

The Mississippi Free Press is a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) focused on telling stories that center all Mississippians.

With your gift, we can do even more important stories like this one.