MFP Impact, Awards and Media Coverage – 2021
Since the Mississippi Free Press launched on March 15, 2020, just as COVID-19 was hitting the state, the team’s journalism has had a significant impact, as well as drawn consistent attention from other media. Following is a reverse timeline of impact, media collaborations, and international, national, and state media mentions and pickups.
Dec. 10, 2021
All in with Chris Hayes on MSNBC spotlighted reporter Nick Judin’s solutions report on how Jefferson County, Miss., collaborated on a vaccination strategy to become the most highly vaccinated county in Mississippi. Nick’s story used data exclusively provided by the Solutions Journalism Network to the Mississippi Free Press.
The Clarion-Ledger cited the Mississippi Free Press in a follow-up to reporter Nick Judin’s multi-part, award-winning systemic reporting in spring 2021 explaining the roots of the Jackson, Miss., water crisis.
Dec. 6, 2021
A ProPublica report discussed and linked to Nick Judin’s piece on the State of Mississippi working with local barbers and others to overcome vaccine disparity in the Black community. The ProPublica piece also linked to Kimberly Griffin and Donna’s MFP Live interview with Dr. Victor Sutton, Dr. Chigozie Udemgba and Damion Portis about those efforts.
Nov. 26, 2021
The Biloxi Sun Herald confirmed in a report that the FBI is investigating the police shooting of infant La’Mello Parker, which frequent MFP columnist Leo Carney had first reported in an MFP Voices column on Sept. 17, 2021.
Nov. 23, 2021
In an order to show cause about deficiencies in the Hinds County (Raymond) Detention Center, Federal Judge Carlton Reeves quoted and cited reporter Kayode Crown’s Oct. 15, 2021, in-depth “One Jail’s Tale” report on “structural deficiencies, chronic understanding and poor management” not repaired during terms of “whatever sheriff or Hinds County Board of Supervisors are in elected office in a given time.” (The president of the Board of Supervisors will later tell Kayode that the board has decided to build a new jail, among other solutions.)
Nov. 18, 2021
Months after Christian Middleton’s and Grace Marion’s multi-story investigation of the Lafayette County Narcotics Unit, Mississippi Today reported that the State College Board had approved University of Mississippi helping fund the controversial unit for another year, citing two stories by the Mississippi Free Press.
Nov. 17, 2021
MFP Publisher, Director of Revenue and co-founder Kimberly Griffin joined a LION Publishers News Guest podcast with moderator Candice Fortman and fellow guests Kimberly Spencer of Chalkbeat and Robert Chappell of Madison 365. Kimberly led off and closed out the conversation, “How to pitch your journalism to local funders and build stronger biz relationships.” As usual, she was brilliant and entertaining, drawing on her 15 years of experience driving revenue to fund top-level journalism in Mississippi.
Nov. 16, 2021
Editor Donna Ladd was a guest on The Next 72 Hours podcast to talk to Dr. Dani Hairston and Dr. Nwayieze Ndukwe about her research on Fannie Lou Hamer, the “Mississippi Appendectomy” and race science.
Senior reporter Ashton Pittman was a LION Publishers finalist for investigative reporting for his University of Mississippi email investigation, adding to multiple honors for that ongoing series that began publishing in August 2020.
Director of Black Media Initiatives Cheryl Thompson-Morton of the Center for Community Media at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY: “Powerful reporting @JacksonAdvocate & @MSFreePress are doing, tying the current racial inequities to the purposeful racist choices that have led to systemic barriers for Black women in Noxubee County.”
Nov. 5, 2021
The Meridian Star republished culture reporter Aliyah Veal’s news feature on Black families fighting involuntary land loss, the Urban Farming Institute of Boston excerpted it, as did Spot On Tennessee.
Oct. 28, 2021
The Washington Post followed up on reporter Nick Judin’s multi-part spring 2021 series on the Jackson water crisis, linking to part one of Nick’s original series.
The History News Network excerpted and linked to journalist Torsheta Jackson’s BWC Project overview, “Black Noxubee County Women Struggle to Overcome Historic Inequities COVID-19 Exposed.”
Oct. 24, 2021
The Tennessee Tribune republished culture reporter Aliyah Veal’s piece, “You Hold Onto Your Land: Helping Black Families Fight Involuntary Land Loss.”
Oct. 22, 2021
An NPR/PBS report about Jackson, Miss., featured on All Things Considered and stations around the U.S. quoted and linked to reporter Nick Judin’s reporting on local water infrastructure including comments to him by Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann.
Oct. 13, 2021
The Mississippi Free Press won the coveted Startup of the Year Award from the Institute for Nonprofit News, and was one of the top media outlets that reached the finalist stage in this year’s awards with Ashton Pittman and Nick Judin nominated for three journalism awards between them: Investigative Reporting (Ashton for UM emails series); Explanatory Reporting (Nick for Jackson water series) and the Breaking Barriers (Ashton and Nick for series about the Black activism that forced Mississippi flag change). Other finalists for the national award chosen across publications of all sizes were The 19th, Block Club Chicago, THE CITY (New York City) and Sahan Journal in Minnesota.
The Startup Award judges wrote about the MFP: “Mississippi Free Press is doing super impressive work on all fronts – journalism that doesn’t just inform Mississippians but also leads the way for national readers and media outlets. They have created a statewide presence in a short period of time and they clearly have very strong growth in revenue size and diversity. Their projects are innovative and approach the audience as partner, and they are performing genuinely leading edge work on building a young, diverse audience.”
This brings the total number of awards for the Mississippi Free Press to 23 since our launch in March 2020 (or a total of 31 awards including those awarded to current team members for work for another publication in 2020).
Oct. 12, 2021
Reporter Ashton Pittman’s update on the state auditor demanding that Brett Favre and other figures who benefited from a Mississippi public corruption/theft scheme repay the money went viral, including trending virally on Twitter. A wide variety of media, geek and sports outlets and blogs picked up on Ashton’s story, including Daily Caller, Sports Illustrated, The Spun, NJ.com, comicbook, cultaholic, Wonkette, Brinkwire, SideAction (Awesomo.com), Total Pro Sports, BroBible, NewsMax and The Comeback, among others.
The next day, CNBC’s Shepard Smith interviewed Ashton about the story and Brett Favre on his show, which was shared on multiple channels including MSN.
Sept. 29, 2021
The Columbia Journalism Review followed up on Neiman Lab’s feature on the Mississippi Free Press, quoting Publisher Kimberly Griffin: “I think your donor base reflects your team and also reflects your coverage. If I don’t see you covering me, that’s not a news source for me.”
Sept. 27, 2021
Several national media outlets elevated Ashton Pittman’s report about Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch saying that her efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade would “empower” women. The outlets included MSNBC, New York Magazine, Daily Beast, Jezebel and Wonkette.
Sept. 24, 2021
Author and podcaster Greg Olear dropped his PREVAIL interview with Mississippi Free Press editor and co-founder Donna Ladd. They discuss Mississippi (and America’s) lesser-known race and white-terrorism; misogyny in both graduate school and media; the problems with false-equivalency media; and exactly what Donna means by “systemic reporting,” “beyond partisanship” and the “Krazy Klucker in the Korner” syndrome across the United States. Oh, and her club DJ career in five states and what it taught her about reporting on systemic racism in America.
Sept. 23, 2021
Sarah Scire of the Nieman Lab at Harvard published a piece about the Mississippi Free Press, featuring interviews with co-founders Kimberly Griffin and Donna Ladd about their vision and mission, how the MFP is radically different from other Mississippi journalism, and how they are growing fundraising for systemic reporting and appealing to individuals donors across diverse communities due to true inclusivity and a focus on causes and solutions. They talk about how MFP’s innovative approach attracts a readership and donor support base representative of Mississippi.
Sept. 20, 2021
Dr. Judy Meredith, the vice president of the Mississippi Free Press board of directors, appeared on the Bulldog Bites speaker/podcast series at one of her alma maters, Mississippi Free Press. Dr. Meredith, who is also the wife of Black freedom hero James Meredith, talks about her own journalism accomplishments and talks her role at the Mississippi Free Press.
Sept. 16, 2021
Several media outlets picked up on Ashton Pittman’s analysis, using new Census figures, finding that Mississippi had overtaken New Jersey as the top state for per capita COVID-19 deaths, including the International Business Times, Washington Newsday and Consumer Affairs.
Sept. 10, 2021
Starkville Strong, a community organization that worked to help the tenants evicted from Catherine Street Apartments, publicly praised Nick Judin’s impactful reporting on the evictions, with his first story included as Exhibit A in a successful injunction motion. Starkville Strong created and shared special graphics about Nick’s reporting, saying in part: “It’s journalists like (Nick Judin) who help spread the importance of facts and transparency through diligent research. Thanks again to Mississippi Free Press for continuing to support giving voices to those who … often remain nameless.
Sept. 9, 2021
In its weekly print edition, the Jackson Advocate republished Ashton Pittman’s piece on Curtis Flowers suing the district attorney blamed for keeping him in prison for murder he didn’t commit.
The Meridian (Miss.) Star republished Nick Judin’s report on the Mississippi State Board of Licensure vowing to revoke licenses of physicians who spread COVID-19 misinformation.
Sept. 8, 2021
Ashton Pittman’s report on fetal deaths (stillbirths) due to COVID-19 drew media attention including Newsweek and Boing Boing.
Newsweek and Politico featured Ashton Pittman’s report about the increase of child deaths from COVID-19 in Mississippi in recent weeks. The same day, both the (Biloxi) Sun-Herald and Wonkette flagged Ashton’s separate report on pregnant Mississippi women dying in the hospital from COVID-19, resulting in bedside c-sections to save their babies and referenced Dr. Thomas Dobbs’ MFP Live interview.
PJ Media, a conservative political site, complained about the MFP Race Violence Project, which is revealing little-known white terrorism against Black Mississippians to keep white supremacy in place, writing: “My favorite people are the stooges who have to go back decades to find examples of “white supremacy.”
Sept. 1, 2021
The Spokesman-Review mentioned Ashton Pittman’s reporting on COVID-19’s impact in Pearl River County schools in its explainer, “Q&A: What will back-to-school look like in the delta surge?”
Aug. 31, 2021
A successful complaint filed with the Oktibbeha County Chancery Court for an injunction against immediate evictions of low-income tenants in a Starkville apartment building, which reporter Nick Judin reported on two days before, while collaborating with Starkville Daily News reporters to help them elevate the story statewide and nationally, included his full article as Exhibit A. His followup story then revealed that police were on site for the evictions although the mayor said they weren’t.
The Hill also picked up Nick’s Starkville eviction story.
Aug. 28, 2021
Reporter Ashton Pittman’s piece on Mississippi passing New York in per-capita Covid death rates, while the governor said Mississippians are not as scared of the disease due to belief in “eternal life” was elevated by Reddit, Rolling Stone, Black Enterprise, the New Civil Rights Movement, Salon and Alternet.
On his Prevail podcast, Greg Olear talked about the MFP’s impressive COVID-19 journalism (at 2:20). Editor Donna Ladd will be a guest on the podcast later in September to talk about the MFP’s journalistic approach.
Aug. 26, 2021
In a new book, CQ Researcher repeatedly cited reporter Nick Judin’s multi-part series (see page 263) that led the systemic conversation about the Jackson water crisis.
Politico cited Ashton’s Pittman’s report on about 15% of all Mississippi K-12 students being quarantined this school year to date as the “Statistic of the Day.” Also: New York Times, NPR, Newsweek, The Hill.
Aug. 21, 2021
The Sun-Sentinel (Tallahatchie County, Miss.) republished Nick Judin’s report on UMMC offering free monoclonal antibody infusions to those infected with COVID-19.
Aug. 20, 2021
The Brennan Center for Justice report, “Voter Suppression in 2020,” cited reporter Ashton Pittman and researcher Liam Pittman’s Trusted Elections investigation finding many polling-place errors in Mississippi’s officially published voter rolls just days before the November 2020 election, in a project supported by the American Press Institute.
Joe Sudbay interviewed reporter Ashton Pittman on SiriusXM about COVID-19 spike in Mississippi. Another TikTok video appeared commenting on one Ashton’s stories (ivermectin; see below) with the MFP story as a backdrop.
Aug. 19-23, 2021
Reporter Ashton Pittman’s report on a man hospitalized in Mississippi after taking ivermectin purchased in a feed store went viral and trended on Twitter with a wide variety of media citing and promoting the piece, including Forbes, Vice, The Washington Post, Seattle Times, New York Daily News, The Independent (UK), Huff Post and Yahoo News, AOL News, The Hattiesburg American and Clarion-Ledger (paywall), Outside the Beltway, Raw Story, KSHB (Kansas City), ABC 10 News (San Diego), KTNV (Las Vegas), ABC 7 (Denver), WFAE 90.7 (Charlotte, NC) and WATV 94.9 (Birmingham). Also: NPR, Columbia Journalism Review, The Root, Rachel Maddow Show, Mother Jones, eurweb, BlackAmericaWEb, Deseret News (Utah), Salt Lake Tribune.
Aug. 18, 2021
Yahoo Life, Newser, Political Wire and Madame Noire cited and followed up reporter Ashton Pittman’s Aug. 17 breaking story, “Mississippi Quarantines 20,000 with 5,993 Students Positive for COVID; Teen Deaths Rise.”
Aug. 17, 2021
On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Mika Brzezinski did a segment highlighting reporter Ashton Pittman’s Aug. 14 breaking report on the death of Mkayla Robinson, 13, from COVID-19 and the governor’s words about child deaths the day before. The same day, the National Review featured the Morning Joe segment and highlighted the MFP report (although unlike what the National Review reports, the MFP broke the news on the day she died, declining to publish her name until her hometown Smith County Reformer published it the next morning on Facebook).
Paige Williams wrote in the New Yorker about the current COVID-19 crisis, opening with a section of state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs. In it she included several quotes from Dr. Dobbs’ Aug. 2, 2021, MFP Live interview with Editor Donna Ladd and Publisher Kimberly Griffin, which the magazine called a “public, live-streamed event.” All weekly and special episodes are available here with links to Facebook and YouTube versions, and a podcast of Dr. Dobbs’ appearance is here, Apple and Spotify.
Aug. 14-18, 2021
Many national and state outlets elevated or wrote about Ashton Pittman’s Aug. 14 breaking and viral reporting about an eighth-grade Smith County girl who died that day from COVID-19
, including The Hill, Black Enterprise, Magnolia State Live, International Business Times, Daily Beast, Enterprise-Journal (McComb), Rolling Stone Magazine, Essence, People, The Grio, SuperTalk Radio/Mississippi, Vicksburg News, Yahoo News, Sun Herald (Biloxi), Newsweek, New York Post, Reddit (and here), Fark, Madame Noire, Latin Times, Washington Newsday (twice), BollyInside, Mississippi Today, Sports Grind Entertainment, WhoWhatWhy and Scallywag & Vagabond, among others.
Aug. 16, 2021
MFP state reporter Nick Judin appeared live on NPR’s “On Point” with Dr. LouAnn Woodward of UMMC and other guests to talk about COVID-19 crisis in Mississippi. A Slate “What’s Next?” podcast interview with Nick about his COVID-19 reporting also went live; here is the Slate transcript of Nick’s interview. Also, watch a new Belgium documentary about Jackson’s 2021 water crisis inspired by Nick’s Jackson water series; Nick consulted with the crew, introduced them to sources and is featured in the film (see 3:30 for first spot).
Aug. 13, 2021
The Washington Post quoted the MFP’s COVID-19 crisis coverage for the third time in two days, this time reporter Ashton Pittman’s viral piece on Pearl River County schools being forced by outbreaks to go fully virtual. NBC’s Today Show also quoted the same piece, as did Wonkette.
Aug. 12, 2021
Stephen Colbert referred to and displayed Mississippi Free Press stories two times during his Late Show monologue, referring both to reporter Nick Judin’s breaking coverage about the UMMC field hospital and Ashton Pittman’s follow-up about Mississippi hospital system on the verge of collapse.
Mississippi Free Press Editor Donna Ladd appeared as the opening segment of the Zerlina Maxwell Show on Peacock TV (NBC) to talk about the Covid/delta crisis in our state. See a clip of the segment here; link to full show to come.
The Washington Post quoted reporter Nick Judin from his breaking Aug. 11 Covid coverage on page one, which was republished by Yahoo News. Nick first reported that the University of Mississippi Medical Center was setting up a field hospital in a parking garage. The Post included Nick’s tweet with photos of the garage. The same day, The Washington Post published an opinion piece by Jennifer Rubin citing and quoting Ashton Pittman’s Aug. 11 coverage extensively.
NPR, The Guardian, Daily Mail, CommonWealth Magazine, Wonkette, Texas News Today, Newser, WFUV, Kansas Public Radio, Portland (Maine) Press Herald and Nevada Public Radio used our reporters’ Aug. 11 Covid reporting in their pieces.
Aug. 11, 2021
Rachel Maddow cited and displayed Ashton Pittman’s report on Gov. Tate Reeves being out of state at a political gathering as Covid hit records highs in Mississippi in a longer piece about the impending disaster in Mississippi hospitals. Raw Story, Opera News and Everyday Health also picked up the same MFP story.
Aug. 5, 2021
The Academe Blog (of Academe Magazine) had a long, thoughtful post about fired University of Mississippi history and anti-racism professor Garrett Felber, which talked about Ashton Pittman’s recent piece exposing UM administration emails indicating in late 2019 that the university was monitoring Felber’s public speech and activism. Then, Felber opened an incarceration reform event he organized by revealing that famed journalism instructor and university donor had long been a well-compensated member of private-prison company CoreCivic’s board of directors. “Suffice it to say that Felber’s boldly anti-racist politics and work on prisoner rights offended powerful donors, alums and campus administrators. Moreover, the latter, it has now been revealed, appear to have been ‘monitoring’ Felber’s activities at least since December 2019, when he offered public criticism of a major donor to the school’s journalism program (himself a ‘free speech’ advocate) with financial ties to the private prison industry,” Hank Reichman, an academic-freedom expert, wrote in the post.
The emails also revealed for the first time that, within weeks of that conference, fellow white board members at Mississippi Today, a nonprofit media outlet close to the university, had urged him to stay on the board after the publication had disclosed his prison board affiliation for the first time. Those board members include that publication’s founders who, in turn, were critical of editors disclosing his affiliation and urged him to not to resign from the board. Overby is still on the publication’s board, although one of the men urging him to stay later resigned both as the dean of the UM journalism school and from the outlet’s board of directors after Ashton Pittman’s August 2020 UM emails investigation involving that dean.
The same day as that post on recent UM emails reporting, the Chronicle of Higher Education rehashed much of Ashton’s UM emails investigation from a a year ago this week, but did credit and link to his original reporting in the long piece about the journalism dean’s downfall. The Mississippi Free Press is still the only media outlet in Mississippi to investigate and report the existence and contents of the racist and sexist emails between the dean and a wealthy donor, although some other outlets and journalism faculty members had the emails and knew who the originator of images likely was back in 2018, but did not report. The still-ongoing investigation of the journalism-school controversies has yielded many impacts inside the journalism school and beyond, and has won multiple awards. (See listings below.)
Also on Aug. 5, Biloxi’s Sun-Herald cited Ashton Pittman’s reporting of Covid/delta outbreaks in Lamar County schools almost immediately after students returned.
Aug. 4, 2021
The Meridian Star republished reporter NIck Judin’s report, “An explosive recipe’: Delta surge shows no sign of stopping.”
Aug. 2, 2021
Dr. Siyah M.D. used Ashton Pittman’s breaking July 4 report on school outbreaks as an illustrated background in his TikTok calling for mask mandates in schools across the U.S.
July 31, 2021
The Pulaski Institution featured Ashton Pittman’s reporting on Philip Gunn and Tate Reeves promising legislation against critical race theory at the Neshoba County Fair.
July 30, 2021
The History News Network discussed Ashton Pittman’s report on UM administration emails about Garrett Felber revealing that journalism faculty member Charles Overby is on the board of CoreCivic, the private-prison corporation.
July 19, 2021
The MFP announced that award-winning culture reporter Aliyah Veal has won an Alternate Roots Solidarity 2.0 grant to support her cultural reporting at the Mississippi Free Press. See Aliyah’s full MFP archive here.
Editor & Publisher interviewed Publisher and Director of Revenue Kimberly Griffin about the MFP being one of the 30 publications accepted into this year’s Facebook Accelerator. Kimberly, who leads a four-women MFP accelerator team, told E&P in part that MFP donors and members (people who make recurring donations) “deserve an incredible experience because they are incredibly generous.” Many of them gave before we officially launched. We don’t take that trust lightly,” Kimberly told E&P. “Every dollar makes an impact and allows us to do meaningful and challenging work.”
July 16, 2021
The Meridian Star (Mississippi) republished Aliyah Veal’s long-form piece about the state’s repatriation of Chickasaw remains as its main front-page feature in print and online. The story covered three pages in the Star’s print news edition.
July 15, 2021
The Jackson Free Press reported on the MFP’s coverage of Oxford, Miss., policing, arrest disparities by race and controversy around its Metro Narcotics Unit after Gov. Tate Reeves used police operations in Oxford as a model for what he wants to do with state-police “saturation” in the capital city.
July 14, 2021
Native News Online republished Roger Amos’ column about what attending the Choctaw Indian Fair meant to him as a Choctaw man in Mississippi. The same day, The Meridian Star (Mississippi) featured the same Roger Amos column on its front page.
July 13, 2021
The Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting republished Nick Judin’s report on the hearing in the lawsuit over Mississippi’s mental-health system. Three days later, MCIR republished Nick’s story about Judge Carlton Reeves’ ruling.
July 12, 2021
The Coachella Valley Independent (California) summarized Ashton Pittman’s piece of the same day about State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs warning about an upcoming surge of COVID-19, especially the delta variant, and issuing a new mask guidance. Kaiser Health News blurbed the same piece the next day. Texas News Today also quoted MFP Covid coverage.
July 7, 2021
The Tennessee Tribune, which serves Black readers in Nashville and across that state, republished Ashton Pittman’s Part 1 of his “Mississippi Flag, A Year Later” series about the Black Mississippians who paved the way for the flag change in 2020.
July 3, 2021
Native News Online republished Aliyah Veal’s long-form piece about the State of Mississippi repatriating Chickasaw remains to the Chickasaw Nation. The reprint appears here.
July 2, 2021
The Mississippi Free Press announced that its team members have won 27 journalism awards for their work in 2020 across three contests. Read about the awards, including a full list and links to winning MFP stories. Jackson Free Press Publisher Todd Stauffer also included MFP awards in his publisher’s note about that publication’s awards, several of which current MFP State Reporter won in his previous JFP reporting job.
June 26, 2021
Contributing reporter Grace Marion published an in-depth piece about dissension around police accountability in Oxford. It was the third in a series of policing/Metro Narcotics pieces in the Mississippi Free Press, which Christian Middleton’s investigation started in April, followed by a piece by Grace and Christian, showing several additional outcomes of their reporting. First, a member of the Oxford police transparency board filed an ethics complaint against the mayor because her husband alleged told Bar Association members the day after Christian’s investigation dropped that he already knew about missing money the MFP reported publicly for the first time the day before. Second, Christian and Grace’s coverage were part of conversations for the police board.
June 26, 2021
The Meridian Star republished MFP Board Vice President Judy Alsobrooks Meredith’s MFP Voices column about her husband James Meredith being shot 55 years earlier by a white supremacist when he was on his March Against Fear from Memphis to Jackson.
June 18, 2021
The Mississippi Free Press learned that the team had won 15 Society of Professional Journalism Diamond Awards for journalism in the 9.5 months we published in 2020, including several of the top awards awarded across all size and type of publications in the six-state southern U.S. journalism contest. Senior reporter Ashton Pittman took eight first-place awards, including as the Diamond Journalist of the Year. Ashton, Donna Ladd and Christian Middleton won the Robert S. McCord Freedom of Information Award for Ashton’s multi-part University of Mississippi Emails series and team followups. The Mississippi Trusted Elections Project team won the first-place Public Service Award. Culture reporter Aliyah Veal won three first-place awards and visiting reporter Mauricio Quijano won first place in community reporting. See all the winners here.
June 14, 2021
MFP Editor Donna Ladd gave a “Politics and the Press” presentation to college women and guests during 2021 New Leadership Mississippi at the Mississippi University for Women in Columbus. Her focus was on the divisive and partisan perils of horserace political and election coverage, using as a primary example incomplete tort reform/jackpot justice coverage 20 years ago helping bringing a supermajority to the Legislature. She also emphasized the binary, red-vs-blue coverage of the 2019 gubernatorial race, during which the meat of issues like Medicaid expansion reform (which two Republicans and the Democrat in the race supported) was lost in the horserace gamesmanship.
After Senior Reporter Ashton Pittman wrote a detailed piece about the tragic murder of former legislator Ashley Henley, a number of national media relied on his story for their reporting: The Washington Post, Daily Mail, Law & Crime, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Yahoo News, Oxygen and Crime Online.
June 11, 2021
In his Psychedelic Literature newsletter with cultural updates in Mississippi’s Black artistic circles, Jackson State Professor C. Liegh McInnis lifted up the Ashton Pittman’s UM Email series and more, writing: “For those of y’all who missed it, the Mississippi Free Press published an extensive three-part article about the continuance of racism at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), which can be read here. More than just an article about racial incidents here and there, the MFP has produced an investigative gem that uncovers how the tentacles of white supremacy are rooted deep into the fabric and infrastructure of Ole Miss. Props to founding editor Donna Ladd and founding publisher Kimberly Griffin—also a wonderful poet who should write more poetry—for over ten years of excellent journalism and cultural development.”
Capital and Main, a San Francisco-based journalism outlet that investigates “money, power and society,” cited reporter Nick Judin’s recent viral piece about restaurant workers’ response to leaders saying they are too lazy to work.
May 26, 2021
A feature about Mississippi co-founders Kimberly Griffin and Donna Ladd appeared in the Saturday Evening Post: “Making a Difference with Solutions Journalism in Mississippi.“
Senior reporter Ashton Pittman reported that former University of Mississippi journalism dean Will Norton is no longer on the faculty of the school. This news about his quiet departure came nine months after Ashton’s investigation series on racist, sexist and homophobic emails between Norton and university donors, and six months after Ashton reported that Norton was still earning nearly $18,000 a month while not teaching classes during the fall semester. A national journalism organization previously rescinded an award to Norton due to Ashton’s reporting, which no other media has touched. Read the full UM emails archive here and see a detailed timeline of related events here.
MFP contributing reporters Christian Middleton and Grace Marion published a followup to Christian’s April 2021 investigation of the Oxford, Miss., Metro Narcotics Unit. The new piece reports that defense attorney Kevin Frye used the MFP full investigative piece, along with Oxford Police Department demographic data on racial disparities in drug arrests there, in a motion on behalf of his client, an Asian man prosecuted for a drug crime two years before, while two white men charged at the same time had not been served after their indictments. After the motion, our new piece reported, the district attorney offered Frye’s client a plea deal of supervised probation instead of prison time, and quickly served the two white men.
May 18, 2021
MSNBC’s Hayes Brown cited reporter Ashton’s Pittman’s breaking May 17 explainer, “U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Mississippi Challenge to Roe v. Wade’s ‘Most Central Principle’ on Abortion” in his story, “Supreme Court’s anti-abortion wing welcomes a Roe v. Wade killer.”
May 13, 2021
Editor Donna Ladd is one of four alumni of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism receiving this year’s Alumni Award. Read interviews with all winners here. MFP Advisory Board member Reena Evers-Everette of the Medgar & Myrlie Evers Institute introduces her during the virtual award ceremony.
May 12, 2021
Mississippi community activist Laurie Bertram Roberts published a Washington Post column about the majority-Black capital city of Mississippi not having potable water. The column referenced MFP reporter Nick Judin’s pivotal questions to Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann that started Nick’s Jackson Water Crisis series about the decades-old systemic roots and racism at its core.
May 11, 2021
The Grio quoted Ashton Pittman’s reporting on Gov. Tate Reeves ending federal unemployment benefits in Mississippi, in a story republished by AOL News.
May 8, 2021
Ashton Pittman’s report on public officials’ remarks at the National Day of Prayer Task Force event in the Mississippi Coliseum drew wide attention and media coverage, including Newsweek, New Civil Rights Movement, Current, and the Arkansas Times.
May 7, 2021
The Mississippi Free Press learned that six journalists are finalists for SPJ Diamonds Awards for MFP work in 2020: Aliyah Veal, Ashton Pittman, Christian Middleton, Donna Ladd, Mauricio J. Quijano and William Pittman. The Arkansas Society of Professional Journalists administers the Diamond Awards, which cover adjoining southern states. Final placement and specific awards will be announced at a virtual ceremony on June 30.
May 6, 2021
The Institute for Nonprofit News announced that Mississippi Free Press co-founder and publisher Kimberly Griffin is one of 13 new invitees from U.S. nonprofit media organizations to its Emerging Leaders Council 2021. Read about this year’s cohort and the mission here.
Co-founder and editor Donna Ladd is on a panel presented by the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism along with four media colleagues from around the country to discuss “Filling the Vacuum Left by Expanding News Deserts.”
May 4, 2021
Mississippi State University’s Alumnus Magazine profiled MFP Board Vice President Judy Meredith. In the piece, MFP editor Donna Ladd says about Judy: “I already knew her wonderful husband (James), but I got to know Judy separately,” Ladd said. “She is funny, loves life and people, is exuberant and brilliant, and cares deeply about good journalism, which is what we most have in common. She’s now on the board of the directors of the new nonprofit Mississippi Free Press, which I lead, and I couldn’t be more proud to be working with her in this venture.” Watch a video Judy did with first Advisory Board member Reena Evers-Everette as the MFP prepared to launch. Read Judy’s MFP Board bio here.
Also today, Y’all Politics, a Mississippi conservative blog, took offense to reporter Ashton Pittman’s report about systemic racism in Mississippi following Gov. Tate Reeves’ statement to FOX News that systemic racism does not exist in the United States and, by extension, Mississippi. In the lengthy blog post, the Y’all Politics editor dismissed MFP journalists—Mississippi natives not born with silver spoons in our mouths—as “elitist” journalists, along with other insults.
May 1, 2021
In an essay for The Root about Gov. Reeves’ “no systemic racism” comments to FOX News, Zack Linly referenced editor Donna Ladd’s reporting on this year’s Confederate Heritage Month proclamation.
April 30, 2021
The Washington Post followed up, cited and linked Editor Donna Ladd’s story after she found and reported Gov. Tate Reeves again declaring Confederate Heritage Month in a piece reporting Reeves’ new remarks about systemic racism not being real on FOX News. The story was featured on the front page of the Post’s website.
April 29, 2021
Reporter Ashton Pittman and Editor Donna Ladd were honored and interviewed for being finalists for the national Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism for MFP’s ongoing series on racist, sexist and homophobic emails involving donors and the journalism school at the University of Mississippi. They spoke about the ethical decisions they had to make to expose a two-year cover-up that other media have still refused to cover. They were 2021 honorees alongside finalists The Washington Post and Associated Press and the winner, a collaboration between the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica. Watch Ashton and Donna here at 40:00.
Audience members asked Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill and challenger Brandon Pettis about what Christian Middleton’s April 6, 2021, investigative report on the local Metro Narcotics Unit’s troubles, including thousands in missing money not previously revealed to the public. Hear their answers at 1:16 here.
April 20, 2021
The Facebook Journalism Project announced that the Mississippi Free Press is one of 30 U.S. newsrooms selected to participate in its new revenue/membership/subscriber accelerator. Publisher Kimberly Griffin is leading the MFP accelerator team: newly promoted Deputy Editor Azia Wiggins, Director of Giving Cristen Hemmins and new Creative Director Kristin Brenemen. They are attending intensive trainings for several weeks.
April 16, 2021
The Los Angeles Times wrote a soul-searching editorial in response to Donna Ladd’s Confederate Heritage Month discovery, linking to the Mississippi Free Press piece in the first sentence. The editorial both called for Mississippi to end Confederate Heritage Month and acknowledged that its state has its own racist history to face: “California, for example, was build in part on slavery, apartheid and genocide, although even today we don’t use those words.”
April 12-15, 2021
After Editor Donna Ladd broke the story (again) on April 12 that Gov. Tate Reeves had quietly declared Confederate Heritage Month for the second April in a row, after discovering it on a Sons of Confederate Veterans Facebook page—she scours SCV pages and sites every year to see where it’ll show up first—several media outlets picked up the story, properly crediting the Mississippi Free Press. They immediately included included The Hill, National Memo, American Independent and the website for the New Civil Rights Movement. The Natchez Democrat, a long-time daily newspaper in Mississippi, ran an editorial criticizing the governor for both issuing the proclamation again, especially so soon after the Mississippi flag changed, and for again issuing it secretly. On April 15, The Clarion-Ledger did a follow-up story that cites Donna and her original story. The Intellectualist also featured Donna’s story.
On the day after her story appeared, April 13, Donna appeared on Zerlina Maxwell’s national talk show, The Choice, on Peacock TV, to discuss the proclamation and how governors routinely deliver it secretly straight to Confederate groups. (See the clip in this tweet as well.)
April 9, 2021
The Washington Post editorial board cited and linked to reporter Ashton Pittman’s viral report this week about the Mississippi secretary of state’s comments about “woke college students” and voting in its editorial, “Sorry, Republicans, George’s new law makes voting harder—not better.” The editorial was republished by papers across the U.S. including the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
April 7, 2021
Oxford-based contributing reporter Christian Middleton’s investigation of the Lafayette County Metro Narcotics Unit had impact within hours of it going live the night of April 6. Citing details in the investigative report, Oxford defense attorney Kevin Frye called for a suspension in the prosecution of all Metro Narcotics cases in Lafayette County Circuit Court the next morning. Judge Kent Smith denied the sweeping request, but stated that he could consider suspension of prosecution on a case-by-case basis. Frye told the court that he intended to follow up with some of his cases in that manner.
Reporter Ashton Pittman’s contextual piece about the Mississippi secretary of state’s remarks on “woke college students” and voting to a WLOX reporter—that no media noticed until MFP reported it—went viral and was picked up and discussed by multiple national outlets and commentators, including Newsweek, Salon, Talking Points Memo, Jezebel, Jake Tapper (plus a tweet) and Don Lemon on CNN; Ari Melber and Chris Hayes on MSNBC. Legal Scholar Rick Hasen also featured Ashton’s breaking story on the Election Law Blog.
April 6, 2021
Andrew Rockway of the American Press Institute included the first phase of the MFP’s Mississippi Trusted Elections Project in this piece, “Among uncertainty, back-to-basics reporting became essential in 2020 election coverage.” API funded the first phase of the MFP’s elections project, which focused on poll and precinct locations across Mississippi and revealed many last-minute mistakes in the State of Mississippi’s list of locations, which led to both corrections and other state media using our corrected data to inform their readers about the mistakes and changes.
April 2, 2021
>The University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, the home of the prestigious Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism announced the winner and that Mississippi Free Press reporter Ashton Pittman and editor Donna Ladd are together a finalist for the award for our “The Fabric is Torn in Oxford” series on sexist, racist and homophobic emails at the University of Mississippi.
The MFP is a finalist alongside winner ProPublica/Anchorage Daily News collaboration, The Washington Post and the Associated Press, as detailed here.
March 29, 2021
Frances Madeson featured MFP Editor Donna Ladd’s NBC NewsThink column and multiple local Black voices in her piece, “How Black Mississippians Found Their Power During Jackson’s Water Emergency.“
March 26, 2021
Meghna Chakrabarti, the host of public radio’s On Point, opened the March 26 program with an interview with MFP Editor Donna Ladd about the ongoing water crisis in Mississippi, and similar infrastructure crises across the U.S., in an hour-long segment that also featured Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba and former Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr.
Iowa Public Radio and many NPR stations ran the On Point segment. Here Iowa Public Radio partially quotes Donna’s remarks about Nick Judin’s reporting that elevated Jackson’s water crisis to a state and national media conversation about systemic racism in Mississippi and beyond, quickly followed by Donna’s viral NBC News Think column. WLRN in Miami, NPR Illinois and many other NPR stations ran the On Point episode.
March 23-25, 2021
Both The New York Times and Newsweek published pieces on March 24 building on Nick Judin’s breaking news report from the night before (March 23) about an elderly Coahoma, Miss., man getting confusing messaging when he called the Mississippi State Department of Health to make a vaccine appointment. Nick followed up with the man, his daughter out of state who tweeted about it and MSDH, who told the MFP they were changing the script as a result. The Associated Press followed up on Nick’s story on March 25.
March 23, 2021
Slate’s Mary Harris featured reporter Nick Judin on the What Next podcast, “One Month Without Water: Why Jackson’s next water crisis isn’t so far off.” In the long interview, Nick talked about what he’d discovered about the origins of the crisis. You can also read a transcript here.
March 21, 2021
In a column called “Who’s teaching us to hate,” CNN Opinion Managing Editor Richard Galant discussed MFP’s reporting that elevated Jackson’s water crisis into a discussion of the systemic racism that allowed it to fester for so long, as historian Keri Leigh Merritt previously wrote about for CNN Opinion, while crediting the MFP team on Twitter for journalism that informed her column.
March 18, 2021
MSNBC’s Into America host Trymaine Lee credits MFP and reporter Nick Judin for helping him with this podcast on the Jackson water crisis, and systemic roots, including Nick providing audio of questions he asked of Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, eliciting the “Kane Ditto” response.
March 17, 2021
Editor Donna Ladd was a guest on LPTV’s “We’re Speaking” with Lisa Senecal and Maya May to talk about voting access in Mississippi and disinformation about voter fraud.
March 16, 2021
Editor Donna Ladd and Senior Reporter Ashton Pittman appeared on the Journalism Salute podcast talking about Mississippi Free Press’ approach to journalism in Mississippi, discussing the UM Email series and other work and offering advice to young journalists.
MSNBC followed up the Mississippi Free Press and Mother Jones reporting on the governor rejecting Medicaid expansion in Mississippi.
March 15, 2021
Kai Wright interviewed Editor Donna Ladd on Jackson’s water crisis on The Takeaway, a national public radio program on WNYC Radio, on issues she raised in her NBC News Think column about the long-time systemic racism that led to Jackson’s water crisis and at least a month without drinkable water for the capital city and, for many, no water at all.
March 14, 2021
Historian Keri Leigh Merritt, a Mississippi native, published a CNN opinion piece that placed reporter Nick Judin’s initial March 1 reporting on race politics around capital-city water and infrastructure; the NBC Think column by editor Donna Ladd; and other followups to Nick’s reporting in a larger context of racism and poverty in cities across the U.S. The historian also wrote on Twitter: “… I could not have written this with the incredible journalism of @donnerkay (editor Donna Ladd) and her team.”
March 8, 2021
Ashton Pittman reported that the University of Mississippi had “exonerated” its ombudsman Paul Caffera after it investigated him in an effort to identify the whistleblowers who provided emails they received through public-records requests to the Mississippi Free Press, which formed the basis of our UM Emails investigative series, which began in early August 2020 and continues. No other media in Mississippi have reported about the contents of the sexist, racist and homophobic emails between the now-previous journalism dean and a wealthy donor, the identity of the donor although it was known to journalists, or the chain of events or the targeting of the UM ombudsman in its hunt to unmask the MFP’s sources. The MFP’s reporting was discussed in legal documents the ombuds filed in this lawsuit over the situation, including the final 92-page document set that directly preceded the university reinstating him fully. The full UM email series to date is here, and a detailed timeline is here.
March 6-10, 2021
NBC News Think asked Editor Donna Ladd to write about the Jackson water crisis. In the piece, she built on reporter Nick Judin’s March 1 report on state leaders’ response to the crisis to connect the dots on historic systemic racism that limits Jackson’s wealthy, growth and safety. TruthOut featured the NBC piece on March 8, as did Yahoo News. The Grio then quoted extensively from Ladd’s NBC column on March 9, as In These Times did on March 10.
Also on March 10, Blavity listed Donna’s NBC column as one of the “Five Things to Know About the Ongoing Water Crisis in Jackson, Mississippi.“
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation featured Donna’s NBC column on on its website, writing that she “leaves nothing on the table in her op-ed condemning racism for Jackson, Mississippi’s water crisis. (Donna was previously a three-year WKKP Community Leadership Network fellow, which resulted in the launch of the award-winning Mississippi Youth Media Project and its student-journalism site, jxnpulse.com to train Mississippi teenagers in rigorous journalism; both are on hiatus until after the pandemic.)
March 5, 2021
WLBT reported on a question asked by Mississippi Free Press editor Donna Ladd, the co-moderator of the Jackson mayoral debate. The full debate, and much more substantive material, is available here.
March 3, 2021
Todd Stauffer, publisher of the Jackson Free Press, wrote a column about Nick Judin’s March 1 report on state leaders’ response to Jackson’s water crisis.
March 1, 2021
CBS News quoted reporter Ashton Pittman’s tweet about so little attention to the two-week-old water crisis in Mississippi’s capital city.
Feb. 26, 2021
The Blaze quoted reporter Ashton Pittman’s critique of the Biden administration for plans to charge reporters for Covid-19 tests before enterting the White House.
Feb. 4, 2021
WLBT reported on Mississippi Free Press editor Donna Ladd’s question about data behind a youth curfew to Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba in a virtual press conference, which went unanswered.
Jan. 28, 2021
The Ombuds Blog, run by Chuck Howard, the executive director of the International Ombuds Association, posted an update on developments in the University of Mississippi’s targeting of ombuds Paul Caffera in an apparent attempt to out the whistleblowers who provided racist, sexist and homophobic emails to the Mississippi Free Press, exposed in Ashton Pittman’s ongoing UM Emails investigation. Ashton’s investigation has been getting increased national attention even as no other Mississippi media outlet has been willing to report on the saga, including the targeting of the ombuds or his lawsuit against the university. Howard reported that an investigative reporter from the Chronicle of Higher Education is now looking at the ombuds/email story (which it has mentioned previously) and that more efforts to obtain emails are under way (although since the MFP’s UM Email series, the public university has recently made it more difficult to obtain open records anonymously). Howard also published an MFP Voices opinion piece about the UM ombuds situation on Jan. 21.
Jan. 25, 2021
In the latest in a long series of responses to UM history professor Garrett Felber’s termination, first reported by Christian Middleton of the Mississippi Free Press and leading to a national outcry (see below), Ida B. Wells’ great-granddaughter Michelle Duster wrote about the incident for Daily Beast, saying that releasing Felber sends “a very strong and disturbing message.” She added, “He was questioning the university’s deference to wealthy racists, which is part of its long and storied history of racial intolerance, marginalization, and downright violence against Black people and their allies.”
Teen Vogue included reporting by Christian Middleton, who broke the story about the termination of activist University of Mississippi professor Garrett Felber (more below), in a piece about professors targeted for their viewpoints.
Newsweek followed up on Ashton Pittman’s reporting about Mississippi Rep. Dan Eubanks’ proposed legislation to classify all abortions in Mississippi as murder.