Mississippi Women Lead America’s Nonprofit Media to Systemic Journalism
I pinch myself daily. OK, not literally – ouch – but I give thanks every day for the Mississippi Free Press Team I work with in person and virtually. (My calculating head this week told me that I had worked with this team at Jackson Free Press and now the MFP for 75 years combined, more or less. Wow.)
Every weekday and select weekends, these amazing people come together to expose the often ignored truth about our condition and listen to our deep and inclusive network of Mississippians and expats who finally want to see solutions and are tired of the red horse. against blue. -race pablum, usually regurgitated by white men through the media and politics.
We all know the typical media exercise. And we very intentionally and actively reject it, seeking instead real, often unknown Mississippians to educate us about the disparities they face daily. We then dig deep to explain why these systemic barriers exist – an approach I’ve dubbed “systemic reporting”. It’s a phrase long used in science, which belongs to journalism as we recreate our approach to reporting in a more inclusive and cause/solution-focused way.
Our whole team supports and encourages each other as we go along. This is not a newsroom for the selfish or those who want all the credit and only share their own work. We collaborate well beyond the mere name.
Kimberly and Azia: Burning Desire to Help the Home State
Now, two Mississippi Free Press women who helped ensure that we didn’t repeat the same old drill and continually added new voices are nominated for coveted national honors. Judges for the America’s Top Nonprofit News Organization Annual Awards appointed my co-founder, Publisher and Chief Revenue Officer Kimberly Griffin, as one of three finalists for the Emerging Leader in nonprofit media award. Not to mention, the Mississippi Business Journal just named Kimberly one of Mississippi’s top businesswomen.
Judges from the Institute for Nonprofit News were also named Associate Editor for Voices and Systemic Reports Azia Wiggins as a finalist for the Nonprofit Newcomer of the Year Award. It’s especially wonderful because Azia is early in her journalism career and started with Nate Schumann and me at JFP as an editorial assistant.
Azia then became the Executive Assistant when we launched MFP, doing whatever was necessary, and within months I made her Deputy Editor for two reasons. First, she has natural skills as a writer and editor, which is rarer than you might think. Second, she has a deep network and a burning desire to raise more voices in the media and train others to do what she does.
Azia wrote a nice column about her journey so far at MFP here. She explains it much better than me, so do yourself a favor and read her words.
Three-pronged systemic reporting approach
Kimberly and Azia are an integral part of our three-pronged systemic approach to reporting, as demonstrated by our “Black women, COVID-19 and systemic barriers” collaboration with the Jackson Advocate. They are the organizers of the solutions circles reserved for black women for this project; they build and follow networks across the Mississippi they build; and Azia reports that she herself is focusing on one of the counties – Holmes County and access to health care, coming soon. Azia did a wonderful video interview here about our systemic reporting – which we approach as an analysis of journalistic systems (which also allows her to use her scientific training!) Azia is also naturally in front of the camera, as you will see in this video.
What Kimberly and Azia, but not only them, represent is that our Free Press approach to inclusion isn’t just superficial and hasn’t been in the 20 years since Jackson Free Press started ( where Kimberly and I worked together for 13 years before the launch of the MFP in 2020). For us, it’s about telling stories through our communities that a wide range of people across our state and city (and, yes, the country) will read and absorb, regardless of gender, race, their ethnic origin, economic status or political party.
Problems are not solved when we just preach or report to a choir. And hey, we did it together brilliantly at the Jackson Free Press in the Capital Region. Now we do it as a nonprofit throughout Mississippi with deep support from readers and donors. We’ve proven the model, and now we’re releasing it.
Thank you for supporting the new approach to journalism
This is, of course, where you come in. You are the ones who make this journalism possible. And you allow us to look for great talent in Mississippi – all but one of the employees grew up here, and this is the Impressive Kayode Crown— and train them regardless of their background or training in journalism.
We are very good at it, and our work has a pile of rewards, impact and assessment prove it. And the young people we’ve trained and worked with over the years are doing amazing things across the country, from hard-hitting reporting to bestselling books to running organizations.
Please continue to support Free press journalism and that growth right here in Mississippi. Believe in our potential here, as we all do, for a person. Walk with us however you can. Tell others to join our growing base of readers and supporters.
We are here for the long haul and the hard work. We believe in the mountain top that Dr. King preached about. But we all have to climb it together. We can. We will do it.
This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff, or its board members. To submit an essay for the MFP Voices section, submit up to 1,200 words and sources verifying the information included at [email protected] We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.