Editor, Executive Director and Co-founder, Mississippi Free Press Education: Mississippi State University, bachelor of arts in political science; Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, master of arts in journalism
Editor and Publisher
2022 E&P EDITORS EXTRAORDINAIRE
Donna Ladd’s nomination by her co-founder/colleague said, “Donna’s leadership and the MFP team have built the outlet quickly into a critical voice in Mississippi for people we don’t hear from enough — and MFP’S presence is resulting in real change and progress for the state’s citizens.” What advice do you have for other young professionals who aspire to become an editor extraordinaire? Be bold and willing to be unpopular with some to tell the truth. Stay present, grow a tough skin (especially if you’re a woman), and don’t obsess about being universally liked; we’re in journalism, after all. Get your team’s backs when attacked for doing their jobs, and lift them up publicly and oneon-one when they do good work. Focus hard on understanding the craft of compelling and impactful journalism and contextual storytelling. Always seek the why and how, not just the who, what, when and where. Embed real history (which is often the how and why) through narrative when possible, and don’t shy away from systemic reporting of how things got the way they are to help inspire people to repair the systems. Demonstrate and expect excellence from others and help them achieve it; don’t just rewrite their work. Teach them to do it themselves and expect them to because that’s how they become great journalists, not through you fixing everything yourself. Guard your newsroom culture carefully: Hire and retain people who work together well and respectfully and involve your team in those expectations, interviewing and hiring choices. What has been your proudest moment as an editor? I am proud of the Black women journalists at the MFP and our collaborator, the Jackson Advocate, the state’s oldest Black newspaper, for their amazing and ongoing systemic and solutions reporting in the “(In) Equities and Resilience: Black Women, COVID-19 and Systemic Barriers” project and microsite. Black women colleagues are doing deep-dive reporting inside overlooked communities in counties around Mississippi, hosting solution circles with Black women across the state in conjunction with the project building networks and highlighting uncovered stories in news deserts across the state.