The mission of the Mississippi Free Press, a new journalism nonprofit website and podcast network launching in 2020, is to enable deep public-interest reporting into causes and solutions for challenges facing Mississippians, especially marginalized communities.Mississippi Free Press shares the name of a civil-rights-era newspaper in Jackson produced and printed by a multiracial team including Medgar Evers and Hazel Brannon Smith, will function as an educational outlet with a mix of experienced journalists working with fellows, interns, and teenage journalists with the goal of teaching young journalists to transcend the who, what, where and when by searching for and reporting the why and how, and potential solutions.MFP plans to collaborate with individuals, organizations, and universities inside and outside the state that are also dedicated to solutions-based journalism and training. The MFP reporting team and fellows, including award-winning journalist Ashton Pittman, a Mississippi native, plan to regularly engage communities in the state directly in public and diverse “Citizen Agenda” workshops about under-reported issues to help direct MFP coverage, instead of panel discussions where known leaders talk at the citizens. These dialogues will enable the team to research the historic context of the identified challenges, as well as seek vital, relevant data; report and vet potential solutions inside and outside the state; and publish engaging and rigorous reported narrative story packages (including video, podcasts, photo essays and other multimedia components). Many of these stories would be available for other media outlets to reprint without cost.
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MFP is dedicated to eschewing the type of “horse-race” journalism that frames stories toward a partisan divide, instead producing nonpartisan media projects that report the truth with style and context, focusing on real people, and letting the truth fall where it may, as co-founder Donna Ladd says.
MFP plans a fellowship/training program for journalists to work collaboratively on special projects, such as deep criminal-justice reporting, entrepreneurial solutions for the state’s challenged communities, what is needed to improve health and health-care access in Mississippi, a solutions-based education lab and cold-case investigative narratives that connect past atrocities to current challenges and, thus, solutions.
MFP envisions a statewide podcast network, including “Let’s Talk Mississippi” for deep conversations with both changemakers and the people affected by policy, especially those seldom heard from in the media. MFP also plans to do story podcasts and short documentaries.