Sometimes publisher Kimberly Griffin and I are asked how we’re different from other “local” or “statewide” media, and my first thought is always that someone is not paying very close attention to see the obvious for themselves. That’s not (usually) a snarky thought; it’s more about my concern that Americans and Mississippians in general still may not be paying enough attention to what it means, or should mean, to be local or statewide rather than national or regional journalism—and what that means for democracy and representation.
As they’ve always been, those two phrases are overused and have been used even as cover for journalism that is decided not actually local, statewide or innovative.
To put it mildly, I didn’t co-found the Jackson Free Press in 2002 or the nonprofit Mississippi Free Press in 2020 to “save” what is called “local media” as it’s always been done in our state and across the nation. We certainly didn’t start MFP to recreate domineering chain media with a lot of the jobs (and mistakes made) in other states where the chains’ key operations were headquartered. We didn’t start the Free Press with permission of anyone in any power structure (which we didn’t ask for to the chagrin of some), and we didn’t start it to recreate the very serious errors and transgressions of past and often present newsrooms.
Mothballing the Old Ways
Let’s break down a few of those problems that desperately need to be left in the past to show how the Mississippi Free Press and so many emerging and truly local journalism outlets across the U.S. are decidedly different.
1. We are not founded, run or controlled by white men, and especially white men from another state. This is so important because, traditionally, white men have run journalism outlets that largely lift up, report on and feature other powerful white men. Traditionally, white men are the ones who report on and slant their political coverage. They also tend to ensure that resources flow to each other because, you know, they go back a long way. There is no way to put
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