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Editor’s Note | Mapping Democracy: Fighting the Worthy Scrap Across Generations With Innovative Journalism

Today is July 3, and I just said goodbye for a long weekend to a remarkable group of Youth Media Project students (age 15 to 17) from high schools throughout the Jackson metro and as far afield as Simpson Academy. Halfway through their six-week summer project in the Mississippi Free Press newsroom, they are enthusiastically calling person after person (including elected officials of both parties and even one former governor) to talk about very serious issues while assembling their Election Coverage Guide this summer. 

Here full-time for six weeks (and paid), they set their own benchmarks and are improving existing YMP systems. They are collaborative, they’re filing freedom-of-information requests, and one announced today that she’s going to write an explainer on Project 2025 because, you know, people need to know what’s in it. That’s my kind of newspaperwoman right there.

One of the YMP students, a fantastic returning student from last summer—we ask several high performers to return to help mentor new students—is creating an animated mural on one of our big white boards between calls and story work, clearly using it as thinking time. I’m quite certain I will never want to erase that board.

I love it when a plan comes together. Or, even better, when it’s a dream—one of those big, hairy goals that many think will never happen. It’s too ambitious. It costs too much. And, you know honey, that’ll take a lot of work.

Yeah, I know. Let’s go.

Little Money and a Boatland of Sass

I’m an ideas person, and I like to start things others don’t expect to succeed as you may have noticed by now. I’ve always kept my doors, and my mind, wide open for inspiration, the more creative and audacious and, yeah, huge and hairy the better. I remember several very pivotal inspiration moments in the last quarter-century very clearly just like it was earlier this morning. They might seem disparate at first glance, but stay with me.

At Columbia Journalism School in 2000—I was getting my master’s at almost 40—my adviser Andie Tucher nearly

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