Posted by Bill Osborne

Mississippi Free Press (MFP) Founding Editor Donna Ladd spoke to the Rotary Club of North Jackson at the club’s March 2 meeting. Ladd is an award-winning journalist from Philadelphia, Miss. After leaving the state the day after she graduated from Mississippi State, vowing to never live here again, she returned 18 years later with a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia. She co-founded the impactful Jackson Free Press in 2002 in order to bring an in-depth news source to the state that would not shy away from historic effects of structural, institutional, and systemic racism—how the past connects to the present—in a way no other media outlet had done in Mississippi.

Ladd has won many awards for columns, political columns, editorials, feature writing, and investigative work, and has shared in a number of public-service journalism awards for her work in Mississippi, from helping put an old Klansman, James Ford Seale, in prison for the kidnapping and murder of two black teenagers in 1964, to deep systemic work on the causes and solutions of crime and violence now in the capital city and the embedded racism in the criminal justice system since the time of slavery.

In 2001, Ladd received a Packard Future of Children fellowship to study the discriminatory application of school discipline on children of color and the cradle-to-jail pipeline. More recently, she was a three-year W.K. Kellogg Foundation leadership fellow, deep-diving into systemic inequity and pathways to “truth, racial healing, and transformation” in her home state. The fellowship led to her efforts to change the narrative about race through the Mississippi Youth Media Project, in which she started to train young people to challenge the media narrative about them and their communities. She has trained many award-winning journalists over the years.

Ladd spoke to the Rotary club about the mission and fundamental principles of Mississippi Free Press. She emphasized that the principles of the MFP are consistent with Rotary’s 4-Way Test: “Is it the truth, Is it fair to all concerned, will it build goodwill and better friendships, and is it beneficial to all concerned?”

Ladd also discussed the fact that MFP is a digital nonprofit that is relying on donations for its success. While MFP is not a 501c(3) nonprofit, tax-deductible donations can be made for MFP to the Community Foundation for Mississippi at 119 S. President St., Jackson, MS 39201.

We thank Ladd for her presentation to our club, for returning home, and for her journalism work. She is shown in the following photo:

A video of the meeting, including Ladd’s presentation, can be seen at