While listening to Donna Ladd, editor of the Jackson Free Press, speak in our class last week, I was truly inspired by her genuine passion for journalism.
Several times throughout her discussion, she mentioned her journal as a young girl and all of the experiences that she believes led her to this point in her career. I found it interesting that she couldn’t exactly pinpoint how or why she ended up becoming an investigative journalist. She’s simply drawn toward writing about justice, crime and policing, and she doesn’t really question it. It’s a natural talent and curiosity that allows her to make a difference in her community.
As a student who constantly wonders what my niche in the industry is/will be, Donna is a great example of continuing to engage in the things that inspire and fascinate you. That’s how you will ultimately find your specialization, and I think that’s a good reminder to always hold onto.
It’s clear that Donna understands the power of writing and reporting, and she has the courage and the drive to do something about it. Being an investigative journalist and exposing the things that may be difficult to talk about is a feat within itself, but identifying the need to better inform citizens and taking steps to make sure that happens is what strengthens the values and ethics of this industry today.
Throughout her discussion, it became clear that Donna thinks like a media entrepreneur. Similar to “Mastering the art of disruptive innovation in journalism” that we read a few weeks ago, Donna’s decision to launch a progressive newspaper in Mississippi was based on this “job-to-be-done” perspective mentioned in the article. By identifying what was missing, Donna was able to create this very successful newspaper that provides watchdog journalism and media transparency to fill the void that citizens didn’t even know existed!
One thing that shocked me about our chat with Donna is that before 2002 (when she co-founded the Jackson Free Press) there were no progressive newspapers that served a diverse audience in Mississippi. This made me question how many other locations throughout the U.S. lack diverse media sources to prevent a culture of news bias.
Without people like Donna who make an effort to serve a diverse audience, deliver accurate information and adhere to ethical, watchdog journalism, it’s scary to think about where we could be headed (Especially with challenges like fake news and “alternative facts” gaining strength on social media today).
In a time when the media is facing harsh criticism and viewpoints are more divided than ever, Donna is the epitome of a resilient journalist who does her best, story by story, to maintain balance, accuracy and truth.
As journalism students, I think that’s something we all find admirable about Donna.
One thought on “Aspiring to be a little more like Donna Ladd”
Thank you so much. I just checked in to see if I missed commenting on any of your posts, and I saw this one. It’s as lovely and thoughtful as the others.
Don’t get me wrong: I wasn’t always so clear what I wanted to do, and I had a lot of self-doubt and, frankly, bad work habits in my 20s. My interests kept drawing me this way, and I had to really discover what being an investigative reporter and a media entrepreneur were really about (and most people aren’t both, which is an added wrinkle).
As for media diversity, don’t get me started. I just honestly cannot understand why media companies do so little on this front, and not just on hiring. It’s coverage, self-education, dialogue, networking and genuine efforts to understand and include diverse cultures that are so often missing. I wish I could say we are seeing major improvements, but they’re spotty at best.
It’s up to all of you to help change this. Can’t wait to see the mark you all leave.
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