The biggest thing that stood out to me about the story Donna Ladd told the class last Wednesday was the mark she left on the people around her. Sure, not all of them fell in love with her, and I can think of a few people in rural Mississippi that you’d really, really piss off by writing anything progressive, but what even those people don’t understand is how much better Donna made their futures.
Donna’s reporting was controversial and often unpopular, but as journalist those stories are the ones we have to report on before anything else. Our job is to report those stories unsaid and unheard to attempt to illuminate those issues and educate the greater public about what’s happening in their neighborhoods. Keeping the public informed and educated can prevent senseless crimes of fear and ignorance like the one perpetuated in Donna’s town, where two black men were murdered with nary a whimper of a response.
Reporting through adversity is what keeps journalism alive. It’s what move journalism forward. Donna’s legacy stands as such in that quiet southern town, at least in my opinion. Disregarding popular stories, feel-good features and unadulterated racism, Donna pushed on and made a real difference for her community, and the hackles she raised only accentuate that point.
It’s not easy to build yourself from the ground up when you report things people around you don’t want to hear, but Donna did it, and did it well. I hope more students hear her story and get the same inspiration I did, the fortitude to push forward through anything, the constitution required to do what is right, especially when it gets hard.
One thought on “Donna’s legacy”
“Sure, not all of them fell in love with her”: ha, ha, that’s an understatement. I don’t think I shared my favorite journalism quote with y’all, from Hazel Brannon Smith, a white Mississippi editor in the 1960s who helped African Americans defy the racist status quo. “I ain’t no lady, I’m a newspaperwoman.” That is, I’m not here to be polite to power if they are important truths to expose and question.
Thank you for your great comments. One clarification: The two black men I spoke I (Henry Dee and Charles Moore) weren’t killed in my hometown; they were killed near Meadville, Miss., close to the same time. Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner died in my hometown when I was 3. Two of them were white, which got much more national attention. That’s one reason I decided to investigate the Dee-Moore case after a jury in my hometown finally convicted Edgar Ray Killen (who I knew as a child) for the three civil-rights workers. I believed they deserved the same national attention, and justice, even if neither of them was white. And that my state needed to do something about it, which they did when they sent James Ford Seale to prison. I’m very proud of that work.
Good luck with journalism. Go make a difference.