Last week we had the honor and privilege to talk to investigative journalist Donna Ladd. Ladd has a wealth of experience in journalism and has formed media startups multiple times, including her most recent startup in 2002, the Jackson Free Press.
Before she started the Jackson Free Press she learned many lessons along the way. One aspect of her talk that I really took note on is how she wasn’t fully prepared for how difficult the process of running a weekly publication would be. She knew there would be bumps in the road and had to learn as she went. Ladd also pointed to her inexperience with the business side of media startups as a detriment to her first couple of attempts. She pointed out that it is very important to have business savvy people on your team.
I believe Ladd said that 80 percent of the JFP revenue comes from print ads. Selling advertising is not easy to do, and having people that specialize in that is a real asset for a media startup like the JFP. Lucky for Ladd she has her partner, Todd Stauffer, to handle the business side along with the rest of her staff, whom she praised multiple times.
Another thing that was clearly evident from talking to Ladd was her passion for great reporting. She pointed out how important it is to report hard news and to report it fairly and objectively. This reminded me of the reading last week by Ken Doctor. It is important as members of the media to stand up to those who are trying to oppress us from educating others and what is going on in today’s world.
Ladd also talked about how important it is for us up-and-coming media members to have a variety of skills. This is something that has been preached to us over and over again but it makes sense. To find your place in this tough job market you have to be able to do a little bit of everything. This will improve your odds of landing that elusive job tremendously because it will give you more possible jobs to land. Even though this isn’t the first time we have heard this it rings a little bit louder coming from someone as widely respected as Ladd.
I had kept quiet throughout most of Ladd’s talk to us but when there was an opportunity to ask one last question I had to bring up former Jackson Mayor Frank Melton. Melton was a very curious character. It was fascinating hearing Ladd talk about how she gained his trust and what it was like to cover him.