Today, hate is everywhere. From the national headlines to incidents happening right here at Michigan State, more bad than good seems to be the sobering reality of today’s current events. So, what do you do in a time that seems so desperate? Most people flip the station or turn the page. Few make it their duty to ignite change and deliver justice to those who are most deserving. Donna Ladd is a person who restores my faith in humanity – that some people are truly good to the bone and are brave enough to fight their way through the bad.
Prior to speaking with Donna, I did a little research on her career. I scrolled through her tweets and read a few different articles from her newspaper, as well as pieces written on her. Her bio reads: “I’m Donna Ladd, an investigative journalist and editor focused on justice, crime, race, kids, policing and politics in Mississippi, New York City and nationwide. I’m a WKKF Leadership Fellow, a freelance journalist and editor-in-chief of the Jackson Free Press.” As impressive as that description reads, she’s much more.
I believe that Donna exemplifies what a journalist is supposed to be. This career is one that holds a lot of responsibility, and I feel that most journalists and reporters take the road more traveled. Donna on the other hand has created her own path in the industry, carved by her braveness. Everything she has done has been a risk. From starting a career in journalism after studying a different subject in the first place, to covering controversial issues in the South, to developing a newspaper…What can’t she do?
While she was speaking, she mentioned a few civil rights cases she covered. I looked up a few in class and was totally in awe of the work she’s done to better others’ lives. In 2005, she was apart of a team that investigated a case of a man whose brother and friend were murdered by the KKK. The story caught national and international attention, and her efforts resulted in a life-conviction for the man responsible. That’s what cool about her: Donna doesn’t report what’s easy; she sets out for the truth and finds it.
Ladd discussed the relentless work that goes into establishing a startup. She talked about unfairness she sees amongst people of color in our country. One thing she mentioned about her personal life is what hit me close to home.
Ladd talked about having an illiterate mother. She discussed how great of a woman her mother was, rooting that sense of toughness in her. It’s absolutely amazing to me that some people are capable of truly taking on the world, regardless of where they came from. On a very small level, I felt I was able to relate with this woman who has accomplished so much.
I, too, come from a family where I am a first-generation college student. Neither or my parents had much education, and a lot of qualities she spoke on her mother reminded me of advice my father would tell me before he passed. To be honest, I got a little choked up seeing the pride swell in her face when she talked about her mom, and realizing that anyone can be anything they want if they have the courage to pursue it.
A question that I had for Donna but for some reason didn’t raise my hand, was the challenges that her newspaper will see in light of a currently Republican-dominated country. She said that her newspaper is not a Democratic-specific paper and that the Democrats were the angriest when she was covering the Jackson’s corrupt mayor. What I was interested in is the pressure journalists and currently under, and how she felt about the current executive orders, and also the hate-violence that has been prevalent in the past few years between cops and African Americans. I also wanted to ask her if she ever felt all of this was too much, and wished that she reported the easy stuff.
For some reason, I think her answer would be no. I believe that long ago she decided that seeking truth and justice was her purpose in life, and I don’t see her stopping anytime soon when there is so much that still needs to change. She’s what the world needs more of.