Donna K. Ladd (born October 9, 1961 in Philadelphia, Mississippi) is an American investigative journalist who helped create The Jackson Free Press, an award-winning freely distributed newsweekly. She has received international recognition for her racial reconciliation efforts in Mississippi and nationally, helping bring "cold" civil rights cases to justice and for her coverage of Frank Melton, the controversial mayor of Jackson, Mississippi.
Early life and education
Ladd was born in Philadelphia, Mississippi. In 1983, Ladd completed her B.A. in Political Science at Mississippi State University and left to pursue a career in journalism. She helped start The Colorado Springs Independent, Colorado Springs' first alternative newsweekly, in 1993. After editing and then writing for the paper for several years, she moved to New York City where she wrote for The Village Voice and pursued a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.
Career in Mississippi
In 2001, Ladd returned to Mississippi after an 18-year absence and co-founded The Jackson Free Press. She serves as editor-in-chief and regularly contributes op-eds and investigative pieces. She took the name from The Mississippi Free Press, a now-defunct investigative civil rights newspaper from the 1960s.
The JFP, as it is called locally, launched in 2001 with a fully interactive Web site, with a wide variety of blogs and forums. Ladd teaches workshops on incorporating reporting and the Web around the country.
She is one of the few female political voices in Mississippi, sometimes drawing criticism as well as recognition for her outspoken progressive commentary on her blog. Her investigative work on Barbour has attracted attention from national blogs. Her work on racial reconciliation, however, has raised criticism from some local white conservatives, prompting disparaging nicknames and satirical Web sites about her. Critics include "white nationalist" Richard Barrett, who called her the "hip hop editor" and an "integrationist" on his Web site.
Justice and reconciliation
In July 2005, Donna Ladd and photographer Kate Medley joined Thomas Moore and Canadian Broadcasting filmmaker David Ridgen in a trip to Moore's hometown of Meadville, Mississippi. They intended to investigate and call for justice for the 1964 Klan murders of his brother, Charles Moore, and his friend Henry Dee. In the paper's first story about the trip, published July 20, 2005, the JFP revealed that the lead suspect, James Ford Seale, was living in the area, although The Clarion-Ledger and other media had reported that he was no longer alive. In January 2007, the Justice Department announced that Seale had been indicted for federal kidnapping and conspiracy charges in connection with the case. Ladd's work on the case drew national and international attention, including from NPR, CNN, BBC, CBC Radio, CBS Radio, Editor & Publisher, and the Poynter Institute. In June 2007, Seale was convicted of federal charges and sentenced to life in prison.
Ladd started the work on the Dee-Moore case while she was covering the Edgar Ray Killen case in Philadelphia, Mississippi. She had long called for the conspirators to be prosecuted in that case.
Ladd is the national Diversity Chair for the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. She teaches annual writing workshops at the Academy for Alternative Journalism at Northwestern University every summer, a program to increase diversity in the alternative press.
- In 2006, Ladd and Mississippi NAACP chapter president Derrick Johnson were co-recipients of the Friendship Award, an annual prize given by Jackson 2000, a racial reconciliation group.
- Ladd has received six awards from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies for her investigative work and political commentary, including for her Dee-Moore series and as part of the team that investigated Mayor Frank Melton.
- 2005, Ladd was designated one of Mississippi's leading 50 businesswomen by the Mississippi Business Journal
- Burton, Tommy (2013-10-09). Happy birthdays and new releases... Jackson Free Press, 9 October 2013. Retrieved on 2014-02-19 from http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/weblogs/music/2013/oct/09/happy-birthdays-and-new-releases/.
- Kuldell, Heather (2007-06-15). "AAN Announces AltWeekly Awards Winners". Association of Alternative Newsmedia, 15 June 2007. Retrieved on 2009-11-03 from http://aan.org/alternative/Aan/ViewArticle?oid=oid%3A187877.
- "Special Coverage: Frank Melton". Jackson Free Press. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
- Bebawi, Mark (2007-08-26). "Mississippi journalist DONNA LADD on the 1964 Klan double murder prosecution and conviction". The Monitor, 26 August 2007. Retrieved on 2009-11-03 from http://themonitor.wordpress.com/2007/08/26/show-details-for-august-26th-2007/.
- "Donna Ladd: Biography", Jackpedia
- "Donna Ladd: Award-Winning Journalist Brings a New Voice to Mississippi", Standing on My Sister's Shoulders, accessed 3 Nov 2009
- Howard Ball, "It's Time Mississippi Established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission", History News Network, 25 Sep 2006, accessed 3 Nov 2009
- "Jackson 2000", Mississippi Business Journal, 6 Mar 2006, accessed 3 Nov 2009
- Association of Alternative Weeklies. Retrieved from http://aan.org/alternative/Aan/AwardsView?person=oid%3A117618.
- "50 Leading Business Women 2005: Donna K. Ladd", The Mississippi Business Journal, 17 Oct 2005, accessed 3 Nov 2009
- Donna Ladd's Blog
- Donna Ladd's AAN Awards
- Erica Beras, "Donna Ladd: Reporting Her Face Off in Mississippi", Association of Alternative News, 13 Oct 2005