Donna Ladd

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Donna K. Ladd (born October 9, 1961[1] in Philadelphia, Mississippi) is an American investigative journalist who helped create The Jackson Free Press, an award-winning freely distributed newsweekly.[2] She has received international recognition for her racial reconciliation efforts in Mississippi and nationally[citation needed], helping bring "cold" civil rights cases to justice[citation needed] and for her coverage of Frank Melton, the controversial mayor of Jackson, Mississippi.[3]


Early life and education[edit]

Ladd was born in Philadelphia, Mississippi. In 1983, Ladd completed her B.A. in Political Science at Mississippi State University[citation needed] and left to pursue a career in journalism. She helped start The Colorado Springs Independent,[4] Colorado Springs' first alternative newsweekly[citation needed], 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[5] and pursued a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.


Ladd returned to Jackson, Mississippi. She lives with author and Jackson Free Press publisher and technology/blogging consultant Todd Stauffer, her partner of 20 years.[citation needed]

Career in Mississippi[edit]

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,[6] 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.[7]

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.[8][9] Her work on racial reconciliation, however, has raised criticism from some local white conservatives, prompting disparaging nicknames and satirical Web sites about her.[10][11] Critics include "white nationalist" Richard Barrett, who called her the "hip hop editor" and an "integrationist" on his Web site.[12]

Justice and reconciliation[edit]

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.[13] In January 2007, the Justice Department announced that Seale had been indicted for federal kidnapping and conspiracy charges in connection with the case.[14] 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.[14][15][16] In June 2007, Seale was convicted of federal charges and sentenced to life in prison.[17]

Ladd started the work on the Dee-Moore case while she was covering the Edgar Ray Killen case in Philadelphia, Mississippi.[citation needed] She had long called for the conspirators to be prosecuted in that case.[citation needed]

Diversity work[edit]

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.[18]

Her work for racial conciliation and justice in the state have been recognized widely, including in a Glamour magazine profile, as well as by other media outlets.[19][20]

Ladd serves on the board of directors of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies and as its national Diversity Chair.[21] She is also vice president of the ACLU of Mississippi.[citation needed]


  • 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.[22]
  • 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.[23]
  • 2005, Ladd was designated one of Mississippi's leading 50 businesswomen by the Mississippi Business Journal[24]


  1. ^ Burton, Tommy (2013-10-09). Happy birthdays and new releases... Jackson Free Press, 9 October 2013. Retrieved on 2014-02-19 from
  2. ^ Kuldell, Heather (2007-06-15). "AAN Announces AltWeekly Awards Winners". Association of Alternative Newsmedia, 15 June 2007. Retrieved on 2009-11-03 from
  3. ^ "Special Coverage: Frank Melton". Jackson Free Press. Retrieved 2011-12-29. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-05-31. Retrieved 2008-03-20. 
  6. ^ I Archived June 22, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-10-11. Retrieved 2007-09-23. 
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-10-05. Retrieved 2007-09-23. 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-06-21. Retrieved 2007-09-23. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-02-10. Retrieved 2007-02-20. 
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-02-15. Retrieved 2007-02-20. 
  17. ^ 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
  18. ^ "Donna Ladd: Biography" Archived December 1, 2007, at the Wayback Machine., Jackpedia
  19. ^ "Donna Ladd: Award-Winning Journalist Brings a New Voice to Mississippi" Archived October 18, 2006, at the Wayback Machine., Standing on My Sister's Shoulders, accessed 3 Nov 2009
  20. ^ Howard Ball, "It's Time Mississippi Established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission", History News Network, 25 Sep 2006, accessed 3 Nov 2009
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-10-04. Retrieved 2007-02-20. 
  22. ^ "Jackson 2000", Mississippi Business Journal, 6 Mar 2006, accessed 3 Nov 2009
  23. ^ Association of Alternative Weeklies. Retrieved from "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-10-12. Retrieved 2007-01-27. .
  24. ^ "50 Leading Business Women 2005: Donna K. Ladd", The Mississippi Business Journal, 17 Oct 2005, accessed 3 Nov 2009

External links[edit]