/Letter from the Editor Mississippi’s historic flag change

Letter from the Editor Mississippi’s historic flag change

Many people who are worthy of credit might never be able to get it due to the hard work they did behind-the scenes. This result was not the result of one individual or one group. This was the result of years of grassroots organizing and civic pressure as well as political courage. Never have I seen Mississippians rally so passionately for something when it was most important. This was a democratic process. The Legislature was the representative of the people’s will. It was beautiful Mississippi. I will never forget it. Recently, I was asked how journalists see their role in this debate. We don’t support partisanship when we cover politics. This was not about right or wrong, as with all the other issues we have covered. If it weren’t for Mississippi Today, this historic movement might have been swept aside. Listening was the first step. The flag change was a key focus of the historic Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Jackson on June 6. Our team was inspired by the protest. There are only three weeks until the 2020 legislative session. What would it take for the flag to be removed? We outlined the steps the Legislature could take to change the flag, incorporating the voices of protesters. I got a call the next day from a lawmaker stating that he had read the article and was part of a group of House members discussing changing the flag. We decided to take a chance. We published the story using his tip about the backroom bipartisan conversation at Capitol to change the flag. Although we were criticized by politicians for publishing our story too quickly, before legislators had time to whip votes in veiled interchange, we focused on our mission of engaging and informing our readers. Our reporting sparked public discussion about the issue, as we knew would be the case. Despite the increased pressure, legislative leaders assured us that there was little chance of any action on the flag in 2020. That really bothered me so my politics team met to strategize. Next, we decided to put pressure on the public. Our political reporters started polling all 174 of them. We created a simple list of the positions each lawmaker took on the legislative action concerning the flag. As the debate gained more attention, newspapers all over the globe cited the list. We published the tally shortly after. Soon, we added a list that included universities, private businesses, municipalities, and associations that had either stopped flying the flag, or publicly called for its removal. This list has never stopped growing. The NCAA’s decision to stop playing in Mississippi’s postseason was reported by us. Our reporting on Greg Sankey, the SEC commissioner, blaming the flag also went viral. Rick Cleveland, our columnist, deeply covered the impact of the sports world on legislators. To gauge the views of Mississippians everyday, we created a survey. More than 5,000 people shared their opinions with us about the flag, which further informed our reporting. Our editor at large Marshall Ramsey created powerful cartoons on the issue, which widened the reach of our reporting. We are now seeing a Mississippi that is better because of the work of our journalists who held legislators accountable and made sure processes were transparent and accessible to all. This is something you can support. I ask you to get deep and support a better state. One that is based on freedom and civic dialogue. This is something we do better than any other news organization, and your support for our non-profit newsroom is crucial.