Read about the JFP's exciting moves—from moving into new offices in Fondren to hiring a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter.
The Jackson Free Press is growing, and, yes, we are thankful for that, even if we don't always feel thankful. The past few weeks of painting and packing and decision-making—not to mention selling ads and interviewing and photographing and writing and producing a publication—have taken a little out of us. (More than one of us is a little miffed that this all went on during Mardi Gras.) But the end result is going to be a better publication and a more effective organization come the first of March.
Some of the growth, of course, is pure fun. In that vein, I'd like to thank everyone who attended the Best of Jackson 2004 party, held once again in two of the Ironworks Lofts on South Street. Thanks to Stephen Barnette, Earl Fyke, Jimmy Hughes and Tony Ray for opening up their homes for what turned out to be nearly 500 "Best Of" award winners, Lounge List members, advertisers and other friends of the JFP.
The presentation of awards to the winners of the Best Of Jackson reader poll was a little late getting started, but we appreciate the hard work of Chef Godfrey Morgan and Wanda Macon for catering the party and keeping people very happy. I also want to thank sponsors Bravo! and bartender Matt Bruner for providing a wonderful (open!) martini bar and Hal & Mal's for dishing out award-winning red beans and rice. And, our appreciation goes out to Kat's Wine Cellar and Capital City Beverage for helping us keep folks in liquid refreshment throughout the evening. And the evening's soul came from the rhythmic entertainment of Kuumba Afrikan drummers upstairs and DJs Tam and Ed downstairs, all of whom we appreciate sincerely.
This is probably a good time to mention that we've experienced some difficulties with our mailing list software—so, if you're on the Lounge List (and you ought to be; go to jacksonfreepress.com and sign up for event discounts and party alerts) you might have gotten the Best-of invite seven times or not at all. We apologize. We're changing servers, and the list should be working well by the time you read this.
But, in addition to parties, growing can also be hard work—we're moving our office! We're finally getting some semi-respectable digs that will have one of the more important requisites—comfortable chairs for guests.
It wasn't easy finding enough space for our growing staff while, at the same time, keeping it on a budget that we could afford. But we've made it happen—1700+ square feet in a little UFB (unidentified flying building) on Old Canton Road, just south of Cups in Fondren. We're looking forward to the concrete jungle view out of our windows. (OK, it's the parking lot behind El Ranchero. "Concrete jungle" just sounds more audacious.)
For the past week we've been painting, picking our tile and arranging for phones and Internet—I, for one, can't wait until I'm simply able to get up from my desk and enjoy the stroll to Rainbow Co-Op for a mid-afternoon snack. Some on the staff are already referring to the unassuming two-story building as the "JFP Tower." I'm just struck by its architectural similarity to my K-3 grade school.
Of course, a good reason to grow is to bring on more exceptional people. Starting March 1, we will have a new full-time addition to our editorial staff—Senior Writer and Staff Reporter Carole Cannon, who has already been writing some powerful stories for us as a freelancer. Carole, a native of Rankin County, is an experienced and award-winning investigative journalist. In 1996, she was part of a reporting team for the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal that won a Pulitzer Prize for in-depth reporting on race relations in Akron. Carole has since returned home to Mississippi, where she has taught reading and writing and freelanced articles for publications such as American Visions.
Carole has now turned her skills and writerly voice to the task of parsing Jackson's challenges and Mississippi's stories, particularly in her specialty areas of health and human services, child welfare, state politics and education. We're honored to have her on the team, and I think you'll quickly appreciate the quality of journalism that she'll bring to the JFP every issue.
We are also thrilled to announce a full-time intern, Natalie Irby, to the editorial team. Natalie, a native Jacksonian who has lived in locales ranging from California to the Northeast (and used to front the band The Roos), will lend her skills to directly assisting editor Donna Ladd and learning everything there is to know about the alt-newspaper business.
Those of you who receive an invoice from us or send one our way will be happy to know that we've hired Montroe Headd as our new bookkeeper. Aside from experience with accounting and managing the paperwork headaches involved, Montroe is also an accomplished illustrator and database administrator; she's currently learning the inner workings of our Web content-management system and may soon be responsible for some interesting improvements to jacksonfreepress.com.
Speaking of improvements to the Web site, by the time you read this we should have rolled out our new Arts Event Planner, a calendar component that we're producing in cooperation with Arts Alliance of Jackson. The point of the calendar will be to allow us to look into the future of Jackson's arts schedule and manage conflicts, make plans and otherwise help people make decisions about what they're going to do in Jackson. If you have an event coming up—even a year or more out—send it to the tireless Herman Snell.
With this issue we thank former account manager Todd Allen, who has moved on to a teaching job he's had his eye on for a while now. We appreciate his hard work and his affection for the JFP.
And, one last order of business—congratulations to Sheri Fielder and Michelle Alexander, winners of our "Free Stuff" drawing for tickets to see John Mayer in concert. Sheri sent in a Swensen's receipt; Michelle sent one from Elixir. We're working on more Free Stuff giveways in upcoming issues, so keep your eyes open.
Once the move and the Best Of awards are both blissful memories, we're going to continue to look for new ways to promote the businesses and organizations that make Jackson unique, just as Best of Jackson does. We have a very busy year planned, with many events and interactive efforts that go beyond the pages of the newspaper. Our first step toward that goal coincides with this, our Second Annual Music Issue. The JFP Music Showcase (see p. 23) is our way of letting you know about some exciting local shows that we encourage you to get out and enjoy over the next two weeks or so.
Come and join us for something of an impromptu festival—a celebration of local music venues, bands and the sheer talent that makes Jackson such a great—and dare we hope, growing—music town. After all, it's the home of Farish Street; you'll never look at strip of asphalt the same again after reading Scott Barretta's story (starts page 14).
Here's to change. And growth.
Todd Stauffer is the publisher of the Jackson Free Press.