It's a big week at the Jackson Free Press. First, we sadly (for us) and happily (for her) bid farewell to Lynette Hanson, copy chief, as she leaves Mississippi, Jackson Public Schools and the JFP family to move much closer to her beloved sons (both top-notch chefs) in Portland, Ore. The cooking is about to get a lot better for Lynette and her mama, Edna, both of whom have become a fixture at JFP parties and karaoke gatherings.
Lynette gave the JFP a strong boost when she joined the staff as our underpaid mother figure, copy editor, and keeper of all things foodie and bookish. Her writing and editing brought a distinctive flavor (get it? flavor?) to our "back-of-the-book" features, with her wonderful stories about food, recipes, local restaurants, Jacksonian interviews and her special-time-of-the-year restaurant round-ups. Lynette was also a hawk of a copy editor, helping us move up a few steps in the typo-and-poor-word-choice department when the JFP was still a fledgling biweekly publication run out of a Belhaven apartment.
(Lynette was also cursed with some of the slowest Macs in our office during the early years; after she accepted a little iBook as payment for about 10 weeks of back pay a few years ago, her computing prowess was unleashed—she was often sighted sitting in the Flashback Café in Byram, using their wireless connection to edit stories on the way home from a full day as a librarian at Morrison Academic Achievement Center in JPS.)
We'll miss Lynette, although our readers won't quite as much as we will—she won't be in the office, but we expect contributions from our new contributing editor to our pages at regular intervals via "the Internets." And if you'd like to stop by and say goodbye in person, we'll be having a going-away party (complete with karaoke, in her and Edna's honor) in the BrewPub at Hal & Mal's this Thursday, starting about 7 p.m. Come by and bid her a pleasant new "left coast" lifestyle.
The JFP editorial staff gets a little jumpy around this time of the year because our annual Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN) convention happens in mid-June, which means that the finalists for awards given at the association meeting are announced in May. Usually.
This year, the judges took their sweet time and announced the winners in the first week in June. In the two years that the JFP has been eligible for awards, we've won five, including kudos for some wonderful stories by editor-in-chief Donna Ladd, reporter Ayana Taylor and food columnist Jesse Yancy. That's five, total, in two years. Not a bad showing, right?
This year, the wait was worth it—we've learned that we'll win six awards—the highest number awarded to any publication this go-round. (We're in great company with the L.A. Weekly, which is also a finalist in six categories). For AAN's only-ever member newspaper from Mississippi, this is an extraordinary achievement—one we're actually a little scared of, because we can't possibly duplicate it next year! (Can we?!)
Representin' are Donna Ladd, one of three people who will get two nods—one in the Political Column category and another in the Investigative Reporting category for her package "The Road to Meadville" about the Civil Rights-era Dee-Moore murders in Franklin County.
Contributing Editor Casey Parks will be honored in the Feature Writing category for "No Apologies: Inside Mississippi's Pro-Life Movement." Reporter Adam Lynch cemented his in-house honorific—"Jackson's best reporter," which we're thinking about putting on his business card—by getting the nod in the Short Form News category. Yours truly will place in the Media Reporting/Criticism category for a collection of Publisher's Notes and editorials focused on The Clarion-Ledger's, er, shortcomings.
And http://www.jacksonfreepress.com a person, but a community that is edited by Donna Ladd, maintained by Knol Aust, designed by Kevon Greenidge, and peopled by a fabulous clutch of bloggers and citizens—will take home a medal in the Best Web Site category.
(It also goes without saying that we owe some thanks to the antics of The Clarion-Ledger's crack editorial team, Mayor Frank Melton and that crazy dude who stands across the street from the Jackson Women's Health Organization. I'm thinking we'll just send a tasteful thank-you note to each.)
We'll find out in a few weeks the order of the awards—first, second, third or fourth—during a raucous luncheon in Little Rock at the convention. But regardless of the final tally, we'll bring home six more shiny plaques for our "brag wall" in the front hall of the JFP offices. When you see the JFP staff out and about, please congratulate them for this astounding showing—and go ahead and bask in a little pride for the home team.
Speaking of representin', The New York Times chose Casey Parks (who left Jackson in January to attend the top-tier journalism graduate school at the University of Missouri) a few weeks ago from 3,800 applicants to accompany columnist Nicholas Kristof to Africa this fall, to blog about her experiences and write pieces for the Times. MTV will document her trip, and she'll "v-blog" for the network. This is a breathtaking honor for Casey, a Millsaps graduate who remains our contributing editor from afar and did so much to make the JFP what it is today.
Finally, the fight continues this week against The Clarion-Ledger's attempt to stamp out all of us annoying little free publications via their monolithic "The Distribution Network." Visit http://www.jacksonfreepress.com to learn more about how you can help us with petitions and e-mails, and to learn more about the Mississippi Independent Publisher's Alliance (MIPA), a group we've launched in support of a diversity of free media in the Jackson Metro. And, please, mention how much you appreciate being able to pick up the JFP (or any other of your favorite free pubs) to local retailers, gas station management and your favorite grocery stores.
Thank you for your support.
Todd, you deserve lots of credit too for the impact the paper has had on Jackson and Mississippi.
You had to ride shotgun and suffer the tolls, toils and snares that come along with the paper being a trailblazer of sorts. Hopefully the benefits have outweighted the pains.
Since you're not an absent publishers, you have to live each step and misstep, if there be any, along the paper's route.
Behind many outstanding women is a man saying "go get em." yeah.
- Ray Carter
Ray is right. As far as I'm concerned, and I'm admittedly biased (smile), Todd is Jackson's most under-appreciated Jacksonian. He came home with me after we met in Colorado, and then lived in NYC together, and then he quickly adopted Mississippi as his home. He has put his all, and I mean his all, into this newspaper and this community. And he has given me the love, support and strength to do what I do. There are no words to describe how meaningful that is to me–and Jackson. That's why I was so thrilled to hear that he is winning this media criticism award. Not only do the columns he is winning for criticize The Clarion-Ledger and poor city leadership, they present a vision of what Jackson and Mississippi can be, if natives and non-native alike band together with hope, love, energy and belief in what kind of future we can build. He is a true leader and visionary.