In a Zoom staff meeting, the then-Jackson Free Press staff discussed how to navigate the pandemic and get vital information to its capital-city audience, later winning awards for their COVID-19 coverage. Since then, most of the staff has moved full- or part-time to the new and separate publication and organization, the Mississippi Free Press, starting in March 2020 by Donna Ladd and Kimberly Griffin. A small team is still working either full- or half-time at the Jackson Free Press to continue the JFP as an online publication and daily newsletter through the business challenges of a prolonged pandemic.
Dear JFP Readers:
We have big news from the world of the Jackson Free Press. Much of it is positive, and some of it is simply inevitable in the face of COVID-19 and how the delta variant has affected us here in Mississippi.
For starters, the tough news: As of the October 2021 issue, I'm announcing that the Jackson Free Press is on hiatus from its print edition.
Make no mistake—we continue to cover local news and events on the website and publish the JFP Daily newsletter to our 16,000+ subscribers five days per week. We're moving forward with a plan to overhaul the JFP.ms website (over the next few months) and the BestofJackson.com website (almost immediately) with new, exciting tools. As always, we plan to run a Best of Jackson 2022 contest this fall, with winners announced Feb. 1. You may have seen that we've updated calendar.jacksonfreepress.com, and there will be even more fun changes there soon.
Advertising revenue is at an all-time low for the JFP, particularly with venues and nonprofits again in flux because of the pandemic. Regular advertisers have had to drop or scale back: Museums, nonprofits, music venues and others that are traditional partners with the JFP in years past haven't yet been able to come back from COVID and advertise again. That said, we appreciate all of the organizations and businesses that we still call partners in the endeavor, and we anticipate they'll be a part of what we're doing online for a long time to come.
At the same time, the market and external forces have raised the price of newsprint considerably just in the past year. Put together, it just makes financial sense for the JFP to take a break from printing to find a way to continue reporting both local news and essential culture and entertainment stories.
Oh—and JFP has had some of its highest online traffic during the pandemic, both because of the amazing work of our staff and, no doubt, the number of people who have changed up their method for reading news since the pandemic hit.
We hope that printing will come back for the JFP—and soon, if Mississippi recovers better from COVID than it has this summer—but more important to us is that our loyal staff is mainly unaffected by these changes. That's true, in part, because the statewide Mississippi Free Press, which Donna Ladd and Kimberly Griffin launched in March 2020 as the pandemic hit, is thriving as a separate publication and needs the talents of JFP staffers. So, as of now, some of them are splitting their day between two separate jobs for MFP and JFP (such as Dustin Cardon, Nate Schumann and Kayode Crown), while others have joined the MFP full-time. These changes enable us to avoid layoffs and help maintain the JFP's ability to do daily journalism while adding to MFP's abilities to grow their own award-winning journalism—and more.
Jackson Free Press also continues to grow via our JFP Digital Services offerings, helping many small businesses with their Web presence while empowering local nonprofits to become "publishers" in their own right. We're proud of the help we offer "changemakers" in Mississippi by working with them to fill their web, email newsletter, and social-media channels with impactful communication to their constituents and supporters. If you'd like to learn more, please write me at [email protected].
I couldn't possibly end this without a shout-out to the more than 600 JFP VIPs who have supported us with their membership, especially since the pandemic hit. Your support has made it possible (along with government emergency programs and grants from Facebook and Google) for the JFP to support our staff and continue to provide impactful, award-winning journalism through the pandemic.
When we first left our offices after the pandemic hit in spring 2020, advertisers were closing down and canceling, and I was scrambling to collect a few checks from those remaining. I honestly didn't think we would survive the month. But the outpouring of support from readers and supporters—followed by the rapid movement of government and corporate resources to help local business—helped us to thrive, at least given the circumstances, these past 18 months.
Now JFP enters a leaner chapter—our 20th year—and we have no plans to go away. We do have to continue changing how we operate while keeping our highest goal in mind by holding the powerful to account and keeping a watchdog eye on government and the influential.
If you can support us as a JFP VIP as we navigate these waters, please visit jfp.ms/vip.
And whether you’re a JFP VIP or not, we sincerely thank you for being a JFP reader. We look forward to your continued readership for a long, long time.
Todd Stauffer, Founding Publisher