Can journalism bring people together in Mississippi? What would it mean for our state?

Clickbait headlines, sensationalism, daily conflict, alarmist reporting — it’s enough to make a lot of people tune out the news altogether. Coupled with the decline of traditional community newspapers, many people in philanthropy are asking: How can we strengthen journalism for the sake of our democracy?

Since 2018, the Community Foundation for Mississippi has been connecting philanthropy with ways to make a strategic impact around journalism in Mississippi.

In addition to bringing in dollars, we also see the benefit of bringing in new ideas.

In 2023, the Community Foundation began researching the methods of Constructive Journalism, as defined and advocated by the Denmark-based Constructive Institute. This method of journalism aims to help societies come together and find common ground, as opposed to emphasizing conflict and opposing viewpoints. The goal is not to smooth over problems, but rather to add hope.

Questions we have been pursuing include:

  • Can journalism bring people together in Mississippi? How? Why?
  • What gaps and opportunities do people in Mississippi see in their state and local coverage?
  • How can journalism bring unengaged and marginalized groups into civic dialogue?
  • Can adopting a different role help existing media outlets better serve their communities AND financially survive? How?

Journalists report the facts and hold leaders accountable. But that’s not the end of the story.

To ground our efforts in a Mississippi audience perspective, we interviewed a diverse group of 20 people from every corner of the state. Our audience saw value both in journalism’s traditional purposes and in its opportunities to move things forward in Mississippi.

The people we heard from described specific opportunities for journalism to play a key role in community-building and problem-solving at the state and local levels. They also pointed to the media’s power to define Mississippi’s narrative.

The stories our journalists tell, and the ways they tell them, shape how we see our communities and ourselves.

What does Constructive Journalism look like in practice? Could it actually work — and make a difference — in Mississippi? Let’s find out together.

Virtual Meeting

On Sept. 19, the Community Foundation for Mississippi hosted a virtual meeting for media members statewide to learn, ask questions and share their feedback about Constructive Journalism.

The virtual meeting shared examples of what this method looks like in practice. We also shared ideas from Mississippians about topics they think could benefit from this approach.

Catch up on the conversation and send us your comments, ideas and feedback. This survey is written for media members, but we invite all interested stakeholders to use it and get involved.

The Community Foundation for Mississippi is testing out the constructive journalism model with a new content creator for the Jackson Association of Neighborhoods. Funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, this project seeks to keep Jackson residents informed about issues affecting their daily lives and equipped to participate in collaborative solutions. This work will include connecting residents to timely information, creating mechanisms for local mobilization during emergencies, and communicating effectively, allowing residents to network at the neighborhood level.

This digital storyteller will develop, draft, and publish fact-based multimedia news and human-interest stories, collaborating with neighbors to humanize complex issues and collect oral histories. The deadline to apply is September 22. Learn more here.

Lucy Schultze, Constructive Journalism Project Lead

A lifelong Mississippian, Lucy Schultze has been an award-winning community journalist, a university instructor, a marketing consultant and a business owner. Her agency, Red Window Communications, has partnered with the Community Foundation for Mississippi for this project.

This project has been funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Microsoft Democracy Forward initiative.

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