Torsheta Jackson is the Education Equity Solutions reporter for the Mississippi Free Press in Jackson, Mississippi. Prior to joining the newsroom full time, Jackson spent 19 years as an educator and coach and 12 years as a freelance journalist. She has bylines in YES! magazine, Mississippi Free Press, Mississippi Scoreboard, Jackson Advocate, Jackson Free Press, Eater and Bash Brothers Media. Her work as part of the newsroom's Black Women and COVID project covered education history, equity and access in Noxubee County and garnered national recognition.
Jackson earned a bachelor's degree in Mass Communications from The University of Southern Mississippi, graduating top of her Broadcast Journalism cohort. She also holds master’s degrees in curriculum and instruction from the University of Mississippi and in human lactation from Union Institute and University. She lives in Richland, Mississippi with her husband Victor and the two youngest of their four children. She enjoys traveling, making memories with her family, reading and coaching youth sports.
The mission of the Mississippi Free Press, a nonprofit statewide newsroom, is to publish deep public-interest reporting into causes of and solutions to the social, political, and systemic challenges facing all Mississippians and their communities. We interrogate and report the systems that cause inequities on the road to lasting solutions through a mixture of narrative storytelling, data reporting, historic context and community dialogue through solution circles in under-reported communities to discover report causes and roots of inequities, followed by solutions journalism.
Grant McLaughlin is an economic development/ workforce reporter for the Commercial Dispatch in Columbus, Mississippi. As an undergraduate at The University of Mississippi’s School of Journalism and New Media l, McLaughlin worked for The Daily Mississippian, Rebel Radio, and started his own literary arts/ news website and magazine, The Underground Poet. He also participated in the Journalism School’s in-depth reporting class, writing about Fannie Lou Hamer and her Freedom Farm Cooperative. McLaughlin has also been a photography intern for Invitation magazine, where he worked local events in Oxford, Mississippi. He has a passion for writing poetry and creative nonfiction and has been published in Quasar Arts Magazine and the Landshark Review.
Michael Goldberg covers the Mississippi Legislature for The Associated Press, concentrating on poverty and inequality. Before joining the AP, Goldberg covered state government for the Washington State Wire news site, and health care policy for State of Reform, a site devoted to policy journalism. He has reported on the economic impacts of the pandemic, Medicaid expansion and the 2020 election cycle, and his work offered a window into the inner workings of political institutions through the stories of individuals, detailing the politics of public broadband implementation and economic dislocation in rural Washington. Goldberg holds a master’s degree in specialized journalism from the University of Southern California, where he reported on topics at the intersection of politics, culture and labor for Annenberg Media.
The Associated Press is a global news agency that began 172 years ago as a cooperative of five New York City newspapers. With 263 locations in more than 100 countries, AP provides journalism to roughly 15,000 media outlets around the world. AP sets standards for ethics and excellence, and has won 52 Pulitzer Prizes, including the 2016 gold medal for Public Service for an investigation into labor abuses in the seafood industry, reports that freed more than 2,000 slaves. AP’s seven news bureaus in the northeast U.S. provide vital local and regional news to 378 newsrooms.
The Commercial Dispatch, a daily paper and a news site, has been owned by the same family for 100 years. The primary coverage area is Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties. Lowndes is home to a diverse economy. Oktibbeha's economy is largely fueled by Mississippi State University. This news organization tackles stories with down-the-middle reporting, but also believes a paper's editorial stances play an important role in a community. Its tagline is "Open eyes, open minds," a nod to its history of pushing aggressive watchdog journalism and a vibrant local opinion page.
The Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting is a nonprofit news organization founded in December 2018 by investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell that seeks to empower citizens in their communities by informing and educating the public. It provides free investigative reporting to news organizations in the state hit hard by layoffs.
Isabelle Taft covers Vietnamese and African-American communities for the Sun-Herald in Biloxi, Mississippi. Before joining Report for America, Taft worked as a researcher on Washington Post journalists’ book projects on Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation battle and President Trump’s impeachment. Before that, she worked in Hanoi, Vietnam, as a copy editor at Viet Nam News and a freelance journalist, reporting for publications including Politico Magazine and the Christian Science Monitor. She has also reported for The Texas Tribune. Taft was born and raised in Atlanta and majored in history at Yale University, where she graduated magna cum laude and co-edited a magazine of narrative nonfiction, The New Journal. Her reporting on women and reentry from prison in New Haven won the National Council on Crime & Delinquency Youth Media award.
Leah Willingham covers the Mississippi Legislature for The Associated Press where she concentrates on poverty issues. Before this, she reported for the Concord Monitor in N.H. and holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Mount Holyoke College. She was named the New England Newspaper and Press Association’s ‘Rookie of the Year’ in 2018 and has won two New England News & Press Association’s Publick Occurrences Awards in 2018 and 2019, one for a project on younger-onset Alzheimer’s, and another on teen suicide prevention. She was part of a group of Monitor reporters that won first place in investigative reporting from NENPA in its 2019 Better Newspaper Competition. The stories followed how local school district officials handled reports from students about a teacher arrested for sexual assault. Willingham is the recipient of the 2018 National Alliance for the Mentally New Hampshire Annual Media Award and two New Hampshire Press Association first place awards for health reporting and general news.