Reporter Alex Rozier and the Mississippi Today newsroom have won the September Sidney Award for their coverage of the Jackson water crisis.
The drinking water system in Jackson — Mississippi’s largest city and home to more than 150,000 residents — failed in late August, leaving thousands of capital city residents with low or no water pressure and little information about when service would be restored.
Mississippi Today’s newsroom sprang to action, deploying every journalist on staff to the story to provide accurate, timely information residents needed immediately. The staff has published more than five dozen stories about the crisis so far in September, covering a broad range of angles. The journalists also relied on public records to add investigative context to why the water system had failed and what was needed to fix it.
The newsroom circulated a text messaging line to reach Jacksonians directly, published an FAQ post, provided resource pages about where to find water and mutual aid links, and partnered with local television station WJTV to stream every major news conference live.
“Covering this crisis is deeply personal for us,” said Mississippi Today Managing Editor Kayleigh Skinner, highlighting that most newsroom reporters live inside the city limits themselves. “When readers send in questions about whether it’s safe to use their dishwasher, or where in the city they can go to receive free bottled water, we do our best to find them answers because it’s our job, but also because it’s information we need, too.”
The Sidney Award is awarded to outstanding journalism that appeared in the prior month. It is run by the Sidney Hillman Foundation, which honors excellence in journalism in service of the common good, and upholds the legacy and vision of union pioneer and New Deal architect Sidney Hillman.
Winners so far in 2022 are: The Washington Post, Miami Herald, THE CITY, Reuters, The New York Times, ProPublica, Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV, and now Mississippi Today.
Mississippi Today’s deep understanding and long-standing coverage of the Jackson water crisis contributed significantly to the newsroom’s winning, Sidney judges wrote.
“Mississippi Today has been on this story for years,” said Sidney judge Lindsay Beyerstein. “They’re proceeding with determination, creativity and compassion, which shines through in their ongoing coverage.”
Alex Rozier is Mississippi Today’s data and environment reporter and has covered the Jackson water crisis and flooding for several years. He leads the Mississippi Today Jackson water crisis team, which consists of Anna Wolfe, Geoff Pender, Julia James, Molly Minta, Rick Cleveland, Bobby Harrison, Mina Corpuz, Kate Royals, Isabelle Taft, Will Stribling, Adam Ganucheau, Kayleigh Skinner, Sara DiNatale, Lauchlin Fields, Bethany Atkinson, Nigel Dent, Alyssa Bass, Eric Shelton, Vickie King and Marshall Ramsey.
Sidney Award judges are Jamelle Bouie, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Alix Freedman, Harold Meyerson, Katrina vanden Heuvel, and Lindsay Beyerstein.