Mississippi Today and Open Campus Higher Education Reporter Molly Minta is a finalist for this year’s National Awards for Education Reporting.

The annual awards administered by the Education Writers Association recognize the best education reporting in newsrooms big and small across the nation. Minta is one of three finalists in the small newsroom division of the features category, which honors excellence in human-interest reporting and presentation. 

Her story, “Inside Mississippi’s only class on critical race theory,” started with a tip from a reader. Brittany Murphree, a conservative student in the state’s only class on critical race theory at the University of Mississippi School of Law, wrote a letter urging lawmakers not to ban CRT. She sent her letter to Mississippi Today at the advice of her classmate, Teresa Jones. 

After Molly spent hours on the phone with both students, she realized the story was bigger than the class itself and more about how academic freedom and intellectual inquiry led two Mississippians to a deeper understanding of the state they’d grown up with. 

“I’m honored to be recognized for my reporting alongside journalists whose work I’ve read for years,” Minta said. “I wrote this story for Mississippians in an attempt to show what actually learning critical race theory looks like, but it’s been gratifying to see how the experiences of the two students who shared their stories with me has resonated outside our state.”

Before Mississippi Today published Molly’s story in February 2022, most local and national coverage of critical race theory had focused on three themes: The conservative actors behind the efforts to ban the theory, simply reporting a definition to readers of what the theory actually is, or the fact that it was not taught in K-12 public schools. Molly’s story took readers beyond that paradigm and into a college classroom where students were actually learning the theory. 

“I remember first reading this story and thinking “Finally! Someone actually talked to students in a CRT class.”” Minta’s story sparked conversation and debate not just with readers but with journalists too,” one of the judges wrote of Minta’s story. “After publishing, I know first hand that this story influenced CRT reporting a lot and that alone makes this story particularly innovative.”

Mississippi Today Community Health Reporter Devna Bose is also a finalist in the collaborations category for her work on a series titled Tackling Teacher Shortages she contributed to while at the Post & Courier in South Carolina.

Winners will be announced June 2 during the Education Writers Association National Seminar in Atlanta.

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