When he launched the first issue of This Land in May of 2010, Michael Mason had no plans for a second edition–only a hope that readers might see in it a possibility for a new kind of journalism in Oklahoma. Mason often jokes that This Land was born from a frustration with local journalism, but he claims that the true inspiration comes from a deep sense of commitment to Oklahoma–a conviction that finds voice in This Land’s mission: to chronicle life in the middle of America through courageous, compelling stories-and to tell those stories in the most suitable medium.
As an acclaimed author and journalist prior to starting This Land, Mason developed a strong sense of narrative, which he says allows readers to understand the context of news and information. Although his reporting has taken him into trauma centers in Iraq and behind Vatican walls, Mason now focuses much of his attention on life and culture near his home in Tulsa.
It is Mason’s vision that guides much of This Land’s operations (he personally manages the print, video, web and audio aspects of the company), but it’s his insistence on storytelling that forms the heart of much of its content. In This Land’s first issue, Mason helped writer Randy Potts relay the story of growing up gay in the Oral Roberts family–an article which has since inspired thousands across the globe. In the second issue, Mason encouraged reporter Denver Nicks to delve deeply into the early life of alleged Wikileaker Bradley Manning, resulting in an exclusive report noted by TIME, Harper’s, and a number of other national and international media outlets, all of which earned Nicks his first book deal on the life of Manning. In Issue four, journalist Jennie Lloyd came to him with a lengthy essay detailing her detention in a public Oklahoma mental institution. Like Nellie Bly before her, she crafted a harrowing exposé of the cracks in the foundation of statewide mental health care. The article “Asylum” became a tool to reform mental health care and earned Lloyd a Great Plains Journalism award for best feature writing. Through his investment of time in the stories, Mason believes that the fruit of such labor makes a reader’s experience that much more enriching.