Close to 400 people sat engrossed in a fascinating discussion about New York Times Magazine’s The 1619 Project, commemorating the first Africans sold into slavery in colonial Virginia, and the role of the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting in opening doors for today’s journalists of color. The Nov. 16 Making a Mark event celebrated the partnership of the Society with the Hussman School of Journalism and Media.
Ida B. Wells Society co-founders Nikole Hannah-Jones, New York Times Magazine reporter and Hussman School alumna; and Ron Nixon, international investigations editor for AP, spoke of the hurdles that reporters of color face when breaking into investigative reporting.
“We needed to have this organization,” Nixon explained. “There aren’t many people of color in these positions because we need to be in decision-making roles as well. Reporters of color have an opportunity to take away the excuse that ‘we [managers] can’t find people to do it.’ We know they exist because we trained them.”
Hannah-Jones shared “the accumulation of my life’s work” – the 1619 Project – which exposes the impact of slavery and the deep roots of institutional racism while also highlighting the contributions of Black Americans. “This is not dispassionate reporting,” she explained. “We’re specifically reframing history. … I knew what we were making was powerful [but] I was very surprised how people have embraced it.”
Carroll Hall’s auditorium was packed with UNC-Chapel Hill students, faculty, staff and alumni, as well as journalism students and administrators from nearby universities – N.C. A&T, N.C. Central, N.C. State, and Duke. A group of Carrboro high school students arrived early to get front-row seats, and Howard University students drove from Washington, D. C. to attend. Hussman School’s Dean Susan King and Dr. Calvin Hall, chair of NC Central University’s Department of Mass Communication, moderated the conversations.
Written by Professor Lois Boynton