News about the Ida B. Wells Society

July 12-16, 2021 Virtual Data Institute

The Data Institute is a collaboration between The Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative ReportingProPublica, and OpenNews. This intensive workshop teaches journalists how to use data, design and code.

The Institute kicked off Friday, July 9, for the first time in an all-virtual format. Unlike in previous years, this year’s event was shortened to a week and open to applicants from around the world.

The live, intensive instruction began Monday, July 12 and continued through Friday, July 16. The Institute was led by Sisi Wei of OpenNews and Lena Groeger of ProPublica. The Ida B. Wells Society funded this year’s event. The Society worked with ProPublica and OpenNews to plan the programming.

The Institute is completely free for the participating students.

With over 300 applications submitted this year, ultimately 12 were chosen for this year’s class. You can read the bios of each student in this year’s class here.

The Institute was launched with an install party hosted by Erika Owens of OpenNews, featuring Wei, Groeger, the Ida B. Wells Society co-founders, ProPublica’s editor-in-chief Stephen Engelberg and a number of staff from the Society and ProPublica.

“Oftentimes, when it comes to the types of topics that we’re teaching, the world has all types of preconceptions that they’ve instilled into society about what is hard,” said Wei to the class Monday morning. “I just want to take a moment to reset those expectations for all of us.”

Throughout the week the students will learn about HTML, Javascript, data visualization and a number of other topics. There will also be some guest speakers to close out each day and allow students to ask questions. So far, guest speakers have included Cecilia Reyes of The Chicago TribuneWendi C. Thomas of MLK50Topher SandersGinger Thompson, and Lisa Song of ProPublicaKatie Park and Anna Flagg of The Marshall ProjectTroy Griggs of The New York TimesJohn Hernandez of API, and Ko Bragg of Scalawag.

On Friday, the Data Institute students were able to share more about what the knowledge that they had gained during their week. Many of the students shared not only what they learned about data and coding but also what they learned about themselves.

“This week has been such a privilege,” wrote Genevieve Finn, a 2021 Data Institute student. “I’ve gotten to make so many new friends and connections, unlocked so many new skills and become 10 times more confident in myself and my capabilities. I feel like I’ve been gifted a vision (and also real-life examples! Ellis was a Data Institute student and now he’s a professor – amazing!) of the type of journalist I could grow into and all the possibilities that come with that, and then gifted the tools to do it.”

You can check out some of the tweets about this year’s Data Institute here. Despite the Data Institute’s shorter timeline and virtual platform this year, it was rewarding to see how engaged the students were with the instructors, guest speakers and one another. 

 “The Data Institute closes the gaps between minorities and puts all journalists, no matter where they come from, on equal ground,” shared Victor Emanuelle, a 2021 Data Institute student. “This is an essential program that truly believes in representation. The tools given will help us tell better stories and represent our communities. Truly in the spirit of Ida B. Wells.”

Summer 2021 investigative internship kickoff recap

In Spring, we announced an exciting new investigative partnership with five prestigious news organizations across the country to offer seven paid, 10-week summer internships. Since then, seven outstanding students and recent graduates were selected from a pool of hundreds and have each begun their programs at the New York Times, the USA Today Network, the MiamiHerald, The Associated Press and ProPublica.

Each internship position is being funded by the Society and provides training and mentorship to the interns throughout the 10-week program.

On June 25, the Society kicked off its training with the Society co-founders, staff and the summer interns. We had a great time learning about everyone with an icebreaker and the interns received some great advice from our co-founders. We were also joined by Senior Counsel at The New York Times, Dana Green, who provided some general tips and insight on rights, responsibilities and resources as a reporter.

Society co-founder and ProPublica reporter Topher Sanders shared a piece of advice, echoed by the other co-founders: “Do not be afraid to say I don’t know or I need help. Not only do working journalists do it, but the best journalists in the world do that.”

This year’s inaugural class of summer 2021 Ida B. Wells Society investigative interns includes:

Roselyn Romero, California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo – The Associated Press
Zshekinah Collier, American University – USA Today
Tyreye Morris, Morehouse College – USA Today
Luis Joel Méndez González, University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo – The Miami Herald
Donovan Thomas, Howard University – The New York Times
Alyssa Johnson, Northwestern University – ProPublica
Greg Morton, Howard University – ProPublica

Of the opportunity to be part of the first investigative class, Morton said: “A year ago I couldn’t have imagined this opportunity. Through this internship, Ida B. Wells Society and ProPublica have given me the chance as an early career journalist to take a step towards becoming the kind of writer I dream of becoming one day. Over the next 10 weeks, my greatest hope is to take full advantage of the mentorship, experiences, and resources this amazing opportunity will provide. In doing so, I want to affirm the idea that journalism is for everyone and that anyone with a story to tell and research skills can be a journalist.”

Throughout the duration of the internships, the students will have a number of weekly trainings covering an array of topics from backgrounding to sourcing that will be led by the co-founders Sanders, Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ron NIxon and along with some Ida B. Wells Society trainers. Each intern has also been assigned a professional journalist to serve as a mentor throughout the 10 weeks. Those mentors include: Andale Gross of The Associated Press; Raisa Habersham of Savannah Morning News; Bracey Harris of NBC News; Aaron Morrison of The Associated Press; Walter Smith-Randolph of Connecticut Public Broadcasting; Connor Sheets of Alabama Media Group; and Kat Stafford of The Associated Press.

The Society is thrilled to have these interns representing us and their respective organizations this summer. We know that they will be doing some fantastic work and we are excited to see all that they accomplish. 

Q&A with Marissa Evans

Marissa Evans is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times covering race, inequity and health in Los Angeles and across California. She was previously the social issues reporter for the Star Tribune in Minneapolis and the health/human services reporter for the Texas Tribune. Her work has appeared in the Atlantic, Medium, Oprah Magazine and other outlets. She is also a trainer with the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting.

Marissa Evans

What is your role at the LA Times and what led to that?

This is a new role in the aftermath of the LA Times’ own internal reckoning in the months after George Floyd’s death. While the newsroom has covered healthcare issues for a long time there was a push to more deeply cover the intersection of race and health in Los Angeles and in California, particularly given the pandemic. It was an unexpected move because my only goal this year was to survive the pandemic, not get a new job or move back to my home state. But this is a role I’ve been working toward all of my career: an enterprise reporting job focused on health stories and reporting on inequities in our health systems. My parents, my mentors and close friends have all noted this is a position truly made for me.

What drew you to investigative reporting?

I was drawn to the idea of doing immersive work exploring and explaining for communities how policies and systems work. I also loved the idea of having real time to research and interview to tell the best story possible. In my intern days I noticed right away the investigative reporters were this kind of elite ace squad who could sniff out the best stories and were given the luxury of time. I still crave that time to do this work and love the problem solving of how to get data, how to find interviewees and ambitious public records requests. But I’m also eager to help other journalists of color build the skills to find those big stories no matter what their coverage area might be. Too often journalists of color are told they’re “not ready” for investigative stories or never trained on Excel or how to do a public record request because they don’t get picked to go to conferences or are not paid enough to justify the expenses of paying out of pocket. I want to do my own best work but I’m determined to elevate journalists of color so they can level up their ideas and skills.

Read the rest of the interview with Marissa here.

Ron Nixon to present at virtual AAJA Conference next month

Ron Nixon

Ida B. Wells Society co-founder and global investigations editor at AP, Ron Nixon, will be presenting at the Asian American Journalists Association National Conference. The convention this year will take place on a virtual platform from August 24-28. This year’s theme is “Proudly Looking Back, Boldly Moving Forward”— grounding journalism and its future in decades of leadership development and community building. It was also announced that WarnerMedia would be the presenting sponsor for the conference. With its founding in 1981, this year marks AAJA’s 40th anniversary as an organization.

The conference will include training, networking and community-building opportunities for attendees. Nixon will be presenting on”How to Do Investigations on Your Beat.”Training attendees will hear how to uncover data-driven and accountability stories on any beat. He’ll also discuss how to manage time between investigative projects and other assignments, how to do quick turnaround investigations and other practical strategies for doing investigative reporting while on any beat. 

Registration for this year’s conference is open and the early bird deadline is July 31. Regular registration closes August 21 and AAJA memberships must be purchased 24 hours before the deadline in order to access membership rates. Registration rates and information can be found here.

Nikole Hannah-Jones joins Howard University as Knight Chair in Race and Journalism

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Ida B. Wells Society co-founder, Nikole Hannah-Jones, announced on July 6 that she will join the faculty at Howard University’s Cathy Hughes School of Communications as the university’s inaugural Knight Chair in Race and Journalism.

Hannah-Jones will begin her tenured post with Howard this summer joining another iconic writer and fellow MacArthur “Genius” Ta-Nehisi Coates as part of the faculty.

The move comes on the heels of a contentious months-long battle to grant Hannah-Jones tenure for the same position at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Board of Trustees eventually voted on June 30 to approve her tenure for the position, which Hannah-Jones ultimately declined.

She announced that she would be turning down the position at UNC and instead taking the tenured faculty position at Howard.

In a public statement, Hannah-Jones shared a number of the reasons behind her decision to decline the offer. She also directly addressed several groups and individuals to express her gratitude for their support throughout the process.

Nikole Hannah-Jones

“To the UNC faculty, especially the consummate professionals in the journalism school, I so looked forward to being your colleague and to learning from you and working with you. You welcomed me from the start. Our students are lucky to learn from you each day, and the university is lucky to have you,” Hannah-Jones said. “To the students, I am deeply sorry that I will not have the privilege of teaching you and learning from you. You are brave and full of grace, and I am so very proud of you all. My commitment to you has not wavered, I just will continue to do it as I have in the past, as an alum of the school and not faculty. I hope that you will consider Howard or another HBCU if you ever seek a new educational home, but whatever you do, I know you will continue to fight for justice.”

While working as the Knight chair at Howard, Hannah-Jones will also establish the Center for Journalism and Democracy with a plan to focus on training and supporting aspiring journalists with an emphasis on investigative skills.

“In the storied tradition of the Black press, the Center for Journalism and Democracy will help produce journalists capable of accurately and urgently covering the challenges of our democracy with a clarity, skepticism, rigor, and historical dexterity that is too often missing from today’s journalism. I am so grateful to the Ford, Knight, and MacArthur foundations for the initial funding to launch the center and hope to very quickly meet the center’s $25 million fundraising goal,” Hannah-Jones said.

“I will always be a Tar Heel. I remain grateful for all the university has given me and am committed to a lifetime of paying it forward. And I am so excited to now call myself a Bison as well and join the Howard family of which I have long desired to belong,” she said.

As for the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting which was co-founded by Hannah-Jones and is currently housed at UNC’s journalism school, for now, the leadership said that’s where will remain.

Ida B. Wells Society director Rhema Bland said, however, that “the founders are constantly evaluating what’s best for the organization and will continue to do so.”

June 2021 Member Spotlight: Damaso Reyes

Damaso Reyes has been an independent journalist since 1996. His work has been published by: The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, New York magazine, Der Spiegel, KSFR radio, the Miami Herald, and the Irish Times. Previous assignments and projects have taken him to countries including Rwanda, Iraq, Indonesia, Tanzania and throughout the United States and Europe. His images are also featured in the monograph Black: A Celebration of a Culture and the book Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers go to War.

He is a Fulbright specialist and is the recipient of several awards and grants including Arthur F. Burns and Holbrooke Fellowships from the International Center for Journalists; a Knight-Luce Fellowship from the USC Annenberg School of Journalism; an Immigration Reporting Fellowship from the French American Foundation and grants from the Solutions Journalism Network and the Fund for Investigative Journalism. 

Damaso Reyes

Where is your work featured/what organizations are you affiliated with? 

My reporting and photography has been published by a wide range of publications from The New York Times and Wall Street Journal to the Miami Herald and Der Spiegel. But since I first started in journalism I have worked closely with the New York Amsterdam News, one of America’s oldest Black owned newspapers.

Where did you go to school? 

I attended New York University where I studied photography.

How many years have you been in journalism? 

More than 25 years.

What are you doing now?

I recently co-authored and edited a series on the issue of qualified immunity which was published by the Amsterdam News and funded by the Solutions Journalism Network and the Fund for Investigative Journalism. This project shed light on what has been for too long an obscure legal principle which protects many government employees, particularly law enforcement officers, from being sued by those whose constitutional rights they violate.

Read the rest of Damaso’s interview here.

Alyssa Johnson and Greg Morton selected as ProPublica-Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting Interns

We’re thrilled to announce the addition of the final two interns to our 2021 investigative summer internship program. Greg Morton and Alyssa Johnson will join the ProPublica team as this year’s Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting interns.

Greg Morton

Greg will serve as ProPublica’s data intern and Alyssa will serve as the team’s engagement intern.

The 10-week remote internship is in collaboration with the Society at the University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media in Chapel Hill. The Society is funding the internship and will provide training, mentoring and other resources throughout the summer.

Alyssa Johnson

Greg Morton is a writer and rising senior at Howard University, majoring in economics with a focus primarily on labor. Greg’s interest and much of his coursework has revolved around wealth, income inequality, global development, and growth. He has a background in quantitative research and R programming for statistical computing and graphics. As a freelancer, Greg has worked with Strikewave, an independent labor publication, on pieces on NBA labor history and the pandemic’s effects on teachers in Alaska.

Alyssa Johnson is a recent graduate of Northwestern University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in Spanish. She also received a certificate in integrated marketing communications. As a student reporter, her work focused on race and gender. She reported pieces on the effects of gentrification on Black residents in the Chicago area and investigated allegations of racial discrimination within Northwestern’s Cheer Team. In spring of 2021, served as an editorial intern at People magazine.

Greg and Alyssa will begin their posts at ProPublica June 28.

Nikole Hannah-Jones to be featured speaker at upcoming ALA Conference

Ida B. Wells Society co-founder and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones will be featured at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference and Exhibition next week, alongside President Barack Obama, this year’s closing speaker.

Nikole Hannah-Jones (Photo Courtesy of James Estrin/New York Times)

The conference takes place June 23-29 on a virtual platform, bringing together librarians and library staff, educators, authors, publishers and an eclectic array of world-renowned speakers from Amanda Gorman to David Copperfield. 

This year’s event will feature more than 200 educational sessions, 300+ exhibitors, more than 20 featured speakers and 140+ authors. 

Hannah-Jones, whose new book “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story” and children’s book “Born on the Water” publish Nov. 16, will be speaking at the opening general session June 24. 

Among the week’s array of other noteworthy speakers will be Isabel Wilkerson, Stanley Tucci, Billie Jean King and Padma Lakshmi. 

Conference goers will have access to the conference content and materials for an entire year and do not need to be a member of ALA to attend. Those interested in attending can register here.

Hannah-Jones will also be presenting alongside ALA Core President-Elect, Lindsay Cronk, at the 2021 CORE Forum from Oct. 7-9.

Luis Joel Méndez Gonzålez selected as Miami Herald-Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting Intern

We’re happy to announce that Luis Joel Méndez Gonzålez has been selected as the first Miami Herald-Ida B. Wells Society investigative intern. 

portrait of young man
Luis Joel Méndez Gonzålez

The investigative summer internship is in collaboration with the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting at the University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media in Chapel Hill. The Society is funding the internship and will provide training and mentoring throughout the 10-week program.

Luis is a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, with a degree in Tele-Radial Communication Technology. He will be pursuing his masters degree in journalism and media innovation at Northeastern University in Boston in the fall. 

“As a first-generation college student, I never thought I would intern for The Miami Herald,” he said. “I want to use my background to connect with all underrepresented groups in Florida, the United States and Latin America.”

He comes to the Herald and el Nuevo Herald with an impressive array of skills and experience. He has interned at El Nuevo Dia, Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism, and Metro Puerto Rico. He won a Google Journalism Initiative Fellowship, a Student Diversity Fellowship from Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), and an Emerging Reporters Scholarship and a Diversity Scholarship from ProPublica.

He also is a student representative on the board of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. 

“We’re excited to work with Luis and appreciative of the opportunity to partner with the Ida B. Wells Society,” said Monica Richardson, executive editor of the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald. “We share the organization’s goal of developing the talent and skill of investigative journalists of color. The Society recognizes that today, even as ongoing racial inequality roils the national landscape, too few of the journalists doing investigative reporting come from diverse communities.”

Luis starts his internship on June 21.

Serginho Roosblad announced as the first fellow of The Associated Press and the Ida B. Wells Society’s collaboration

Serginho Roosblad will be joining the global investigative team at The Associated Press as the first hire in a new program developed in collaboration with the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting. Roosblad will serve as an investigative producer and reporter.

Funding for the position was made possible through the Society, housed at University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media, as part of its mission to increase the presence and retention of journalists of color in the field of investigative reporting. 

Serginho Roosblad

Through the collaboration, the Society supports The Associated Press efforts to diversify its staffing, by funding the position for a full year in exchange for a commitment to continue the employment permanently upon successful completion of the first year. The arrangement is meant to be a departure from the traditional fellowship model which often leads to only temporary placement.

“Serginho is exactly the kind of young journalist this fellowship was established for,” said Ron Nixon, head of AP’s global investigations team and a co-founder of the Ida B. Wells Society. “He brings a number of skills as a documentary filmmaker and experience reporting from African and European countries. The fellowship will allow him to blend his existing skills with new ones that he will learn as an investigative reporter and producer on AP’s global investigative team. His hiring furthers the missions of the AP to provide top-level visual investigations to its clients worldwide and the Ida B. Wells Society, which is to increase the number of journalists of color in the field of investigative journalism.”

Serginho is an Emmy® Award winning documentary filmmaker, journalist, and photographer.  His work has been published by KQED News, the Voice of America, AJ+, The BBC, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, and many others.   

Serginho currently resides in San Francisco, California, but hails from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, with roots in the Caribbean and South America.

He said he is grateful for the opportunity to use his skills as a documentarian to cover new territory in investigation.

“It’s really significant for me,” he said. “Seeing what has been going on in this country for the last five years as a non-American has been a lot. To be able to, as a Black journalist and a Black filmmaker, dig in and do investigative work feels really important, in terms of race relations, in terms of rich and poor, in terms of the political climate.”

Prior to living in the U.S., he lived in Uganda, where he worked as a freelance correspondent covering Africa’s Great Lakes region.  

He has traveled to and reported from over a dozen African and European countries; from the Arctic archipelago Lofoten on Norwegian whaling, to the negative impact of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, and the visit of Pope Francis to Uganda.  He has documented the lives of homeless single mothers in California’s Central Valley to the plight of Spätaussiedlers (Russian immigrants with German ancestry) who have returned to their ancestral home in Germany, and aspiring dancehall artists in Zimbabwe.  

Serginho holds a Masters of Journalism degree from UC Berkeley, where he was the Marlon T. Riggs fellow in documentary filmmaking and a Dean’s Merit Fellow. He also holds a Masters of Philosophy degree in African studies from the University of Cape Town in South Africa, where he studied visual trauma culture in post-apartheid South Africa, as depicted by the country’s most popular political cartoonists.  His Bachelor’s degree in Journalism is from the Hogeschool Utrecht (The Netherlands). 

He is the producer on the upcoming feature-length documentary film ‘Exposing Muybridge,’ on motion picture pioneer Eadweard Muybridge, slated to premiere in 2021

Zshekinah Collier and Tyreye Morris selected as USA TODAY Network-Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting Interns

We’re excited to announce the addition of Zshekinah Collier and Tyreye Morris to the USA TODAY Network team this summer as the first Ida B. Wells Society investigative interns.

The remote 10-week investigative summer internship is in a collaboration between the USA TODAY Network and the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting at the University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media in Chapel Hill. USA TODAY will provide these interns with first-hand experience in data-driven and accountability reporting with an accomplished team of investigative journalists, while the Society provides funding for the positions as well as regular training sessions and mentors.

Zshekinah Collier

Zshekinah is a recent graduate of American University in Washington D.C. with a B.A. in justice and law, as well as a minor in communications. As a student, Zshekinah was the co-editor-in-chief of The Blackprint, a student publication focused on stories impacting communities of color, where she trained and guided a staff of 30. She also was an anchor for the university’s ATV News broadcast. During her role there, she created an investigations team to dig into campus police conduct and students’ rights. In the summer of 2019, Zshekinah was an intern for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, helping to clean and organize data sets for the Implant Files investigation. This past spring, she was a radio production and storytelling intern for WNPR/CT Radio Hartford.

Tyreye Morris

Tyreye Morris is a rising senior at Morehouse College with a major in political science and a minor in journalism on the pre-Law track. He hopes to become an investigative reporter or political analyst, where he can use his skills to chronicle events and present his findings to the world. While in high school, Tyreye worked as a sports editor for his student newspaper, The Warrior. At Morehouse, he freelanced for the college paper, The Maroon Tiger. In the summer of 2020, he interviewed U.S. Reps. Katie Porter and Kelly Armstrong as part of NBC’s Meet the Press College Roundtable, an experience that solidified his desire to become a journalist. He is currently a member of the Morehouse National Black Law Students Association and chairs the Morehouse and Spelman Pre-Law Society.

Zshekinah and Tyreye will start their posts with USA TODAY on June 14.

Roselyn Romero selected as The Associated Press-Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting Intern

We are pleased to announce that Roselyn Romero has been selected for an internship with The Associated Press Global Investigations team. 

Roselyn Romero

The investigative summer internship is in collaboration with the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting at the University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media in Chapel Hill. The Society is funding the internship and will provide training and mentoring throughout the 10-week program.

Roselyn is a senior at California Polytechnic State University, a public university in San Luis Obispo, California.  She is majoring in journalism with a concentration in broadcast news and minoring in Spanish, ethnic studies and women’s gender studies.

Roselyn is also a senior news producer on weekends at KSBY-TV, where she is the youngest news producer, the only Asian American producer and the only full-time student working at the station.

Roselyn has experience overseeing the station’s 30-minute and hour-long breaking newscasts during wildfire season and local, state and national elections. She has also written over 300 digital stories for more than 8 million users on the KSBY website and 140,000 social media followers. 

Roselyn will start with The Associated Press on June 14. 

Nikole Hannah-Jones speaks to the impact of Ida B. Wells legacy on journalism

Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning The New York Times Magazine journalist and co-founder of the Ida B. Wells Society, was interviewed by WTTW, Chicago’s primary Public Broadcasting Service, to discuss the legacy that the Society’s namesake left on the field of journalism. The interview was part of WTTW’s Chicago Stories, a documentary series that uncovers the history of Chicago.

In the interview, Hannah-Jones shared about the impact that Ida B. Wells made both during her lifetime and the legacy that she left behind. “She had a very high sense of herself. She knew what she wanted,” Hannah-Jones said. In addition to going into detail about Wells’ writing style, Hannah-Jones discussed Wells’ data collection methods. Wells is often noted for her research on the lynchings of Black people in the United States and her use of data to push back against the accuracy of the narratives that were being published. “Ida B. Wells was an innovator of journalistic techniques, particularly investigative, and what we would call today data journalism.” Hannah-Jones shared.

She goes on to share how a lack of representation among vulnerable populations in the field means that so many stories go untold. Hannah-Jones goes on to talk about how that galvanized her to co-found The Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting in 2016. In regard to the naming of the organization, Hannah-Jones said, “We wanted to show that there is a long tradition of Black people doing this type of work.” The importance of having Black stories and perspectives told and reported on is evident through the work of Wells, Hannah-Jones and so many others. “That spotlight is what leads people to act and to resist,” Hannah-Jones shared of Wells. “She understood that and that is a lesson for us all today.”

You can watch the entirety of the interview here and view more information about WTTW’s Chicago Stories Special on Ida B. Wells here.

Ron Nixon to keynote IRE’s 2021 virtual conference

Ron Nixon

Ron Nixon, Ida B. Wells Society co-founder and global investigations editor for The Associated Press, has been announced as the keynote speaker for IRE’s 2021 virtual conference to be held from June 14-June 18. IRE said that Nixon “embodies the spirit of IRE through his commitment to mentorship, training and volunteering with the organization.” In addition to the workshops that he offers through the Society, he served as training director at IRE from 2000 to 2003.

“The board is excited to have chosen Ron as the keynote for this year’s annual conference,” IRE Board President Cheryl W. Thompson said. “Whether it’s mentoring younger IRE members or pitching in on a panel, Ron has contributed so much to this organization over the years. And his commitment to diversity is unwavering. We look forward to his inspiring message.”

Nixon will be joined by a number of acclaimed journalists who will talk about covering topics from Asian-American hate, the pandemic, social justice protests, international corruption and more.

Read more about the other conference speakers here.

May 2021 Member Spotlight: Kristal Sotomayor

Kristal Sotomayor (Photo Courtesy of Dan Papa)

Kristal Sotomayor is a bilingual Latinx documentary filmmaker, festival programmer, and freelance journalist based in Philadelphia. Currently, they are in post-production on Expanding Sanctuary, an independent short documentary about the historic end to police surveillance organized by nonprofit Juntos and the Latinx immigrant community in South Philadelphia. Kristal is a MDOCS Storytellers’ Institute Visiting Fellow, If/Then North Shorts Resident, DCTV Docu Work-In-Progress Lab Fellow, Justice For My Sister Sci-Fi Screenwriting Lab Fellow, BAVC Serial Storytellers 2.0 Program, Good Pitch Local: Philadelphia Fellow, and NeXtDoc Fellow. They serve as the Programming Director for the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival, Co-Founder/Journalist for ¡Presente! Media, and are on the Editorial Board for the film journal cinéSPEAK. Kristal’s journalistic background includes having written for ITVS, AL DÍA, WHYY, and Documentary Magazine. They also write the Latinx cinema column “Cine alzando voz” for cinéSPEAK.

Where is your work featured/what organizations are you affiliated with? 

My journalistic background includes having written for ITVS, AL DÍA, WHYY, and Documentary Magazine. I write the Latinx cinema column “Cine alzando voz” and serve on the Editorial Board for the film journal cinéSPEAK. I am also a Co-Founder/Journalist of ¡Presente! Media, a collective led by Latinx filmmakers that produce bilingual content focused on social justice. My writing has been supported by the Sundance Institute Press Inclusion Initiative, TIFF Media Inclusion Initiative, the inaugural International Documentary Association (IDA) Magazine Editorial Fellowship, NBC University Visual Storytelling During Breaking News Program, and Lenfest Next Generation Fund. I am a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists, GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, CherryPicks Approved Critic, and the TIME’S UP Critical Database.

Where did you go to school? 

I studied Comparative Literature at Bryn Mawr College with a concentration on English and Spanish literature. When I graduated in 2017, my focus was on documentary film because I love both journalism and film.

Read the rest of Kristal’s interview here.

Donovan Thomas selected as the New York Times-Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting Intern

Donovan Thomas, a senior at Howard University, will join The New York Times’s Investigations desk as a summer intern. The internship is in partnership with the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting. Read more in this note from Ted Kim, The Times’s director of early career strategy, and Carla Correa, The Times’s deputy director of early career programs.

We’re pleased to announce that Donovan Thomas will join the Investigations desk as a summer intern at The New York Times. The internship is in partnership with the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting at the University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media in Chapel Hill. The society is funding the internship and will provide training and mentoring throughout the 10-week program. 

Donovan Thomas

Donovan, a southern Louisiana native and rising senior at Howard University, has shown a strong commitment to investigative reporting. He is editor in chief of The Hilltop, Howard’s student newspaper, and also serves as the president of the only student chapter of the Ida B. Wells Society. The society’s mission is to increase the representation and profile of reporters and editors of color in the field of investigative reporting. 

Last summer, he was a Metro intern at the Charlotte Observer, where he reported on the coronavirus, Black Lives Matter protests and homelessness. He has also participated in a NICAR fellowship program and is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, a domestic correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and a founder of the Ida B. Wells Society, said of Donovan: “Ambitious, humble, tenacious and hard-working, with a passion for accountability reporting and a hunger to learn, Donovan is exactly the type of student we created this internship for and whom our industry should be investing in. The investigative internship is a rare opportunity, and Donovan is a rare talent. I could not be more thrilled.”

Donovan will arrive in June and work closely with The Times’s Investigations staff. Please welcome him.

Nikole Hannah-Jones to become Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism

Ida B. Wells Society co-founder and Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, who covers civil rights and racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine and was just elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, will join University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media in July as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism.

Nikole Hannah-Jones

Since earning her master’s degree at UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media in 2003, Hannah-Jones has become one of the country’s leading voices in journalism covering housing and school segregation, civil rights and racial injustice in the U.S.

“This is the story of a leader returning to a place that transformed her life and career trajectory,” said Susan King, dean of UNC Hussman. “Giving back is part of Nikole’s DNA, and now one of the most respected investigative journalists in America will be working with our students on projects that will move their careers forward and ignite critically important conversations.”

Knight Chair professorships, endowed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, are designed to bring top professionals to classrooms to teach and mentor students. Hannah-Jones joins a network of independent Knight Chairs in journalism at 21 colleges and universities across the county.

“The Knight Chairs are highly-respected news leaders who bring insights about journalism and support elevating it in the academy. Their work contributes to keeping communities informed and democracy robust,” said Karen Rundlet, journalism director at Knight Foundation. “Nikole Hannah-Jones is an outstanding addition to this group of leaders.”

Read the rest of the announcement on UNC Hussman’s website.

Topher Sanders and ProPublica team win Al Nakkula Award for Police Reporting

Topher Sanders, Ida B. Wells Society co-founder, was among the team of investigative reporters to receive the 2021 Al Nakkula Award for their work on ProPublica’s 10-part series “The NYPD Files,” which uncovered abuse and impunity inside the New York Police Department.

The Al Nakkula Award for Police Reporting recognizes work produced by a reporter or reporting team in print and/or online platforms in the United States. The award honors the late Al Nakkula, a legendary police reporter and 46-year veteran of the Rocky Mountain News. The award is co-sponsored by The Denver Press Club and the University of Colorado Boulder’s College of Media, Communication and Information

Topher Sanders

“ProPublica’s ‘NYPD Files’ blew us away and stood out clearly as our top choice despite an astonishingly excellent series of contenders,” said lead judge Chuck Plunkett. “While we discussed the package, we noted that any number of the stories in the 10-part series could have been offered as a standalone entry and easily reached finalist consideration.” Plunkett is also the director of CU News Corps, a program for journalism undergraduate and graduate students at the university.

The investigative series led to the development of a searchable database that made public thousands of police discipline records that the state of New York had kept secret for decades under a law that barred the public from having access. Following stories in the series, the Brooklyn district attorney announced a move to vacate more than 200 warrants related to prostitution, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill repealing an anti-loitering law that had been used to justify prostitution arrests.

Sanders covers race, inequality and the justice system for ProPublica. This is also not the first time that he has been the recipient of the Al Nakkula award. He, alongside reporter Ben Conarck, won the award in 2018 for their multi-part investigation “Walking While Black.” The series explored how jaywalking citations are disproportionately given to Black pedestrians. Sanders is a graduate of Tuskegee University and started his journalism career at The Montgomery Advertiser in Montgomery, Alabama.

You can read more about ProPublica winning the 2021 Al Nakkula award here.

Ron Nixon is Inaugural Winner of News Leader of the Year Award

The News Leaders Association has named Ida B. Wells Society co-founder Ron Nixon its 2021 News Leader of the Year.

The award was established this year by the News Leaders Association – an organization aimed at empowering journalists by offering training, support and networks – and recognizes “an editor or team of editors who have displayed strong leadership in matching the extraordinary moment of an unprecedented year through great journalism and vital decision making on all fronts.” It is one of seven categories being celebrated by the 2021 News Leader Association Awards to recognize excellence in journalism.

Ron Nixon

Nixon, the global investigations editor for the Associated Press gains the distinction of being the inaugural recipient of the News Leader of the Year award.

Nixon was selected by a panel of judges after being nominated by 24 colleagues on the global investigations team at AP. Their nomination letter offered detailed insight into the immense impact that Nixon has made not only through the stories that he has worked on, but the impression that he has made as a leader during a tumultuous year. The nomination letter covers a wide breadth of Nixon’s work including his push to expand and diversify AP’s investigative team, his establishment of a fellowship for less-experienced journalists, and the money that he has raised for projects. It is clear throughout the letter that it is Nixon’s community-building and care for his team as not only journalists but people that served as a catalyst for this nomination.

Nixon was promoted to his role as global investigations editor in March 2020. In this position, he manages and oversees a team of reporters around the world and helps to infuse the AP’s global news report with accountability reporting and a strong investigative ethos. He joined AP in early 2019 as an international investigations editor and was homeland security correspondent at the New York Times before that. Nixon also previously worked as data editor at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, training director at Investigative Reporters and Editors, and environment and investigative reporter at The Roanoke Times. Additionally, he is a Marine combat veteran. Last year, he was among the team of journalists that won AP’s first National News & Documentary Emmy Award.

You can see a list of all the 2021 News Leader Association Award winners here.

Nikole Hannah-Jones to be inducted at NC Media & Journalism Hall of Fame

Ida B. Wells Society co-founder and Pulitzer Prize-winning The New York Times Magazine journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones will be among the list of acclaimed honorees inducted into the NC Media & Journalism Hall of Fame.

The ceremony takes place virtually 6 p.m. April 9 and recognizes diverse individuals with ties to the state who have had a significant impact on the professional industry and communities they serve.

Nikole Hannah-Jones (Photo Courtesy of James Estrin/New York Times)

Hannah-Jones, an investigative journalist widely known for her groundbreaking 1619 Project, graduated from the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media’s M.A. program in 2003. She attended the school as a Roy H. Park Fellow – a fellowship program that provides full tuition and stipend to master’s and doctoral students. Early in her career as a reporter for the Raleigh News & Observer she covered the Durham Public Schools and eventually went on to receive numerous awards for her work on school segregation and racial injustice. In 2020, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for commentary for The 1619 Project.

In addition to Hannah-Jones, this year’s ceremony will honor Rebecca Darwin, co-founder and CEO of the Allée Group; award-winning sportswriter and broadcaster Peter Gammons; Torod Neptune, senior vice president and chief communications officer at Medtronic; and PBS NewsHour managing editor and anchor Judy Woodruff.

Those interested in registering for the event can do so here. Proceeds support the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media in developing future leaders in the fields of media and communication.

For more information, visit

March 2021 Member Spotlight: Rio Lacanlale

Rio Lacanlale

A proud daughter of Filipino immigrants, Rio Lacanlale is a journalist and videographer currently based in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she writes about the criminal justice system and legal affairs for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. In 2019, she helped lead an investigation into a private boarding school in rural Nevada, leading to policy changes among state agencies responsible for licensing child care facilities. A year later, a series of stories highlighting Las Vegas police’s decision to exclude two women from the official death toll of the 2017 Route 91 Harvest festival shooting — the deadliest mass shooting in modern America — prompted Clark County’s sheriff to increase the death toll from 58 to 60. Prior to joining the Review-Journal in late 2016, Rio interned in newsrooms in the Lazio region of central Italy and in Washington, D.C. She was named Review-Journal newsroom MVP in 2018 by her editors and Journalist of Merit by the Nevada Press Association in 2020.

Where is your work featured/what organizations are you affiliated with? 

The bulk of my work can be found in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. My work also has been published by PBS’ To The Contrary, Tuscia Times in Italy and Elevate Nevada Magazine.

Where did you go to school? 

I earned my B.A. in Journalism & Media Studies, with a focus in broadcast journalism, in 2016 from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I also lived in Viterbo, Italy, for about seven months in 2015 and studied journalism and Italian at Università degli Studi della Tuscia. (To save you a Google search, Viterbo is a small ancient city north of Rome, and its historic center is one of the best preserved medieval towns in central Italy!)

How many years have you been in journalism? 

I’ve been working as a multimedia journalist since 2016. My work has ranged from magazine writing and video production to investigative reporting and on-camera work. 

Read the rest of Rio’s interview here.

Ida B. Wells Society makes major gift to namesake scholarship fund

The Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting is donating $100,000 to a scholarship fund at CUNY’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism aimed at supporting students who will bring more diversity into the field of journalism.

Society co-founders Ron Nixon, Nikole Hannah-Jones and Topher Sanders announced the gift as part of a campaign by the school to replenish the Ida B. Wells Scholarship Fund, named after the Black journalist, abolitionist, and feminist who led an anti-lynching crusade in the 1890s. Launched in 2018, the fund provides tuition and living expenses for master’s degree students who are members of the Ida B. Wells Society. The organization seeks to increase the ranks and retention of investigative journalists of color and those of all backgrounds who support its mission.

“This partnership goes right to the center of the work we are doing at the Ida B. Wells Society – clearing obstacles and providing opportunities to ensure that the field of investigative reporting reflects the diversity of the country in which we live,” said Hannah-Jones.

“CUNY’s Newmark J-School is the nation’s most diverse and affordable journalism graduate program and yet it is facing unprecedented state cuts due to coronavirus budget shortfalls,” she added. “Therefore, we felt it was critical to support this special program that makes it possible for our members who otherwise wouldn’t to be able to earn their master’s degrees in journalism. As our nation faces threats to our democracy fueled by white nationalism, a story that many mainstream newsrooms took far too long to see, it should be clear to us all why we need to diversify those positions that hold power to account.”

Hannah-Jones pointed out that Black students carry the highest student loan debt, making achieving a graduate degree in journalism especially challenging.

Sarah Bartlett, dean of the Newmark J-School, also extolled the program: “Our school’s relationship with the Ida B. Wells Society has enabled us to attract talented journalists of color to our program and helped them enter the profession. Given what’s going on in our country right now, it’s hard to think of a more important effort.”

The fund is critical to advancing the school’s efforts to expand access for diverse talent to high-quality media jobs and effect change in newsrooms. With help from the Society’s gift and with other donations, school officials say they will be able to fund approximately seven scholarships.

To date, the fund has provided scholarships to eight students. Scholars of the program have gone on to internships and jobs at Inc., The Wall Street Journal, CNN, and the Today show.

“I left the Newmark J-School more curious, more passionate, and with the tools I need to thrive in an increasingly difficult industry,” said Jazmin Goodman from the Class of 2019 who was the first Ida B. Wells scholar.

Tremain Prioleau II, the 2021 scholar, said the fund is “ a great gateway for people to get into journalism, especially coming from backgrounds like myself. I’m just a kid from South Carolina – this small town called Moncks Corner – and this gave me an opportunity to come to New York and chase my dreams to be able to work in journalism.”

To Prioleau, investigative reporting is all part of carrying on a rich tradition. “It’s in our DNA,” he said. “It’s what we’ve done for centuries, so naturally Black people are going to want to get into investigative journalism and really hold the powers that be accountable.”

February 2021 Member Spotlight: Colette Coleman

Colette Coleman

Colette Coleman is a writer, educator, and sociologist. After graduation, she began working with Teach for America in Los Angeles. During that time, she said that she witnessed firsthand how the K-12 system is failing students, especially those who are Black and brown and from low-income homes. Her experiences galvanized her to begin writing about issues within public education. Coleman’s pieces have covered topics including teacher pay, the 2019 teacher strikes in Chicago, and the literacy crisis facing Black students. Her work has been featured in NAACP’s The Crisis magazine, the Chicago TribuneHISTORY, and the education-journalist publication The Grade

Where is your work featured/what organizations are you affiliated with? 

I’m a contributor to HISTORY, where my writing has focused on unearthing rarely told stories from Black history, and Forbes. My work has been featured in diverse outlets including the BBC, Crain’s Chicago Business, the New York Daily News, Healthline, the Chicago Tribune, and the NAACP’s The Crisis magazine.

Where did you go to school? 

I got my B.A. from Yale with a Sociology major and Art History minor. Then while completing Teach For America in Los Angeles, I got a Master’s in Education at Loyola Marymount University.

How many years have you been in journalism? 

I started writing for wide audiences and reporting in 2019 after I completed The OpEd Project’s “Write to Change the World” course. I had always loved writing but hadn’t aspired to do it professionally. After this workshop, however, I realized the power of journalism and set out to use the written word to change society for the better.

Read the rest of Colette’s interview here.

Ron Nixon to be keynote speaker at 2021 FOIAFest

Ida B. Wells Society co-founder and acclaimed global investigations editor for the Associated Press Ron Nixon will headline this year’s FOIAFest presented by the Chicago Headline Club.

The conference, named after the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), focuses on public records reporting and will be held virtually this year from Feb. 19 to Feb. 21. The event is open to all and welcomes reporters, community organizers, and everyday residents to attend. This year, the
three-day conference will have over 20 virtual panels and workshops that feature journalists, attorneys, and community groups.

Nixon’s experience with public records reporting is well known to those in the journalism world. He has produced major investigative stories across the globe with featured stops in countries ranging from Belgium to Senegal to Mexico.

As this year’s keynote speaker, Nixon will share his vast knowledge and familiarity with using public records in reporting with individuals wanting to learn more about the process. Last year’s keynote speaker was Cheryl W. Thompson of NPR and Investigative Reporters and Editors, so
he will be in good company.

Those interested in learning more about FOIAFest can view a sample of some resources from their 2020 conference including top tips, sessions, and online resource links here.

Reaching Back, Looking Forward: CABJ Invites Nikole Hannah-Jones for BHM

EDITORS’ NOTE: When we learned that the Carolina Association of Black Journalists (CABJ) had extended an invitation to Pulitzer Prize-winning alumna Nikole Hannah-Jones ’03 (M.A.) and that Hannah-Jones agreed to virtually visit, we asked Ruth Etiesit Samuel, a senior at UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media and social media chair for CABJ, to write about the conversation. Samuel, a Morehead-Cain scholar currently interning with NBC’s The Today Show, filed this report.

Image of CABJ zoom talk

February 4, 2021
By Ruth Samuel

To kick off their Black History Month programming, the Carolina Association of Black Journalists (CABJ) in the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media invited Pulitzer Prize-winner Nikole Hannah-Jones to a virtual Q&A session with student members. Held on the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 3, the private event was hosted via Zoom and focused on Hannah-Jones’ journey as an alumna, the challenges Black media professionals face, and how students can be better prepared for such.

“When you think of journalism and important pieces to Black Americans, The 1619 Project is at the top of the list. It really revolutionized how we think about American slavery. It was so important to have her perspective, and she’s had an interesting career path,” said CABJ Co-President Landon Bost, a UNC Hussman senior on the photojournalism track.

Founded in 1991, CABJ seeks to diversify UNC Hussman and the journalism industry at large, while providing community and resources for Black storytellers. The organization was co-founded by the late Professor Emeritus Chuck Stone, who served as the National Association of Black Journalists’ first president, and Professor Harry Amana, who was the chapter’s first adviser in the early 1990s.

Original founding members include Teaching Professor Valerie “VK” Fields, Miami-Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles, and more. Now, approaching its 30th anniversary, CABJ has won NABJ’s Student Chapter of the Year award three times in 2001, 2002 and 2007, and was nominated for the award in 2005, 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2017. The chapter’s motto is, “Without diversity, there is no excellence.”

“Journalism as a whole relies on diversity, just for the general fact of having accurate news from multiple perspectives,” said CABJ Co-President Samaria Parker ’21. “Having a space where students can see people, like Nikole Hannah-Jones, in positions where they are actually doing what many of us in the group want to accomplish in the future is a really great resource.”

The event began promptly at 6 p.m. EST, with housekeeping announcements and Black popular culture trivia on Kahoot. Following the icebreaker, Parker, who transferred from UNC Charlotte in Fall 2018, asked the first questions of the evening: what drew Hannah-Jones to Carolina after her undergraduate studies at the University of Notre Dame and what sparked her love for writing?

Hannah-Jones said, “I knew that I wanted to stay in the South. Carolina offered me the Park Fellowship, which pays full tuition and a stipend, so it was an easy decision. I certainly didn’t have models of Black investigative reporters or Black women investigative reporters, but I started thinking about journalism at a super young age.”

The New York Times Magazine reporter could not remember a time when she and her father did not read the local city and state paper. At 11 years old, Hannah-Jones’ first letter to the editor was published in a local Iowa newspaper in 1988, expressing her “outrage” by the lack of support Jesse Jackson received in the Iowa primary.

What she did recall was that while reading, the only time Black stories were referenced was in the context of a crime log. As a self-described Aries “who will always take you up on a challenge,” she sought to change that in high school.

“I had a Black studies class, and complained to the teacher about how our high school never wrote about the Black kids like me who were all bused into the school,” Hannah-Jones said. “He told me either join the paper and write those stories yourself or shut up, so I joined my school paper. I won my first journalism award as a high school student.”

For Nina Scott-Farquharson, a first-year general body member of CABJ, her introduction to Nikole Hannah-Jones was at UNC Hussman’s “Making a Mark” event held on November 16, 2019. At the time, the 18-year-old was attending Carrboro High School and asked a question regarding an article for her student newspaper on the achievement gap and racial segregation.

“One of the main reasons I joined CABJ is because I wanted a mentor, and people to tell me their experiences as a Black student in the journalism school. The fact that she’s willing to spend her time and talk with us just shows how humble she is and how she sees the future in us,” Scott-Farquharson said.

Currently, the first-year student is interested in advertising and public relations, but found that the advice Hannah-Jones offered regarding networking and starting at the local level to get tangible skills resonated deeply with her. Hannah-Jones began her reporting career at The News & Observer, reporting on Durham Public Schools.

Hannah-Jones said, “I just don’t think that the only way to become a great journalist is to go to these big institutions. Some of the most powerful work that is done is done at local and regional papers, and these are people who are actually invested in training you as a journalist. The type of guidance that you get at smaller institutions is just invaluable.”

Alumna Shandel Menezes ’20 now works as a broadcast reporter based in Tyler, Texas, arriving there just four months ago. As former CABJ president, Menezes lamented that COVID-19 thwarted a lot of the plans her executive team had originally organized — but was thrilled to learn that the new team invited Hannah-Jones.

Reflecting upon her time in the Hussman School, Menezes credited the CABJ network with helping her secure a summer internship with the Television Academy after her sophomore year. The 2019–2020 president said, “I would have never known about that without me being in a specific group within the J-school and just so happening to see my email that day.”

From candid conversations regarding mental health to poignant reminders that “the only thing you can control is how excellent you are,” Hannah-Jones encouraged students not to compromise on their values and to amplify stories that matter to their community.

She said, “Part of the reason it took me longer to get where I got was because I refused to compromise on certain things. You were not going to tell me I couldn’t write about Black people but you never told a white reporter that he couldn’t write about white people. You have to find your groups like CABJ so that you can truly be yourself.”

Once the unofficial “chapter mom” and now an associate professor at Carolina, Associate Professor Trevy A. McDonald attended the event last night and reflected on the necessity of spaces such as CABJ. McDonald, who was awarded the Unsung Hero Award at Carolina’s 40th annual MLK Jr. Lecture and Award ceremony last week, became CABJ advisor in 2010 along with Jan Yopp, retired faculty member at UNC Hussman and dean of the UNC Summer School. McDonald has been serving as UNC Hussman’s inaugural diversity, equity and inclusion chair since July.

“I went to the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh for undergrad, and there were no Black faculty members in my department,” McDonald said. “I didn’t even know the NABJ existed until I came to Chapel Hill, so I just think about how much richer my college experience would have been if I had been connected and been able to attend the convention.”

While CABJ emphasizes the importance of networking and community, service has always been a pillar of the organization. McDonald noted that before the pandemic, CABJ members hosted hands-on journalism workshops with local high school students each spring. From organizing teacher appreciation gift bags to honoring housekeepers in Carroll Hall, McDonald hopes CABJ upholds its history of service and that its members continue to be leaders in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion.

McDonald said, “CABJ has a history and legacy of always reaching back, and I’m really excited now that we have other organizations forming in the school, like the NAHJ chapter and the NLGJA chapter. I love how CABJ is working with these other organizations and is helping these organizations foster a greater sense of belonging here at Hussman.”

Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting receives record $1 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

At a time when the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and tumultuous political climate underscore the importance of vigorous investigative journalism, a new $1 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation will support the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting in its efforts to strengthen and support the work of journalists of color seeking to hold power accountable.    

The one-year grant — part of the Foundation’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiative and the largest the Society has received since its founding in 2016 — will create an endowment to ensure the long-term financial stability of the nonprofit news trade organization dedicated to increasing the ranks, retention and profile of investigative reporters and editors of color.

Housed at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media, the Society has served approximately 2,500 journalists and students through initiatives such as reporting workshops, data trainings, mentorship programs, internships and fellowships.

Co-founded by prominent journalists Nikole Hannah-Jones (M.A. `03), Ron Nixon and Topher Sanders, the Society works to educate news organizations and journalists on how diverse voices can raise the caliber, impact and visibility of investigative journalism as a means of promoting transparency and good government.

Hannah-Jones is a 2020 Pulitzer Prize winner with The New York Times and was named to the 2017 class of MacArthur Foundation Fellows, also known as the “genius grant.” Nixon is a global investigations editor for the Associated Press, overseeing teams of reporters around the world and helping to infuse the AP’s global news report with accountability reporting and a strong investigative ethos. Sanders is an award-winning reporter covering race, inequality and the justice system for ProPublica. In 2019, he was part of a team that was a Pulitzer Prize finalist

“We are proud to support the Ida B. Wells Society and their commitment to journalists of color across the nation,” said Peter Laugharn, president and CEO of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. “Our hope is that this unrestricted grant will give the organization the flexibility to build on their important work toward racial justice and equity while educating others on the importance of diverse voices today.”

The Hilton Foundation was established in 1944 and provides funds to nonprofit organizations working to improve the lives of individuals experiencing disadvantage throughout the world.

“The founders of the Ida B. Wells Society are ecstatic and deeply grateful for this incredible grant from the Hilton Foundation,” Hannah-Jones said. “Black journalists, in particular, have long served as this nation’s conscience even as they have been denied opportunities in mainstream news organizations to do the investigative reporting that holds power accountable. Our democracy is in a crisis, and we will use this grant to continue to train and support all journalists of color to do the critical work that reveals the challenges of the multiracial nation in which we live.”

The grant comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter movement and contentious 2020 U.S. election have broadly exposed racial disparities both in newsroom numbers and in societal trends, disparities the Society has long highlighted.

Overall, people of color represent 21.9 percent of the salaried workforce among newsrooms that responded to the 2019 News Leaders Association Newsroom Employment Diversity Survey. However, 2019 U.S. Census Bureau estimates show that nearly four of 10 Americans identify with a race or ethnic group other than white.

“We are grateful to the Hilton Foundation for believing in our mission to diversify the field of investigative reporting. This grant will allow us to expand the specialized trainings and other programs at the Ida B. Wells Society that will help create a pipeline of journalists of color,” Nixon said.

The Society has remained focused and committed to creating that pipeline during a year marked by COVID-19 by offering virtual workshops such as the “Covering COVID-19 Reporting Series,” which addressed best practices of reporting during the pandemic.

During the summer of 2020, the Society launched the Ida B. Wells Society/OpenElections Summer Program, which recruited students from historically Black colleges and universities to gather precinct-level election results and convert them into data to help create a free, comprehensive data set of federal, statewide and state legislative election results for the U.S.

“We’re so honored to house the Ida B. Wells Society at UNC Hussman,” said Susan King, dean of the school. “It is so clear with a grant like this from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation the importance in our country of producing journalists of color to tell the story of the 21st century.” 

Future projects for the Society include an intensive investigative fellowship program in New York providing 12 journalists with training in in-depth investigation techniques four times a year at no cost; expanded investigative reporter trainings, including a pandemic-focused series with drill-down topics like investigating nursing homes; and management-specific programs for investigative journalists seeking to advance to leadership positions.

Essentially, the grant will allow the Society to continue living up to its namesake, Ida B. Wells (1862–1931), a pioneering Black investigative journalist who chronicled the virulent lynching of Black Americans during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and who innovated investigative reporting techniques still in use today.

“The Society was birthed from the idea that for too long news organizations have relied on the same tired excuses for why investigative reporting and opportunities were reserved almost entirely for white reporters,” Sanders said. “We decided to remove the excuses by training, cultivating and promoting the plethora of talented journalists of color who can do the work if only given the right tools and opportunities. This grant will ensure Ida’s mission will thrive through an endowment and help bring about a sea change in investigative reporting.”

About the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation was created in 1944 by international business pioneer Conrad N. Hilton, who founded Hilton Hotels and left his fortune to help individuals throughout the world living in poverty and experiencing disadvantage. The Foundation invests in 11 program areas, including providing access to safe water, supporting transition-age foster youth, ending chronic homelessness, hospitality workforce development, disaster relief and recovery, helping young children affected by HIV and AIDS, and supporting the work of Catholic sisters. In addition, following selection by an independent international jury, the Foundation annually awards the $2.5 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize to a nonprofit organization doing extraordinary work to reduce human suffering. From its inception, the Foundation has awarded more than $1.8 billion in grants, distributing $110 million in the U.S. and around the world in 2019. Foundation assets increased from approximately $2.9 billion to $6.6 billion following the 2019 passing of Barron Hilton who, like his father, pledged virtually his entire estate to the Foundation. For more information, please visit

About the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting

The Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting is a news trade organization dedicated to increasing and retaining reporters and editors of color in the field of investigative reporting. Founded in 2016 by veteran journalists Nikole Hannah-Jones, Ron Nixon and Topher Sanders, the organization seeks to provide free/low-cost training, skills-building and support for journalists of color pursuing investigative work. The Society is open to journalists of all backgrounds who support the mission and work of the organization. Since its founding, it has served more than 2,000 journalists through its programming. For more information, visit

Rhema Bland named first Ida B. Wells Society Director

Rhema Bland, director of the Ida B. Wells Society

As a Black, female journalist rising up the ranks, Rhema Bland couldn’t name what she was experiencing. She saw other journalists with the kinds of investigative reporting skills she wanted, but she often felt passed over for opportunities to learn more.

“More than once, stories or beats I was vying for would go to younger, white reporters who didn’t have my education or level of experience,” she says. “It took longer for me to achieve those things, even when I worked harder. There was something unwritten that didn’t make sense to me.”

She saw journalists of color tracked into lifestyle reporting and breaking news. When she left the industry to work in higher education, she saw something similar: few students of color doing investigative journalism.

“When I started working with student media, there was a dearth of students of color. And they weren’t doing deep-dive journalism, the comprehensive, investigative stories,” said Bland. “When I learned about the Ida B. Wells Society, I realized – this gets to what I couldn’t name so long ago.”

Bland is the new director of the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media. Co-founded by award-winning journalists Nikole Hannah-Jones (M.A. ’03), Ron Nixon and Topher Sanders, the society seeks to increase the ranks, retention and profile of reporters and editors of color in the field of investigative reporting. They host trainings year-round for journalists of all skill levels, led by media professionals from around the country, and focusing on everything from reporting about racial inequality and schools to COVID-19.

“This is a tremendous opportunity,” says Bland. “2020 struck a lot of chords that needed to be struck. The society is needed more than ever as we bolster and elevate journalists who are marginalized in an industry that is often marginalized itself. I’m excited to be part of this great mission and help propel the ideals of the cofounders, and come up with my own, at this precipice.”

Read the full news release and learn more about Rhema here.

Society co-founders featured on keynote panel for ‘Light of Truth’

Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting co-founders Nikole Hannah-Jones, Ron Nixon and Topher Sanders appeared as panelists for the keynote symposium of “The Light of Truth: Ida B. Wells as Journalist, Advocate & Educator” on Oct. 3, 2020.

 This was the first in a series of six virtual events hosted by the Center for the Study of the American South at UNC-Chapel Hill to celebrate the life and work of pioneering Black journalist Ida B. Wells. The virtual, sold-out panel was moderated by Dr. Malinda Maynor Lowery, director of the Center for the Study of the American South, and Dr. Joseph Jordan, director of UNC’s Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History.

“Investigative reporting is the most important reporting in our democracy. It is that type of reporting that holds power accountable, that exposes the way that powerful people wield that power in ways that are harmful to individuals and communities, and yet that is also the whitest aspect of our profession,” Hannah-Jones told attendees. “We know that there are simply stories that are not being covered and communities that are not getting the type of spotlight that they need, and that’s really critical to our mission, which is to continue to expand focus on covering racial inequality, racial injustice, marginalized communities, really changing that complexion.”

Society receives Donna Allen Award for Feminist Advocacy

The award honors Donna Allen, the founder of the Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press in Washington, D.C. It highlights feminist media activism and the implication on the rights and freedoms of women and minorities across the world.

The Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting is being honored with the Donna Allen Award for Feminist Advocacy — given by the Commission on the Status of Women within the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication — for its efforts to identify, mentor and retain journalists of color.

Poynter recognizes Ron Nixon in commentary about diversity in investigative reporting

Poynter’s Mark J. Rochester highlighted the work of Ida B. Wells Society Co-Founder Ron Nixon in his recent article, “Investigative journalism, long criticized for a lack of diversity, has made significant developments since March.”

“I’ve overseen investigative reporting in newsrooms from New York to California for the last 25 years. Until recently, I held out little hope that I ever would see many more investigative news leaders that looked like me,” writes Rochester, pointing to the recent promotion of Nixon to global investigations editor at the Associated Press.

“Not in my wildest dreams did I think I would be the leader of an investigative team for a global news organization,” Nixon said. “My team includes seven Pulitzer Prize winners. Several others on the team have won other major awards such as the Polk and Goldsmith. It’s amazing to lead this great group of journalists. Still pinching myself.”

Read more.

Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ida B. Wells awarded 2020 Pulitzer Prizes

Congratulations to Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting cofounder Nikole Hannah-Jones – a 2003 (M.A.) graduate and Park Fellow of the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media – who received the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Commentary for the The New York Times Magazine’s ‘The 1619 Project.’ Read more from the Hussman school.

She was recognized “for a sweeping, deeply reported and personal essay for the ground-breaking 1619 Project, which seeks to place the enslavement of Africans at the center of America’s story, prompting public conversation about the nation’s founding and evolution.”

The Pulitzer Prize Board posthumously awarded a Special Citation to Ida B. Wells “for her outstanding and courageous reporting on the horrific and vicious violence against African Americans during the era of lynching. The citation comes with a bequest by the Pulitzer Prize board of at least $50,000 in support of her mission. Recipients will be announced at a later date.”

Ida B. Wells Society co-founder Ron Nixon promoted at AP

Ron Nixon

The Associated Press has promoted acclaimed reporter, editor and data journalist Ron Nixon to be its global investigations editor, overseeing teams of reporters around the world and helping to infuse the AP’s global news report with accountability reporting and a strong investigative ethos.

Nixon is one of the founders of the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting. The announcement was made Thursday by Executive Editor Sally Buzbee. Read more about this announcement.

NC Media & Journalism Hall of Fame to induct Hannah-Jones in 2020 class

The NC Media & Journalism Hall of Fame will induct Nikole Hannah-Jones into its 2020 honorees April 3 at The Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, NC.

The gala event benefits the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media in its critical role developing future leaders in our professions and includes a reception, dinner and ceremony.

One of the founders of the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, Hannah-Jones is investigative reporter covering civil rights and racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine. Read more about the event.

Hannah-Jones receives Polk Award for ‘1619 Project’

Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting co-founder and UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media alumna Nikole Hannah-Jones ’03 (M.A.) received special recognition from Long Island University’s (LIU) prestigious George Polk Awards, LIU has announced.

PHOTO CREDIT: Karsten Moran

The 15 winners of the Polk Awards were announced at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 19, 2020. LIU announced Hannah-Jones’s special recognition in its awards press release:

“A Special Award is presented to Nikole Hannah-Jones of The New York Times and contributors to ‘The 1619 Project,’ a supplement published on the 400th anniversary of the advent of American slavery, using essays by journalists and scholars to explore the role of slavery in history and its enduring effects in contemporary American society. A powerful introduction by Hannah-Jones, the project’s creator and driving force, examined efforts of black Americans to advance the nation’s expressed ideals of democracy, liberty and equality in the face of centuries of oppression and exclusion.”

The George Polk Awards are conferred annually to honor special achievement in journalism. The awards place a premium on investigative and enterprising reporting that gains attention and achieves results.

Read the full press release here.

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