Ida B. Wells Society Makes Major Gift to Newmark J-School

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.”

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