The NC Local News Workshop stands in support of Pulitzer-winning investigative reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, who would bring valuable expertise back to our state as the new Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the UNC Hussman School of Media and Journalism.
As an organization that supports high-quality local news for people in North Carolina, we celebrated the recent announcement of Hannah-Jones’ new role as a gain for journalistic excellence across the state. We work in partnership and alliance with the Hussman School and Dean Susan King, and appreciated the dean’s note that with Hannah-Jones’ appointment, ”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.”
Our own work has shown us that many NC journalists seek guidance and methods for reporting accurately and honestly on race and racism, and the appointment of one of the nation’s top journalists at our state’s flagship public university offers a resource for rigorous reporting in the public interest.
Thus, we are deeply concerned by reports that UNC leaders’ decision to withhold tenure in the appointment (breaking a precedent from two prior Knight chairs) may have been based on political opposition to the substance of Hannah-Jones’ journalism, in particular her pathbreaking role in leading the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project.
An environment in which a respected educational institution retaliates against an accomplished journalist for political or ideological reasons would chill press freedom as well as academic freedom, and we share concerns raised by UNC Hussman faculty members and other current Knight chairs in recent letters.
Hannah-Jones, who began her professional career at The News & Observer and reported deeply on the Durham Public Schools, developed her reputation through continued exemplary journalism at The Oregonian, ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine.
Her work has been recognized with many of our nation’s top honors, including the Pulitzer Prize, a MacArthur Fellowship and election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Her reporting has greatly expanded public knowledge and understanding of complex issues related to the historic and enduring roles of race and racism in our society. She has been honored by UNC-Chapel Hill as a distinguished alumna and as a member of the NC Media & Journalism Hall of Fame.
Hannah-Jones cares deeply about advancing journalistic excellence, and few reporters have contributed as generously to the betterment of the profession. She has championed investigative skill-building and professional development for journalists of color by co-founding the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Journalism. She also has worked tirelessly to contribute to training and education for journalists through speeches, workshops, training sessions, mentoring and advocacy, including support for colleagues and students in North Carolina.
We support Nikole Hannah-Jones and endorse her tenured appointment on its merits.
The NC Local News Workshop, a nonprofit organization housed at the Elon University School of Communications, supports transformative approaches to journalism and civic information as a public service for all North Carolina residents. Learn more via our website or contact Melanie Sill, interim executive director.