We support Nikole Hannah-Jones’ tenured appointment

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.

 

Miss the Summit? Watch the video for speakers and breakout highlights

We’ve posted the video of the opening two-hour session of the NC Local News Summit, a virtual event on Wednesday that drew about 150 people together via Zoom.

The video features our speakers (in order of appearance), and reports back from each of the breakout sessions.

  • “The NC Local News Workshop and the Power of Many” — Melanie Sill, interim executive director, NC Local News Workshop
  • “The Power of Diverse Collaborations” — Ju-Don Marshall, WFAE chief content officer and executive vice president
  • What we’re learning about nonprofit news success — Fran Scarlett, Institute for Nonprofit News chief knowledge officer and business strategy coach, in conversation with Melanie Sill
  • “Local News and Local News Research (including the growth of partisan ‘pink slime’ sites”) — Philip Napoli, Duke Sanford School of Public Policy professor and journalism researcher, with research assistant Asa Royal
  • Local news philanthropy: “Renewed Urgency and Glimmers of Hope,” Lizzy Hazeltine, fund coordinator for the NC Local News Lab Fund
  • “Abolishing the Fourth Estate: What’s possible when we remember we are members of our communities” — Cierra Hinton, co-director of strategy and operations for Press On, publisher and executive director, Scalawag magazine
  • “Transforming the Community Newspaper” — Les High, publisher of the Whiteville News Reporter
  • “A New Push on Local News Entrepreneurship ” — Anika Anand, deputy director of LION Publishers, in conversation with Melanie Sill

Also, Cierra Hinton of Press On Media and Scalawag has turned her Summit talk into a piece for Scalawag. In the piece, Hinton describes a “disconnect between the press, the people, the news, and the communities we report on” and argues that journalists “need to cover people-power like it is the power that drives our democracy—because it is.”

In the context of political violence in Washington, she writes: “When we fail to name whiteness in our reporting we are at best complicit in the active practice of white supremacy, and at worst, we are upholding the spread of values that lead to events like those that took place.”

Check back next week for more materials and takeaways from the NC Local News Summit.

A community gathering in support of local news in North Carolina: Join us Jan. 13

With Christmas near and a New Year beckoning, we at the NC Local News Workshop celebrate the many ways local journalists and media helped people in our state understand and navigate unprecedented challenges in 2020.

In the year of COVID-19, we’ve seen North Carolina residents actively involved in local democracy in countless ways, including high levels of election participation, protests, community responses to the pandemic, and initiatives to address racial inequity.

Our local journalists and media organizations have worked ceaselessly, and often in creative and inventive ways, to inform their communities, even as they faced their own hardships, financial challenges, and family stresses.

That’s why we’re gathering people together on Jan. 13 from 8:30 am-1 pm for the first NC Local News Summit, hosted by the Workshop with support from the Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media at UNC. It’s a chance to make connections, learn what people are doing, and brainstorm together to solve problems or advance opportunities.

Local news needs community, just as communities need local news.

Read moreA community gathering in support of local news in North Carolina: Join us Jan. 13

NC Local for Dec. 16: As 2020 ebbs, there’s a fount of hope (and not just in a vial)

By Eric Frederick, NC Local newsletter editor

[Also in the Dec. 16 edition: Registration opens for the NC Local News Summit; . Sign up to get NC Local in your inbox each week]

I started my very first NC Local newsletter — back on April 29, a couple of millenia ago — by asking something of you:

Never call it a day until you’ve done these things: 

  1. Helped somebody.
  2. Done something for your own wellness.
  3. Thought about the future. 

Because I’m not as good at those things as I’d like to be, I probably didn’t fully realize that the first two points are actually one. Doing one is doing the other. 

It’s my great fortune that in just the past two years, I’ve worked with three extraordinary leaders who do understand that: Robyn Tomlin at The News & Observer, Mebane Rash at EducationNC, and Melanie Sill at the NC Local News Workshop. They, and many others in our small band, know that we can better empower our communities when we empower one another, and care for ourselves. 

As 2020 ends, the swell of collaboration and mutual support across our state’s news and information community, even among competitors, is a fount of hope. To call it a necessary concession in a year of trial would be to diminish its spirit. And it has come during a time of unprecedented isolation, stress, fatigue and physical peril.

So, while you’re still on the job, getting your communities the information they need — to assess the COVID vaccine, to anticipate and influence how Biden/Harris policies might change their lives, and to stay safe over the holidays — do me one more favor:

Make time to take a really long, deep breath. And give yourself a pat on the back. 

A related read: ‘It’s a silent epidemic’: Mental health in newsrooms needs more attention. Jessica Davies, Digiday.