The Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times Magazine reporter and 1619 Project founder spoke to participants about mentorship, the colloquium’s theme, as well as her journalistic career covering race, politics and launching the 1619 Project.
To kick off the 2021 AEJMC Southeast Colloquium, hosted virtually by the School of Communications, New York Times Magazine staff writer Nikole Hannah-Jones offered an eye-opening and encouraging address for attendees and participants. In a discussion moderated by Communications Dean Rochelle Ford, iMedia graduate student Dion Cummings G’21 and undergraduate journalism student Maeve Ashbrook ’21, Hannah-Jones spoke about the importance of mentorship and her journalistic career covering race through a variety of topics.
The Pulitzer Prize winner has written on federal failures to enforce the Fair Housing Act, the resegregation of American schools, as well as policing in America. Her extensive reporting in both print and radio on how segregation in housing and schools is maintained through official action and policy has earned her coverage a National Magazine Award, a Peabody and a Polk Award.
During the colloquium’s opening session, held March 18, Hannah-Jones explained that throughout her career, she had numerous mentors, some of whom still provide mentorship today. From her first mentors in high school and college to mentors at the Charlotte News & Observer, where she began her reporting career, Jones said her advisers opened doors for her, something she tries to pay forward to aspiring and young journalists.
“I would not be where I am without mentors and coaches,” Hannah-Jones said. “I try to live my life understanding the people opened doors for me and it’s my obligation to do the same.”
For students looking for a mentor, Hannah-Jones said she recommends following up and following through — because journalists get so many emails in a day, students should never feel bad for following up with a potential mentor. Students can follow through as a mentee by knowing what they need from their mentor, and being respectful of the person’s time, she added.
A domestic correspondent for The New York Times Magazine, Hannah-Jones focuses extensively on civil rights and racial injustice. In 2020, she won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary for her essay in The 1619 Project, which traces the central role black Americans have played in the nation, including its vast material success and democracy itself.
Hannah-Jones noted that it is important for all reporters, regardless of their race or ethnicity, to consider race and race-related matters when conducting their investigations. Much like other topics, such as reporting on science or sports, journalists need to study literature, research and talk to experts to cover race in their reporting.
“I’m not good at covering race because I was born Black, though that certainly influences how I see it,” Hannah-Jones said. “I’m good at covering race because I studied, just like you study any expertise you want to have.”
The Southeast Colloquium, the oldest and most successful regional journalism and mass communication meeting, continues through the weekend with sessions featuring several Elon faculty members and students. To learn more, visit the AEJMC Southeast Colloquium website.