A national organization dedicated to increasing and retaining reporters and editors of color in the field of investigative reporting will now be based at UNC-Chapel Hill, the School of Media and Journalism announced on Thursday.
The Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting works to educate news organizations and journalists on how the inclusion of diverse voices can raise the caliber, impact and visibility of investigative journalism as a means of promoting transparency and good government.
The society is named after Ida B. Wells, a pioneering black investigative journalist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and early leader in the civil rights movement.
“Diversity, equity and inclusion in media and journalism are essential to a healthy democracy and a relevant industry. We’re proud to support an initiative of this caliber to help make newsrooms more reflective of the communities they report on,” said MJ-school Dean Susan King.
The Ida B. Wells Society is spearheaded by veteran journalists Nikole Hannah-Jones, a 2003 Carolina graduate who is a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine and who envisioned the magazine’s The 1619 Project; Ron Nixon, the international investigations editor at The Associated Press; and Topher Sanders, who covers race, inequality and the justice system for ProPublica.
“We’re ecstatic to be at a university that understands and supports our mission. Having a partner like the MJ-school is going to mean a lot not only to the society, but to all the journalists who we are involved with in the years to come,” Sanders said.
The society offers investigative reporting training workshops throughout the United States and is developing a yearlong fellowship program based in New York City. Society workshops cover the use of advanced technology, interviewing techniques and the latest data-gathering and fact-checking resources and build on story pitching, project management and narrative storytelling skills. The society’s co-founders will advise and mentor MJ-school students and share their investigative journalism expertise at Carolina in a classroom setting.
King noted that the society’s mission dovetails nicely with the school’s focus.
“Reese News Lab is an innovative setting for journalism that encourages students to explore design thinking and hone data storytelling skills, making it a natural home for the Ida B. Wells Society,” said King. “Together, we will prepare a generation of innovative, data-savvy and ethical investigative journalists for the diverse newsrooms that are essential to a thriving democracy.”
Hannah-Jones, who was a Roy H. Park Fellow as a graduate student at the MJ-school from 2001–03 and who delivered the MJ-school commencement speech in 2017 — the year she was named a MacArthur Genius Grant Fellow — shared her enthusiasm for the relocation to Carolina.
“I’m very proud that we’ve moved to the MJ-school,” she said. “It’s such a place of journalistic excellence. It means so much to me. And I love that we’re moving to the South. Having a presence there — where so many black journalists are and the people that we write about live — is critical.”
Nixon noted, “Carolina brings us the place where we can grow the organization. We can bring people in and create a working relationship so that it’s not just a place where we’re housed. Carolina is a place that is home, a partnership that we both benefit from.”