On a blazing hot afternoon in Phoenix this past summer, I had the pleasure of meeting Nikole Hannah-Jones, a correspondent for the New York Times Magazine, after she delivered a keynote address to hundreds of journalists gathered for the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference.
IRE had honored her for turning up the heat on underreported forms of discrimination, chronicling, among other matters, rising segregation in our schools. It’s the kind of thing that should have ended long ago. Instead, it’s increasing.
Her speech brought up an inconvenient truth about the media: Too many newsrooms are short on minority voices.
“One can even look around this room and understand that in investigative reporting, the most critical of reporting, the lack of diversity is glaring and should be shameful,” Hannah-Jones said.
Afterward, she was surrounded, but took the time to greet and shake hands with everyone who approached. I found her gracious and warm. “Tell me more about it,” she asked when I informed her of the Contently Foundation and its mission to help up-and-coming journalists. “This sort of support is what our industry desperately needs,” she said.
It could also use more people like her.
Yesterday, at about the same time Donald Trump succeeded in browbeating the NFL to stop pregame protests, mostly by black players, Hannah-Jones won a MacArthur genius grant, which comes with more than just recognition for her investigative stories, which have earned her Peabody, Polk and National Magazine awards. There’s also cold cash: a no-strings-attached gift of $625,000, paid out over five years.
If you have not had the chance to read Hannah-Jones’ work, here’s a sampling.
How Alabama’s Jefferson County has rolled back desegregation in its schools.
How a white Brooklyn principal who attacked the New York City school system’s record on integration faced an outdated form of retaliation: charges of being a Communist sympathizer.
How fatal shootings — of and by police — are dividing the nation.
How the Democratic Party has failed the black working class.