Ida B. Wells Society Leaves Journalism School

The Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Journalism, which works to increase and retain reporters and editors of color in the field of investigative reporting, announced Feb. 2 that it is relocating from UNC’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media to Morehouse College in Atlanta, according to a Thursday email sent to Hussman faculty and staff by journalism school Dean Raul Reis.

“I write to update you on the Ida B. Wells Society,” Reis wrote. “Morehouse College has announced that the Society will relocate to their institution. We are grateful for the opportunity and experience of partnering with the Society since 2019 in its work to encourage and retain reporters and editors of color in the field of investigative reporting. Carolina is committed to an inclusive and equitable community for all. We look forward to the future work of the Society and wish their team all the best.”

According to information on the Hussman School’s website, the Society was co-founded by Nikole Hannah-Jones ’03 (MA), Ron Nixon of the Associated Press and Topher Sanders of ProPublica.

Hannah-Jones is a former New York Times reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize for her work on the newspaper’s 1619 Project, which examined slavery in the United States. In April 2021, the school of journalism announced Hannah-Jones as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism. She was offered a five-year contract as a professor but not a tenured position, as was the practice in the past. Her appointment was met with criticism by some people who disagreed with the reporting in The Times’ 1619 Project.

After the Board of Trustees failed to vote on whether to give Hannah-Jones tenure, protests were held on campus and the matter received national attention. The Board eventually voted 9–4 to grant tenure to Hannah-Jones, but she rejected the offer and accepted a position as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications last year dropped the Hussman school’s accreditation to “provisional,” saying it has fallen short in meeting council standards for diversity, equity and inclusion. The council cited the circumstances surrounding the issues of Hannah-Jones’ appointment as part of their reasons for taking action. The journalism school’s accreditation will be reevaluated next year.

— Laurie D. Willis ’86

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