“I've never been one of those conflicted black reporters who just wants to be a reporter. I always knew I wanted to write about race. The only reason I wanted to be a journalist was to write about race.”
In this episode of On Assignment we revisit Nikole Hannah-Jones, who recently oversaw the ambitious New York Times initiative, The 1619 Project. This groundbreaking work included a dedicated issue of the New York Times Magazine, a special broadsheet section in the Sunday Times, and a series of podcasts, all exploring the history of slavery and the ways it continues to shape contemporary American life.
In this episode from last year, after Hannah-Jones won the 2018 John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Reporting, she talked with Lester Holt, anchor of NBC Nightly News. They traced her pathway to journalism, from her high school newspaper, where she wrote about being bussed to school from the black side of town, to The New York Times Magazine, where she continues to write extensively about school segregation.
“Most writing about race simply says ‘there's a disparity that exists.’ That's not news... What's much more important is the why and the how. And I don't think that we see nearly enough of that.”
Along the way, Hannah-Jones says she’s learned: to be fair and accurate rather than objective; the challenges of navigating social media as a journalist; the necessity of fact-checking; and the importance of diverse newsrooms. “When I think about why reporters were ignoring school segregation,” she told Holt, “I think it's because a lot of reporters who are covering schools were white women who were just as afraid of those black kids that they were writing about as the parents who also wouldn't put their kids in the school.”
Hannah-Jones’ work earned her 2018’s John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Reporting. Use the links below to read some of her notable works.
The Resegregation of Jefferson County, New York Times Magazine
Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City, New York Time Magazine
A Prescription for More Black Doctors, New York Times Magazine
The Problem We All Live With, This American Life
Living Apart, ProPublica
Segregation Now, ProPublica
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