Ida B. Wells Society Moves From UNC-Chapel Hill to Morehouse College

The Society for Investigative Journalism, co-founded by Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones, focuses on increasing the number of reporters and editors of color in investigative reporting.
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  • The Society started at CUNY's Newmark School of Journalism and has moved to Harvard University, UNC-Chapel Hill, and now Morehouse College in Atlanta.
  • UNC's failure to initially grant Society co-founder Nikole Hannah-Jones tenure made things awkward between the Society and the university.
  • The Society focuses on increasing journalists of color in investigative reporting.

Morehouse College journalists will now partner with the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Journalism, co-founded by Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist best known for "The 1619 Project."

On Feb. 16, Morehouse College, a historically Black college and university (HBCU) in Atlanta, celebrated the arrival of the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting. The celebration marks its completed move from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill), which was announced Feb. 2.

According to Morehouse, the Society focuses on increasing the number of journalists of color in investigative reporting.

"Being located on the campus of a historically Black college located in Atlanta in proximity to other HBCUs and coming to Morehouse just as it gets its journalism major off the ground provides a tremendous opportunity for us to increase our impact on the field and society," Hannah-Jones said in the announcement.

The Society was founded in 2016 at the City University of New York's Newmark School of Journalism, before moving to Harvard University in 2018 and again to UNC-Chapel Hill in 2019.

In April 2021, Hannah-Jones, a UNC-Chapel Hill alum, was initially denied tenure as the Knight chair in race and investigative journalism at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media. After fighting to achieve tenure for the historically tenured position, Hannah-Jones was offered a five-year tenured contract by UNC-Chapel Hill. Ultimately, Hannah-Jones rejected the position for the same role at Howard University, an HBCU in Washington, D.C.

On Feb. 2, The Daily Tar Heel reported that Hussman School Dean Raul Reis sent an email to all Hussman School faculty.

"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," Reis said in the email.

According to a 2021 Daily Tar Heel interview with Rhema Bland, former director of the Society, she said that the board of trustees' failure to initially grant Hannah-Jones tenure made things awkward with the university. However, she said that the Hussman School and its faculty had always been supportive.

"They've stood behind us," she said to The Daily Tar Heel. "They are amazing allies in all of this. So that did help, but from outward-facing that was difficult, and also had a lot of uncertainty, which makes it difficult."

Through the new Morehouse partnership, students will learn investigative reporting techniques like data reporting and finding government data. They will also learn compelling investigative writing styles and gain access to development opportunities and guest lecturers.

Ron Thomas, chair of Morehouse's Journalism in Sports, Culture and Social Justice department, said their program intentionally aims to fill the gaps in media rarely populated by Black reporters and editors. The program became a degree-granting major in July 2021 with the help of a grant from Morehouse alum Spike Lee and sports columnist Ralph Wiley.

"Investigative reporting is one of those areas in which Black faces are seldom seen and there is no organization I would rather see us partner with than the Ida B. Wells Society as they attempt to solve that problem by training our own students, those from other colleges, and professional reporters trying to add to their skill set," said Thomas in the announcement.

"The Society is a natural fit for the emphasis that Morehouse College and our journalism program have placed on social justice. So often, keen investigative skills are needed to unearth the truth when social justice issues are explored."