Orchestrating a character assassination of a new journalism professor:
“This is the story of a leader returning to a place that transformed her life and career trajectory,” said Susan King, dean of the Hussman School, in announcing the hire. “Giving back is part of Nikole’s DNA, and now one of the most respected investigative journalists in America will be working with our students on projects that will move their careers forward and ignite critically important conversations.”
On the state’s political right, however, Hanna-Jones has been met with a very different reception. Pulitzer Prize? MacArthur Fellowship? “Questionable credentials,” said the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal (formerly known as the Pope Center for Higher Education). One of America’s most respected investigative journalists? The same group termed that a “charade” concocted by “a powerful coalition with Democratic socialists, the media, and ‘woke’ crony capitalists.”
Make no mistake, one of Art Pope's lifelong crusades has been to force major changes to the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. Stymied in his effort to install a School of Western Civilization (White European Supremacy) several years ago, he has nevertheless continued efforts to bend the University to his will. His minions were instrumental in the closure of UNC's Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity, proving that if he's not allowed to "add" to the University, he will settle with subtracting. Hanna-Jones is actually ideal for this teaching slot:
Topping the list of conservative complaints? By all indications, it is Hannah-Jones’ work on The 1619 Project, a long-form journalism undertaking that, as the Pulitzer Center put it, “challenges us to reframe U.S. history by marking the year when the first enslaved Africans arrived on Virginia soil as our nation’s foundational date.”
The project, which seeks to spur a reexamination of the way America teaches and celebrates its own history, caused debate among academics, journalists, even within the New York Times itself. Criticisms of its accuracy by some prominent historians led to edits and clarifications, but Hannah-Jones and the Times stand by the project, the introductory essay to which won her the 2020 Pulitzer for commentary.
Finding the right balance between spitting out data points and telling the story of those points is one of the toughest challenges new journalists face. Refining that narrative voice is much harder than it sounds, and it's even more difficult in the current media environment than it was even 15 years ago. If you need a great example of that, just read some of the tripe the Martin Center considers "academic renewal."