1619 Project founder and NY Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones says ‘all journalism is activism’

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The creator of The 1619 Project has said that ‘all journalism is activism’, defending her controversial reimagining of U.S. history.

Nikole Hannah-Jones was asked by CBS News on Saturday about her work for The New York Times Magazine, and in particular the backlash against The 1619 Project.

The 1619 Project was launched in August 2019 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans arriving in colonial Virginia. It won Hannah-Jones a Pulitzer, but critics say that it is full of historical inaccuracies, and portrays the U.S. as fundamentally racist.

Hannah-Jones said that she was proud of the impact her work had. 

‘All journalism is activism,’ she said.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, a journalist with The New York Times Magazine and creator of The 1619 Project – which won her a Pulitzer – has argued that ‘all journalism is activism’

Hannah-Jones works at The New York Times, which is facing questions about its left-leaning stance

Hannah-Jones works at The New York Times, which is facing questions about its left-leaning stance

Hannah-Jones works at The New York Times, which is facing questions about its left-leaning stance

‘When you look at the model of The Washington Post, right? ‘Democracy dies in darkness,’ that’s not a neutral position. 

‘But our methods of reporting have to be objective. 

Bari Weiss, who left The New York Times last year, has described the journalists at the paper as 'activists'

Bari Weiss, who left The New York Times last year, has described the journalists at the paper as 'activists'

Bari Weiss, who left The New York Times last year, has described the journalists at the paper as ‘activists’

‘We have to try to be fair and accurate. And I don’t know how you can be fair and accurate if you pretend publicly that you have no feelings about something that you clearly do.’ 

Hannah-Jones’ remarks came as The New York Times faces questions over its own left-leaning stance. 

Bari Weiss, a former writer at the paper, last month described the staff as ‘activist journalists who treat the paper like a high school cafeteria.’

Weiss said the paper foments ‘rage, polarization, distrust’ which betrayed her values. 

She resigned from the paper in 2020 with a letter in which she detailed bullying in an ‘illiberal environment.’ 

In recent days Hannah-Jones has come under fire after comments she made in 2019 about Cuba being among the ‘most equal’ countries in the world, because of its socialist government, resurfaced online.  

Hannah-Jones, pictured during Saturday's interview with CBS, defended her work from criticism that it was not objective

Hannah-Jones, pictured during Saturday's interview with CBS, defended her work from criticism that it was not objective

Hannah-Jones, pictured during Saturday’s interview with CBS, defended her work from criticism that it was not objective

How fight over appointment of 1619 Project founder unfolded  

August 2019 – The New York Times begins its 1619 project which aims to ‘reframe the country’s history’ on slavery, but faces criticism over historical inaccuracies and generalizations

May 2020 – Nikole Hannah-Jones is awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for her introductory  essay to the project

Summer 2020 – UNC start considering hiring Hannah-Jones to its journalism faculty. 

December 2020 – In an email, Arkansas newspaper publisher Walter Hussman – a top donor to UNC – expresses his fears that Hannah-Jones was, ‘trying to push an agenda,’ through the 1619 Project, and that, ‘they will assume she is manipulating historical facts to support it.’

April 2021 – UNC announces that Hannah-Jones would be joining the journalism school’s faculty as Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism, traditionally a tenured professorship.

May 2021 – Following criticism of the appointment, UNC u-turns and instead says she would take up the position on a five-year contract. This sparks a torrent of criticism, including from black students who claimed they had been neglected. 

June 30, 2021 – The trustees ultimately approved tenure last week, voting 9-4 to accept her application at a special meeting with a closed-door session that was invaded by her supporters, sparking an ugly brawl. 

July 6, 2021 – Hannah-Jones announces she has turned down the tenure offer and will go to Howard University instead. 

Hannah-Jones appeared on a podcast with Ezra Klein of Vox and The New York Times in 2019 and was asked for her thoughts on places around the world that had a ‘viable and sufficiently ambitious integration agenda’.

She replied that she thought Cuba to be among the most ‘equal’ and ‘multiracial’ country in the Western hemisphere due to its socialist society.   

‘The most equal multi-racial country in our hemisphere, it would be Cuba,’ she said.

Her remarks were dragged back into the spotlight this weekend as Cuba is roiled by protests against its communist regime, with activists crying for freedom and expressing anger over rising prices, goods shortages, and poor health care amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Critics sounding off on social media panned Hannah-Jones for her perceived ignorance on the state of the island nation. 

Last week Hannah-Jones announced that she had rejected the University of North Carolina’s offer of a tenured position teaching journalism, and will go to Howard University instead. 

UNC had initially offered Hannah-Jones the role as the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at their Hussman School of Journalism – a role which has been appointed with tenure since 1980.

But they later backed out of the offer of lifetime tenure amid criticism of her appointment, and she was offered a five-year contract after officials said they were concerned about her lack of a ‘traditional academic background’. 

Hannah-Jones noted the influence of a ‘powerful donor’ to UNC, a reference to Arkansas newspaper publisher Walter Hussman, who revealed that he had emailed university leaders calling The 1619 Project about the legacy of American slavery ‘highly contentious and highly controversial’ before the process was halted. 

But the decision not to give Hannah-Jones a tenured position sparked further outrage from the left, leading to UNC last week pulling off a second u-turn and deciding to approve her tenure. 

They voted 9-4 to accept her application at a special meeting in a closed-door session that was invaded by her supporters, sparking an ugly brawl. 

But Hannah-Jones has now refused to take up the offer.

She has decided instead to accept the position of Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at Howard, a historically black school in Washington, D.C. 

Hannah-Jones announced Tuesday she will become a member of the historically black university's (pictured) Cathy Hughes School of Communication

Hannah-Jones announced Tuesday she will become a member of the historically black university's (pictured) Cathy Hughes School of Communication

Hannah-Jones announced Tuesday she will become a member of the historically black university’s (pictured) Cathy Hughes School of Communication

One week ago, trustees at UNC-Chapel Hill approved Hannah-Jones' tenure, capping weeks of tension that began when a board member halted the process over concerns about her teaching credentials because she did not come from a 'traditional academic-type background'

One week ago, trustees at UNC-Chapel Hill approved Hannah-Jones' tenure, capping weeks of tension that began when a board member halted the process over concerns about her teaching credentials because she did not come from a 'traditional academic-type background'

One week ago, trustees at UNC-Chapel Hill approved Hannah-Jones’ tenure, capping weeks of tension that began when a board member halted the process over concerns about her teaching credentials because she did not come from a ‘traditional academic-type background’

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