Hannah-Jones announced Tuesday, with $20 million in donations that she would establish the Center for Journalism and Democracy at Howard in order to increase diversity and inclusion in journalism. In addition, she said that Walter Hussman, an Arkansas newspaper publisher, had interfered with her tenure application. He pledged $25 million for UNC's journalism school, whose name is on its building. This was after a protest from students and faculty.
Hannah-Jones stated in a statement that she believed she could exercise academic freedom with the school’s largest donor. "How could they believe I would be able to discredit me publicly and try to pull the strings under the covers?" "Why would you want me to teach at a university where the top leadership refused transparency and chose to keep silent so that I could be treated as every Knight Chair before?
The MacArthur Knight, Ford, and Ford foundations announced Tuesday $5 million each. An anonymous donor also contributed $5 million. Ta-Nehisi Coates, an award-winning author, will be bringing the Sterling Brown Chair to Howard, a historically Black school located in the nation's capital, and his alma mater.
It is a significant gift to journalism and a sign of a growing philanthropic effort for diversification and strengthening journalistic standards.
"It's important that journalism reflects America in a democracy such as America," stated Darren Walker, president and CEO of the Ford Foundation. If journalism is to be trusted, the community of journalists and information producers must look like America. It's not just Black journalists. It's the diversity of journalists. Journalists with disabilities and journalists who live in rural America and small towns are two examples.
Walker stated that the Ford Foundation has donated more than $77million to diverse media diversification initiatives in the U.S. over the past five year. This includes to minority journalism groups and research projects focused on newsroom diversity.
He said, "What happened at UNC was deeply regrettable."
Hannah-Jones at Howard has "accepted what is more meaningful and valuable to her." Walker stated that this allows Hannah-Jones to have her dignity and her values confirmed.
The new center will address the problem of lack of racial diversity within many newsrooms as well as senior management. Pew Research Center's 2018 report found that 77% newsroom employees were white, as opposed to 65% of U.S. workers. According to the News Leaders Association's 2019 survey, 18.8% of newsroom managers are from racial minority backgrounds.
John Palfrey (President of the MacArthur Foundation) stated, "It is evident that in journalism, like in other fields of journalism, there are too many people of color in leadership positions." "Philanthropy can help correct this imbalance by supporting institutions like Howard University.
Hannah-Jones presented Howard with a vision and they were delighted to help.
The MacArthur Foundation had already pledged $5 million to Howard's center before it realized that they would support Hannah-Jones 1619 Project, a New York Times Magazine project that focuses on America's slavery history. Hannah-Jones won the Pulitzer Prize and was also awarded a MacArthur Fellowship (also known as the "genius Grant").
Palfrey stated that the best way to finance Hannah-Jones' continuing work was to "join the Ford Foundation and Knight Foundation, as well as to make a larger grant to the new Howard Center than we expected," Palfrey. This grant was unplanned. It struck us as an extraordinary opportunity to support Black journalism."
According to the Knight Foundation, the third financier, the $5 million grant will include $500,000 to fund a symposium that aims at strengthening the teaching of journalism in historically Black colleges and universities.
According to preliminary data from Candid, the new gifts will add to the $1 billion worth of philanthropic funding given to journalism-related projects in the U.S. over the past five years. Although a $20 million gift is not common in the industry, it is possible.
The Knight First Amendment Institute, which protects freedoms of speech, was founded at Columbia University in 2016 with a $30 million gift by the Knight Foundation.
Two UNC-Chapel Hill Knight Chairs are now vacant due to Hannah-Jones' resignation. Despite the controversy surrounding Hannah-Jones' extended tenure fight that was marred by racism allegations and a conservative backlash against her work, the Knight Foundation has no plans to break ties with UNC-Chapel Hill.
Karen Rundlet, director of UNC-Chapel Hill's journalism program, stated in an email statement that the Knight Chair is endowed in perpetuity. Our goal is to provide endowed chairs that allow universities to hire journalists who are distinguished in their field and bring the newsroom experience into the classroom. UNC Chapel Hill is a leader in journalism education. We will continue to support UNC in its efforts to hire Knight Chairs on an independent basis."
Tammy Greer, assistant professor of political science at Clark Atlanta University, stated that the tenure dispute shows there is growing confusion about Philanthropy.
She said that philanthropy was just like any other American organization. Philanthropy is often seen as progressive because of its social programs and environmental programs. Philanthropy can also have a conservative bent. You see an increase in 501c3s with conservative leanings who are using the laws associated to charitable organizations to further their conservative causes.
Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, Craig Newmark Philanthropies and City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, donated $20 million in 2018 to City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He called upon major donors of all kinds to support Howard's program and other similar programs throughout the country in order to strengthen journalism.
He stated that disinformation being spread throughout the country is a national security concern and that clear journalism from different sources is an effective way to defend it.
Newmark stated that Howard's work is "a huge deal." We need to work more together. This is about protecting the country and the democracy. All hands should be on deck.