The UNC Center for the Study of the American South is hosting a series of six virtual events entitled “The Light of Truth" throughout the month of October to honor the life and legacy of the 19th century activist and journalist Ida B. Wells.
In partnering with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro branch of the NAACP and the Orange County Community Remembrance Coalition, the CSAS originally scheduled the Ida B. Wells Symposia to take place in person on April 4, said Melody Hunter-Pillion, the associate director of communications and strategy at the CSAS.
“We, much like everybody else right now, had to pivot,” Hunter-Pillion said.
Hunter-Pillion, along with her colleagues Malinda Maynor Lowery and Terri Lorant, worked to reconfigure the event into a virtual format, spread out over the month.
UNC graduate, New York Times reporter and 2020 Pulitzer Prize recipient Nikole Hannah-Jones, Associated Press editor Ron Nixon and ProPublica reporter and Peabody Award winner Topher Sanders kicked off the month-long series. They discussed the founding and mission of their news trade organization, The Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, during a panel on Oct. 3.
Since its founding in 2016, the Ida B. Wells Society has worked to provide journalists of color, especially those in the field of investigative reporting, with the training and mentorship to compete and succeed.
“Investigative reporting is the most important kind of reporting in our democracy,” Hannah-Jones said during the event. “It is that kind of reporting that holds power accountable and that exposes the ways in which people wield that power in ways that are harmful to individuals and communities — and yet, that is also the whitest aspect of our profession.”
The Ida B. Wells Society hopes to continue to raise the profiles of minority writers by training Black journalists to not only be successful reporters, but also to be successful editors — who are often considered to be the “gatekeepers” of the newsroom, Nixon said.
“We are literally trying to change the face of journalism,” Nixon said during the event. “We don’t want unicorns — it’s too late in the game in the 21st century to be reporting on the ‘first black something.’”