The creator of the 1619 Task is hardly the model journalist, in spite of her celeb and prizes.
O ne of the summer season’s less predictable media firestorms has actually been the angst-ridden watch celebration concerning whether star reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones would receive period in addition to a prominent chair in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s journalism school. The intensive, fawning coverage grew much more impassioned after the University of North Carolina board of trustees ultimately provided life time work to the ideological firebrand, only to have her pivot and reveal she would rather join Howard University in a similar position.
Significant media and academic influencers alike have actually hailed Hannah-Jones as a conquering hero for this decision, representing her as a martyr who one-upped the ranks of racists intent on silencing the Pulitzer Prize– winning, MacArthur “genius” grant– winning New York Times reporter. The Chronicle of College‘s postmortem gushed that Hannah-Jones had not “idly wait[ed] to see if a group of primarily white men would, at long last, tell her she sufficed.” NPR explained that “her choice fired up a discussion on the opportunity for Black academics to flip the script on taking their skills to mainly white universities.” And lots of UNC team member signed a statement claiming that “the appalling treatment of one of our country’s most-decorated reporters by her own alma mater was embarrassing, unsuitable, and unfair. We will be frank: It was racist.”
What the “Hannah-Jones is a martyr” narrative easily ejected, of course, was the raft of legitimate questions about viability, character, and expert efficiency that appropriately use to any individual– specifically a non-scholar– being employed as a teacher at a public university. The real concern ought to not be why the UNC trustees had reservations about granting Hannah-Jones tenure, but why so many in media and academe chose to deal with any criticism of Hannah-Jones as illegitimate and, well, racist.
After all, Hannah-Jones is barely the design journalist, in spite of her star and different rewards. Take her work on the New York Times‘ 1619 Task. While she won a Pulitzer Prize for penning the task’s lead essay, the prize was controversially granted, provided the lots of popular historians who fiercely critiqued its deeply problematic history. When called out on the historical mistakes, in a gross display screen of journalistic impropriety, Hannah-Jones and the New York Times stealthily edited away a series of claims in the job’s introduction, at first without recommendation or explanation. And Hannah-Jones herself has yielded her work’s raw ideological bent, acknowledging that “the 1619 Job clearly rejects objectivity.”
The problems with Hannah-Jones’s expert performance history do not stop with the 1619 Task. Hannah-Jones broke both Twitter’s and the New York Times‘ codes of conduct when she published the private phone number of a young Washington Free Beacon press reporter on Twitter and mocked him for having the temerity to reach out to her, then scrubbed her whole Twitter history and denied she had any understanding she had published the number (despite clear evidence to the contrary).
In other words, it is not tough to marshal a list of legitimate reasons a public university might hesitate to employ Hannah-Jones as a professor of journalism, much less grant her a life time sinecure before she ever set foot on school.
In a common example of flagrantly deceptive protection, one Inside Greater Ed” description” piece for why Hannah-Jones’s desire for period may face opposition was that “some critics say ‘1619’ is unpatriotic and too focused on bigotry”– flatly neglecting the concerns about its historical error and politicized cast. When Walter E. Hussman Jr., the Arkansas newspaper publisher for whom the UNC journalism school is called, shared issues with the school about Hannah-Jones’s expert certifications, media accounts chose to portray his appointments as proof of some malicious conspiracy rather than soberly consider their validity.
To understand how tough it is to validate omitting her record from the popular story, one only need picture if Hannah-Jones were a conservative academic rather than a woke star journalist. Credible accusations of inferior work, professional misbehavior, and personal attacks would be considered as self-evidently pertinent– and most likely disqualifying– for a distinguished academic post. Undoubtedly, one need not strive to picture such a scenario. Think about the case of Marc Short, who was subjected to relentless attack, with 2 professor resigning in protest, when he was provided a short-term, one-year position as a senior fellow at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. This occurred despite the truth that Short had not engaged in any expert misbehavior– his only sin was being a former Trump administration staffer. No major media or academic voices increased to recommend he was being treated unjustly.
Amidst the media distress about whether a woke non-academic was feted with sufficient academic blandishments, the continued evaporation of right-of-center scholars from an inhospitable office is mainly disregarded. In 1989, liberal faculty outnumbered conservative professors by two to one By 2014, that figure was five to one In the social sciences and the humanities, self-identified conservatives comprise 10 percent or less of the professors. While the Hannah-Jones affair has triggered more than 30 stories in the pages of Inside Greater Ed and The Chronicle of Greater Education since May alone (almost all considerate), the ways– both big and little– in which qualified right-leaning scholars are squeezed out of the academy go unremarked.
Appearance, academe has always had a soft spot for political correctness star employs. In that sense, Hannah-Jones is just part of a long custom. The higher mystery is how she handled to get so many to ignore her tradition of misbehavior enough not just to care that the plum task she was provided wasn’t always a job-for-life, however to view her as a martyr. The response, we suspect, says a lot about the implicit biases that permeate the academy and significant media and simply might help describe why half the nation is increasingly skeptical of the nation’s colleges and universities.
Editor’s Note: This article has been upgraded to clarify the specific intro that the Times edited without an initial explanation.
Frederick M. Hess is the director of education policy research studies at the American Enterprise Institute. Tracey Schirra is a research associate at AEI.