Prince discusses organizations looking to diversify investigative journalism — Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE) and Georgia News Lab included — but questions whether these efforts are enough to encourage young, black journalists to pursue investigative writing.
In discussing ‘Spotlight,’ the acclaimed movie about the Boston Globe’s revelations of sexual abuse by pedophile Roman Catholic priests,” Prince contends the film’s team
“in the movie and in real life, included no people of color.”
I studied journalism in undergrad. And although my focus fluctuated throughout the years I spent persuing my degree, I approached my final semester confident in what type of journalist I wanted to become. For years I imagined myself being an anchor for morning news shows. But I realized after tireless hours giving attention to the topics that ignite my passion, I would better serve as a social justice reporter and correspondent: I wanted to be an investigative journalist.
Excitedly, I shared my career aspirations and goals with several of my professors and while some encouraged me to explore further, many suggested I try to find a home in local news. Local news can provide an opportunity for reporters to become connected to the communities for which they report. However, it is very different from investigative journalism which usually requires long periods of attention until all possible facts related to a story can be articulated and proven.
In line with Prince’s observations, many aspiring journalists of color are discouraged to approach the investigative journalism track for two common reasons: 1. Lack of support, and 2. Misrepresentation of the work required. There also seems to be limited resources detailing notable black investigative journalists in one place, but allow me to change that for you right now.
Here is a list of 13 black investigative journalist you should know:
- Melvin Claxton
CEO of Epic 4D LLC
Notable Work: Sexual Abuse Behind Bars (2005)
In this piece, Claxton and his colleague Ronald J. Hansen explore the sexual abuse of female prisoners by male prison guards in Michigan. Based on this case-study, legislators in the state resumed hearings that were previously blocked from court rooms and male guards were phased out of female prisons. This investigative report was originally produced by The Detroit News.
2. Dean Baquet
Executive Editor at The New York Times
Notable Work: Chicago City Council Investigation (1988)
Baquet and his colleagues William C. Gaines, and Ann Marie Lipinski won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for their in-depth report on the corruption with the Chicago’s City Council. This report was originally produced by the Chicago Tribune.
3. Nikole Hannah-Jones
Investigative Reporter for The New York Times Magazine
Notable Work: School Segregation, the Continuing Tragedy of Ferguson (2014)
Hannah-Jones investigated the school district where Michael Brown was tragically shot and killed by Officer Daren Wilson; through her research, she found the Ferguson, Missouri school district is one of the “most segregated, impoverished districts in the entire state.”
4. Ta-Nehisi Coates
National Correspondent at The Atlantic
Notable Work: The Case for Reparations (2014)
This long-form essay published in The Atlantic in 2014 led Coates to win a George Polk Award for Commentary. Within the piece, he argues and discusses the wealth gap between white and black American is primarily based upon centuries of “racist public policy.” He also brings White Supremacy to the forefront as a force that is a part of America’s make-up.
5. Ginger Thompson
Senior Reporter at ProPublica
Notable Work: Reaping What Was Sown on the Old Plantation (2000)
Thompson piece was featured in a New York Times collective entitled How Race is Lived in America which won a Pulitzer Prize. The overall series focused on the race relations in the modern era and redefining of what it means for those who encounter it on a daily basis. Her portion is narrative piece recounting the tale of a black park ranger and a white landowner whose descendants were slave owners in Louisiana.
6. Ron Nixon
Washington Correspondent at The New York Times
Notable Work: Foreign Food Inspections on Decline as Illness From Imported Goods Rise (2013)
In this article, Nixon delves deeper into The Food and Drug Administration’s failure to inspect meats and poultry and their lack of funding to inspect foreign foods under a new food safety law.
7. Mark Rochester
Editor at The Herald
Notable Work: Betrayal in the Ranks
While working as a managing editor of The Denver Post, Rochester helped to coordinate these investigations into the sexual assaults women in the military experience.
8. Corey G. Johnson
Investigative Reporter at The Marshall Project
Notable Work: CIR’s On Shaky Ground Series (2011)
Johnson served as the lead reporter on a California Watch investigation that looked into the poor construction standards of public schools. Overall, it pointed a finger at the state’s chief regulator for not appropriately regulating these schools for earthquake protection. Due to his finding, Johnson was granted several awards and a nomination for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize. It also led to legislative hearings, resignations, the closure of hazardous buildings and other needed reforms.
9. Topher Sanders
Racial Inequality Reporter for ProPublica
Notable Work: Juvenile Justice Bill Would Limit Prosecutors’ Power to Charge Children As Adults (2015)
Sanders often covered juvenile plea deals and the time juveniles spent in pre-trial detention facilities in Jacksonville. The article above, which he wrote with Tia Mitchell, focused on a proposal that was to limit the crimes in which prosecutors could charge juveniles as adults. For this work and many others he worked on, he was a finalist for an Investigative Reporters and Editors award in 2015.
10. Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah
Essayists and Writing Contributor
This essay written by Ghansah focuses on the captivating life and comedic career of Dave Chappelle. It also examines why he left the lime light and what he has done since that time.
11. Cheryl W. Thompson
Investigative Reporter at The Washington Post
Notable Work: A Cop Killer’s Remorse (2011)
Thompson and her colleague Ben de la Cruz won an Emmy Award in 2011 for their multimedia piece. The video gives viewers an insight to Darryl Jeter, a man who shot Indiana State Trooper Scott Patrick to death in December 2003.
12. Dave Jordan
Reporter for WSPA 7News
Notable Work: WSPA Guardrails (2015)
In 2015, Jordan won an Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) award for his investigative piece on the discovery that one guardrail company was not making their rails up to par and it was dangerous for drivers across the nation and in South Carolina.
13. Anas Aremeyaw Anas
Notable Work: Ghana Judiciary Scandal (2015)
Anas went undercover to expose 12 High Court judges who participated in bribery and widespread corruption among the judicial system. Due to his documentary, 7 of the 12 judges were suspended from their positions.
Did we miss one of your favorite investigative journalist? Who else would you like to see on this list?