A Message from Dean Susan King

UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media Dean Susan King sent the message below to our student and alumni communities this week.

Dear Hussman students,

Our UNC Hussman community — like communities across our nation — is deeply affected by the national tragedy that was laid bare by our collective witnessing of the killing of George Floyd. His death was documented on bystander video in Minneapolis and shared around the world across all media channels.

That tragedy is no revelation for the Black community. It is further confirmation of what so many sadly have had to witness, experience and endure over and over again. It is a national disgrace, and one we all must commit to change. Journalists play an essential role in our democracy to hold power accountable and communicators shape what we as a society hold important. Our school is a leader in preparing the next generation for those roles.

We accept our responsibility to teach values, to seek to understand and convey the larger context of any event and to focus on the needs of our students.

As our Carolina Association of Black Journalists student organization’s executive board said in a statement this weekend condemning the arrest of CNN reporter Omar Jimenez and the killings of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and others, “we must have conversations in and outside of the classroom about equipping Black student journalists and our peers for these situations.” Our students are right.

Our recent graduate Hannah Lang ’20 wrote for The Daily Tar Heel that she and her fellow students have been trained by the school to always get both sides of a story and to keep a distance from debating current events in the name of journalistic objectivity. “Objectivity, as slippery a concept as it can be, is not irrelevant,” she wrote. “But there are no ‘sides’ to racism.” Lang called on her fellow students to educate themselves on the country’s racial history.

Students Suzannah Claire Perry ’23, Chase Cofield '22 and Maydha Devarajan ’22 reported for the DTH from the scene of Raleigh’s protests this weekend. Recent graduate Charlie McGee ’20 was hit with tear gas while covering the same protests. Graduates Alex Kormann ’19 of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis and Jason Armond ’19 of The Los Angeles Times are both on the ground in Minnesota covering the turmoil in the streets. Student Hanna Wondmagegn '21 shared a powerful perspective in a Twitter thread on how editors, papers and other publications limit journalists of color by discouraging them from sharing personal experiences on personal platforms.

Hussman alumna and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones '03 (M.A.) with The New York Times Magazine has long covered racial injustice in this country. She opened many eyes with her groundbreaking 1619 Project to the painful and continuing legacy of slavery in America. Today, I’m grateful to have the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting — which she cofounded — housed at our school. We continue to learn from Nikole and cofounders Ron Nixon and Topher Sanders, and to grow because they are here.

UNC Hussman students and alumni are on the front lines of the stories and themes that are defining this moment in history. I am heartened for our future when I see the work they are already doing — with values and with courage. The work is not without peril or pain. But it is at times profoundly important. This is one of those times.

UNC Hussman stands with our community. We have a commitment to seeking the truth, finding the facts and telling the stories that serve the public, wherever those stories lead. We stand yet closer today with our Black students, faculty, staff and alumni.

I want to make sure you are aware that the University provides resources for any student that wants help in this difficult time. I invite UNC Hussman students to reach out to me directly for any help and support I can offer.

Dean Susan King