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An Influential Donor to UNC School of Journalism Was Behind the Denial of Tenured Position to 1619 Author Nikole Hannah-Jones

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As we reported here two weeks ago, Nikole Hannah-Jones, the founder of the CRT-based “1619 Project” at the New York Times, was offered a faculty position at the University of North Carolina School of Journalism, but she was not offered tenure even though the faculty selection committee had recommended that a tenured position be offered to her.

It was widely reported at the time that the Board of Trustees for the school had decided to not offer a tenured position due to the fact that Hannah-Jones had come from a position as a reporter and not as an academic, and because she had no classroom teaching experience.  Those justifications were viewed as pretextual, as all prior nominees to the prestigious Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism had received offers of tenure at the time of their appointment.

But it appears that the details are a bit more complicated, as a very significant donor to the Journalism School made his views known behind the scenes before the question of a tenured position was even discussed by the Board.

The UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media is named in honor of Walter Hussman Jr., who in 2019 made a $25 million donation to support the school.  Hussman is the publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, along with 10 other newspapers, and is CEO of WEHCO Media, Inc., a family publishing empire that goes back 110 years.  He is also a 1968 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill.

Most significantly, for the purposes of this story, Hussman is an old-fashioned believer in straight objectivity when it comes to journalism and reporting the news.

In a story published yesterday in the North Carolina magazine “The Assembly,” email communications between Hussman and various individuals at UNC were published showing efforts by Hussman to discourage the hiring of Hannah-Jones to a tenured faculty position.  The author of the piece published contents from the emails, and then directed questions to Hussman who was reluctant to speak publicly on the matter.  The public revelation of the communications was clearly done by those inside the School with access to them

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