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Prof. Joe Matthewson Publishes Fifth Book “Ethical Journalism: Adopting the Ethics of Care”

Joe Matthewson published his fifth book, “Ethical Journalism: Adopting the Ethics of Care,” published by Routledge (August 31, 2021)

In the book, Matthewson argues that that our democracy’s continuing pernicious shortcomings of racial inequity, economic disparity and climate change are simply unacceptable and must be more actively addressed by journalism, to mobilize public opinion to in turn persuade government and business leaders and other thought leaders to take effective action to ameliorate these shortcomings and eventually overcome them.

The template for this new initiative would be a distinctly American philosophy called the Ethics of Care, first formulated by feminist academic philosophers in the 1980s; it holds that emotions, not reason, actually govern human relationships (first postulated by Scottish Enlightenment philosopher David Hume) and expects all people to actively assist family, friends, neighbors and perhaps a broader population when they’re in need. Empathy v. reason. These writers emphatically (and very persuasively) reject the thinking of the rational moral philosophers such as Immanuel Kant and his categorical imperative.

Joe Matthewson head shot.
Prof. Joe Matthewson

“When I encountered the philosophy of ethics of care, I was taken by the very humane approach to people’s relationships with each other, based on emotion rather than reasoning,” Matthewson said. “This philosophy, first articulated by feminist philosophers in the 1980s, postulates—quite correctly, in my view—that we human beings reach out to help family, friends and neighbors in need because of our feelings for them, not because we stop and apply the reason-based moral phi

losophy of what’s right and what can be universally applied to others in the same situation.”

Further, he added, “At the same time, when I ask my students what their aspirations are (as I always do in a little personal information questionnaire), many if not most of them reply that they want to make a difference, change the world, tackle problems like race discrimination. Don’t most practicing journalists today feel the same? They’re not in it for the money; they want to make an impact, and they’re in a position to do so. Even in the face of dishonest, corrupting “news” and social media, our public discourse is still driven by ethical journalism. No big societal problem like racial inequity, economic disparity or climate change can be successfully addressed without truthful, fact-based public information. So I sat down to write.”

Mathewson is a former Supreme Court correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and a practicing lawyer in Chicago. Mathewson also covered business for The Journal, was a reporter for WBBM-TV in Chicago, press secretary to Illinois Gov. Richard B. Ogilvie. He was a Cook County commissioner and a director of several community banks, was an officer of a minority-owned broker-dealer, and was a securities arbitrator for the National Association of Securities Dealers. He also served ten years as a trustee of Dartmouth College.

To purchase the book, please visit: https://www.routledge.com/Ethical-Journalism-Adopting-the-Ethics-of-Care/Mathewson/p/book/9780367690779

20% Discount Available – enter the code FLY21 at
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Journalists Katherine Lewis and Chandra Thomas Whitfield awarded Medill Garage Media Entrepreneur Fellowship

Medill, in partnership with The Garage, Northwestern’s entrepreneurial incubator, has awarded the 2021 Medill and The Garage Media Entrepreneur Fellowship to Katherine Lewis and Chandra Thomas Whitfield.

Lewis and Whitfield are long-time journalists, having written for and worked with organizations such as Atlanta Magazine, In These Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post and The New York Times. They plan to use the fellowship to launch The Center for Independent Journalists (CIJ), an education, professional development, support and advocacy organization for independent journalists of color.

“BIPOC freelance journalists produce outstanding work and often struggle to make a living, with few resources centering on our needs,” said Lewis. “Journalists of color and women are more likely to build careers independently, and are frequently exploited and underpaid. The pandemic exacerbated this trend. CIJ will provide education in business development, cash flow, contracts, negotiation, prioritization and time management, as well as community support and mentorship.”

“We need to continually innovate to overcome the obstacles facing contemporary media, particularly on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion” said Medill Dean Charles Whitaker. “That is why talented entrepreneurs like Katherine and Chandra are so important and why Medill is proud to support them in their efforts.”

The one-year fellowship supports entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups—with an emphasis on women and people of color—who are working on innovation in the media industry. As part of the fellowship, Lewis and Whitfield will receive an $80,000 stipend for the year, and access to a variety of resources across Northwestern at Medill, The Garage, the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the University at-large to help them to continue to expand their work.

“I know it sounds cliché but words cannot adequately express what it means to me as a veteran journalist to not only be acknowledged by — but to also be affiliated with — the Medill School and The Garage at Northwestern University,” said Whitfield. “It is an honor, a privilege and definitely a highlight of my career. This is more than just a professional development opportunity for Katherine and me; it is also an opportunity for us to channel our passion, concerns and many years of journalism experience into creating an organization that we firmly believe can fill a huge void and address a long unaddressed need in our industry.”

Throughout its journalism and integrated marketing communications programs, Medill emphasizes the importance of technological innovation and telling the stories of diverse audiences.

The Garage at Northwestern is a community and physical space for every Northwestern student interested in entrepreneurship to learn, iterate and grow. The 11,000 square foot space, carved out of the North Campus parking structure, is currently home to more than 60 student-founded startups and projects.

“Katherine and Chandra are accomplished, seasoned journalists and promising entrepreneurs,” said Melissa Kaufman, founding executive director of The Garage. “We look forward to helping them launch their venture and welcoming them as a resource to our student-founders.”

“Out of an impressive field of candidates, Katherine and Chandra stood out not only for their accomplishments, but for their focus on supporting journalists in the evolving media ecosystem through The Center for Independent Journalists,” said Mike Raab, associate director at The Garage, who helped to select Lewis and Whitfield.

Katherine Lewis

Katherine Reynolds Lewis is an award-winning journalist and author based in the Washington, D.C. area who writes about education, equity, mental health, parenting, science and social justice for publications including The Atlantic, The New York Times, Parents and The Washington Post. Her 2015 story on the school-to-prison pipeline became Mother Jones’ most-read article ever, and led to her bestselling 2018 book, “The Good News About Bad Behavior: Why Kids Are Less Disciplined Than Ever — And What to Do About It.” Her current long-form narrative project on racial justice in education is supported by the O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism and the MIT Knight Science Journalism fellowship. As a biracial journalist (Asian American and White), she’s been active in the Asian American Journalists Association for more than 20 years. Before becoming a freelancer in 2008, she worked as a national correspondent for Newhouse News Service and Bloomberg News.

Chandra Thomas Whitfield

Chandra Thomas Whitfield is a multiple award-winning multimedia journalist whose work has appeared in a wide variety of media outlets, including NBCNews.com, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The Undefeated, Essence, Ebony, People, Newsweek, The Root, The Grio, TIME.com, NPR.org and the Atlanta affiliate of NPR. As a 2019-2020 Leonard C. Goodman Institute for Investigative Journalism Fellow, she served as host and producer of “In The Gap,” a podcast for In These Times magazine about how the gender pay gap affects the lives — and livelihoods — of Black women in America. Whitfield has also been named “Journalist of the Year” by both the Atlanta Press Club and the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists and received honors from the Association for Women in Communications, the Colorado Association of Black Journalists and Mental Health America. A proud New Orleans native and Clark Atlanta University graduate, she is also an alum of a diverse mix of  other journalism fellowship programs, including with the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, the Education Writers Association, Ted Scripps Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder, Soros Justice Media, Kiplinger Public Affairs at the Ohio State University, the Poynter Institute for Media Studies and Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism programs, respectively. A feature story that she penned for Atlanta Magazine made the Atlanta Press Club’s “Atlanta’s Top 10 Favorite Stories of the Past 50 Years” list and it is also widely credited with contributing to a change in Georgia law and a teen’s early release from a 10-year prison sentence.

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Medill Alums Win 2021 Pulitzer Prizes, Individual and Teams

Michael Paul Williams (MSJ81), a veteran journalist and longtime columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, has won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Commentary.

The Pulitzer board honored Williams for his “penetrating and historically insightful columns that led Richmond, a former capital of the Confederacy, through the painful and complicated process of dismantling the city’s monuments to white supremacy.”

Williams has been at the Richmond Times-Dispatch for nearly 39 years and has been a columnist for the paper since 1992.

Read more: https://www.pulitzer.org/winners/michael-paul-williams-richmond-va-times-dispatch

Abbie VanSickle head shot.
Abbie VanSickle

Three Medill graduates, Abbie VanSickle (BSJ04) and Katie Park (BSJ12) from the Marshall Project and Dana Brozost-Kelleher (MSJ19) from the Invisible Institute, Chicago, were on the winning teams for National Reporting, along with the staff of AL.com, Birmingham and the IndyStar, Indianapolis. The National Reporting Pulitzer was awarded for a year-long series: “Mauled: When Police Dogs Are Weapons.” The investigation focused on K-9 units and the damage that police dogs inflict on Americans, including innocent citizens and police officers, prompted numerous statewide reforms.

“I’m so grateful to everyone who shared their experiences with us,” VanSickle said. “This work wouldn’t be possible without our sources. I’m so fortunate to be part of such a great collaboration across newsrooms. It gives me a lot of hope in the future of our profession.”

Katie Park head shot.
Katie Park

“The injuries and terror faced by victims of police dog attacks are truly horrifying — it was crucial to us to convey the seriousness of these attacks while being sensitive to the trauma people have undergone,” Park said. “I’m so proud to work at an organization that not only prioritizes in-depth reporting but also recognizes the immense value of visual and data-driven storytelling. It’s an honor to work alongside such talented and thoughtful journalists.”

Read more about the series. https://www.themarshallproject.org/2021/06/11/the-marshall-project-wins-the-pulitzer-prize

https://www.pulitzer.org/winners/staffs-marshall-project-alcom-birmingham-indystar-indianapolis-and-invisible-institute

Finally, numerous Medill MSJ 2020 alumni were on the winning team for Public Service at the New York Times (Maura Turcotte, Alison Saldanha, Sarah Cahalan and Brandon Dupre, Matt Craig, Alison Saldanha, Brandon Dupré, Sarah Cahalan and Maura Turcotte continue to work with us on the data project. Maddie Burakoff, Jake Holland, Alex Schwartz, Andrea Michelson and Samone Blair, Mitch Smith).

The public service Pulitzer was awarded for courageous, prescient and sweeping coverage of the coronavirus pandemic that exposed racial and economic inequities, government failures in the U.S. and beyond, and filled a data vacuum that helped local governments, healthcare providers, businesses and individuals to be better prepared and protected.

Read more: https://www.pulitzer.org/winners/new-york-times-6

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VICE News Reporters awarded the 2020 James Foley Medill Medal for Courage

VICE News reporters Isobel Yeung, Zach Caldwell, Mahmud Mousa, Jackie Jesko and Tarek Turkey have been awarded the James Foley Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism for their coverage of the human rights crisis in Idlib, Syria’s last rebel-controlled province, during the

country’s ongoing civil war. Their report, “Battle for Idlib,” a segment from season one of VICE on Showtime, paints a tragic picture of the recent increase in bombings by Syria’s government and its Russian allies.

“There was some truly impressive work submitted for this year’s Foley Award. However, the reporting that Isobel Yeung and her colleagues at Vice News did in Syria rose above the rest,” says judge Brett Pulley (MSJ87), Bloomberg’s Atlanta bureau chief and Medill Board of Advisers member. “Their story of the battle for the last rebel stronghold in Syria is compelling, gruesome and heartbreaking. With Yeung leading the way, they put themselves on the ground in the most dangerous area of the country, amidst chaos, rebel militias and artillery fire, and courageously delivered a report that detailed the government’s bombing of the region and the humanitarian crisis it has created.”

Through a combination of interviews, flight data and cockpit recordings, Yeung and her team proved that government-issued airstrikes were deliberately targeting unarmed civilians, and were doing so with high-tech backing from Russian air support.

“Isobel Yeung and her team braved fighter jet and drone attacks in Idlib to tell the devastating story of Syrian government warfare against its own people, including children,” says judge and Medill faculty member Ceci Rodgers. “Their story was as impactful as it was immersive.”

The bravery demonstrated by Yeung and her colleagues embodies the spirit of Medill alumnus James Foley, the award’s namesake, who was captured while reporting in Syria in 2012 and killed by ISIS extremists in 2014.

“Her interviews with children reminded me strongly of James Foley’s reporting from Libya and Syria,” says judge and Medill Professor Ellen Shearer, Washington bureau chief and co-director of the Medill National Security Journalism initiative. “He felt it was so important for journalists to show the cost of war on the civilian population. Isobel reminded me of Jim in her passion for the truth and compassion for the people.”

Since the segment’s publication, Yeung’s team has been contacted by the United Nations and human rights organizations to provide first-hand testimonies of the war crimes they witnessed so legal action can be taken in international courts.

Honorable Mention

This year’s honorable mention also won high praise from the judges. In “When can we really rest?” published on April 2, 2020 in The California Sunday Magazine, Nadja Drost crossed the Darien Gap with fellow reporters Bruno Federico and Carlos Villalón, who contributed photos to the story.

Named for the 66-mile break in the Pan-American Highway, The Darien Gap is roughly 10,000 square miles of dense rainforest on the border between Colombia and Panama. Drost and her colleagues walked 4 to 6 miles a day alongside groups of migrants from Cameroon, Pakistan, Ghana, Haiti, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. The reporting project was supported by the Pulitzer Center, and included a series for the PBS NewsHour by Drost and Federico.

The team put their lives in the hands of smuggler guides in an uninhabited, remote region, facing many of the same risks migrants did, including frequent assault, armed robbery, food shortage, drowning and even murder.

“It was chilling to find out that pretty much every group that was ahead of us or behind us had either been robbed or sexually assaulted,” Drost says. “There was a moment near the end of the trip when I realized this was a really bad situation. People had not eaten for days and days. We have to get out of here by tonight or tomorrow, maximum.”

 

 

About the James Foley Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism

The medal is given for work published during a calendar year to an individual or team of journalists, working for a U.S.-based media outlet, who best displayed moral, physical, ethical, financial or political courage in the pursuit of a story or series of stories.

 

The selection committee included Bloomberg’s Atlanta Bureau Chief and Medill Board of Advisers member Brett Pulley, Medill Professor Emeritus Donna Leff, Medill Director of Global Journalism Learning Ceci Rodgers, and Medill National Security Journalism Initiative Co-Director Ellen Shearer.

The 2019 award was given to Azam Ahmed, New York Times bureau chief for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, for his 2019 investigation of gang murder across Latin America. In his series “Kill, or Be Killed: Latin America’s Homicide Crisis,” Ahmed chronicled the rampant and unchecked gang violence in the region.

 

 

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Petco CMO Tariq Hassan (IMC94) joins Medill Board of Advisers

Tariq Hassan chief marketing officer at Petco, has joined the Board of Advisers for Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

As CMO, Hassan leads Petco’s enterprise marketing strategy, dedicated to providing customers with a seamless omnichannel pet care experience. With more than 20 years working in global marketing strategy, communications, innovation as well as insights, Hassan leads the development and sustainment of long-lasting relationships between pet parents and the rearchitected Petco brand – which was instrumental in the company’s successful IPO in January 2021.

As a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion, and firm believer in the power of the arts, Hassan sits on the board of directors for Education for Employment, a non-governmental organization dedicated to empowering marginalized youth across the Middle East and North Africa through vocational training and job placement; as well as on the board of Noor, a woman-founded and -led community theater organization. Additionally, Hassan worked with the Obama administration on efforts to counter-message young Americans at risk of religious extremism and systemic discrimination.

“I’m thrilled to have Tariq join our Board of Advisers,” said Medill Dean Charles Whitaker. “Aside from his vast knowledge of brand strategy and communications, Tariq also brings to the Board a passion for diversity and inclusion initiatives that I know will benefit the work that Medill is doing in this area.”

“As an alum, it’s an honor to join Medill’s Board of Advisers, and give back to the organization that provided me with the marketing communications skills and values I leverage to this day,” said Hassan. “As marketplace expectations and society at large continue to evolve, it’s never been more important to work with industry leaders like Medill’s talented Board of Advisers to help the next generation of journalists and marketing communications professionals succeed in a purposeful and equitable manner.”

Hassan holds an honors bachelor’s degree in international political science and philosophy from the University of Western Ontario and a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications from Medill.

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Investigative journalist Katie Engelhart honored with Medill’s John Bartlow Martin Award

Katie Engelhart is the recipient of Medill’s 2021 John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest Magazine Journalism. She was honored for “What Happened in Room 10?” an investigation into the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington, which was host to the first COVID-19 hot spot in the United States. Her story was published in August 2020 by The California Sunday Magazine.

“In this remarkable work of investigative reporting and storytelling, Katie Engelhart has created the definitive narrative account of the first COVID-19 hot spot in the United States,” says Douglas McGray editor-in-chief of Pop-Up Magazine Productions, which publishes The California Sunday Magazine. “Her work reconstructs the confusion, chaos and fear of the very first days of the pandemic and exposes both how ill-prepared we were and how we take care of our elderly.”

To conduct her research, Engelhart had to collect intimate and detailed information from dozens of sources across the country, filing Freedom of Information requests and seeking out photos, videos and even architectural plans of the Life Care Center because she wasn’t able to enter the facility during lockdown.

“I had to find visual cues where I could,” said Engelhart. “Whether that was at the beginning getting a floorplan of the nursing home and trying to map out who was where and where different nurses were working to getting people to send me pictures and little videos of loved ones. What was chaotic was that I started working on this when we were still in the really early days of the pandemic. So especially at the beginning in May, people weren’t available to talk.”

In addition to the hurdles presented by the pandemic itself, Engelhart faced further challenges because many of the Life Care Center residents had some form of cognitive impairment. She interviewed some of those residents, but needed to supplement the those conversations with lengthy interviews with caregivers. Further complicating the investigation was the fact that Life Care was being sued, meaning very few staff were comfortable giving interviews.

“It’s an incredible honor to win this award,” Engelhart said. “Long before I fell in love with the art of writing, I believed in journalism as a form of public service. So to have a piece recognized specifically for its service to the public is enormously meaningful. I spoke with dozens of people who lived in the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington, whose loved ones lived there, who worked there, who are connected with the nursing home somehow, and they placed an enormous amount of trust in me to tell their story so I hope that this award reaches them, too, and they can feel like they helped to contribute. I hope this is a piece that will help to explain an important part of what this pandemic has been for the country.”

Patti Wolter, the contest chair and Medill’s Helen Gurley Brown Magazine Professor, was truly impressed by the caliber of the submissions for this year’s awards given the added obstacles journalists faced due to the pandemic.

“Engelhart’s piece was chosen because this story masterfully integrates narration and exposition to create a fast-paced and riveting read. It not only illuminates the early days of the pandemic but also expertly educates us on an entire history and understanding of nursing homes, profits and regulations in this country,” said Wolter. “The circumstances of COVID-19 and this facility in particular are devastating, but Engelhart’s storytelling is compassionate, thorough and visual. It brings a level of humanity to our understanding of COVID and will serve as a revealing record for decades to come.”

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Northwestern News Network Launches New Morning Show Format

Despite the COVID-19 lockdown, the Northwestern News Network (NNN) has continued to produce its top-quality newscasts remotely without a studio. For the first time in its 28-year history, the students created a 90-minute NNN AM news show that mirrors the network morning news programs like “The Today Show” and “Good Morning America.” For the last two weeks the NNN team, working from campus and from their homes around the country and the world, produced stories tackling the serious issues confronting students along with features that demonstrate how campus can joyfully go on.

“NNN AM is serious and refreshing at the same time,” says Associate Professor Larry Stuelpnagel, who serves as faculty adviser for NNN. “The program embodies the best of the skills and values Medill instills in its journalists.”

In this first NNN AM production, the students talk to Asian students at NU about the assaults on Asians around the country and their own fears on the campus. All of the stories and segments are professionally produced and executed, concluding with a report about Medill’s centennial and an interview with Dean Charles Whitaker.

View the 90 minute program: https://fb.watch/44GJI3qp0H/

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Medill professor Brent Huffman releases documentary on Uyghurs in Pakistan

By Jude Cramer (BSJ23)

Medill professor Brent Huffman never shies away from touchy topics as a documentarian, and his most recent work on Uyghurs in Pakistan is no exception.

“I’m attracted to difficult projects. And this one is an extremely difficult one,” he says.

Brent Huffman.
Brent Huffman.

In addition to being a working documentary filmmaker, Huffman teaches documentary theory and production at Medill. His short-form documentary “Uyghurs Who Fled China Now Face Repression in Pakistan” was posted to the VICE News YouTube channel on March 3. It has since garnered over 150,000 views.

Uyghurs are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group native to the Xinjiang region of China. The Chinese government has reportedly detained over 1 million Muslims, the majority of them Uyghurs, in so-called reeducation camps, an act the United States has declared genocide. 

Huffman’s documentary shows that the oppression of Uyghurs doesn’t end at the Chinese border. Those who have fled to nearby Pakistan are also victims of violence, persecution and cultural loss.

Huffman was led to this topic by following a thread from his previous work, the acclaimed 2014 documentary “Saving Mes Aynak,” which tells the story of Afghan archaeologists working to save an ancient city from destruction by a Chinese copper mine. That mine was a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a modern reimagining of the Silk Road in which Pakistan is a key player.

“In some ways, the persecution of the Uyghurs is part of this massive economic project,” Huffman says. 

He was also drawn to the issue because of its challenging nature.

“A lot of the stories I’m attracted to are human rights stories or social justice stories, but they’re also stories that, you know, people tell me they can’t be told. ‘It’s too difficult, too dangerous, no one will talk to you, you can’t do this,’” he says. “I have some dysfunction in me that, instead of listening to that, that makes me motivated, and it makes me passionate and makes me feel like, ‘Well, then, you know, that’s my role. I have to tell the story, right?’”

So far, Huffman has traveled to Pakistan five times to film. Each time, he’s faced roadblocks including acquiring work visas, filming in restricted locations like the Confucius Institute in Islamabad, and connecting with hard-to-reach sources like controversial Chinese politician Zhao Lijian. 

“Every subject was just extraordinarily difficult to get on camera, to give me permission to talk to them,” he says. “Part of these films is just not giving up, even though all these doors are constantly slammed in your face.”

Brent Huffman filming in Pakistan.
Huffman filming in Pakistan.

One particularly fraught aspect of covering such a volatile topic is protecting vulnerable interview subjects. Being featured in a documentary could put Uyghurs in Pakistan at risk, but they appear in the film because Huffman says it’s essential that the Uyghurs have a voice in their own narrative.

“I’m trying to facilitate this way for them to have their story heard,” he says. “That’s the trick: keeping them safe, but keeping that emotion so audiences can relate to them and feel something for this really tragic story.”

The video released by VICE News is about 20 minutes long, but Huffman plans to complete a full-length version of the documentary once filming can safely resume given the pandemic. Raising awareness of the Uyghurs’ plight is incredibly important, he says.

“This is a genocide that’s occurring, and people need need to know about it. I just hope this is a way to introduce audiences and, again, get them emotionally invested in the subjects and get them to care and get them to want to help. I think that’s my biggest goal,” he says. “It’s an incredible privilege to be able to meet these subjects, to be a part of their lives and to be able to help tell their stories.”

“Uyghurs Who Fled China Now Face Repression in Pakistan” is available now on YouTube.

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Medill professor Ava Greenwell releases documentary “Mandela in Chicago”

By Jude Cramer (BSJ23)

Apartheid may have taken place in South Africa more than 8,000 miles from Chicago, but the two locations, their activism and their social dynamics have much in common. This is the phenomenon Medill professor and alumna Ava Greenwell (BSJ84, MSJ85) set out to capture with her thought-provoking documentary “Mandela in Chicago.”

Greenwell’s film premiered on WTTW on February 14. It tells the story of Nelson Mandela’s 1993 visit to Chicago and its repercussions, but more broadly, it explores the connection between Chicago and South Africa in terms of activism, racism and power.

The documentary includes fascinating archival footage, as well as interviews with Chicagoan and South African activists. 

“I want the people who were on the ground to be able to tell their own story instead of having somebody else narrate it,” Greenwell says. “You know, so often there are documentaries out there about a group, but members of that group don’t get to have a say in how that story gets framed.”

Greenwell was inspired to create the documentary after taking on the role of co-director for Medill’s South Africa Journalism Residency Program. 

“My predecessors would occasionally bring in people from the Chicago area who had connections to South Africa. And it really got me to thinking about, well, what was the Chicago connection here?” she says.

The Chicago connection runs deep, it turns out. In speaking to local activists, Greenwell discovered a little known history, including the travel of enslaved African Americans to South Africa as sailors and performers in the 19th century, and South Africans boarding in Chicago in the 20th. This research arose, in part, from Greenwell’s time in Northwestern’s African American Studies graduate program.

“A lot of the readings and a lot of the work I did in the doctoral program in many ways informed my interest in the historical aspect of this era and this time,” she says.

Greenwell approached the film not just as a Northwestern alumna, but as a Medill professor. Many of Greenwell’s students helped with the film by providing transcriptions, footage and other work.

“Where possible I tried to involve as many Medill students in the project as possible, because I felt as though it’s not just my work, but it’s the work of the entire Northwestern community,” she says.

Northwestern is present on camera as well as behind the scenes. Many of Greenwell’s interviewees have affiliations with the university or other academic institutions, having become education professionals since working as activists in the ‘90s. She refers to these subjects as scholar activists.

“In some ways, it shouldn’t be that surprising that a lot of these people who were so interested in anti-apartheid and what it took to eliminate it were also studying. They were students of the movement, if you will,” she says. “A lot of what they had to do to really get Chicagoans to take notice, is they had to teach.”

Greenwell hopes that the documentary can reintroduce the story of apartheid activism and its principles to a new generation of Northwestern students and Chicagoans, and for them to form connections with South Africans across the Atlantic.

“I would love to have this film be a catalyst to reignite interest in each other, and also begin to think about, how can we finish the work that was started?” she says. “You know, how can we think about all the economic inequities that still exist, both in South Africa and in the United States, and begin to work on solving those problems?”

Ultimately, “Mandela in Chicago” is a love letter to Chicago’s activists, and a testament to the power of journalism as storytelling. 

“Don’t wait to tell your story. Now is the time,” says Greenwell. “And when you tell it, knowing that you can tell it from your own perspective is just ever so gratifying.”

“Mandela in Chicago” is available now on WTTW.

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Medill announces new partnership with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Medill and Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced a new collaboration on Feb. 26.  Through this initiative, the Bulletin is partnering with students in Medill’s graduate journalism Health, Environment and Science specialization and Politics, Policy and Foreign Affairs specialization in Washington, D.C., to provide an outlet for aspiring journalists focused on the Bulletin’s coverage areas of nuclear weapons, climate change and disruptive technologies.

The newest story in this venture is from Medill alumna Stephanie Fox (MSJ19). With vivid prose and an adventurer’s heart, Fox chronicles her trip to the Mongolian mountains with two glacial geologists, a high school teacher, three undergraduate science majors and a collection of Mongolian guides to show how boulders there reveal the pace of the climate crisis. It’s a mesmerizing story about climate change, but it’s also, as Fox puts it, “[A] story about teamwork and hardship and the people who dedicate their lives to traveling around the world in the hope of fitting a small piece into a much larger scientific puzzle. This is a story about what it takes to research climate change.”

Medill Dean Charles Whitaker said, “These young professionals are gaining real-world experience and mentoring from an editorial team known for taking important, difficult topics and making them lucid and accessible. I am delighted that the best and brightest young minds in journalism today will have the opportunity to work with a publication as storied and venerable as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.”

John Mecklin, the Bulletin’s editor-in-chief, added, “Medill is one of the premier journalism schools in the world. Medill’s student journalists are top-flight—smart, dedicated and willing to learn. We are happy to help guide them and to feature their reporting and writing in a way that fosters their futures, and the future of American public-interest journalism.”

The first story in the partnership was published in the Bulletin in October 2019: “Puerto Rico’s clean-energy and grid-restoration efforts still in doubt.” In it, then Medill graduate student Jillian Melero (MSJ19) reported on the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and discovers that the hurricane has acted as “a catalyst for change that is long overdue.”

Several more stories are in the pipeline for review with the Bulletin working with Medill Assistant Professor Abigail Foerstner in Chicago and Professor Ellen Shearer in Washington, D.C.