In her coverage of the Tulsa race massacre for the Washington Post, DeNeen Brown surfaced headlines by Tulsa newspapers inciting violence by white mobs against Black residents. Brown, who is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland, was discussing her work in a meeting of Merrill College of Journalism faculty, staff and students, which ignited a brainstorming session.
What could the journalists of tomorrow do to hold yesterday’s journalists accountable for their coverage? How could students make sure that no one forgets?
Inspired by Brown, the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at the University of Maryland decided that answering those questions would be our key priority for 2021 and 2022.
Led by the center, data students began digging into documents, building scrapers and assembling packets of egregious coverage in the spring. Meanwhile, we began recruiting students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and recruiting visiting professional editors to make sure this project was produced by a diverse team representing some of the states where violence against Black residents was worst.
The reporting by the University of Maryland and HBCU students was done during the summer of 2021. In the fall, we recruited students from the University of Arkansas and brought on graduate students in the Howard Center to continue reporting. In addition, Brown assigned students in her feature writing class to produce profiles of influential Black journalists and to examine the impact of photography in changing the national debate.
We began publishing stories in October 2021 and continued publishing into April, wrapping up with a piece on the passage of a federal anti-lynching law more than a century after it had first been proposed.
The stories rest on creation of an unprecedented database that our students made interactive. It will be a lasting resource that we hope will spark community conversations.