A top UNC-Chapel Hill school of journalism donor and newspaper publisher staunchly opposed hiring controversial 1619 Project founder Nikole Hannah-Jones, newly unearthed emails reveal.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette publisher Walter Hussman Jr. — for whom the school is named — argued in 2019 that the move would expose the school to a lengthy backlash.
“I worry about the controversy of tying the UNC journalism school to the 1619 project,” Hussman wrote to top school brass, according to The Assembly.
“I find myself more in agreement with Pulitzer prize winning historians likes James McPherson and Gordon Wood than I do Nikole Hannah-Jones.”
Amid ongoing questions about her reporting methodologies, the journalism school declined to offer tenure to Hannah-Jones this month and instead opted for a five-year teaching contract.
Hussman — who donated $25 million to the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media in 2019 — contended that the New York Times staffer prioritized political ideology over objective journalism.
“Based on her own words, many will conclude that she is trying to push an agenda, and they will assume she is manipulating historical faces to support it,”
Hussman said that an official attachment to the architect of the 1619 Project — which asserts that America was founded primarily to prolong slavery — would tarnish the school’s image.
“My hope and vision was that the journalism school would be the champion of objective, impartial reporting and separating news and opinion, and that would add so much to its reputation and would benefit both the school and the University,” he wrote. “Instead, I fear this possible and needless controversy will overshadow it.”
Despite Hussman’s protests, dean Susan King continued to pursue Hannah-Jones — an alum of the school — for a faculty position.
She blasted the retraction of the tenure offer this month and said Hannah-Jones was fully deserving of what is considered a lifetime appointment.
King said Hannah-Jones “represents the best of our alumni and the best of the business.”
Hannah-Jones has threatened to sue the school if it does not reinstate the tenure offer by June 4.
“As a black woman who has built a nearly two-decades long career in journalism, I believe Americans who research, study, and publish works that expose uncomfortable truths about the past and present manifestations of racism in our society should be able to follow these pursuits without risk to their civil and constitutional rights,” she wrote.
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