We know Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ta-Nehisi Coates as groundbreaking journalists who create reporting that exposes the truth, and that challenges and shifts the dominant narrative in the United States. 

But don’t forget to put some respect on their names and call them “professor” because when you put these two Howard University faculty members together, knowledge will be dropped. 

Professor Nikole Hannah-Jones, author of the “1619 Project” and Professor Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of “The Case for Reparations,” did just that when they joined Howard University President Dr. Wayne Frederick and Alberto Ibargüen, Chief Executive Officer of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, for a conversation at the recent 2022 Knight Media Forum. 

As you see from the video above, the conversation covered a range of journalism-related topics — including their positions at the school, diversity, democracy, objectivity, and the role of the Black press — issues that have broad implications for what information Black people, families, and communities have access to and whether the truth is being told about racism in America.

Coates, who attended Howard, said he joined the faculty of the flagship College of Arts and Sciences because he wanted to be “giving back to younger journalists and writers.”

“It’s tough for me to imagine my career without Howard,” he said. “I would be a lesser writer and a lesser journalist,” without having gone there.

Hannah-Jones, who is now a tenured member Howard’s Cathy Hughes School of Communications and is the inaugural Knight Chair in Race and Journalism, emphasized the role of journalists as activists — and the need to raise up a generation of Black journalists who understand the fragile state of our democracy. 

Members of the mainstream press “tend to believe that our democracy will hold, and I didn’t think that the tradition of the Black press allows us to look at the world through those rose-colored glasses,” she said.

That’s a sharp contrast to the Black press which “can’t pretend to have no skin in the game when it comes to American democracy.”

Watch to see how they talk about how journalism is not a neutral profession, and how reporting on police killings of Black people is evidence that journalism is not objective. And, as Hannah-Jones put it, objectivity has “never been a luxury for the Black press.”

Disclosure: The Knight Foundation is a funder of the Local Media Association and the Local Media Foundation which is the managing partner for Word In Black.