Nikole Hannah-Jones

The 19th, a nonprofit newsroom that covers politics through a gender lens, is launching a fellowship for graduates of historically Black colleges and universities with support from Nikole Hannah-Jones and Howard University.

The fellowship program, which is named after “mother of African American journalism” Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, will place five HBCU graduates in one-year, salaried positions at The 19th. Those fellows will also receive “advisory support” from Hannah-Jones, Howard’s Knight Chair in Race and Journalism.

The goal, said The 19th editor-at-large Errin Haines, is to bring more journalists of color and their lived experiences into the industry. The 19th and Hannah-Jones want to build a pipeline of future journalists that is diverse in not just race, but also “journalism pedigree.”

“We can’t have the same folks coming out of the same schools getting all the jobs,” Haines said. “And the perspective that those students bring is something that is absolutely valuable and should absolutely be a part of our journalism ecosystem.”

Applications are expected to open in mid-2022, and the first group of fellows will start in September 2022, coinciding with the official opening of Howard’s Center for Journalism and Democracy, which will provide additional support to the fellows. The 19th will also hire staff to assist with the program, which is backed by a $3.8 million donation from philanthropists Michelle Mercer and Bruce Golden.

The idea for the fellowship came after a conversation between Haines and Hannah-Jones at the 19th’s annual summit in August. After hearing the two journalists speak about the role of the media in advancing racial equity, Mercer and Golden approached the 19th to ask how they could help. The 19th suggested funding a fellowship for Black journalists at HBCUs.

Howard’s inclusion in the program was a natural step given that Hannah-Jones had recently announced she would take a tenured professorship there instead of the University of North Carolina, which had initially offered her a non-tenure position. But The 19th wanted to raise visibility of the work of all HBCUs, not just Howard.

“We were all aligned in the idea that we wanted to expand this beyond Howard to other historically Black colleges that don’t necessarily get the kind of resources that Howard University gets — or the kind of attention, frankly, that Howard University gets — but are nonetheless doing the work of training our next generation of journalists,” Haines said.

The fellowship will be open to both recent graduates and mid-career alumni of HBCUs. Haines said that by the end of the year, they will have the skills and experience necessary to land a job in a newsroom, whether that be The 19th or elsewhere.

Haines herself participated in the Tribune Company’s Minority Editorial Training Program, or Metpro, earlier in her career. That experience was how she got her start in mainstream daily journalism.

“I know the power of these kinds of opportunities to really kind of jumpstart a young journalist’s career,” she said. “That was a program that really reinforced for me that my lived experience was a valuable tool for my journalism and my storytelling, and that was something that I’ve never forgotten.”

“That is definitely something that we hope to give the fellows because that’s not something that young journalists are always taught.”