Photo courtesy of the Medill School of Journalism Department Faculty Page


By Kali Robinson

Most Medill students may know Dr. Ava Thompson Greenwell as the faculty advisor of the South Africa Journalism Residency Program, but her journalism career isn’t confined to Evanston, Cape Town and Johannesburg.  A native of Chicago’s South Side, Greenwell attended Whitney Young Magnet High School before matriculating at Northwestern in 1980. At NU, she received her bachelor’s and master’s from Medill, and returned to complete her Ph.D. in African American Studies in 2014.

Greenwell worked primarily in broadcast journalism after graduating, and held positions at local new stations in Minnesota, Indiana, Florida and Illinois. She was even employed by Chicago’s own WGN-TV. Greenwell returned to Northwestern in 1993 as an instructor rather than a student, and she has been part of the Medill faculty ever since. In addition to her role as a professor, Greenwell was Associate Dean from 2002-2006, served as Director of the McCormick Fellows program from 2007-2009, and has been the Video/Broadcast chair since 2014.

Teaching has not stopped Greenwell from pursuing her own projects. In 2006, she received the Radio Television News Directors’ Foundation Educator in the Newsroom Fellowship, which allowed her to spend four weeks working with Chicago’s CBS 2 news station. Greenwell is known for her research on the intersection of race and gender in TV journalism, as well as her work on documentaries. In 2016, her film “From Chicago to South Africa” was featured by the Diverse Voices in Docs program, organized by Kartemquin Films and the Community Film Workshop of Chicago.

Greenwell is a longtime member of NABJ, which she joined in 1988. She continues to be involved with organization at the national level, but also makes time every year to welcome Medill’s Black faculty and students into her home in Evanston for food, advice and bonding.



Image result for cynthia tucker

Image from UGA Today

By Adam Mahoney


Alabama native Cynthia Tucker, born March 13, 1955, is an award-winning and critically acclaimed journalist best known for her editorial work at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Tucker received a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007. Tucker’s unique, progressive, and liberal southern voice has gained her recognition and allowed her to develop a reputation as not only a reputable opinion source, but as a thought-provoking and newsworthy journalist.

Tucker’s style can be directly linked to her upbringing in the very racially hostile Monroeville, Alabama. It is reported that she did not attend a truly integrated public school until she was 17, and her parents encouraged her to boycott businesses that maintained segregationist policies; for example, they forbade her to buy ice cream from a drive-in that had a separate window for blacks. This undoubtedly contributed to her wanting to pursue journalism, but also her realistic opinions and attitudes to the working and adult world.

In 1972, Tucker entered Auburn University for the sole fact that she wanted her college experience to mimic the realities of the working world, and Auburn had only recently integrated and had fewer than 200 African American students. She graduated in 1976 with a major in journalism and English.

After her graduation, Tucker was hired by The Atlanta Journal were she covered local government news. In 1982, after leaving The Atlanta Journal and a short stint at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Tucker packed up and went on six months of travel and freelance writing in Africa. From African nations such as Kenya and Zimbabwe, she filed articles on the struggle for political and economic equality, which not only influenced her personal life, but her work back home in the states.

Tucker returned home and continued as a columnist and writer until 1988, when she spent a year in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Following her fellowship she was promoted to editorial page editor, becoming the first woman and the first African-American to hold the position at the Atlanta Constitution.

Tucker has since joined the ranks of syndicated columnists, as Chronicle Features began distributing her columns under the title “As I See It.” Her columns on issues such as civil rights and the war in Iraq reflected her liberal philosophy. At the same time, however, Tucker has not been afraid to criticize politicians who share her political views, such as former Rep. Cynthia McKinney and former Atlanta mayor Bill Campbell.

Tucker is a fighter for the truth and it has paid dividends through her award-winning pieces. In 2007, she won the Pulitzer for her work on her 2006 columns “Living Proof of Immigration’s Marvelousness” (a piece in support of more tolerant immigration policies) and “Poor Little Big Man’s Pity Party” (a critique of mayor Bill Campbell). She has also won the Distinguished Writing Award by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (1989), the top newspaper columnist award by the Women’s Political Caucus (1993), and Colby College’s Elijah Parish Lovejoy Journalism Award (2005). Colby college also awarded her an honorary doctor of laws degree. She was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists in 2006 and was included in Essence magazine’s “25 Most Influential of 2007” list.

As of now, Tucker continues to write, commentate and break barriers at The Journal-Constitution, and is also a frequent commentator on such television programs as The News Hour with Jim Lehrer.





NABJ-NU Spotlight —- Jim Vance


Jim Vance Fox4 DC

Image from Fox4 DC

By Innocent Ruhmaya

Born James Howard Vance III on January 10, 1942, Jim Vance is from Ardmore, Pennsylvania. He died of lung cancer on July 22, 2017, but his legacy—not just as Washington’s longest-serving local news anchor, but also as a decent man—still lives on. His father, James Vance Jr., died of complications from alcoholism when he was 8 years old, and his mother, Eleanor, left him to be raised by his grandparents while she worked and lived in Philadelphia.

As a teenager, Vance wanted to be a plumber like his grandfather, but was encouraged by his grandparents to attend college. Vance studied in Cheyney University, from which he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education, and eventually taught English for three years while simultaneously starting his new career in 1969 as a reporter for the Philadelphia Independent newspaper and WHAT-AM radio station. Later in 1972, Vance became WRC-TV’s main co-anchor, and he did it as one of the first Black Americans to work as an anchor at a television station.

Vance was named Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian magazine and won a local Emmy for his coverage of the Hanafi Muslim Siege of 1997, in which a terrorist sect seized three buildings and took around 150 people as hostages. He won another local Emmy for his coverage of the January 1982 Air Florida 90 crash in the freezing waters of the Potomac River, in which 78 people were killed. Vance was also inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Hall of Fame on August 10, 2007. Vance won a total of 19 local Emmy awards, and in 2014, he earned the Board of Governor’s Award for outstanding achievement and community service.

Additionally, Vance was well-known for his openness in delivering pointed commentaries, often on sensitive racial issues. In 2013, he called on the Washington Redskins, whose name has been accused as being racially insensitive and offensive to Native Americans, to abolish and change their name. Moreover, he was vocal against verbal abuse as a disciplinary form used by parents to their children.  

Unlike many other news anchors, Vance had an enduring popularity among local viewers, particularly in the majority-Black District mainly because he was relatable. He told viewers about his interests in sports, motorcycles, and old-school soul music, and shared his battles with cocaine and depression, which were mainly as a result of his traumatizing separation from his parents growing up. As a Black man thriving in the news industry, Vance played a huge role as an icon and a role model to so many Black boys and girls growing up in Washington. So, it was of no surprise that many people were heartbroken to hear about his diagnosis of cancer in May 2017. Jim Vance died later the same year at the age of 75.


NABJ-NU Spotlight —- Lester Holt


Lester Holt Atlanta Black Star

Image from the Atlanta Black Star

By Rory Tsapayi


If you want to moderate presidential debates, anchor two newscasts on NBC and earn six figures then maybe you should drop out of college right now. If Lester Holt can do all this without graduating then so can you!

Hailing from Marin County in California’s Bay Area, Holt has been a journalist for 37 years. His career began as he bounced between New York and LA, as a reporter and then weekend anchor for WCBS-TV and KNXT. In 1986 he came to Chicago to anchor WBBM-TV’s evening news. During his 14 years in the position he wasn’t only at the newsdesk, but also reporting in crisis zones across the world like Somalia and Northern Ireland. At the turn of the millenium, Holt joined MSNBC where he has remained ever since, best known as the anchor of NBC Nightly News and Dateline NBC.

A little under three years ago, Holt’s appointment as the permanent anchor of NBC Nightly News marked a turning point in his career and the entire world of news media. Holt was the first ever African-American to solo anchor a weekday network nightly newscast, paving the way for future Black representation and excellence in the journalism industry.

It was in late 2016 that Holt really grabbed the public’s attention though, moderating the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. A registered Republican with apparent sympathies towards the Democrats, Holt’s performance received mixed reviews from the estimated 84 million viewers. He was praised for raising issues like race and the birther movement but quickly criticized for being too uninvolved and giving Clinton an easy time. Journalists commended his efforts as did Trump who was later interviewed by Holt in May 2017.

Described by Lawrence O’Donnell as “possibly the most important televised interview ever done,” Holt’s work cemented him in journalism history. Asking the president tough questions about Russia, Holt was unrelenting, professional and fearless in his pursuit of critical political information. His steadfast commitment to truth is an inspiration in times like these when the line between facts and fiction is increasingly blurred.

Holt seems to be interested in that blurred line, some of his work revealing a … weird side. Not just restricted to hard political news, he’s been involved in two documentaries, one about 9/11 conspiracy theories and the other on mysterious crystal skulls. It seems his journalistic curiosity knows no bounds.




jim-gray-frederick-douglass-minority-one-individualImage from The Jack News

By Sophia Crum

Frederick Douglass, born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, (approx. 1818-1895) was born a slave in Talbot County, Maryland and eventually became a leader in the Abolitionist Movement. He was illegally taught to read and write by his slave owner’s wife. Douglass escaped slavery in 1838 and eventually resided in Massachusetts with his new wife under his new name, Frederick Douglass. Since then, Douglass has written three notable autobiographies: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845), My Bondage and My Freedom (1855) and The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881) which were some of the first written accounts of slave culture in America. He created the abolitionist paper The North Star, which became one of the most influential black newspapers of the era. It not only advocated the abolition of slavery, but also women’s rights and the rights of other oppressed groups. The newspaper’s motto was “Right is of no Sex – Truth is of no Color – God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren.”

Douglass argued that he could not support abolitionism without also supporting the liberation of women. In 1848, he was the only African American to attend the nation’s first women’s rights convention in New York. (Women’s rights activists would later not find him favorable when he supported the Fifteenth Amendment, which outlawed voter discrimination while also maintaining sex-based discrimination). He also published Frederick Douglass Weekly, Frederick Douglass’ Paper, Douglass’ Monthly and New National Era. Douglass was an orator and lectured on the rights of slaves. He became an advisor to Abraham Lincoln on the proper treatment of black soldiers and Andrew Johnson on the issue of black suffrage. In 1872, Douglass became the first African American nominated for vice president of the United States. Douglass moved to Washington, D.C. in the 1870s, where he became president of the Freedman’s Bank. Douglass was a Republican, and was appointed assistant secretary of the Santo Domingo Commission, marshal and recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia, and finally U.S. minister and consul general to Haiti, making him the first African American to hold a high U.S. government rank. Frederick Douglass died on February 20, 1895 of a heart attack or stroke after arriving home from a meeting for the National Council of Women in Washington, D.C.


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*Head shots of Medill Faculty and Staff taken on 10/24/2016

Image from Northwestern Medill’s Faculty page.

By Cayla Clements

Charles Whitaker is the Associate Dean of Journalism and a Helen Gurley Brown Professor in the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University. He also teaches courses in Northwestern University’s School of Professional Studies and the High School Journalism Institute, also called the Cherub Program.

After earning both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Medill, Whitaker began his journalism career as a newspaper reporter at the Miami Herald. After working at the Herald, Whitaker worked as a deputy feature editor and enterprise feature and arts writer for the Louisville (Ky.) Times and later served as a senior editor of Ebony Magazine, where he covered issues and events such as two U.S. presidential campaigns and the installation of the first black members of the British Parliament.

Whitaker joined the Medill faculty in 1993, and has taught courses in news writing, magazine writing, magazine editing and blogging. He was one of the rotating directors for the Magazine Publishing Project within Medill’s graduate program where a team of students developed a new magazine or worked in collaboration with an existing publishing company to reinvigorate the editorial and business approach of an existing magazine.

In 2004, Whitaker was a Deering McCormick Distinguished Clinical Professor and was awarded the Northwestern Alumni Association’s Excellence in Teaching award in 2005. Within the student body at Northwestern University, Whitaker was given the “student choice” award in 2013 by the Medill Undergraduate Student Advisory Council. Whitaker has been on the university’s Associated Student Government’s faculty honor roll more than 10 times. He has received acclamations for his work from journalism societies such as The National Association of Black Journalists, The Society of Professional Journalists and the National Education Writers.

In 2014, Whitaker co-authored the textbook “Magazine Writing,” which examines the magazine industry and deconstructs the art of feature writing for consumer and Business-to-business publications. He has also authored four statistical analyses of the hiring of women and minorities in the magazine industry. Whitaker serves as a judge for the National Magazine Awards and the International Regional Magazine Awards Association. He is currently a doctoral candidate in Human Development and Social Policy in Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy, with research that examines the ontological and methodological similarities and differences between immersion journalism and social science field research and what practitioners in each discipline can learn from the other.

Devoting much of his career to minorities in the magazine industry, Whitaker is one of the co-curators of the Ida B. Wells Award, presented by both Medill and the National Association of Black Journalists, which is given to individuals who are working to increase newsroom diversity and improve the coverage of communities of color.

In addition to his expansive career as an educator in journalism, Whitaker has contributed articles to the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Magazine, Essence Magazine, Jet Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Saturday Evening Post, Chicago Parent magazine, and Folio, the magazine of the magazine industry.


Charles Whitaker is NABJ-NU Faculty Advisor as well, and helps the Exec Team lead meetings and develop new ideas fore the future of NABJ-NU. He also frequents the Medill buildings, Fisk Hall and the McCormick Tribune Center, often! If you see him say hello!

We Are Doing Something New This Time Around…

Hey everybody!

In an effort to post regularly on our social media pages, NABJ-NU will be highlighting and giving a weekly spotlight to famous/influential Black journalists that deserve to have their names mentioned! Starting today, and every Monday afterwards, NABJ-NU will spotlight one esteemed Black journalist that we should all know about, but perhaps nobody told us to look for.

NABJ-NU is excited to have more content on our pages while at the same time promote Black proficiency in the field of journalism and expose the public to possibly unknown, fantastic accomplishments made by these journalists! So every Monday, look forward to learning a bit more about the lives of amazing Black journalists, we hope that they may inspire you to fight as hard as they did!

Only One Day Away!! Don’t miss it!

Come Meet NABJ-NU at the Organization Fair!
When: Wednesday, September 20th, 3:15 pm
Where: Norris Ground Floor

Interested in reporting, writing and multimedia storytelling? NABJ-NU is the organization for you! We’re here to provide resources and support to the Black journalists on campus. Come build your brand and prepare for your future profession while having fun and becoming apart of a strong community.

But wait—there’s more!! Come learn how you can get involved with BlackBoard Magazine! From writing for the print issues, producing photo and video content for the mag’s online platform, or even helping with the podcast AfroTalk, being a part of the BlackBoard team provides numerous opportunities to get hands-on experience creating multimedia content.

Don’t miss your chance to get involved with all of this Black excellence!nabj family image 2 writing

Wildcat Fall Organization Fair!

Come join the NABJ-NU family and explore what we are all about this September during the Student Organization and Publication Fair on September 19 and 20! Along with our sister organization named BlackBoard Magazine, a full display of our work, available opportunities and projects will be provided for you to consume at our table! We will have a few representatives present to greet you and answer any questions you may have about the organization, and a sign-up sheet will be available for both membership and updates about our program! Come by our table and discover what NABJ-NU can teach you about journalism!