Hannah-Jones: “All Journalism Is Activism”

We have been discussing the academic saga over the offer of an academic chair by the University of North Carolina to controversial New York Times Magazine reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones. UNC rescinded the offer but then re-extended the offer without tenure. Hannah-Jones accepted but then changed her mind and demanded tenure. UNC then gave her tenure and she changed her mind to take a chair at Howard University. The opposition to Hannah-Jones was based on the historical errors in her 1619 Project and criticism over biased journalism. Now Hannah-Jones is removing any doubt about her view of journalism. She has declared that “all journalism is activism.”

Hannah-Jones told CBS News that journalists now have set aside notions of neutrality. She noted:

“When you look at the model of The Washington Post, right? ‘Democracy dies in darkness,’ that’s not a neutral position. But our methods of reporting have to be objective. We have to try to be fair and accurate. And I don’t know how you can be fair and accurate if you pretend publicly that you have no feelings about something that you clearly do.”

Reporters are now claiming greater and greater license to frame news to illustrate the truth as they see it. They nod to the need for fairness but then note that they have to tell the truth about society and politics as they see it.  They then seek to frame rather than report the news. Hannah-Jones is a great example of how this new journalism quickly becomes raw advocacy.

We have have been discussing how writerseditorscommentators, and academics have embraced rising calls for censorship and speech controls, including President-elect Joe Biden and his key advisers. Even journalists are leading attacks on free speech and the free press. Bias is now treated as something that is natural and motivating. Recently, Lauren Wolfe, the recently fired freelance editor for the New York Times, has not only gone public to defend her pro-Biden tweet but published a piece titled I’m a Biased Journalist and I’m Okay With That.” 

This movement includes academics rejecting the very concept of objectivity in journalism in favor of open advocacy. Columbia Journalism Dean and New Yorker writer Steve Coll has denounced how the First Amendment right to freedom of speech was being “weaponized” to protect disinformation. In an interview with The Stanford Daily, Stanford journalism professor, Ted Glasser, insisted that journalism needed to “free itself from this notion of objectivity to develop a sense of social justice.” He rejected the notion that the journalism is based on objectivity and said that he views “journalists as activists because journalism at its best — and indeed history at its best — is all about morality.”  Thus, “Journalists need to be overt and candid advocates for social justice, and it’s hard to do that under the constraints of objectivity.”

For those of us who have worked for decades as columnists and in the media, the growing intolerance for dissenting views is stifling and alarming.  Hannah-Jones has been a leading voice in attacking those with opposing views. A year ago, the New York Times denounced its own publishing of an editorial of Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) calling for the use of the troops to restore order in Washington after days of rioting around the White House.  It was one of the one of the lowest points in the history of modern American journalism. While Congress would “call in the troops” six months later to quell the rioting at the Capitol on January 6th, New York Times reporters and columnists called the column historically inaccurate and politically inciteful. Reporters insisted that Cotton was even endangering them by suggesting the use of troops and insisted that the newspaper cannot feature people who advocate political violence. (One year later, the New York Times published a column by an academic who has previously declared that there is nothing wrong with murdering conservatives and Republicans).

It is thus no surprise that Hannah-Jones will now teach the same biased approach journalism to students at Howard University. What is saddening is the silence of most journalism professors as they watch their profession just become a new form of advocacy. Few want to risk the professional attacks in opposing figures like Hannah-Jones. However, this movement is killing their profession. Polls show trust in the media at an all-time low with less than 20 percent of citizens trusting television or print media. Yet, reporters and academics continue to destroy the core principles that sustain journalism and ultimately the role of a free press in our society.





134 thoughts on “Hannah-Jones: “All Journalism Is Activism””

  1. I’m puzzled by the acceptance of foundational principles which Hannah Jones bases her journalism. Newton, Comte, Marx,Dewy, White-White-White-White.

  2. Okay. They are now just outright saying it.
    Fine. No worries.
    I quit reading, listening to MSM years ago.
    And I am better for it.
    As I have mentioned before, alt-media with actual journalists, like Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Bari Weiss, Sharly Attkisson, and many others have larger followings then MSM. And that upsets MSM and their “journalist activists.”

    Matt Taibbi just posted a fantastic article about NPR today.

    I found myself agreeing with him with this comment, “For at least a year especially, listening to NPR has been like being pinned in wrestling beyond the three-count. Everything is about race or gender, and you can’t make it stop.”
    I used to listen to NPR daily.
    But after 2016 and even the few times I tune in recently, it is over the top nauseating.
    And it is not news.

    1. Upstate, Thanks for the link. He captured the stench wafting from NPR perfectly. Years ago I listened to it and even contributed. Now I don’t even know where it is on my radio. I gave up on cable years ago and was just as happy to stop watching propaganda sitcoms and dramas. Apparently I am not alone. I didn’t know Daily Wire had more views than ‘big’ media and NPR, but I was glad to hear it. They are whining and hurting and don’t understand what could be wrong. They are wrong.

      1. Young said,
        “They are whining and hurting and don’t understand what could be wrong.”
        I think that is why so many of Professor Turley’s critics do not understand why his commentary resonates so well with the audience he attracts.

        1. Turley is intellectually honest and honorable.

          I don’t agree with Glenn Greewald’s bssic politics but he, too, is intellectually honest and I respect him.

          Turley and Greenwald have values thst they will consistently defend.

          Much of journalism and politics is staffed with souless human windsocks with no durable values and no commitment to the truth. They go with the prevailing winds and don’t hesitate to lie and then complain that people don’t trust them.

          Look how quickly Democrats who have been yelling for defunding the police spun 180 degrees and lied claiming Republicans want to defund the police when polling showed the idea was unpopular.

          They are despicable.

  3. Color me interested to know what Hannah – Jones did to Turley to get him so upset with her. We know he likes to hold a grudge. I suppose Jennifer Rubin can breathe a sigh of relief to have been replaced by Nicole on the Turley hate o meter. He actually seems intently focused on making any working conditions Hannah – Jones may find herself as miserable an experience as possible if not outright setting about getting her fired if he can possibly help it…

    Set aside any inaccuracies Hannah – Jones may have inadvertently stumbled into in the 1619 Project, they can’t hold a candle to the massive stretching of the truth, if not outright lies, JT has regularly been guilty of in the course of his writings on Bill Barr and the Mueller Report. In fact I LOL at the fact anyone who works for Fox News gets anywhere near criticizing a journalist for straying from objectivity in their reporting. It’s sheer, spit water at the screen because you’re laughing so hard material, actually….

    Here’s something to realize if you’ve ever attempted to write so called objective journalism: as long as you’re human it’s impossible to attain that goal. You can strive toward it, but just the fact you’re human, and you’re writing, places built in limitations on the final product. So there’s that…

    But when Fox employees/stringers/talking heads start accusing other journalists of lack of objectivity in their reporting it’s pretty much a sure sign the apocalypse is upon us.


    1. eb, you know what it is from Turley, right-wing talking points from the think tanks. Let’s make a bet how fast Turley will churn out Hunter’s name when they throw that one out again.

    2. Has anyone else noticed another little trend in Turley’s commentaries about things to get outraged over: he picks on women, and especially non-Caucasian women, including Dr. Lena Wen, Nikole Hannah-Jones, AOC, Maxine Waters, Stacey Abrams….the list goes on. He never comments on white women who go way overboard on outrageousness, like Marjorie Taylor-Greene and her “Jewish space laser” theory for the California wild fires or her comparison of proof of vaccine to Holocaust victims being required to wear the gold star, the “Fauci Ouchie” woman who lied about the government trying to force vaccination by going door to door (it’s community volunteer groups, not the government) and Kristi Noem, who encouraged superspreader events. He never criticized Kellyanne Conway, one of his former students, for the massive amount of lying she did, either. Turley is not neutral in his commentaries or criticisms.

      1. Yes! It’s quite a glaring trait on his part. I wonder if he’s conscious of it or whether it’s a core theme in talking point brainstorming sessions?


        1. Eb, or it could just be a case of cognitive dissonance.

          It’s a growing problem among Trump supporters. Turley may not be an avowed trunp supporter, but the level of mental gymnastics required to make his arguments without enraging Trump’s supporters here must be exhausting.

          Maybe that’s why Hunter Biden pops up often, an appeasement to potential backlash from rageaholics.

          I find it so ironic that his criticism about activism in journalism is something that he’s forced to be a part of because he is obviously conscious about the potential vitriol he would face if he really did objective journalism.

          1. In some ways, Turley’s job may be one of the toughest, keeping all those denials floating all the time. Cognitive dissonance, yes. It would almost be a requirement to do what he does. I’m actually hoping for him to find the sort of off ramp his friend Barr got because it’s probably coming at him when he tries to reel it in if and when Trump starts racking up indictments.


            1. I wonder if his glee or zeal about the “popularity” of his blog is clouding his judgment. I’ve noticed he is quite proud of the growing audience despite the fact that it is mostly populated by Trump supporters and conspiracy theory nuts.

              There ARE occasional legitimate conservatives and libertarians, but they are rare.

      2. Leftist women tend to be shriller and nuttier than leftist men. You can see it even in Comments here.

        They pop up as big fat targets on the range and draw a lot of fire.

        Could be a graduate paper here: “Gender Differences in Leftist Ideology and Ranting”.

      3. You understand that ALL the major corporate media, plus Hollywood, plus ESPN, plus NPR, plus PBS, plus plus plus…..cover the other women you mention, ad nauseum, giving those stories PLENTY of airtime…..so Turly covers the actual stories that the major corporate channels intentionally overlook. Get it?

    3. Your reply is classic trump delusional syndrome.
      The difference in Fox News and the fake news media networks is that Fox News TELLS you that they are conservative and the fake news media networks tell you that they are telling you the truth when in fact they are slanting the news to and framing the news in a liberal content. That’s lying anyway you slice it.

      Every profession has its moral cornerstone. Doctors have the Hippocratic oath . Lawyers have truth. Journalism has objectivity.
      Without the cornerstone there is no Profession.
      It’s time for the liberal journalists to start acting ethically.

      1. And you said FOX is up front with telling that their “news” is conservative. So how does FOX have objectivity? Because they are not in the journalism profession.

      2. Ethical journalism is the moral cornerstone of the profession. Cornerstones can’t be something that is impossible to attain.

        And as we say in Rhode Island, not for nuthin’, but Fox *isn’t* conservative. They’re reactionary. Not conservative.


      3. Fox is NOT conservative–it is part of the cult of Trump. If it is just journalism, then why did Hannity appear with Trump at vainglory rallies? Why were Ingraham and other Fox hosts at the White House on election night? Why did former Fox News personality, Kimberly Guilfoyle, start dating married Trump, Jr and appear on stage with him and his father to push the Trump agenda? Fox tells it’s faithful disciples not to trust mainstream media. Do CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, MSNBC, or CNN tell viewers that Fox, OAN, News Max Breitbart, et al, can’t be trusted? No, they don’t, and that’s all of the difference in the world between a personality cult and a news organization.

          1. Because they reported that 50 former intelligence officials signed a letter before the election saying Hunter’s laptop story was Russian disinformation and therefore the corporate media did not cover the laptop story any further since it was discredited as Russian disinfo. Sheesh. They ARE covering the news, doncha see how it works?

            1. The “Hunter Biden laptop scandal” originated with Giuliani. After Trump performed poorly in the first debate, the campaign was desperate to turn around the trajectory, so Giuliani came up with the claim that he went to a Delaware computer repair shop and discovered a hard drive allegedly belonging to Hunter Biden that was full of salacious material. Trump thought if this “revelation” came out, Biden would get flustered and perform poorly at the second debate. That strategy failed because Biden knows it wasn’t true, Giuliani has zero credibility, because there’s no proof that the hard drive was anything other than a plant, and the timing stank. That’s why mainstream media didn’t cover it–it is a poliltically-motivated lie. So, when Turley tries to breathe life into this farce, he only hurts his own credibility. The “Hunter Biden laptop scandal and lamestream media are covering it up” meme is a Fox News talking point.

              1. Natch: “The “Hunter Biden laptop scandal” originated with Giulian”
                No, it originated with Hunter putting that damning evidence on his laptop and abandoning it in a repair shop.

              2. You need to do your research.
                Hunter and Joe Biden’s BUSINESS PARTNER came out and confirmed Joe Biden’s corruption and what was on Hunter’s computer. The FAKE NEWS MEDIA refused to broadcast that. How corrupt is it for the FAKE NEWS MEDIA to intentionally hide and not investigate this story?

                And you also need to note that the FBI has validated that it was Hunter Biden’s computer and that they were investigating him.

                And you also need to note that those 50 people to which you referred who said that the laptop was Russian disinformation (and which the FAKE NEWS MEDIA committed malpractice by not investigating) were then exposed as LIARS.

              3. “That’s why mainstream media didn’t cover it–it is a poliltically-motivated lie.”
                You know that did not stop the MSM from covering the Steele Dossier leak, did it? That story was plastered all over the news talking about the Steele Dossier golden showers and utter garbage PAID FOR BY HILLARY CLINTON’s campaign! It was an obvious “politically-motivated lie.” And they all knew it. But they ran that story on a loop 24/7. James Comey belongs in prison. So does McCabe. And the whole lot of them.

                1. By contrast, the Hunter Biden corruption story is a legit story that they all know is legit but they all colluded to bury that story. Which is why Trump calls the media the Enemy of the People — because they are.

                  1. Similarly, the Wuhan Lab Leak is legit but the bureaucrats and their media remoras are doing everything they can to hide it.

                    1. Including the left’s hero Saint Tony Fauci who is flatout lying to save his own ass.

                    2. Anon “Including the left’s hero Saint Tony Fauci who is flatout lying to save his own ass.”

                      It looks like he is lying. Senator Paul nailed him with the lab documents and documents from Fauci’s own department.

                      If there is one American who can be blamed for millions of Covid deaths, Fauci might be that one.

                2. “If there is one American who can be blamed for millions of Covid deaths, Fauci might be that one.”

                  Sure looks that way.

                  Virus research he and others couldn’t conduct in the U.S. — they outsourced to a dictatorship. To a dictatorship! Gee, I wonder what could go wrong.

                  Next up: Send hundreds of millions of dollars to another dictatorship — in Iran.

                  I swear, sometimes I think that America has a death wish.

                  1. Fauci thinks it is a good idea to MASK children over 2 years old ALL DAY LONG AT SCHOOL.

                    Fauci thinks parents should vaccinate their 2 year olds when it is approved to do so!

                    WHAT in the living he** is the matter with Fauci? Fire him. Get rid of him NOW. Stop giving him air time.

                    1. Foundational misconceptions of your sourcing aside…, it’s actually easier to get younger kids to wear masks than it is to get older kids to do it.


        1. Do CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, MSNBC, or CNN tell viewers that Fox, OAN, News Max Breitbart, et al, can’t be trusted?


          yes they do

        2. Is Maddow, Hayes, and “Stop the hammering!” lunatic guy considered ‘news’ to you? They are ALL opinion and info-tainment shows for god’s sake.

    4. There is a qualitative difference between Writing Objectively and Writing SOPHISTRY. Yes an Objective writer seeks the truth but is limited by being human. A SOPHIST writes to promote a narrative, does not attempt find the the truth.

        1. Exactly, that may be why Turley has a sour view of journalism. He’s not the kind of journalist he believes he is.

          1. Svelaz, to you people that lie and aren’t smart are your friends. Turley stands up for the civil liberties of everyone, even your friends.

            There are good journalists and good opinion writers. They are not your friends.

    5. Most likely it was the fact that Hanna-Jones had the audacity to demand equal treatment for the offer she was given. Previous chairs were always given tenure, but conservatives on the board wages a political agenda instead of a policy one. It was so obvious that even Turley acknowledged as much. Turley is just as guilty of doing the type of journalism he readily criticizes.

      1. My vote is he’s more guilty of it. And agreed, the truly audacious ones don’t survive the character assassination brainstorm sessions at headquarters unscathed, that’s for sure! Ha.


  4. People go on the offensive against those they fear. If that’s the case, it means corporate media truly do fear the likes of Carlson, Hawley, DeSantis, and Younkin. These men perceive the weak underbelly of progressivist ideology, from disingenuous attempts to downplay and defend critical race theory to excuses for the current administration’s immigration crisis. So, having few (if any) scruples left, the corporate media serves as the attack dog of the Democratic Party.

    Corporate media’s fear means there is indeed hope of reversing the broader political and cultural trends that have intensified not only the border crisis, but the rising homicide rate, the spike in overdose deaths, Americans’ loss of faith in public education, and many other worrying trends. Conservatives must not be cowed by unjust and unprofessional smear campaigns against us and our leaders.

  5. Had UNC not granted Hannah-Jones tenure, Antifa and BLM would have torched the UNC campus buildings.

  6. Advocacy is to journalism like neg am loans were to mortgage lending. It has the appearance of journalism, but before you know it, you’re upside down on the truth. We need a CFPD for the Journalism industry.

    1. CFPB. Do journalists require licensing? Perhaps they need an NMLS system like they did for the mortgage industry. State licensing standards, annual licensing requirements including ethics.

      1. No. Then Tucker would not be ‘licensed’ nor Turley.

        The First Amendment is the only license anyone needs.

        1. The First Amendment is the only license anyone needs.

          I’m not suggesting anyone without a license loses their First Amendment rights. My point was to differentiate between those that would be “licensed” to provide “News” and everyone else. I was in the lending industry for 15 years. Prior to the mortgage meltdown, the lending business was like the wild, wild west. Caveat Emptor. I see the world of mass media similarly today. Places like CNN, FoxNews, NYTimes are like direct lenders and FB, Twitter, etc. and other aggregators are like brokers. They are basically unregulated and often protected from liability. It’s not easy for consumers to determine what is news and what is opinion. Ideally, regulations would be in place that would require those “reporting the news” (straight facts) to be easily differentiated from those “reporting their opinion of the news.” So it’s doesn’t restrict their speech, they would not be able to call it “news.”

      2. “State licensing . . .”

        Of the press?! So that the same tyrants who ban “misinformation” can control the press?!

        The government’s power to license is the power to control, to extort, and to destroy.

          1. I agree with both of you. In this political climate, there is no way it would achieve that idealistic goal. The mortgage meltdown affected nearly everyone, the media meltdown on the other hand is largely working against conservatives. If the Democrats succeed in “outsourcing” the infringement of rights to non-government entities, then expect the 2nd amendment to follow what they are doing with the 1st.

  7. It’s the same mistake everyone makes when they say Fox this or MSNBC that. No one, not even the “journalists” themselves seem to know the difference between a journalist and an opinion writer/broadcaster. Hannity, Reed, even JT himself are in the opinion business. That’s what they get paid for. Journalists, on the other hand come on the top of the hour and tell me “today a plane crashed” or tell me about a flood or something.

    That’s why no news channel is worth watching much more than 5 after the hour. I don’t need to be told what to think, just what happened.

  8. If a journalist sees their role as an activist, then I want that writer/producer to explicitly come out and expound on their reformist/revolutionary goals, so that their objectives are open to inspection and debate. What I revile to is the activist who hides their goals, harbors unanalyzed prejudices, wallows in vaguely-defined narratives, and then commits zealous infowarfare based on them. That activist-journalist lacks integrity and courage.

    Hannah-Jones refuses to take accountability for factual errors, and deflects all criticism like a 6-year-old child does: “It’s not what I’m saying, it’s that you hate me”. Being so alienated, she has difficulty finding common ground with her critics.

  9. “all journalism is activism.”

    Hannah-Jones is a faithful practitioner of CRT. Here she is using CRT’s gimmick of “counter-storytelling” — i.e., create a myth, fabricate a fiction, then pass it off as “history,” “journalism,” whatever you want. It’s the wicked notion that racial animus shapes and alters reality.

    1. Sam: “It’s the wicked notion that racial animus shapes and alters reality.”
      The danger is that it is going to if they keep this up. What happens if the anti-white attacks leads them to go tribal and shift loyalty from America to the tribe? Many likely will not even realize it has happened to them until they are shocked to wake up and realize their automatic “Coexist” talk doesn’t match how they feel. But however they may talk, how they feel will match their decisions.

  10. The real problem with Hannah-Jones is that she is delusional. She was fed BS in college and is as racist as they come. She’s not even black, she’s a mulatto whose father was a Mississippi black who went north and carried his racial hatred with him. Like Coates and the other black editorialist, she was raised in racism. None of them know anything other than how to harp on race.

    1. So true! When born and bred a RACIST, when created and raised a VICTIM … Drivel from their pens (and, now, PCs).

  11. She’s actually doing us a favor by saying out loud what editors and journalists have been practicing for decades. Think back to the NYTimes and WaPo’s “news” articles about WMDs, Trump-Putin collusion, Hunter Biden, etc. All partisan stories that were eventually “outed,” but not before they had their desired impact in brainwashing the liberal mind. We can find parallels on the right, but they have always been publicly criticized, whereas what the left says is assumed to be “truth.” So, no more guessing — the cat is out of the bag. Most Hannah-Jones-type journalists aren’t much good at investigating facts anyway — they are igmorant of history so prefer to go for the easy emotional appeal of “activism.” And Postmodernism did away with facts and “Truth” a long time ago anyway. Welcome to distopia.

    1. Giconi says: “She’s actually doing us a favor by saying out loud what editors and journalists have been practicing for decades. ”
      Beat me to it.

  12. So that implies given today’s journalism that all journalists are communists. One would like to believe that professionalism isn’t dead, but it certainly seems to be. Do any of these so called journalists spend any time talking to the people of say, Cuba or Venezuela?

  13. The transition of journalist from reporter of facts to activist correlates well with the perception of the profession by the public moving from respected to loathed.

  14. This is but a small piece of a larger picture. The left has been waging an insidious war on the entire concept of objective truth. One’s sex is a fiction; math is racist; and on and on. The result is anarchy which inevitably leads to totalitarianism which is the goal they had to begin with

  15. Propaganda disguised as journalism; that is all one needs to know about 21st Century American Journalism. Ms. Jones is nothing but an update of Goebbels and she and her contemporaries are no less pernicious

  16. The free press has “opinion” pieces which are distinct from news articles. Opinion pieces are labelled as such. This dumb itchBay doesn’t know the distinction. We should call her “Op Ed Fred”.

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