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The Center for Journalism and Democracy ignites a flame in the future watchdogs of America

Written by on December 1, 2022

Nikole Hannah-Jones entered a room filled with eager reporters and students alike; notebooks titled ‘Center for Journalism and Democracy’ topped tables as attendees acted as witnesses and record keepers to the history being made. This was the beginning of the Democracy Summit in Washington, D.C. 

In the inaugural opening of The Center for Journalism and Democracy, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hannah Jones united powerful voices that paved the way for aspiring journalists in the Center’s first event, the Democracy Summit.

The discussions and speeches given helped broaden the understanding of threats to democracy and how to respond accordingly.

Located at Howard University, the Democracy Summit galvanized student leaders of newspapers and outlets from different universities, like Makenna Underwood, investigative editor at The Hilltop, Howard University’s student newspaper, to take action and continue to understand democracy.

“Within these past couple of years, there has been lots of turmoil, whether it’s been within the university, or whether it’s been within democracy itself. So, I really think it is important that student journalists are heard because we are the now, and we are the future,” Underwood said.

Esteemed scholars and journalists such as Dr. Greg Carr, Ta-Nehisi Cotes, Dr. Anthea Butler, and many others followed Hannah Jones with transparency concerning the importance of keeping democracy on the rise amongst factors that may deplete the political concept.

The vision of the Center is to support the field of investigative journalism while strengthening pro-democracy storytelling.

Speakers provided thought-provoking banter while enlightening Summit attendees about threats to democracy.

“This summit, and some of the great speakers here, had some really important insight to talk about democracy in the United States,  it’s important for journalists to keep that history in mind when they’re reporting about democracy today,”Jaisal Noor, the democracy Cohort manager for Solutions Journalism Network said.

With the help of the executive director, Kali-Ahset Amen, The Center for Journalism and Democracy grew from a burning desire in Hannah-Jones to an event that excited the future voices of America to be surrounded by those thirsty for the knowledge to drive democracy.

Eager student journalists like Nada Merghani, part of North Carolina Central University’s student newspaper, ‘The Campus Echo,’ had their hopes and expectations set before their attendance.

“I hope to connect with Black movement journalists, who are unapologetically dedicated to the liberation of Black folk through their writing and reporting, and I hope to bring that energy, that joy, that desire to uplift the community back to my school and back to our reporters who have that same dream,” Merghani said.

In the official opening event, the Center for Journalism and Democracy invited investigative journalists to hear conversations surrounding the understanding of keeping true to democracy through reporting.

“If it weren’t for truthful and courageous storytellers trained through the journalism profession, that democracy that we see today, wouldn’t even be what we have created today,” Amen said.

Journalists are the watchdogs of American democracy, and they can keep a steady heartbeat to the concepts governing it; the public relies on them not to sit back and watch its demise but to keep it alive, attendees of the Summit said.

With the help of properly trained investigative journalists, this Summit proved that democracy will die without the power of the truth.

The Center paid for students and faculty from seven HBCUs to attend the Summit.