Arkansas Democrat-Gazette publisher and ruiner of good things Walter Hussman is visiting UNC-Chapel Hill and the journalism school to which he bought naming rights this week. The reception so far is rightfully quite chilly.
Hussman, an old white man, was instrumental in obliterating an opportunity to have Pulitzer Prize winning writer, thinker and general superstar Nikole Hannah-Jones, a young Black woman, join the J-school faculty. (Editor’s note: as an alumna of the school myself, I am devastated that we could have had a beyond talented woman of color helping students prepare to make their marks in a fundamentally new and evolving media landscape, but we’re left with Hussman and his last-century thinking instead.) Hussman took issue with Hannah-Jones’ body of work, which delineates how our country was founded on the backs of slaves and illustrates how systemic racism persists. Old white guys get agitated and threatened about this sort of thing, and Hussman’s arguments got some traction among university trustees.
Hannah-Jones eventually got fed up and brilliantly took her genius and cachet to Howard University instead, where she has since easily raised $25 million plus for her new endeavor, providing further proof that UNC blew it big time.
Check out this op-ed in the Raleigh News & Observer, where they tell Hussman to take his $25 million pledge and scram.
Turns out, faculty members at the school don’t even want to meet with Hussman. Ned Barnett of the N&O writes:
Hussman has only delivered a small portion of his pledge and $12.5 million of it won’t be paid until he and his wife are deceased. Hussman and UNC should use this juncture to consider cutting their losses. He can keep the remainder of his pledge and UNC’s journalism school can try to restore its reputation.
Barnett goes on to point out, and rightly so, that it’s quite odd to have a journalism school named after the owner of a newspaper that endorsed the vocally anti-media candidate Donald Trump.
One condition of Hussman’s monetary gift, which won’t be delivered in full until five years after he and his wife are both dead, is that the school erect Hussman’s own “core values of journalism” in granite at the school’s entrance. The values — an outdated code that perpetuates the “both sides” journalism that help land us here in this hellscape that is 2021 — is already up at the school, although thankfully only on paint and paper. It’s not too late to peel it off and change course.
Hannah-Jones gave up the fight for a tenured seat at her alma mater, saying she simply could not work at a school that bears the Hussman name. While the school missed its shot with Hannah-Jones, it will likely miss many more opportunities if it remains beholden to a right-winger from Arkansas who throws his money and influence around in a last-gasp effort to keep the white patriarchy in charge. It’s past time for the Hussman UNC School of Journalism and Media to scrub Hussman’s values and name.
In the future, let’s all keep in mind that anyone with enough hubris to shell out $25 million to put his own name on a public institution probably has no business having his name on a public institution.