Social Justice–Investigative Reporting News Nexus

Project: Research project

Project Details


The Social Justice News Nexus is central to the Social Justice Journalism specialization at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. This has quickly grown to be by far the largest specialization in Medill’s journalism master’s program. It was started in 2014 with McCormick support with the aim of creating coverage of and sparking dialogue around specific pressing issues including drug policy, housing and mental health. SJNN nurtured journalists with ethnic, community and other media outlets, and brought them together with other journalists and with Medill MSJ students for training on journalism skills and the specific topics being covered. From 2014 to 2017 SJNN created annual cohorts of Fellows who were given stipends and hands-on support to produce in-depth stories on a given topic, often working with MSJ students. Starting in 2018 and going forward, all Fellows work directly with small teams of students on in-depth projects covering various subjects, including criminal justice and immigration. Meanwhile SJNN continues to bring together and work with past Fellows and offer other opportunities to students, including trainings in investigative journalism, panels and speakers on social justice topics, and travel grants and advising to help them report social justice stories around the country. While SJNN’s structure has shifted and expanded, the mission remains the same as at the onset: to report and have work published on marginalized or under-covered communities, to elevate the voices of people in those communities, to support journalists and Medill students doing social justice journalism and to impact the public debate on social justice issues of great importance. The work that accounts for the majority of SJNN’s funding and staff time is the Fellowships, wherein journalists work with small teams of students to produce in-depth stories or packages over the course of about six months. Our work has been aired on NPR, WBEZ and Univision, and published in the Chicago Reader, Chicago Reporter, Catalyst, Crain’s Chicago Business, In These Times and other local outlets. The journalists come from a range of media outlets, including long-time reporters from major publications, younger reporters and reporters from a variety of community and ethnic outlets. About 10-14 Fellows work with students each year, with SJNN directly participating in each reporting fellowship. In addition to this program, core activities include creating opportunities for Medill MSJ students to learn about aspects of social justice journalism including investigative skills, working in vulnerable communities and understanding the complicated policy and historical issues at play in sectors like housing, immigration, health care and energy. This is done by convening specialized trainings for students, organizing panels and speakers on journalism skills and on specific topics, organizing field trips and tours in communities, working one on one with students on in-depth extra-curricular reporting projects and funding and advising students on travel reporting projects.
Effective start/end date3/1/192/29/20


  • Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation (Agmt 4/18/19)


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