Q & A with Wallace House Director Lynette Clemetson and Hovey Speaker Bernice Yeung

Bernice Yeung arrived as a Knight-Wallace Fellow in 2015, following an intense period of collaborative reporting that produced two award-winning investigations, Rape in the Fields and Rape on the Night Shift. Since the Fellowship, she has published a book, “In a Day’s Work: The Fight to End Sexual Violence Against America’s Most Vulnerable Workers.” Bernice returned to Wallace House in September to give the 33rd annual Graham Hovey Lecture. Prior to the lecture, Lynette and Bernice had a conversation discussing the relevance of her reporting in the context of the #MeToo Movement.



Clemetson: You first started writing about sexual abuse of low-wage workers in 2012. How do you view the cultural change in our recognition of and conversation around the issue?

Yeung: There has been a complete transformation of the public dialogue. When we started in 2012, the campus sexual assault conversation was ongoing and robust. Simultaneously, the military sexual assault investigations were happening. There was a slow drumbeat of looking at sexual violence in different corners of society. But now, post-#MeToo, it is part of the daily headlines. The conversation is almost inescapable. There is a completely different resonance now.


Clemetson: And yet, much of the current conversation is around prominent figures. Do you think that the people that you focused on are being represented enough?

Yeung: There is a part of the movement that is about understanding the prevalence of sexual violence. And then there is a fascination with the comeuppance aspect of the story, an interest in famous people and the fall of power. I think more attention ought to be paid to those who are less powerful in terms of their professional and financial positions.

I recently reported a story where I talked to women truck drivers, public health workers, government workers, and hospital techs. They were excited to see the way #MeToo has opened up a space to have these conversations. But a lot of them still wonder whether that opening has reached them yet. They were impressed by the famous women who had come forward, amazed and grateful that they had spoken up, but they also really wondered why when they themselves had spoken up, why they weren’t heard in the same way.


Clemetson: What drew you to this particular corner of the issue?

Yeung: There was an element of it that I was inclined to be curious about because of my own family’s immigrant background to the United States. I had done some stories on domestic violence and immigrant women and had seen the holes and gaps in policy and law when it comes to assisting immigrant women, and how seeking any kind of recourse or help was so formidable for those women.


Clemetson: How did approaching the issue for a book lead you to new insights?

Yeung: We tend to think of sexual harassment as a problem between two individuals, as a behavioral problem by a bad apple. The book helped me look at policies, how companies operate, how industries function and how they create environments that make certain workers more vulnerable. So much of our labor law enforcement is predicated on the worker making a complaint. And when you have a population who are low wage, immigrant, perhaps with tenuous immigration status, living on the edge of poverty, expecting them to come forward is not realistic. We don’t have a realistic way for them to engage with the resources that would enable them to put an end to labor abuses.


Clemetson: There seems to be a greater appetite and more space now across platforms for journalism that explores issues systemically.

Yeung: Yes. I am lucky be a journalist in this moment where there is space for investigative journalism about systemic issues. I have always been interested in melding sociological strategies with journalism. My study plan was looking at how social science research strategies could be applied to journalism. I think there is something about what sociology provides, a systems-based orientation, plus an attempt to quantify, along with qualitative human interviews, that makes sociology a kindred spirit to journalism.


Clemetson: How did the fellowship inform how you approached the book?

Yeung: I don’t think I would be the same journalist I am now if I had not done the fellowship. I don’t think my book would exist. The mental and emotional space that the fellowship provided made it possible to do this book. I was coming off several years of looking at this issue when I arrived, and the mental fatigue was real. It was really important to give myself some time to stop, regroup and fortify myself so I could job back into it.

And there were so many resources at the university that I drew from. For instance, Catherine MacKinnon in the University of Michigan Law School, is THE person, THE scholar, who defined what sexual harassment is. Having the opportunity to learn from her and others like her left me astonished. What I was able to bring to the book in terms of a contextual and systemic look, that was possible because of the time I had at the university.


Clemetson: As this issue has exploded, it has also caused turmoil in many news organizations.

Yeung: I have been so heartened and impressed by the incredible reporting that has been done by the dogged and sensitive journalists working on this issue, the amount of vetting and checking, and deep research and reporting. I don’t know if the general public appreciates how serious and rigorous the reporters have been on these stories. And then you have journalists who are raising this issue, even as they are having to report on their own organizations and call into question the authority of their own employers. I just have so much respect for the work that is being done, and I appreciate those who are doing the work.


Clemetson: Do you feel that we truly are in a moment of change, a substantive shift?

Yeung: I see parallels to the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas moment. I am sure we’ll look back on #MeToo and see it as a watershed moment and a shift in the cultural consciousness. But I think the question is, now what? There is work being done around prevention and solutions, and those are harder stories to cover. As reporters, we want things to be concrete and evidence-based, something we can measure. The slow culture change that seems critical to shifting the way we deal with sexual harassment is harder to document. But I think that is where we need to be paying more attention now.


Clemetson: So you intend to keep going.

Yeung: As much as I can, yes. I intend to. I am in that space now where I want to know that it is all going to lead to something, some tangible example of change. I am definitely watching and tracking. It is important to tell those stories about how change can happen, how reform can happen.

University of Michigan Names Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellows



The University of Michigan has named its Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellows for the 2018-2019 academic year. The group, which includes 12 American and six international journalists, is the 45th class of journalism fellows at the University.

“Part of upholding the essential role of journalism in our society is supporting the careers of journalists. It is a privilege to be able to recognize and nurture the talents of this wide-ranging group of Fellows through a year of academic research and experiential learning,” said Wallace House Director Lynette Clemetson.

Knight-Wallace Fellows spend an academic year at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor to pursue individual study plans and to engage in collaborative learning through fellowship seminars, training workshops and travel. Through twice-weekly seminars, Fellows engage with visiting journalists, eminent scholars and creative thinkers from a range of fields. Weeklong international news tours provide broader context to political, economic and social forces shaping their fields of study, and to trends and challenges facing journalism in other countries. In recent years, Fellowship classes visited South Korea, Brazil, Canada, Turkey, Argentina and Russia.

The program is based at Wallace House, a gift from the late newsman Mike Wallace and his wife, Mary. Knight-Wallace Fellows receive a stipend of $75,000 for the eight-month academic year plus full tuition and health insurance. The program is funded through endowment gifts by foundations, news organizations and individuals committed to journalism’s role in fostering an informed and engaged public.

Fellows and their study projects are:

Itai Anghel, Senior Correspondent, UVDA, TV Channel 2 (Tel Aviv, Israel). Tribalism and the politics of fear in the Middle East following the Arab revolutions

Michelle Jolan Bloom, Senior Designer, Politico (Washington, D.C.). Visual storytelling through social media

Seungjin Choi, Reporter, Maeil Business Newspaper (Seoul, South Korea). Reshaping strategies for digital news distribution

Arnessa Garrett, Assistant Business Editor, The Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas). Rebuilding trust with local audiences through digital strategy and engagement

Emilio Gutiérrez Soto, Press Freedom Fellow.  Issues related to safety and freedom of journalists

Sharilyn Hufford, Deputy Editor, The New York Times (New York, New York). Creating high-impact news products and best practices for workflow

Anders Kelto, Creator and Senior Producer, GameBreaker with Keith Olbermann (Ann Arbor, Michigan). The connection between sports and social movements

Fredrik Laurin, Editor for Special Projects, SVT Swedish Television (Stockholm, Sweden). Exploring and developing tools to protect news content from digital manipulation

Catherine Mackie, Team Leader, Digital Video, BBC Midlands (Birmingham, England). The impact of class on news consumption and reconnecting with audiences

Seema Mehta, Political Reporter, Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California). How automation will impact the economy and the 2020 presidential election

Aaron Nelsen, Rio Grande Valley Bureau Chief, San Antonio Express-News (Mission, Texas). The effect of militarization on communities along the U.S.-Mexico border

Daigo Oliva, Deputy Photo Editor, Folha de São Paulo (São Paulo, Brazil). New ways to publish image-driven narratives

Ben Penn, Reporter, Bloomberg Law (Washington, D.C.). The impermanent future of work

Rachel Rohr, Managing Editor, The GroundTruth Project (Boston, Massachusetts). New approaches to news and media literacy for teens and young adults

Stephen Ssenkaaba, Contributing Editor and Senior Features Writer, The New Vision (Kampala, Uganda). Inclusive online news strategies for emerging news markets

Jawad Sukhanyar, Reporter, The New York Times (Kabul, Afghanistan). Afghan women’s issues in the global context

Luis Trelles, Reporter and Producer, Radio Ambulante (San Juan, Puerto Rico). The politics of reconstruction in U.S. territories devastated by natural disasters

Neda Ulaby, Correspondent, NPR (Washington, D.C.). A cultural history of the veil in world religions

AJ Vicens, Staff Reporter, Mother Jones (Washington, D.C.). How artificial intelligence, cyber security and data shape modern society

The selection committee included Wallace House Director Lynette Clemetson and Associate Director Birgit Rieck; Teresa Frontado (Digital Director, WLRN, Miami), Kate Linebaugh (Deputy National Editor, The Wall Street Journal), Mosi Secret (Investigative and Literary Journalist) and Yvonne Simons (Assistant News Director, CBS 13, Sacramento); and University of Michigan Professors Bobbi Low (Environment and Sustainability) and Carl Simon (Mathematics, Complex Systems and Public Policy).

About Wallace House
Committed to fostering excellence in journalism, Wallace House at the University of Michigan is home to the Knight-Wallace Fellowships and the Livingston Awards, two programs that recognize exceptional journalists for their work, leadership and potential.

Read more on the Class of 2019 Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellows

Choreographed Peace Summit in Korea

The lines were clearly drawn between North and South Korea during our visit to the Korean Demilitarized
Zone (DMZ) earlier this year. Much has changed since then but much remains to be seen.

To be a journalist often is to be the skunk at a garden party.

And I certainly felt my skunk-like tendencies kick into gear as I watched the beautifully choreographed Inter-Korean Summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on live TV.

The optics were no doubt powerful and emotional: on a sunny morning in late April, Kim Jong-un strolled up to the Military Demarcation Line that has divided the Korean peninsula for the last 65 years, reached across, and shook hands with President Moon. Then he stepped over the low curb that marks the border, shook hands again, and then took President Moon by the hand and stepped back over the border together onto North Korean soil.

It was undoubtedly a significant moment. The two heads of state later would emerge from their talks with plans to formally end the Korean War and work toward denuclearization. When I stood at roughly that same spot about 50 days earlier gazing into North Korea with other Knight-Wallace Fellows, the situation was much more tense. For months the world seemed on the brink of all-out war, with leaders on both sides making increasingly bellicose public statements.

So the sight of the two Korean leaders holding hands offered a much needed glimmer of hope in what had become a hopeless situation. For me as a Korean American, the idea of peace between the two Koreas is particularly powerful as every Korean family’s personal history is intertwined with painful reminders of those darkest days of the Korean War.

As I watched this historic event unfold on live TV, I knew this was a big deal. But the skunk in me couldn’t help but stink up the room.

What will denuclearization look like? What about the Kim regime’s blatant human rights abuses? What are Kim Jong-un’s true motives? This is, after all, the same man who reportedly had two of his senior officials executed in 2016 using an anti-aircraft gun, a weapon normally reserved, as the name suggests, for aircraft.

Yes, journalists can be party poopers. It’s why North Korea remains dead last on the annual World Press Freedom Index, which ranks nations according to the level of freedom available to journalists.

South Korea, on the other hand, has come a long way in promoting a free press. During our fellowship tour of the country, we had a private screening of the 2017 film “A Taxi Driver,” which depicted the 1980 Gwangju massacre, a horrific event in which South Korean soldiers and government-backed thugs murdered untold numbers of pro-Democracy demonstrators. The movie showed how news organizations were either silenced or complicit in spreading the government’s misinformation.

Fast forward 38 years and that same country has now surpassed the United States on the World Press Freedom Index.

While that’s a positive sign for South Koreans (and a really troubling one for Americans), it also goes to illustrate an important point: the distance between freedom and tyranny is often very short. It took Kim Jong-un only a few minutes to stroll forward into a world of press freedom that April morning; it took his limousine only a few seconds to ferry him back.

Throughout our tour, we learned that the South made great strides in building and strengthening democratic institutions since the ceasefire almost a lifetime ago. That’s good news. But the skunk in me thinks that the lesson for any democracy is that it’s always easier to tear down than to build.

Robert Yoon is a political journalist and the Howard R. Marsh Visiting Professor of Journalism at the University of Michigan.

Wallace House Presents Bret Stephens of The New York Times

Bret Stephens
Bret Stephens, New York Times columnist

“Free Speech and the Necessity of Discomfort”

February 20, 2018 | 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre
University of Michigan
911 N. University Avenue
Free and open to the public

View video »

Join the conversation

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens calls disagreement “the most vital ingredient of any decent society.” Being able to reasonably take issue with an asserted stance or belief, he argues, enlarges our perspectives and energizes our progress. Shutting down disagreeable speech does more to imperil our principles than uphold them. Yet in this era of coarse polarization, the art of thoughtful disagreement has given way to hostile close-mindedness. And tolerance is often misinterpreted as the absence of discomfort.

Join Bret Stephens and Wallace House for a provocative discussion on the role of social and personal discomfort in education and its necessity in a functional democracy.

About the Speaker

Bret L. Stephens joined The New York Times as an Op-Ed columnist in April 2017. He came to The Times after a long career with The Wall Street Journal, where he was deputy editorial-page editor and, for 11 years, foreign affairs columnist. Before that, he was editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post. At The Post he oversaw the paper’s news, editorial and digital operations and its international editions, and also wrote a weekly column. He has reported from around the world and interviewed scores of world leaders.

Stephens is a Livingston Awards national judge. Winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, he is the author of “America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder.” He was raised in Mexico City and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago and a master of science from the London School of Economics. He lives in New York and Hamburg, Germany.

For questions about the event email: [email protected]

Co-sponsored by U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.
This is a U-M 2018 series event “Speech and Inclusion: Recognizing Conflict and Building Tools for Engagement.”

The Livingston Lectures with Brooke Jarvis

Brooke Jarvis, Ann Lin and Jason De Leon

“Beyond the Wall:
The Human Toll of Border Crossings”

January 31, 2018 | 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
Annenberg Auditorium

Free and open to the public
Reception with speakers following the event.
Watch the discussion »

A Conversation with Brooke Jarvis, Ann Lin and Jason De León

In the public debate over immigration policy, the mortal toll of border crossings are too often faceless statistics. A Livingston Award-winning journalist, a MacArthur Genius and anthropologist, and a U-M public policy expert will share the stories and findings behind immigration statistics and discuss the complexities, ramifications and human lives that are involved in clandestine migration.

About the Speakers

Brooke Jarvis is a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine and The California Sunday Magazine. Her work has been anthologized in “The Best American Science and Nature Writing” and her story about working for a year at a remote leper colony in Hawaii was included in the collection “Love and Ruin.” Jarvis received the 2017 Livingston Award for national reporting for her feature story “Unclaimed,” the story of an anonymous man, an undocumented immigrant kept alive by machines for nearly 17 years in a San Diego hospital, and the networks of immigrant families that search for their missing loved ones.

Jason De León is an associate professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan and director of the Undocumented Migration Project (UMP). His research interests include theories of violence, materiality, death and mourning, Latin American migration, crime and forensic analyses, and archaeology of the contemporary. De León was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant in 2017.

About the Moderator

Ann Lin is Associate Professor of Public Policy in the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. She teaches courses on public policy implementation, gender and politics, qualitative research methods and immigration. Lin is currently studying potential immigration policies and the beliefs of American immigrants with a special focus on Arab Americans.

This Livingston Lecture event is co-sponsored by the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and the International Policy Center.

This Livingston Lecture event is produced with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Figure it out – Apply for a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan

Now is the fight time to apply for a Fellowship
Mosi Secret 16′ explains how a Knight-Wallace Fellowship
changed his life both personally and professionally.

Mosi Secret, Knight-Wallace Fellows Class of 2016, shares on Medium how his Fellowship year changed the trajectory of his professional life and how it impacted his personal life.

He explains why he left his job as a reporter for The New York Times, a position that for many represents the pinnacle of American journalism. 

He discusses how it felt walking away from his comfortable life in New York in pursuit of what he describes as an ill-defined dream. Secret maintains that his time at the University of Michigan was the beginning of a march toward a deeper and more sustainable sense of happiness and professional satisfaction.

“If you’re thinking of changing your life and career,” said Secret, “there’s no time like the present. Apply.” Learn more what about what attracted him to the program.

The Knight-Wallace Fellowships for Journalists at the University of Michigan are accepting applications from U.S. applicants for the 2018-19 academic year. We’re looking for accomplished, mid-career journalists eager for growth and deeply committed to the future of journalism. The deadline to apply is February 1, 2018.

Read Mosi Secret’s reflection on his fellowship year on Medium.


Mosi Secret was a member of the Knight-Wallace Fellows Class of 2016. He is an independent journalist based in Brooklyn, NY.  Find out more about what Mosi Secret has been doing post-Fellowship.

Molly Ball Appointed to the Livingston Awards Judging Panel


Molly Ball
Molly Ball, National Political Correspondent
for Time

Wallace House is pleased to announce the addition of award-winning political reporter and Knight-Wallace alum, Molly Ball, to the Livingston Awards’ judging panel.

A prominent voice on U.S. politics, Ball serves as National Political Correspondent for TIME, covering the Trump administration, the national political climate, personalities, policy debates, and campaigns across America. She is also a political analyst for CNN and frequent television and radio commentator.

“Molly Ball brings a keen, intuitive eye and astute sensibility to everything she approaches,” says Lynette Clemetson, Wallace House director. “We are pleased to have her join us as a Livingston Awards regional judge. It is especially meaningful that Molly was a Knight-Wallace Fellow with a deep connection to our mission. We look forward to all she will add to our collegial and dedicated group of judges.”

Prior to joining TIME, Ball was a staff writer covering U.S. politics for The Atlantic. She previously reported for Politico, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Sun. She has worked for newspapers in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Cambodia, as well as The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Ball is the recipient of the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting, the Sandy Hume Memorial Award for Excellence in Political Journalism and the Lee Walczak Award for Political Analysis for her coverage of political campaigns.

“Molly Ball brings a keen, intuitive eye and astute sensibility to everything she approaches,” says Lynette Clemetson, Wallace House director.

A graduate of Yale University, she was a 2009-2010 Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. Ball grew up in Idaho and Colorado. She lives in Virginia with her husband and three children.

The regional judges read all qualifying entries and select the finalists in local, national and international reporting categories. In addition to Ball, the regional judging panel includes: Stella Chávez, education reporter, KERA public radio (Dallas); Chris Davis, Vice President of Investigative Journalism, Gannett; David Greene, host, “Morning Edition,” NPR; Stephen Henderson, host, “Detroit Today,” WDET; Shirley Leung, columnist, The Boston Globe; and Raney Aronson-Rath, executive producer, “Frontline,” PBS.

The Livingston Awards national judges review all final entries and meet to select the winners in local, national and international reporting. The national judging panel includes: Christiane Amanpour, chief international correspondent, CNN, and host of “Amanpour on PBS,” PBS; Ken Auletta, media and communications writer, The New Yorker; Dean Baquet, executive editor, The New York Times; John Harris, editor-in-chief and co-founder, POLITICO; Clarence Page, syndicated columnist; Anna Quindlen, author; María Elena Salinas, host, “The Real Story with María Elena Salinas,” Investigation Discovery; Bret Stephens, op-ed columnist, The New York Times; and Kara Swisher co-founder and executive editor of Recode.

The Livingston Awards is now accepting entries for 2017 work. Entry deadline in February 1, 2018.

An MLK Symposium Event with Lydia Polgreen

Lydia Polgreen
Lydia Polgreen, editor-in-chief of HuffPost and 2009 Livingston Award winner

“Who Gets to Define American Values”
with Lydia Polgreen

January 16, 2018 | 2 to 3:30 p.m.

Rackham Amphitheatre
University of Michigan
915 E. Washington Street
Free and open to the public

View video »

Join the conversation

Is kneeling during the national anthem a show of disrespect or a display of patriotism? Is extending a welcome to immigrants and refugees central to American ideals or a threat to them? Is the Confederate flag a symbol of heritage or racism? The social, cultural and political fabric of the country is increasingly torn by uncivil debates about the essence of American values. Lydia Polgreen, editor-in-chief of HuffPost and 2009 Livingston Award winner, will discuss the vital role of journalism and a free press in a thriving democracy and its responsibility in the current populist moment.

Fresh off the Listen to America road trip, a 25-city bus tour to engage with people and communities that feel left out of dominant national narratives, Polgreen will address the legacy and current relevance of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and engage the audience in a conversation about voice, power and participation in civil society.

About the Speaker

Polgreen was named editor-in-chief of HuffPost in December 2016 after spending nearly 15 years at The New York Times. There she led an initiative to expand its audience outside the United States, with an initial focus on Latin America. Previously, she was Deputy International Editor, South Africa bureau chief, correspondent for the New Delhi bureau and chief of the West Africa bureau. Before joining The Times, Polgreen was a reporter in Florida and New York state. She began her career as assistant editor and business manager for The Washington (D.C.) Monthly.

Polgreen was a 2006 recipient of the George Polk Award for foreign reporting. She received the 2009 Livingston Award for international reporting for her series, “The Spoils,” an account of how mineral wealth brought misery and exploitation to much of Africa. In 2007, she was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.


For questions about the event email: [email protected]

This is a 2018 Annual U-M Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium event.

Co-sponsored by the Department of History, Department of American Culture and Department of English Language and Literature.

Support the Essential Work of Journalism


When you received your Wallace House Journal last month a small blue box on the lower half of page five may have caught your eye. It read DONATE. I hope it prompted you toward action. Journalists often approach charitable giving cautiously, lest an act of generosity at some point be construed as bias. It’s a wise caution. But one cause journalists can support without hesitation, of course, is journalism. And supporting Wallace House is a concrete way to bolster the careers and wellbeing of journalists.

At a time when our profession is being openly and regularly maligned, Wallace House is expanding its reach and standing up for the vital work of journalists.

  • We’re convening more public events in an effort to increase media literacy and engage people in conversations with journalists on important issues.
  • We’re increasing outreach for the Knight-Wallace Fellowships to ensure that we’re attracting the diverse multi-skilled range of talent needed to propel today’s newsrooms.
  • We’re broadening our partnerships to provide our Fellows with access to the most relevant resources, experts and experiences related to their individual study and to the industry.
  • We’re extending the platform of the Livingston Awards, creating opportunities for our local, national and international winners to share their stories beyond the original audiences and extend the impact of their work.

Your donation will help Wallace House create and sustain this work. With your help we can bring award-winning journalists to campus to talk about the biggest news stories of the moment; feature our Livingston Award winners at conferences to train young reporters in ambitious reporting projects; create workshops to help our Fellows develop new storytelling skills, present the Livingston Lectures to areas of the country where journalism is viewed skeptically; develop new international partnerships to expand our overseas news tours.

While our Fellowship program has a generous endowment, expanding our programs requires additional resources. At the same time, we are working to build an endowment for the Livingston Awards to secure the continuation of the prestigious prizes for years to come.  Your donation toward our operational costs – no matter the amount – demonstrates to foundations and individual donors of major gifts that the people who benefit from the work of Wallace House believe in the enduring value of its programs.

Lisa Gartner at Livingston Lecture

If you’ve been a Knight-Wallace Fellow or a Livingston Award winner, you know how life changing our programs can be. If you are not among our alumni, but you’ve encountered Wallace House through our programs and the journalists selected for them, you know the high caliber of the people and work we support and the intellectual and creative value they add at the University of Michigan and around the country.

Support the essential work of journalists by including Wallace House in your end-of-year giving. You can direct your gift to the Knight-Wallace Fellowships for Journalists, the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists or the Wallace House Annual Fund, which provides flexible support to both programs.

A gift to Wallace House is a show of support for truth, accountability and the vital role of a free and independent press in a democratic society.

Please, help us help journalists. Donate.

Lynette Clemetson is Director of Wallace House. She was a 2010 Knight-Wallace Fellow. You can reach her at [email protected] or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @lclemetson

Reflections from Washington D.C.
A Clear Mission, a Touch of Envy

Letters from grateful readers addressed to
The Washington Post executive editor, Marty Baron,
hang on his office walls.

On a warm October afternoon, as Marty Baron, the venerated editor of The Washington Post, spoke with our fellowship class, I felt admiration, and envy.

Baron outlined how his legacy newsroom was embracing technological changes and had garnered over a million digital-only subscribers earlier this year. The paper’s willingness to adapt, he stressed, was underpinned by its foundational mission of striving for the truth.

Over the past year, The Post has published an impressive stream of stories investigating President Donald Trump’s election campaign, his family members, his business interests and his administration. Earlier that afternoon, as we toured the Post’s newsroom, the outer glass walls of Baron’s office, plastered with grateful letters from readers, captivated me. One note read, “Dear Mr Baron, [… ] Without the hard work of your reporters, our situation today would be so much more dire.” Another said, “Keep asking the important questions. And print the answers.”

Later, as Baron spoke to us, I wondered if in India, an editor like him could survive the political and economic powers that stifle journalism’s core function – “ask the important questions, print the answers.”

Like President Trump, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi loathes the press. Unlike Trump, Modi chooses complete disengagement. He has not held a single press conference in 40 months of holding office. A senior minister in his cabinet coined the term “presstitutes” for journalists asking inconvenient questions. Most legacy newsrooms in India are fearful and self-censor. Last month, the exit of the editor-in-chief of The Hindustan Times, my former newspaper and a leading national daily, was preceded by a meeting between Modi and the paper’s proprietor. The editor lasted in the job for little over a year. Among the paper’s projects, which reportedly upset the government, was “Hate Tracker” – a digital database documenting India’s rising hate[A1]  crimes, including the lynching of religious minorities.

Newsrooms – mostly small, alternative media, and nascent, digital outlets – that are putting up a fight are especially under threat. On October 5, while we were in D.C., Gauri Lankesh, a Bangalore-based editor of a small newspaper, was posthumously given the Anna Politkovskaya Award, established in memory of the slain Russian journalist to honor a female human rights defender. A month ago, assailants had fatally shot Lankesh outside her home as she returned from work.

The day our trip ended, The Wire, a fledgling, resource-strapped website in India, reported how the turnover of a firm headed by Jay Amit Shah, the son of the President of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had increased 16,000 times over since the BJP took power in 2014. The BJP and Shah did not challenge a single fact in the story. Instead, they have filed a criminal defamation suit of 100 crore Rupees (over $15 million) against The Wire’s editors and the reporter.  

I did not need dispatches from home to remind me of the powerful forces against which Indian journalists persevere. On our trip’s penultimate day, I wandered through the floors of the Newseum, lingering at the Journalists Memorial – a tribute to over 2,000 journalists, killed in the line of duty. Its centerpiece was a towering panel with hundreds of photographs of slain reporters. The collage of faces from around the world was heartbreaking, yet deeply inspiring.

In the memorial’s section titled “Stories of the Fallen – 2016”, the profiles included Karun Misra. The exhibit recorded that Misra, the 32-year-old bureau chief of a Hindi daily in north India, “had received death threats, and refused bribes, designed to deter him from reporting on illegal mining” before being gunned down last February.

I recalled a quote displayed prominently at The Washington Post newsroom: “There is only one good reason to enter journalism. When we do our job, we can make a difference.” The fellowship trip was a powerful reminder of why we must persist.

Chitrangada Choudhury is a 2018 Knight-Wallace Fellow and an independent multimedia journalist based in the eastern Indian state of Orissa.