Uncovering Justice Stories: A Free Workshop for Journalists at Newmark J-School

  • By Newmark J-School Staff

Applications are now being accepted for “Justice Stories: How to Expose Past Wrongs — and Get Action Now,” a free two-day workshop funded by The Tow Foundation and aimed at mid-career journalists covering juvenile justice, criminal justice and related beats.

Reporters enrolled in the all-expenses-paid training sessions, to be held June 20-21 at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, are expected to arrive with story pitches. They’ll get direct feedback and guidance from top-notch journalists expert in rooting out long-buried injustices and using the reporting to fuel high-impact stories that tackle current struggles.

Participants will return to their newsrooms not only inspired but equipped to:

  • Dig like historians — unearthing the documents, institutions and people needed to expose past travesties, illuminate present battles and seek justice.
  • Demonstrate a direct connection between long ago injustices and contemporary crises ensnaring young people — and produce action-geared accountability journalism, bolstered by depth and context.
  • Elevate a local story to national news in multiple media formats.
  • Cultivate human sources across generations and sensitively conduct crucial interviews that reveal long-buried secrets.
  • Navigate being targeted for harassment, doxxing and more after unearthing truths that many would rather see stay hidden.

Among the scheduled guests is “Race Against Time” author Jerry Mitchell whose reporting helped bring killers to justice for the 16th Street Church bombing in Birmingham and the Mississippi Burning case, decades after the crimes. His latest work revealed deadly restraints used disproportionately on Black people.

Also on tap is investigative reporter, podcast producer and documentarian Vann R. Newkirk II, whose 2019 article for The Atlantic, “The Great Land Robbery,” detailed how 1 million Black families were ripped from their farms. His reporting drew a clear line from the government-led property theft to systemic poverty and gun violence disproportionately affecting Black teens and young men.

COVER STORY: Vann R. Newkirk II’s “The Great Land Robbery” appeared in The Atlantic. Via The Atlantic

Participants’ travel, lodging and workshop costs will be covered by The Tow Foundation as part of the Criminal Justice Reporting Initiative, a bid to strengthen criminal justice reporting in New York City and around the country.

Applicants should send a resume, along with relevant written, video or audio clips — and a proposal for a criminal justice story they’d like to work on — to the J-School’s Daryl Khan at daryl.khan@journalism.cuny.edu. Qualified journalists will be accepted as they apply. 

This workshop follows last year’s inaugural effort, Anatomy of a Police Cover-up, which drew nearly 20 journalists who took lessons on how to expose corruption back to their newsrooms. Among them: Paul Flahive, accountability reporter for Texas Public Radio, who expanded his reporting into the death of a girl in the child services system into “Justice Ignored,” a three-part series showing how the state of Texas viewed the youth more as a criminal than as a victim — and how the state fails many child victims of sex crimes.

Other scheduled guests for “Justice Stories: How to Expose Past Wrongs — and Get Action Now” include:

  •  Barbara Gray, head of the Newmark J-School’s Research Center and a nationally recognized expert on investigative research, who will share techniques for using multiple government archives, old newspapers, census records and other sources.
  • NY1 host, New York magazine columnist and Newmark J-School Adjunct Professor Errol Louis, who will offer key background on the battle for civil rights and other reform movements — and show how past forces drive present politics and conditions.
  • Yoruba Richen, head of the Newmark J-School’s  Documentary Program and co-director of “American Reckoning,” a Frontline and Retro Report investigation into the unsolved 1967 murder of Wharlest Jackson Sr., a local NAACP leader killed in Mississippi.
  • Joel Simon, director of the Newmark J-School’s Journalism Protection Initiative, who has traveled the world defending the rights of journalists and will share strategies and resources for reporters facing everything from pressure to threats over provocative work.
  • Investigative juvenile justice reporter Clarissa Sosin, who worked for the past five years with Daryl Khan on a Baton Rogue police corruption series recently published by Verite.
  • Ben Greenberg, a reporter who found that the FBI has done little to heed a law ordering the agency to investigate more than 100 unsolved Civil Rights-era murders, and who will demonstrate how past law enforcement malfeasance ties to the 2014 police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown outside St. Louis.
  • Eugene Collins, lead investigator for NAACP Louisiana, who became an expert in unraveling police cover-ups with his work aiding the probe into the 2019 death of motorist Ronald Greene.
  • Ben Montgomery, a reporter who investigated the 1934 lynching of Claude Neal in Florida and detailed a conspiracy to keep the identities of the killers secret.
  • Monica Cassaberry, a New York City mother pushing for juvenile justice system reform in the wake of her young son’s unsolved shooting death.
  • Taylonn Murphy, an activist and probation coordinator who works with gang-involved youth  — and is now working to bring the teens who were incarcerated nearly a decade ago during the then-largest gang raid in New York City’s history back into the community. 

The lineup will be updated as the workshop draws closer. Please direct applications and inquiries to Daryl Khan at daryl.khan@journalism.cuny.edu.


About the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism

The Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, founded in 2006, has become nationally recognized for its innovative programs. The only public graduate journalism school in the northeastern U.S., it prepares students from diverse economic, racial, and cultural backgrounds to produce high-quality journalism. As the news industry continues to reinvent itself for the digital age, the Newmark J-School is at the forefront of equipping journalists at every stage of the profession with the reporting, writing, visual, audio, data, technological, and entrepreneurial skills they need to find stories and tell them effectively. The school offers a Master of Arts in Journalism, a unique bilingual M.A. in Journalism for students fluent in English and Spanish, and the nation’s first M.A. in Engagement Journalism, as well as a Center for Community Media and professional and executive education programs, as we work to find sustainable business models for journalism.

About The Tow Foundation

The Tow Foundation, established in 1988 by Leonard and Claire Tow, funds projects that promote transformative experiences and collaborative ventures in fields where there are opportunities for breakthroughs, reform, and benefits for underserved populations. Investments focus on the support of innovative programs and system reform in the fields of youth and adult criminal justice, medicine and public health, higher education, journalism, and culture. For more information, visit www.towfoundation.org or follow @Towfdn on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.