COLLEGE PARK – “Printing Hate,” the award-winning collaborative project led by the University of Maryland’s Howard Center for Investigative Journalism, on Tuesday won the News Leaders Association’s Punch Sulzberger Innovator of the Year Award.
The professional award, which is sponsored by The New York Times in memory of former Times publisher Arthur Ochs "Punch" Sulzberger, recognizes innovation by a news organization in reaching underserved or disenfranchised audiences such as minority, immigrant or rural communities.
The judges wrote: “Picking up where Ida B. Wells left off, this is an exceptional exercise in journalistic accountability and a memory project for the ages. An innovative collaboration involving students at five HBCUs, the University of Arkansas, and Black newspaper publishers, this project used data as a time-travel tool.
“The journalists scraped more than 150,000 newspapers to showcase the racist coverage of horrific lynchings. The database allows users to filter varying types of harmful coverage — including reporting that attempted to justify, and even organize, acts of state-abetted racial terror.
“The resulting 40,000 pages of verified data and accompanying stories amount to a powerful tool of historical inquiry. This project says a great deal about the kind of world that newspapers helped create and the more honest, rigorous, accurate and morally informed future that communities can envision — together.”
It marks the second time in three years that the Howard Center won the Punch Sulzberger Award, having claimed the 2020 honor for “Code Red: Baltimore’s Climate Divide.”
“Sean Mussenden, the Howard Center’s data editor, specializes in taking the germs of ideas and working with students to turn them into journalism that makes a difference,” Howard Center Director Kathy Best said. “We hope news organizations around the country will use the database we created for ‘Printing Hate’ to lead conversations in their communities about their pasts and the future.”
To make “Printing Hate” possible, the Howard Center recruited 60 journalism students from UMD’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, Hampton University, Howard University, Morehouse College, Morgan State University, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University and the University of Arkansas. Inspired by Merrill Associate Professor DeNeen Brown’s reporting on the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, the students came together to document the racial hate and violence incited by white-owned newspapers during the Jim Crow era.
Students examined newspapers published between 1865 and 1965, using computational journalism methods to extract information using large-scale text analysis from digital archives containing more than 5,000 newspapers.
Once they identified particularly egregious coverage, they dug deeply into census records and other historical manuscripts to identify and locate descendants, interviewed historians and contemporary experts on lynching, and talked to current and former newspaper editors about what responsibility, if any, modern papers have for addressing their pasts.
That resulted in more than 40 student-generated stories, as well as a short documentary, static and motion graphics, photos and audio. A database published in December significantly expanded the scope of the project. It includes historic examples from nearly 70 additional newspapers that featured racist local coverage of lynchings. All of the papers in the database are still published today in some form.
“This outstanding project combined interviews, archived records, video, social media, visuals and student-designed databases to tell one of the ugliest stories in world history,” Merrill College Dean Lucy Dalglish said. “These students dove deeply into the history of an industry they want to join and make better.”
“Printing Hate” previously won an Investigative Reporters & Editors medal and the 2021 IRE Award in the Student - Large category. It is believed to be the first student project to win an IRE medal.
The Howard Center is generously funded by $3 million from the Scripps Howard Foundation and the “Printing Hate” project was supported by the Park Foundation.