National Writers Provide Life Lessons at HU Forum

Award-Winning Journalists Explain 'Power of the Pen'

Howard University students were the target audience for a powerhouse panel featuring nationally recognized and honored journalists who discussed the “Power of the Pen.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates, former staff writer at The Atlantic, Nikole Hannah-Jones, staff writer for the New York Times Magazine, and Jelani Cobb, staff writer at The New Yorker, shared perspectives about the how to approach a journalism career. During the discussion, there were several interesting moments of self-reflection that were drawn out by moderator Anthony Brown Jr., an independent journalist and Howard University alumnus who conceived the idea of the panel discussion.

Hannah-Jones, co-founder of the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, expounded on why she chose to be a writer and why people should care.

“I felt journalism was my mission,” the 2017 MacArthur Prize recipient told the audience. “I would hope my work is deeply reported, is illuminating and forces us to see the truth about our country.”

Cobb, who wears multiple hats as a professor, historian and journalist, spoke of how he approaches his work while juggling these roles.

“I’m a Black man trying to be responsible to his community and these times,” said Cobb, a Columbia University professor and Howard University alumnus who was an English and history major. “I did not think those two majors were mutually exclusive. My mission has always been to use the tools I gained at this institution in a way that was befitting the people who invested in me”

Throughout the question-and-answer period, students sought pearls of wisdom to position themselves in pursuit of a dream. The panelists encouraged them to stand firm in their conviction.

Coates, who also attended Howard University, spoke about the strength that comes from being dedicated to the challenge of journalism.

“It’s not enough to work for the New York Times, or The New Yorker or The Atlantic,” said Coates, a 2016 MacArthur Fellow. “You have to use the work that you create like a sword. It feels like weight, but it’s really an accelerant.”

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