Ta-Nehisi Coates Awarded ‘Genius’ Grant; It’s a Rare Honor for a Journalist of Color

Ta-Nehisi Coates
John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Foundation Gives 24 Recipients $625,000 Over Five Years

Ta-Nehisi Coates, the national correspondent of The Atlantic whose explorations of race have also made him a bestselling author, is among 24 Americans named Tuesday as winners of a MacArthur Fellowship, known as "the genius grant."

Advertisement

"Every year, the MacArthur Foundation selects a crop of extraordinary Americans and hands them $625,000 paid over the course of five years — no strings attached, no progress reports needed," as Anne Quito reported for Quartz.

"When I first got the call from the MacArthur Foundation I was ecstatic, and then I was deeply, deeply honored. We labor in the dark [video]," Coates said in a video on the foundation website. "You know, if anybody even reads what I'm doing, that's a, that's a great day."

Advertisement

Coates also said in the video, ". . . The challenge of writing is to see your horribleness, on page, to see your terribleness, and then to go to bed, and wake up the next day, and take that horribleness and that terribleness and refine it, and make it not so terrible and not so horrible, and then go to bed again, and come the next day, and refine it a little bit more, and make it not so bad, and then go to bed the next day and do it again, then make it maybe average.

"And then one more time, you know, if you're lucky, maybe you get to good."

The foundation says of its awards, "The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. There are three criteria for selection of Fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work."

Advertisement

It described Coates as "a journalist, blogger, and memoirist who brings personal reflection and historical scholarship to bear on America's most contested issues. Writing without shallow polemic and in a measured style, Coates addresses complex and challenging issues such as racial identity, systemic racial bias, and urban policing. He subtly embeds the present — in the form of anecdotes about himself or others — into historical analysis in order to illustrate how the implications of the past are still experienced by people today."

"Between the World and Me" reached No. 1 on the New York Times hardcover nonfiction list in Sunday's print edition. It is No. 2 on the list for Oct. 4.

Advertisement

It is rare for a journalist of color to receive a MacArthur grant. Previous recipients include David Simon, writer-producer of hour-long TV dramas "Homicide" and "The Wire" (2010); Jerry Mitchell of the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., who has investigated civil rights cold cases (2009); documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson (2002); Sandy Close, executive director of New America Media (1995); Stanley Crouch, jazz critic and writer (1993); and Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard University, who went on to become co-founder of TheRoot.com and producer of documentaries for PBS (1981) .

In 1989, a grant went to W. Keith Hefner, a New York journalist and educator who helps urban teens learn to write through Youth Communication, a youth development program he founded in 1980.

Advertisement

Kristin Hare, Poynter Institute: Ta-Nehisi Coates is the latest journalist to become a MacArthur Fellow

Mary Carole McCauley, Baltimore Sun: West Baltimore native Ta-Nehisi Coates named a 2015 MacArthur Fellow

Advertisement

Paul Sullivan, New York Times: How MacArthur Geniuses Handle Their Money Windfalls

Asian Immigrants to Outpace Blacks, Latinos

September 28, 2015

Unexpectedly, 1965 Law Would Change the Face of America

Asian immigrants are projected to become the largest immigrant group by 2055 and make up 38 percent of the foreign-born population by 2065, the Pew Research Center reported on Monday, although Hispanics will remain a larger share of the nation’s overall population.

Advertisement

The report was timed to commemorate a milestone. "Fifty years ago this week, after taking a curious route to the president's desk, one of the most underestimated bills in U.S. history was signed into law," Tom Gjelten, a correspondent for NPR News, and the author of "A Nation of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story,” wrote Monday for the Washington Post.

"The 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) would end up changing the face of the United States as much as any measure enacted in the 20th century. But that was largely because of a miscalculation by a congressman who thought he was limiting the bill's effect," Gjelten wrote.

Advertisement

Wayne Dawkins noted Sunday in the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va., "From 1924 to 1965, Northern Europeans — Anglo-Saxon or Nordic — were welcome. Mediterranean and Slavic Europeans were grudgingly accepted. Asians were virtually banned. Africans were not included in the conversation.

"Mexicans and Caribbean people of the Western Hemisphere were accepted as temporary labor to be recruited, then sent home as the U.S. economy soared and dipped. . . . "

Advertisement

The Pew Research Center said its projections "also show that black immigrants and white immigrants together will become a slightly larger share of the nation’s immigrants by 2065 than in 2015 (29% vs. 26%).

"The country's overall population will feel the impact of these shifts. Non-Hispanic whites are projected to become less than half of the U.S. population by 2055 and 46% by 2065. No racial or ethnic group will constitute a majority of the U.S. population. Meanwhile, Hispanics will see their population share rise to 24% by 2065 from 18% today, while Asians will see their share rise to 14% by 2065 from 6% today. . . ."

Advertisement

Paul Cheung, national president of the Asian American Journalists Association, told Journal-isms by email Monday that the conclusions about Asian immigrants were not surprising.

"Asian American Pacific Islanders represent the fastest growing minority group in America. We, the media, have the opportunity to grow alongside this audience by creating an inclusive environment of diverse coverage and hiring practices. Otherwise, we will risk losing this growing audience if we fail to represent their voice and experience," Cheung said.

Advertisement

Pew also reported, "For its part, the American public has mixed views on the impact immigrants have had on American society. . . . Overall, 45% of Americans say immigrants in the U.S. are making American society better in the long run, while 37% say they are making it worse (16% say immigrants are not having much effect). The same survey finds that half of Americans want to see immigration to the U.S. reduced (49%), and eight-in-ten (82%) say the U.S. immigration system either needs major changes or it needs to be completely rebuilt. . . ."

"Views are most negative about the economy and crime: Half of U.S. adults say immigrants are making things worse in those areas. On the economy, 28% say immigrants are making things better, while 20% say they are not having much of an effect. On crime, by contrast, just 7% say immigrants are making things better, while 41% generally see no positive or negative impact of immigrants in the U.S. on crime.

Advertisement

The researchers continued, "Some 47% of U.S. adults say immigrants from Asia have had a mostly positive impact on American society, and 44% say the same about immigrants from Europe. Meanwhile, half of Americans say the impact of immigrants from Africa has been neither positive nor negative.

"However, Americans are more likely to hold negative views about the impact of immigrants from Latin America and the Middle East. . . ."

Advertisement

Nelson Balido, Fox News Latino: United States unprepared to meet threat from mass migration

Esther J. Cepeda, Washington Post Writers Group: Immigrants' effect on U.S. varies by locale

Advertisement

Wayne Dawkins, Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.: When we reformed immigration

Editorial, Daily News, New York: Immigration works for newcomers and everyone else

Advertisement

Tom Gjelten with Diane Rehm, "the Diane Rehm Show," WAMU-FM, Washington: "A Nation Of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story" (Sept. 15)

Pete Musto, Voice of America: Chinese Girls Raised in America Find Their Identity

Advertisement

Karthick Ramakrishnan, aapidata.com: How 1965 Changed Asian America, in 2 graphs

Randall Yip, AsAmNews: Ensuring the Survival of Japanese American Culture

YouTube: BuzzFeed Yellow Presents 26 Questions Asians Have For White People (video)

Advertisement

Online News Association Honors Dori Maynard

Dori J. Maynard, the late president of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education who was described as "the legend who succeeded a legend," was awarded the Rich Jaroslovsky Founder Award Saturday at the Online News Association convention in Los Angeles.

Advertisement

The award was accepted by Evelyn Hsu, executive director of the Maynard Institute, and Liz Rosen, Dori Maynard's mother, as her brothers Alex and David Maynard, and sister, Sara-Ann Rosen, looked on.

Jaroslovsy presented the award to the daughter of Robert C. Maynard as a "tireless and powerful" diversity advocate who was "the conscience of online journalism." A supporter of ONA, she "embraced digital media," Jaroslovsy said.

Advertisement

Hsu said the Institute was continuing Dori Maynard's work with the help of the Ford, John S. and James L. Knight, and W.K. Kellogg foundations as it develops a strategic plan to "reimagine our work in this new environment."

Ironically, the diverse contingent of Maynard associates was just about the only racial diversity on stage during the awards program.

Advertisement

This, despite the fact that "ONA15 speakers include 52 percent women, 36 percent people of color, 25 percent local news and eight percent international representation," according to ONA officials Irving Washington and Jane McDonnell, who wrote of ONA's diversity plans on the association's website on Sept. 13.

Meanwhile, the Maynard Institute announced that Martin G. Reynolds, Bay Area News Group senior editor, is receiving a 12-month fellowship "to lead the institute through a strategic planning and implementation process," and added three members to its board of directors.

Advertisement

They are Debra Adams Simmons, vice president of news development at Advance Local and a 2016 Nieman Foundation fellow; Dickson Louie, principal, Louie & Associates, CPA, and visiting assistant professor at the University of California, Davis, Graduate School of Management; and Kevin Merida, managing editor, Washington Post.

Awards ceremony (video)

Award winners

Sam Berkhead, International Journalists Network: ONA's #BlackTwitter panel talks bringing greater visibility to underrepresented communities

Advertisement

Baltimore Sun: Baltimore Sun wins national journalism awards for Freddie Gray coverage

NetNewsCheck.com: ONA Awards Honor Quartz, WashPost

Kendall Trammell, ONA Newsroom: Will You be 'The Black' Reporter?

Irving Washington and Jane McDonnell, Online News Association: ONA, Conferences and Diversity: One Step at a Time (Sept. 13)

Advertisement

Despite Accolades, Pope's Visit Left Indian Unsatisfied

"During his address to the U.S. Congress on September 24, Pope Francis alluded to the collision between the colonizing nations of Christendom and our original nations and peoples of this continent," Steven Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape) wrote Saturday for Indian Country Today Media Network.

Advertisement

"In a classic example of a bureaucratic side-step, the pope said: 'Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected.' Is this meant to suggest that the rights of our ancestors and our nations were mostly respected, just not always respected? History provides ample evidence that the right of our nations to live free from domination and dehumanization has hardly ever been respected by dominating societies, such as the United States.

"Pope Francis also said: 'Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present.' With regard to U.S. federal Indian law and policy, the pontiff made two errors of logic with that one simple statement. The issues we're dealing with regarding the doctrine of Christian discovery and domination are not 'in the past.' The doctrine of Christian domination has been carried forward and maintained by each new generation of the society. It is still being maintained in 2015. . . ."

Advertisement

Jenice Armstrong, Philadelphia Daily News: Blacks and Catholicism: It's not an oxymoron

Associated Press: Junipero Serra statue defaced days after Pope Francis canonized missionary

Advertisement

Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: Goodbye Pope Francis, Philly enjoyed having you. Goodbye John, your fellow Republicans did not enjoy you. 

Maureen Dowd, New York Times: Francis, the Perfect 19th-Century Pope

Juan Gonzalez and Corky Siemaszko, Daily News, New York: Pope Francis met with adoration of 80,000 at Central Park

Advertisement

Anna March, Salon: Stop calling Pope Francis progressive: You might love his pastoral style, but don’t fool yourself on Vatican substance (Sept. 21) 

Suzette Parmley, Philadelphia Inquirer: NBC10 union cameramen and photographers walk off the job  

Advertisement

Johnny Vega, Fox News Latino: Survivor of clergy abuse: I trust Pope Francis, but I still doubt he understands our pain

Laura Washington, Chicago Sun-Times: Here's hoping pope's words inspire humanity, compromise, peace

Advertisement

James Wright, Trice Edney News Wire from the Afro American Newspaper: Blacks Embrace Pope Francis’ Address to U.S. Congress

N.Y. Daily News Cuts Could Mean End of Tabloid Era

"When it was over and the feature page was gone, dozens of reporters had been fired and the morning assignment editor was shown the door only minutes after handing out the morning's first assignments, The Daily News — or what was left of it — was in a state of shock," Alan Feuer wrote Sunday for the New York Times.

Advertisement

Feuer also wrote, "At the very least the job cuts meant that the recent attrition at newspapers across the country had finally arrived in force in the nation's media capital. But it also suggested something deeper — about the city and the industry. Mortimer B. Zuckerman, the owner of The News, known for its crusades against municipal misconduct, was dismissing ace reporters while bolstering his global online platform.

"William D. Holiber, the chief executive, had also created a satellite operation, in New Jersey, with a mission in part to aggregate content from across the web and repackage it for The News's own site.

Advertisement

"While both men promised that The Daily News would not give up its city-centric mandate, the shift toward a digital edition, which would read the same in Brooklyn and Bahrain, was the end of something. The News, after all, is the ultimate local paper, and the real-life model for Clark Kent's Daily Planet. If focusing on the Internet was not the end of the tabloid itself, then perhaps it was the end of the city’s tabloid era. . . ."

Optics of Trump's Ouster of Ramos Weren't All Accidental

"Most non-Spanish-speaking Americans probably know [Jorge] Ramos best as the journalist who was thrown out of Donald Trump's press conference in Dubuque, Iowa, in August," Marcela Valdes wrote Friday for Sunday's New York Times Magazine in one of two profiles of the Univision anchor appearing in the past few days.

Advertisement

"Ramos had tried to ask Trump — who had recently declared that 'anchor babies' were not American citizens and that he would deport 11 million undocumented immigrants — about his immigration proposals. Trump told Ramos to sit down; Ramos refused. 'I have the right to ask a question,' he said. Trump shot back, 'Go back to Univision,' before signaling for a guard to remove Ramos from the room.

"It was a remarkable exchange, and the optics of it weren’t entirely accidental. Ramos arrived almost two hours early to grab a seat in the front row while his team set up two cameras: one to film Trump and one to film Ramos. Even before Trump entered the room, Ramos knew he would stand up when he asked his question. He'd studied Trump, he told me, and noticed that it was easier for Trump to silence reporters when they were sitting down. He also wanted to be equal to Trump, visually, and to be miked separately so that, for his audiences at least, his voice would be as loud as Trump's.

Advertisement

"When I suggested that such preparations turned the news into a kind of contrived performance, Ramos countered that performance was very different from acting. Television news, he argued, can't be wholly improvised. Flights need to be booked. Press passes must be requested and approved. 'TV doesn't happen,' he said. 'You produce TV.' And if the cameras are not rolling, there is no story.

"To prove his point, he cited the case of The Des Moines Register, the Iowa newspaper that was denied press credentials for at least one Trump campaign event after it published an editorial titled 'Trump Should Pull the Plug on His Bloviating Side Show.' 'What's more important?' Ramos asked me: the ejection of one reporter or the exclusion of an entire newspaper? Yet for the average television viewer, The Des Moines Register incident might as well never have happened. It occurred off-camera. . . ."

Advertisement

Jamelle Bouie, Slate: Our George Wallace

William Finnegan, the New Yorker: The Man Who Wouldn't Sit Down (Oct. 5)

The Nation Publishes "The Case Against the Roberts Court"

"Tuesday, September 29, marks the tenth anniversary of John Roberts' appointment as Chief Justice of the United States," the Nation magazine announced on Monday. "In anticipation, The Nation is publishing 'The Case Against The Roberts Court: A Decade of Justice Undone,' a special issue in collaboration with the Alliance for Justice (AFJ)."

Advertisement

The magazine said that it brought together 10 "of the foremost legal scholars, commentators, and practitioners in the US," and that "the collection offers a chronological assessment of the most consequential and controversial conservative decisions — one per year — issued by the Court. . . ."

One of three areas examined is "An abiding suspicion of race-conscious efforts to ameliorate discrimination:

"Paul Butler reviews how the Court granted police officers extraordinary, unconstitutional power by rendering the 'exclusionary rule' toothless;

Advertisement

"William Yeomans explores how it stymied public school integration in a reversal of decades of equal-protection law;

"Theodore M. Shaw reports on the gutting of the Voting Rights Act;

"George H. Kendall questions whether the death penalty is even constitutional. . . ."

Advertisement

Radio One Invests in Casino to Reverse Millions in Losses

"Close watchers of Radio One, the national network of radio and television stations aimed at black and urban consumers, [know] the company has had a rocky stretch in recent years," Jonathan O'Connell reported Friday for the Washington Post.

Advertisement

"With its radio stations struggling in some markets, the company lost nearly $32 million in six months ending in June. It lost $13 million alone in the second quarter. Radio One's stock has been trading at a little over $2.50 per share this week, a far cry from its pre-recession value.

"But help may be on the way, in the form of the $1.3 billion MGM casino resort under construction at National Harbor.

Advertisement

"In order to win a license for the National Harbor casino, MGM Resorts International was required to bring on minority-owned businesses as ownership partners. James J. Murren, MGM chief executive, said he was introduced to Radio One founder Cathy Hughes by an MGM board member, former U.S. Labor secretary Alexis M. Herman.

"The meeting led to Hughes and her son, Alfred C. Liggins III, who now runs the company, investing $40 million in the project in return for a potentially lucrative cut of revenues. The stake amounts to about 3.1 percent of the total project cost.

Advertisement

" 'Alfred and his mom own more than I do,' Murren said. . . ."

This image was lost some time after publication.
Advertisement

Giago Still Argues for "Indian" Over "Native American"

Tim Giago, editor emeritus of Native Sun News and founding president of the Native American Journalists Association, has long argued for use of the term "American Indian" over "Native American." He returned to the subject in the Sept. 23 edition of Native Sun News.

Advertisement

"The choice of 'Native American' came into vogue in the late 1970s because there were those who objected to the word 'Indian' never knowing that 'Indian' was the Spanish version of 'Indios'[,] a name some would translate to mean a shortened version of 'Niño’s de Indios' or 'Children of God.' As the name traveled north it slowly went from Indios to Indian and no, Columbus was not so stupid that he thought he landed in India or the West Indies. . . ."

Giago also wrote, "In this world of political correctness, it is a shame that the identity of a people who have always called themselves Indians [is] now left in a state of confused identities. Enos Poor Bear, former president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, said many years ago, 'I was born an Indian and I will die an Indian.'

Advertisement

"If the mainstream media wants to change our identity they should at least consult with the thousands of Indian elders who still call themselves 'Indians.' And in the meantime Indian newspapers and radio stations should take the advice we just offered and ask their own tribal elders what name they prefer to be called. We are probably engaged in a losing battle because the national media has far more influence that we do, but at least in most cases we will use the term 'Indian' when we feel it is appropriate. . . ."

Cecilia Vaisman Dies at 54, "Such a Radio Genius"

"Award-winning journalist and multimedia producer Cecilia Vaisman, who brought the pressing issues of her native Latin America to the forefront of radio audiences in the United States through her passionate style of storytelling [accessible via search engine], died Sunday after a battle with breast cancer, according to her colleagues," Tony Briscoe reported Sunday for the Chicago Tribune. "She was 54.

Advertisement

"Vaisman, who earned two Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards for reporting on the disadvantaged, among numerous other commendations, had her radio documentaries broadcast on WBEZ's 'This American Life,' National Public Radio's 'All Things Considered' and 'Latino USA,' and other outlets.

" 'She was such a radio genius,' said Alan Weisman, co-founder of Homelands Productions, an independent media cooperative. 'She was not only a good reporter working for radio, but her work was very richly produced. It was like setting news to music with lots of sound interwoven. She was a master at that.'

Advertisement

"Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and raised in northern New Jersey, Vaisman was the youngest of four children. She earned a degree in Latin American studies from Barnard College in New York City and later joined the staff of NPR in Washington as a producer in 1986. . . ."

Share This Story