The J-School Beat

NABJ honors Sherri Williams as 'Journalism Educator of the Year'


Dr. Sherri Williams, who has led an effort to educate young Black journalists and others to diversify newsrooms, has been honored with the “Journalism Educator of the Year” award by the National Association of Black Journalists.

Williams is an assistant professor in race, media and communication at American University and has worked as a newspaper reporter for a decade in three newsrooms, including The Associated Press in Jackson, Mississippi.

She is well known for creating programs to educate young Black and other minority journalists, collaborating with publications such as Teen Vogue and the Nation magazines. In 2018, she collaborated with Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, a professor at Wake Forest University, to create the “Black on Campus” project. This involved an eight-month research study conducted by 10 people from universities across the country, equating to 12 stories documenting their experiences as Black students. Those stories, published in the Nation, were about issues such as the mental health of Black student activists who work against racism on campus, barriers to leadership in higher education faced by Black women, and social media’s impact on campus racism.

Last year, Williams worked with The Nation magazine on the “Vision 2020: Election Stories from the Next Generation” project. The magazine published 10 stories about issues in the 2020 election that the young journalists deemed important for their generation. It was a complex project for Williams, as she taught and coached 10 students spread across three time zones in her advanced-level Race, Ethnic and Community Reporting class. In an interview, Williams stated that the students participating in the Vision 2020 project were of several ethnicities, sexual orientations and social or class backgrounds. 

“Class is another very important factor that needs to be included in the newsrooms, not just racial inclusion … The students who have marginalized identities really haven’t been able to take advantage of all the opportunities that this society has to offer,” Williams said, referring to students from lower-income families. “Those journalism partnerships between universities and media outlets can and should be replicated. These outlets will get some solid stories that help to diversify their coverage,” she continued.

Williams believes that these partnerships will also help train more young people of color to work as journalists. To support her statements, she cited the Kerner Commission Report, commissioned by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 to investigate issues behind the 1967 race riots in 16 cities across the country. 

In its report, the commission said that news organizations’ failure to cover the news of Black communities made Black people distrustful of news media. And, it noted, it left white people unaware of the issues that Black people faced. As a result, the Kerner Report recommended that news organizations hire more Black journalists and create beats focused on Black communities. 

The NABJ, founded in 1975, has more than 4,000 members, including journalists, journalism professors and other media professionals. Its “Journalism Educator of the Year” award recognizes the outstanding service, commitment and academic guidance of a professor who has helped increase the number of Black journalists in newsrooms.

Henry (Hank) Scott is a journalist and media business executive whose Media-Maven LLC ( provides a variety of services to media startups and existing publishers.


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