Ida B. Wells, prominent 19th century journalist and activist, has fascinated Journalism Chair David Mindich since the 1990s. The subject of his research and the founding thinker behind much of his work on press objectivity, Ida B. Wells is now also the namesake of an award Dr. Mindich established earlier this year. The award is open to current journalism students enrolled in Klein College of Media and Communication. The first recipient, rising junior journalism and political science double major and new Editor-in-Chief of The Temple News Lawrence Ukenye, strives to embody Wells' legacy and ideals in his journalistic work as well, following Dr. Mindich's lead.
Passionate about print journalism and politics, Ukenye says he applied for the award because he felt like it would give him an opportunity to continue to push himself as a reporter in his classes and extracurricular activities.
"The Ida B. Wells Award specifically speaks to what it means to have journalistic integrity, and I think that's something I work towards every single day whether it's with The Temple News, or whether it's independent projects," Ukenye said. "That award speaks to me because I pride myself on being accurate, on being truthful, and using my platform or whatever platform I'm given to tell stories that best reflect the subject matter and highlight new information that needs to be brought to light."
Engaged in Wells-focused research ever since his graduate school days in the 1990s, Mindich is the author of The Mediated World, a textbook that aims to provide a more comprehensive and diverse guide to the history and impact of mass media. The textbook begins by explaining the history of Ida B. Wells, including the many lies about lynchings she uncovered in the white press in the Reconstruction-era South. Mindich connects Wells' work with the killing of Philando Castile by a police officer, which occurred while he was writing the book, as it was a groundbreaking case of a police killing by being livestreamed on Facebook. Still, Mindich cites Castile's violent death to be yet another example of centuries of mainstream press ignoring Black struggles and suffering.
Mindich has assigned the book in his Journalism and Society course, and professors at other universities have assigned it as well. Looking to give back to Temple University students, Mindich decided to start a scholarship with any proceeds from the textbook, and established the Ida B. Wells Award.
"After George Floyd was lynched, I spent the summer rereading all of Ida B. Wells' work that I could get my hands on," Mindich said. He added that George Floyd's death marked yet another tragedy reflecting the issues that Wells dedicated her life to uncovering, and that it should indeed be referred to as a lynching for these historical reasons. "Her investigative reporting really uncovered some amazing things, so I thought this would be an amazing, inspiring person to name a scholarship after, to hopefully inspire some of my students to emulate Ida B. Wells."
In addition to Wells, Mindich was inspired to establish this scholarship by his grandfather's legacy. After immigrating to the US in the 1920s, Mindich's grandfather Abraham Mindich attended New York University for a semester or two before the death of his father forced him to drop out to assist with the family's laundry business.
"I'm mindful that I live a very different life than my grandfather, whose whole professional life was in the laundry business," Mindich said. "And so I'd love to, in a small way, give an opportunity to a student to make it easier for him or her to go to college."
This year, that student is Lawrence Ukenye. Eventually, Ukenye hopes that this opportunity, along with the various other opportunities he has pursued at Klein, will propel him toward his eventual goal of becoming a reporter at a mainstream print publication.
"I really feel that Temple has really given me the ability to push myself and put myself in uncomfortable positions, and I think this award will only push me to work harder and continue to do great things," he said. "I'm really grateful for it."
To learn more about establishing a scholarship or supporting Klein students in other ways, please contact Karen Gallagher, assistant dean, development and alumni relations at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to giving.temple.edu/kleincollege.