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Nieman Foundation, April 12, 2019, Steve Almond - writing class. Lisa Abitbol


Wendi C. Thomas, NF ’16

Editor and publisher, MLK50: Justice Through Journalism

Wendi C. Thomas

The fellowship allowed me to create a yearlong nonprofit reporting project in Memphis timed to the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. And because of my team’s reporting, there are people in Memphis who are closer to financial security than they were before “MLK50: Justice Through Journalism” began.

I came to Cambridge with a vision for the project, but what I didn’t have was confidence. There were no entrepreneurial journalists in Memphis for me to follow. I wasn’t sure how to raise enough money to pay our contributors fairly. And part of me wondered if I was crazy to try.

I found confidence, connections and the assurance that my vision was a noble one.

Through classes with Harvard’s Matthew Desmond and MIT’s Ethan Zuckerman, through the deep conversations with the “Lady Summit” (a group of women Nieman Fellows who encouraged each other’s dreams and ambitions), through the confidence I gained knowing I was a member of this elite group, I went back to Memphis ready.

In April 2017, I launched “MLK50: Justice Through Journalism.” Over the next year, my team (most of whom are women) steered the public conversation away from shallow commemorations to the reason why King was in Memphis in 1968: To support underpaid workers.”