White Veteran Journalist Asks Award-Winning Black Journalist About her Credentials

Nikole Hannah-Jones for ProPublica
Nikole Hannah-Jones for ProPublica

White journalist Gay Talese asked for the credentials of award-winning Black journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones at Boston University’s Narrative Conference last week.

Nikole Hannah-Jones is an acclaimed journalist who has recently reported on failing schools, segregation and a variety of topics on race and education.

Hannah-Jones delivered Friday’s keynote address at the opening of the Narrative Conference. When she was introduced as a New York Times Magazine staff writer, Talese became intrigued about how she got her job.

Talese was also one of the keynote speakers at the Narrative Conference where he talked about the state of journalism and his career in the industry.

Gay Talese

The situation began when veteran reporter Verandah Porche posed a question referring to the female writers.

The 84-year-old Talese stumbled when he was asked which female journalists from his career inspired him when writing. That failed response only led to a more disastrous turn of events.

Then after he spoke about his career and gave tips, Talese went to a luncheon for the speakers where he met Hannah-Jones. According to Rewire.news.com,  at the luncheon, Talese began to talk to Hannah-Jones about her credentials.

“He asked again if I was actually a staff writer. And I said yes,” Hannah-Jones told Rewire.news.com by phone Monday. He asked her how she got hired for that job. “I said they called and offered me a job,” she recalled. “He asked me who hired me, why was I hired?”

Hannah-Jones goes on to say:

“I was talking with another woman journalist. We were trying to figure out what session we were going to go to next, and that’s when he asked me if I was going to get my nails done.”

His initial answer to the question about female journalists and his poking and prodding of Hannah-Jones spawned a hashtag on Twitter. Last Week, the hashtag #WomenGayTaleseShouldRead trended to the dismay of the veteran journalist who recently joined Twitter.


Talese comments reinforces the accusations of the lack of diversity in the journalism industry. Since the event, Talese has gone on record stating that he does admire the female writers of his generation and after — Joan Didion, Janet Malcolm, Lillian Ross and Susan Sontag, among them.

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