Columbia’s Lipman Center to foster local reporting on systemic racism in American criminal justice

May 11, 2021

Columbia Journalism School’s Ira A. Lipman Center for Journalism and Human and Civil Rights has launched a two-year, $500,000 reporting project for local newsrooms to investigate systemic racism in the criminal justice system.

The Initiative in Reporting on Race and Criminal Justice at the Lipman Center, led by Professor Jelani Cobb, will focus on racial law enforcement, prosecutorial and judicial abuses. 

“This is a crucial moment in which we see the implications of inequalities in our criminal justice system,” said Professor Cobb. “This issue has never been more pertinent, and the initiative is one of our best opportunities to shed more light on what has gone so terribly wrong and what our society is obligated to do to fix it.”

Grants ranging from $30,000 to $45,000 will be given to four local news organizations selected through a competitive application process. The funds can be used for such expenses as data acquisition, analysis and visualization; funding additional staff on a project; costs associated with FOIA requests; or travel (public health conditions permitting). Projects run six months.

“For decades, local and regional news outlets have grappled with shrinking resources and digital disruption, even as they have tenaciously worked to be a conduit of vital information and government accountability,” said Steve Coll, Columbia Journalism School Dean and Henry R. Luce Professor of Journalism. “The Initiative will provide the financial support, guidance and collaboration to allow substantive reporting on the persistent challenge of systemic racism in the criminal justice system.”   

The center will begin accepting applications for reporting grants on May 15 and the application period will close June 30. Application requirements can be found at the Initiative webpage

Established in 2017 by a gift from humanitarian and philanthropist Ira A. Lipman, the center that bears his name convenes leaders in journalism and civil and human rights, and conducts research around social justice issues. The center works to enhance the academic experience of current journalism school students by contributing to curriculum design and developing student activities inspired by the center’s work. The center’s annual fellowships help produce significant civil and human rights reportage.