May 31, 2020

Jemele Hill Is Joining The Atlantic and Ready to Talk Politics

Did you always feel you wanted to report outside of sports?

Sports has always been a great entry point for us to discuss issues that are pretty widely known in society. A lot of times sports is at the forefront, pushing us toward progress; that was always a fascinating dynamic for me. I do think this current presidency, the tone of this administration, and the fact that the president has routinely addressed sports in a way that is divisive makes it more critical and important to write about these issues.

How do you think your contentious last year at ESPN and your new position will speak to black and brown people in the media, in an industry that is still predominantly white?

I just hope that my success is in some way influencing other outlets to really be much more purposeful in promoting, advancing and recruiting people of color. When I was at The Orlando Sentinel as a sports columnist, it was embarrassing that I was the only black female sports columnist at a daily newspaper in North America. If I am able to somehow open some doors for people, that is something that I welcome and I embrace.

Do you think you’d still be at ESPN if John Skipper was still running the network?

No, I don’t. I had a very deep — I still do — respect for Skipper. He was instrumental in me being successful at ESPN, but the desire to do other things in different ways was there independent of him.

Do we need more people like Mr. Skipper to pull black and brown reporters in and groom them?

I think there has got to be an effort that is genuine. It is always framed in the way that they are giving people of color a chance. They are not giving us anything. These are opportunities that we have to earn and in many cases have had to do twice the work just to get noticed or recruited. At this point I’m tired of having to explain what the problem is. You know about N.A.B.J., N.A.H.J. and A.A.J.A. If you’re really so insistent about developing and grooming some black people, why aren’t you going to H.B.C.U.s to recruit?

Has The Atlantic asked you to tweet carefully?

No. That has not come up. There will be some flexibility there because I’m at a magazine that’s rooted in politics. I don’t have to worry about keeping politics out of my tweets.

How did it feel when President Trump mentioned you by name because of your tweets?

I was impressed that he spelled my name correctly. I actually took it as a badge of honor. Most of us in this business, we sort of live for that moment where City Hall comes after you. If you are not disrupting the people in positions of authority, it is like you are not doing your job. I was a little surprised that he had the time, given the nature of his job, to do that. It was not something that frightened me in any respect. I took it as a huge compliment.

Kanye West? That is all I could come up with at the moment. There is a lot.

It is a bad marriage when someone that ill-informed has the platform that he has. This is not about him or his politics; he has the right to support and vote for whoever he feels. The manner in which he is drawing attention to himself is not constructive. I’m not here to tell Kanye West to shut up, I’m here to tell him to read.

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