The Professor... Juneteenth's McCray is featured in DePaul's Conversations Magazine
February 8, 2022
DePaul's "Conversations" magazine published a feature profile on Juneteenth's very own Judith McCray. Judith, who has been an adjunct faculty member with the DePaul's journalism, media and cinema studies department since 2017, is spotlighted for helping to build a more just and diverse media landscape through her teachings at DePaul and her work at Juneteenth Productions. Give it a read, a copy of the article and a link to the magazine are below.
Inclusive Journalism for a Diverse Society
Faculty member Judith McCray aims to deepen the bench of diverse journalists
The racial unrest in 2020 shone a harsh spotlight on the inequities that have plagued the United States and led many people to reflect on ways to make society more just and equitable. DePaul journalism students have increasingly expressed the desire to do meaningful work that puts a spotlight on actions for social change. It is the job of Judith McCray, the College of Communication’s first diversity faculty fellow, to provide students with ways to realize their social justice ambitions.
An adjunct faculty member in the journalism and media and cinema studies programs since January 2017, McCray focuses her teaching on social justice reporting, news documentary, writing for broadcast and media ethics. McCray has also developed a social justice practicum course addressing race, culture, social justice and equity; established a student chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists; and helped connect students with multimedia production and distribution opportunities, including through her media production company, Juneteenth Productions.
“I also develop extracurricular activities—hosting workshops and looking for opportunities for students of color to get more involved in media communications and journalism activities,” McCray says. “For instance, one of the projects is a podcast series called ‘Change Agents’ that pairs emerging journalists of color with community activists in the Chicago area to focus on grassroots activism activities that aren’t necessarily being covered by the conventional media and told in the voices of people living in the communities (who are) addressing the issues.”
McCray’s interest in such issues harks back to her days in broadcast journalism working in public affairs programming. “I was a producer for many years at WTTW in Chicago. I’ve also done a lot of independent work looking at social issues, particularly around the area of social justice,” she says.
“When I first came to DePaul and talked with Salma Ghanem (then dean of the College of Communication),” she continues, “I told her that I was wanting to teach journalism courses that helped students obtain cultural dexterity in understanding, researching and reaching out to the marginalized and communities of color.” In broadening the narrative, journalists then develop a richer storehouse of sources.
McCray starts such conversations by bringing people of different races and walks of life into her classroom. In one class, she had students research and develop audio segments about the 1980s AIDS epidemic. She invited men in their seventies and eighties to talk about what it was like to experience illness and death on a large scale in the face of indifference from the larger society. “My students said, ‘We didn’t know anything about this.’ They were appreciative that (the class) wasn’t just about this history, but (meeting people) they wouldn’t ordinarily have met.”
When asked about diverse reporting and journalistic objectivity, McCray remarks, “For a long time, conventional journalism took the approach that people of color couldn’t tell their own stories without bias, even though we’ve long accepted that white people can. Objective is not necessarily the perspective a person brings. Objective is about how we tell the story, checking the story sources, making sure to have more than one viewpoint.”
McCray looks forward to developing virtual events, podcasts and other media with students and partner organizations. “And for students interested in broadcast medium or print,” she says, “I’m looking for them to have places where they can publish their work as professional journalists.”