On the latest “What Works” podcast, we talk with Wendi C. Thomas, the editor and publisher of MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, which is based in Memphis, Tennessee. Thomas founded MLK50 in 2017 as a one-year project designed to focus on the antipoverty work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King had traveled to Memphis in April of 1968 to support striking sanitation workers who were fighting for safer working conditions and a living wage.
But MLK50 became much more than a one-year project. Thomas and her staff have gone on to produce journalism that has changed the dialogue, and changed lives, in Memphis. Her work has garnered numerous awards. In 2020, she was the winner of the Selden Ring Award for her groundbreaking investigative series, “Profiting from the Poor,” an investigation of a nonprofit hospital that sued poor patients over medical debt. The series, co-published with ProPublica, had major impact: the hospital erased $11.9 million in medical debt. MLK50 is one of the projects that we profile in our book, “What Works in Community News.”
Ellen Clegg has a Quick Take on the situation at the Houston Landing, a highly anticipated and well-funded nonprofit newsroom that launched in 2023. The Landing is in turmoil after CEO Peter Bhatia fired the editor and the top investigative reporter for reasons that remain mysterious.
My Quick Take is on The Baltimore Sun, the venerable 186-year-old daily newspaper that at one time was home to the infamously caustic writer H.L. Mencken. Earlier this month, Alden Global Capital sold the Sun to a right-wing television executive who hates newspapers. But not to fear — public interest journalism is alive and well in Baltimore, as I explain.
You can listen to our conversation here and subscribe through your favorite podcast app.