By Susan Chira, 11.01.2019
In April 2019, I left The New York Times after nearly 40 years as a reporter and editor to become editor-in-chief of The Marshall Project, drawn by its mission to examine justice—how it is pursued, perverted and denied.
In less than five short years, this venture in nonprofit journalism has helped raise public awareness of the inequities, discrimination and abuses that mar the justice system—policing, courts, immigration detention and all along the pipeline that leads into prison and out of it. We’ve shined a light on flawed prosecutions of rape; the abysmal treatment of the mentally ill; abuse by guards in the notorious Attica prison; the dangers of private prison transport and doubling up people in solitary confinement; the treatment of juveniles; and the uneven application of the death penalty.
We’ve embraced all forms of storytelling. Using data analysis, we’ve exploded myths that falsely linked immigrants and crime. We’ve produced evocative videos and articles that examine the toll on incarcerated women who lose custody of their children or sex offenders who face homelessness and banishment. Through our Life Inside series, we’ve offered a voice to incarcerated people usually silenced—and we have brought our articles to those in hundreds of prisons around the country who are too often cut off from information through our News Inside magazine.
The Marshall Project has garnered a remarkable slew of awards for such a young organization, including a Pulitzer Prize, Polk, Peabody, Murrow and National Magazine Awards, accolades for our data journalism and our design. We’ve shared our work with more than 140 print, digital and broadcast outlets to make sure it’s seen by as wide an audience as possible.
It’s been a joy to get to know our team and to admire their expertise. We plan to showcase this specialist knowledge as we approach an election where criminal justice and immigration will be crucial issues for voters—through stories, newsletters that provide crucial context and debunk myths; active engagement on social media; and a deeper investment in data reporting. I’m proud of this comprehensive guide to the Democratic primary candidates’ positions on criminal justice, which we will continue to update. We’re expanding our presence in the high-incarceration states of the South and teaming up with local news outlets to bolster accountability at a time of crisis for local journalism.
We at The Marshall Project are determined to continue to widen our lens through a combination of rigorous, fair-minded investigative and explanatory reporting. We are nonpartisan; we are journalists, not advocates. Yet we remain inspired by Thurgood Marshall’s determination to address racial injustice and impunity in the legal system, a system that still disproportionately affects communities of color. There are a host of other disparities that afflict the justice system—in income, education, safety and violence, national origin and gender. And we are committed to exploring them with a diverse staff and an array of perspectives.
We’re more ambitious than ever as we embark on our next stage of growth. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on our work. As a nonprofit newsroom, we also hope you’ll consider donating to help us secure our financial future at a time when journalism is under siege and the commitment to truth-telling is under attack at the highest levels.