ROCHELLE RILEY is doing the job she dreamed of from the time she was 8 years old. Her award-winning columns appear in the Detroit Free Press, at www.freep.com and in newspapers in the USA Today Network nationwide. She hosts a weekday radio talk show on 910AM WFDF in Detroit and makes occasional television appearances on MSNBC and Fox 2.
Rochelle has spent 20 years crusading for better lives for children, government accountability and improved race relations. She also has spent 16 years promoting the need to increase adult literacy, helping to raise nearly $2 million for literacy causes in Michigan. She is the winner of the 2017 Pulliam Editorial Fellowship from the Society of Professional Journalists and author of “The Burden: African Americans and the Enduring Impact of Slavery” (Wayne State University Press, 2018).
Rochelle has worked at The Washington Post, The Dallas Morning News and The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., where her debut column calling for a museum to honor native son Muhammad Ali helped spur an $80 million campaign to build the Muhammad Ali Center. In 2000, she was recruited to the Detroit Free Press, where her debut column called for the city schools to be shut down. In 2010, just months after Detroit voted to elect council members by district for the first time in a century, Rochelle – working with a data think tank and the newspaper’s design team – created seven proposed districts to show voters what their piece of the pie could look like. She held town halls in each area to encourage residents to embrace their neighborhoods and the idea of accountability from council members. The city council later created seven council districts that looked eerily like the ones she created. When the governor and legislature couldn’t balance the state budget, she convened a kitchen cabinet of female financial experts, and they did it – in two days – without cutting education. And in 2015, she joined the campaign to raise funds to test rape kits found abandoned in a police storage unit, helping a women’s group raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for those tests.
Rochelle was the 2017 winner of the NABJ Ida B. Wells Award, an annual honor given to an individual who has made outstanding efforts to make newsrooms and news coverage more accurately reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. The award is named for the distinguished journalist, fearless reporter and anti-lynching crusaders. Her other honors include a National Headliner Award, a National Scripps Howard Award and numerous first-place honors from Associated Press-Managing Editors, the Michigan Press Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and NABJ. Her columns about the fall of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick were part of the entry that won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in Local Reporting. “Rochelle Riley’s stellar career as a journalist and as a mentor to scores of up-and-coming young journalists represents the kind of passion and commitment the Ida B. Wells Award was created to recognize and celebrate,” Charles Whitaker, associate dean at Medill, said in announcing the Ida B. Wells. “She is a role model to all of us who care about the present and future of our field. And she is an extremely worthy recipient of this honor.”
A strong advocate for press freedom, Rochelle is co-chair of the National Association of Black Journalists Global Journalism Task Force, which works to increase the number of minority journalists covering the world. She has traveled to 25 countries and counting. She was a 2007-2008 Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan, where she studied online communities and film. And she was a 2016 inductee into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame.
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