Journalist Molly Born is the 2022-23 Mellon Fellow
Molly Born a multimedia journalist based in Charleston, West Virginia, knows that journalism can hold the powerful accountable and share the story of the human experience. For her, it’s one of the most meaningful forms of communication out there. She hopes to bring this conviction to campus as the 2022-23 Mellon Fellow for Journalism.
In this role, she will lead a cohort of faculty across six disciplines in learning how to write for broader audiences and incorporate journalistic writing into the classroom.
Bringing active reporters to campus through the Mellon Grant is critical to Jack Shuler, director of the journalism program. “Molly is teaching faculty to become better public writers, so faculty can support students who also hope to become better public writers. She’s teaching the teachers,” says Shuler.
Born comes with a wealth of reporting experience. Working with Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon, Born is the associate producer on a forthcoming documentary exploring coal mining’s cultural influence in Appalachia.
She spent her first six years out of graduate school at Northwestern University as a staff writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, learning the hands-on ins and outs of the field. She was then recruited for the first class of Report for America fellows at West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Soon, Born found herself in the southern coalfields of Mingo County, W.Va. With her closest coworker nearly 70 miles away, Born spent a year exploring the area and bringing underrepresented voices and stories from the region to mainstream broadcasting. She was named a finalist for the Livingston Award for her work there on a joint project with the Charleston Gazette-Mail and the Lexington Herald Leader about water quality and access in the region.
“Our goal was for somebody to turn on the radio across the state and hear something about another part of this small state that they didn’t know,” says Born.
Born’s wide skill set and extensive reporting background is integral to her role as not only the Mellon Fellow, but also in her supervisor roles with the student-run campus paper, the Denisonian, and journalism at Denison’s emerging nonprofit news site, The Reporting Project. With her real-world experience, Born brings valuable insight, passion, and practice to students involved with the publications, as they, too, learn to be journalists.
“Journalism, I think, is about understanding our shared humanity, and that alone is a very worthy enterprise,” she says.
Working on her college newspaper had a huge impact on Born. It’s where she learned firsthand that journalism can make a difference. Bringing that into her work with the Denisonian, she delights in helping students develop stories and seeing them published.
“I love their commitment to keeping the campus informed,” says Born.
Reporting on under-reported and often stereotyped communities is what truly lights up Born. For her, the work she has done on Appalachia has meant the most. A proud West Virginia native, she aims not to rewrite the history of the region, but rather to redefine the current stigma around it through her deeply researched storytelling.
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded a $700,000 grant to Denison University in 2018 for a campus-wide “Writing in Place” initiative to embed place-based narrative in the curriculum.