Jamiles Lartey is making profound change, one word at a time

Jamiles Lartey Photo credit: Lucy Polly
Jamiles Lartey Photo credit: Lucy Polly

Jamiles Lartey
The Guardian US
New York University, M.A.
State University of New York at New Paltz, B.A.

Jamiles Lartey was named this year’s National Association of Black Journalists’s Emerging Journalist of the Year. In announcing the honor, NABJ president Sarah Glover said, “Jamiles is an impressive young journalist who has developed a passion for and an interest in reporting on stories that have significance to underrepresented people. He ably reports on the implications of policy decisions, while also helping highlight the nuances which color the experiences, perspectives, and perceptions of diverse groups.”

In less than two years at The Guardian, Lartey produced one of the most profound pieces of journalism of recent years. “The Counted” attempts to investigate and report on police killings in the United States. According to The Guardian, the award-winning investigation, “last year prompted the FBI to promise to overhaul its discredited voluntary reporting system. Separately, it led the Department of Justice to launch a new program for counting police-involved deaths, mirroring the Guardian US project and drawing directly on its findings.”

Lartey found his way to The Guardian when a friend passed along a listing for a research fellowship for the yet-unnamed criminal justice project that would become “The Counted.”

“I had no idea when I applied that it would mean getting to work on an award winning project with such an incredibly talented team or that it would lead to be being hired as a reporter a few months later,” says Lartey.

The Path

Lartey’s passion for social justice is easy to understand when one considers that he began his professional career working as an activist and social worker. After graduating from college, he worked for three years in community outreach for AmeriCorps and other programs. In 2013, he interned for MSNBC’s show hosted by Melissa Perry.

Lartey offers this advice to those starting out in the profession: “Don’t be scared to do work that you feel is important for free, especially when you don’t have a lot of bylines to your name, and are still learning the ropes. But don’t be taken advantage of either. We live in a content driven world and people are willing to pay for good reporting, analysis and storytelling if you can find them.”


In a 2015 op-ed, Lartey dropped this knowledge: “The word taser, though, didn’t start with the company: it’s actually a loose acronym of the book Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle. Jack Cover, the inventor of the modern ECD, named his prototype after the YA sci-fi novel he loved, and the very idea for a less-lethal electric gun was largely inspired by the fictional one described in the book.

“And while this quirky history is known among some in law enforcement and engineering circles, the innocence with which it’s told – a curious inventor culling inspiration from the literature of his youth – belies a more sinister truth: the book itself is boldly racist. “Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle, published in New York in 1911 under the pen name Victor Appleton, is typical of the literature of its time: an imperialist adventure tale set against the backdrop of a wild and dark African continent.”


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