Head of U.S. News
Howard University, B.A.
Shani Hilton graduated from Howard University a decade ago. That is all the time she needed to become the head of BuzzFeed News, managing a newsroom of more than 150 reporters and editors based in the U.S.
Hilton’s employees reportedly refer to her as “queen.” Well, she is certainly building journalism royalty. There are three Buzzfeed News journalists on our list. There could have been many more. Three honorees, Adam Serwer, Ira Madison III, and Heben Nigatu all left BuzzFeed News within the last year. The highly regarded tech innovator Stacy-Marie Ishmael just departed for a John S. Knight fellowship at Stanford.
Recruiting and developing this level of talent doesn’t happen by chance. It takes someone who is incredibly smart, nimble, and confident. It didn’t take editor-in-chief, Ben Smith long to realize Hilton was the right person to carry out BuzzFeed New’s mandate: visionary journalism and diversity.
The company’s latest diversity memo and accompanying statistics suggests no media company is as aggressive and transparent regarding diversity recruitment. BuzzFeed News is more diverse than it was a year ago (the number of black staff members nearly doubled) and has more female employees than male. They have also created a paid Emerging Writers Fellowship, “with the mission of diversifying the broader media landscape” and “[to] open the gates to writers traditionally locked out of opportunities in media.”
Hilton is BuzzFeed’s shining example of what young talent is capable of.
After college, Hilton worked for Princeton University for four years doing everything from archiving material, to copyediting, to running their social media platforms. From there, she wrote and edited for brief stints at NBC4, Center for American Progress, and Washington City Paper for whom the National Book Award and MacArthur “Genius” grant recipient Ta-Nehisi Coates also worked.
Politico quoted Coates as saying Hilton was brilliant and, “I expect that I will be working for Shani some day.”