Davis is using the skills she gained in DPSS to launch a local news outlet in Harvey, Illinois.
Headshot of Amethyst Davis
Amethyst Davis

Born and raised in the greater Chicagoland area, Amethyst Davis has spent the past two years as an administrator at New York University (NYU), where she earned her bachelor’s in political science and government in 2019. “Working at the same university where I was once a struggling student, I am a firm believer that knowledge is to be shared and not owned,” Davis said.

After being cross-trained in everything from financial aid to the COVID-19 communications team at NYU—while also writing articles for the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ)—Davis said she feels well-prepared to pivot to her new career in journalism. But her ambitions go far beyond writing.

“My grandparents stay out in Harvey, in the south suburbs of Chicago, and I spent a few months with them from 2020–21. Harvey doesn’t have a news outlet—it’s a news desert. This is a community that has been pushed into the shadows, but folks want to talk about policy. They want to talk about what’s going on in the city. Journalism is a very accessible way to do that. And so a light bulb went off. Not only am I going to do journalism, but I'm going to be so bold as to start a whole new company from the ground up.”

Davis researched how to start her own news outlet and stumbled upon Tiny News Collective, a program that teaches and trains people to build local news organizations. “I am now the founder of the Harvey World Herald. We just started training in August.”

In pursuing this new venture, Davis says the Data and Policy Summer Scholar Program (DPSS) have been invaluable. “When I initially applied to DPSS in 2019, I thought it would be a great way to explore the possibility of grad school. Due to the financial uncertainties that arose from COVID, I deferred, reflected on my next steps, and stayed with my grandparents in Harvey— and that's when I realized they needed a news outlet. So the value of DPSS shifted to using data analysis to promote accurate, accessible journalism.

“DPSS made me a better listener and changed the sort of questions I ask as a journalist. For example, I just did a story for NABJ on the eviction crisis. What I learned in DPSS helped me to consider the factors involved in housing equity—things like wage gaps, race relations, politics—and how those factors interplay with one another. Being able to take a step back and be critical of the data and ask questions about it is not something I did as much prior to DPSS,” said Davis.

Davis also plans to turn her DPSS Capstone Project into a data journalism story. “I was assigned to economic policy and we were talking about the reversals of mask mandates during the pandemic. As someone assigned to COVID-19 for NABJ, it was perfect for me to be part of that group. It’s a great example of rigorous and accessible journalism.”

Davis’s new data analytic toolkit has proved immediately useful. “Short-term I plan to build a database to make information on COVID-19 more accessible in Harvey, which I feel much better equipped to do now,” said Davis. “Longer-term, the vision is institution-building. Eventually I would like the Harvey World Herald to be a place for young people to share their narratives and also operate as an incubator collaborating with universities in Chicago to train the next generation of journalists.”