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Tiffany Walden (BSJ11, MSJ12)

Co-Founder of The TRiiBE
Tiffany Walden

Tiffany Walden (BSJ11, MSJ12) began writing at a young age and soon found her niche in journalism. Now, as the co-founder of The TRiiBE, a digital outlet for black millennials in Chicago, she focuses on telling compassionate, unfiltered stories about the African-American experience in the windy city. Walden said she owes her success to many Medill mentors and alumni.

Tell us about your career path.

I've known that I wanted to be a writer since I was a young girl. In high school, I had a teacher who nurtured my creativity and encouraged me to go into journalism. With her help, I applied to Marquette University's journalism camp and got in. That was the first time I really understood what journalism is and the impact it can have on underserved communities. My teachers then encouraged me to apply to Medill. I got in, and that set me on the career path that I'm on now.

After college, I interned at Ebony Magazine under the guidance of another Medill alum, Adrienne Samuels Gibbs (BSJ99). After receiving my MSJ from Medill, I took a reporting job in Abilene, Texas, then hopped over to a breaking news position at the Orlando Sentinel. While in Florida, I saw the negative way people talked about Chicago. This made me want to come back home and tell the stories of black Chicagoans. I wanted to give agency to my people, and uplift their histories and experiences.

Tell us about The TRiiBE. What inspired you to co-found it? 

The TRiiBE is a digital media platform that is reshaping the narrative of black Chicago and giving ownership back to the people. We watched the attacks on black Chicago in the mainstream media during Donald Trump's presidential campaign, and felt a sense of urgency to deconstruct an incredibly shallow narrative of black people in Chicago. Essentially, Chicago had become the buzzword for all things deplorable in black America — and I wasn't feeling that. I grew up in the heart of Chicago's West Side, and I wouldn't trade growing up in North Lawndale for anything. I wanted people to share the same love I have for Chicago. So, we launched The TRiiBE in February 2017 to show the world the black Chicago that we know and love.

What are your main responsibilities at The TRiiBE now? 

I am the co-founder and editor-in-chief. Since we are an independent newsroom, with a staff of three, I wear many hats. I produce content for the site, edit content for the site, manage our social media platforms, engage and spark relationships with other independent newsrooms, manage freelancers and much, much more.

How has your Medill training helped you in your career so far?

I wouldn't be where I am today with Dean Charles Whitaker. He was a professor when I was a student. He really took me under his wing and helped me navigate Medill. Dean Whitaker never let me quit. He constantly breathed life into me and encouraged my work. I also owe my success to Professor Patti Wolter, who helped me find my voice in her magazine class, and to black Medill alumni like Adrienne Samuels Gibbs, Emerald Morrow (BSJ07, MSJ08) and Niema Jordan (BSJ08). Each one of these women adopted me in their own ways, and help to mold me into the storyteller I am today. And though she wasn't in Medill, fellow co-founder of The TRiiBE Morgan Elise Johnson has been, and forever will be, one of my guiding lights. 

How have you used the Medill network in your career? 

My Medill connections are strong. I constantly look to my mentors for advice while navigating this new world of entrepreneurship. I'm a writer at heart, so there is a mighty learning curve for someone like me who is now a business owner in the forever changing landscape of journalism. But along the way, I've formed relationships with other black Medill alumni, such as Kyra Kyles (BSJ98, MSJ98), whose careers I continue to admire and study. 

What advice do you have for someone considering Medill?

Medill's network is strong. Anywhere I go, if I share that I am a Medill alum, I'm instantly introduced and embraced by someone who also went to Medill. Once you're a part of Medill, and form your network of close friends and allies who are rooting for you each step of the way, those relationships will last forever. I'm most grateful to Medill for the abundance of mentors and allies that I have in my corner today.