Ebony Reed builds an impressive career of service

Ebony Reed

Behind the University of Missouri alumna’s success is the school that raised her and the one she keeps returning to

Contact: Courtney Perrett, cperrett@missouri.edu

Many college graduates dream of changing the world. University of Missouri alumna and former faculty member Ebony Reed is doing it — transforming her aspirations into skills that empower students and impact the communities she serves through civic leadership.

From hosting forums to writing a book to serving as a business leader, Reed, B.J. ’00, M.A. ’04, continues to give back — exemplifying Mizzou’s core values of respect, responsibility, discovery and excellence.

Reaching for her roots

Reed first arrived at Mizzou in 1996 to pursue an undergraduate degree from the world’s first journalism school. Upon completion, she jumped into the fast-paced field of journalism — landing jobs at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal.

Regardless of where her career took her, though, Reed remained tethered to Mizzou.

In 2004, she became the first graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism’s online master’s program in media management.

“My relationship with the journalism school never ended when I finished school,” Reed said. “Not long after I had graduated with my master’s degree, I returned (virtually) to teach online classes at MU. Then, when I met my late partner, who was based in Kansas City, in 2016, I knew I’d find my way back to Mizzou for a new chapter.”

"Fifteen Cents on the Dollar" by Ebony Reed and Louise Story.
“Fifteen Cents on the Dollar” by Ebony Reed and Louise Story.

Reed relocated to Columbia, Missouri, and took a role as the director of innovation at the Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Futures Lab. There, she leaned on her knowledge of the industry to guide a team of student-journalists as they designed tools to serve a diversifying industry.

“Ebony has always had her finger on the pulse of good journalism and social justice,” said Mary Bixby, a former professor and mentor of Reed’s. “She has followed a path from publication to publication and university to university with the goal of growing and contributing to her community. She’s an exemplar for journalism students everywhere.”

In her time at the Futures Lab, Reed and her colleagues created the lab’s web series — Innovation in Focus — which was a finalist for the 2018 Editor & Publisher EPPY innovation award.

On the precipice of the COVID-19 pandemic, Reed moved to Kansas City, where she remains dialed into civic engagement as a leader at The Marshall Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system.

A service-oriented career

Through her community work, Reed has accumulated several accolades — the most recent being the Kansas City Royals Foundation’s Buck O’Neil Legacy Award.

The award is given to those who have made a significant impact on their local community. Reed was selected for hosting a community symposium on racial wealth gaps, raising scholarship money and coauthoring a new book titled “Fifteen Cents on the Dollar.”

“Receiving this award is a significant honor that I will hold dear for the rest of my life,” Reed said. “There’s so much legacy associated with it, and to be a part of that is a celebration not just for an individual, but in terms of service to the community.”

This accolade represents the culmination of a career’s worth of service for Reed, which she says came full circle when she settled in as a Kansas City resident and joined United WE, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization focused on advancing women’s economic and civic empowerment.

“Ebony is great at helping us point out and understand women’s issues as they’ve been highlighted during the course of her career,” said Joan Ruff, Chair of the United WE board. “We’re grateful that Ebony puts time and effort into strengthening the organization and its value.”

For Reed, leaving people and places better than she found them has always been central.

Ebony Reed and her late partner, Terez Paylor, at a Mizzou football game.
Ebony Reed and her late partner, Terez Paylor, at a Mizzou football game.

But Reed’s story would be incomplete without mentioning the special impact of her late partner, Terez Paylor, a former National Football League reporter who started his career covering the Mizzou Tigers and passed away in 2021. As part of Paylor’s legacy, Reed — along with friends and colleagues — organized a scholarship fund at both his and her alma maters to celebrate his life — funding that amounts to almost six figures at Mizzou. She hopes the scholarship will enable numerous journalists to graduate and follow in Paylor’s footsteps.

“I’m proud to preserve Terez’s legacy and create opportunities for student-journalists at Mizzou,” Reed said. “It’s the perfect way to give back to the university that has always been in my life while helping shape the next generation of Tigers who can make a difference.”

Donate to the PowerMizzou Journalism Alumni Scholarship in memory of Terez Paylor.

Updated: May 21, 2024

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