An Aug. 3 profile of an 86-year-old female bodybuilder was a big hit with Philadelphia City Paper’s readers. The story, written by intern Tasha Ho-Sang, had “letters to the editor pouring in,” says Managing Editor Brian Hickey.
That’s only appropriate, since Ho-Sang first drew Hickey’s attention with her response to a March story on heightened crime in Philadelphia. Ho-Sang’s letter to the editor, which connected crime with education issues, showed “a passion for writing and a knowledge of issues and effects on neighborhoods,” Hickey says. Shortly thereafter, the City Paper was awarded a 2006 Diversity Internship grant to hire Ho-Sang for the summer.
The Association of Alternative Newsweeklies established the Diversity Internship program in 2001 to assist its member papers in diversifying their newsrooms. A total of four grants of up to $2,500 each are awarded each year to help fund paid internships for talented minority writers, with the hopes that they will consider a career in the alternative press.
Ho-Sang graduated in May with a communications degree from West Chester University, where she wrote for the school paper. She found working for an alt-weekly to be “different,” but she had a lot of ideas to contribute at pitch meetings. “I guess because of who I am, being an African-American young female, I kinda automatically see things from a different perspective,” she says. “There were things that were going on in the city that [other writers] would have no idea were going on, because they don’t live [in those neighborhoods].”
Hickey concurs. “Stories she pitched came from a realm that we wouldn’t have found if we hadn’t had the chance to bring Tasha on,” he says. The articles Ho-Sang contributed include profiles of black activists, a news item on the Social Action Committee, and the aforementioned bodybuilder story.
Her favorite assignment was covering Philadelphia’s March 4 Peace — and not simply because she was excited to meet Will Smith, one of several celebrity participants. The demonstration, which is held annually to raise awareness of elevated violence in Philadelphia, carried on despite rain and lightning. “It was really magical,” Ho-Sang says.
Having finished her internship in August, Ho-Sang is applying for jobs at PR and marketing firms, but she hopes to accept Hickey’s offer to write for the City Paper on a freelance basis. “If Tasha sets her mind to honing her writing and interviewing skills, I could see her as a professional journalist down the line,” Hickey says.
Her experience at the City Paper has been a great start toward any writing career, Ho-Sang believes. “This internship was truly a blessing,” she says. “I’ve learned more about writing in the two months here than I could have in four years of college, because the people here really took the time to help me.”