Academy for Alternative Journalism 2004 Fellows Chosen

Ten fellows have been chosen from among 420 applicants to attend the Academy for Alternative Journalism summer residency program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

Now in its fifth year, the academy trains minority journalists in long-form feature writing with the aim of recruiting them into the alternative press. This year seven of the 10 fellows have either interned at or been frequent contributors to AAN papers, academy director Charles Whitaker notes.

The Academy for Alternative Journalism was founded in 2000 with seed money from The Chicago Reader and the New Times Group. Since then, it has been funded by grants from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies and individual AAN members such as the Reader, Times Shamrock, Village Voice Media, New Mass Media, The Austin Chronicle and Jim Holman of the San Diego Reader. AAN currently provides $50,000 a year, about half the academy’s operating budget.

Each fellow receives a stipend of $3,000. The students live in graduate dorms on Lake Shore Drive and work in a newsroom in Chicago’s Loop.

Whitaker says he is looking for AAN editors to volunteer to come to Chicago to work with or lecture the students for a day or two this summer. Doing so would “give them an opportunity to scope out the talent and, possibly, discover a potential hire,” he writes in an e-mail.

These are the 2004 fellows:

Jennifer Derilo of San Diego, Calif., is a 2003 graduate of the University of California, San Diego, where she majored in world literature. She works as an English as a second language tutor at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, Calif.

David Downs of Goleta, Calif., graduated in 2002 from University of California, Santa Barbara, with a degree in English literature. Downs is a reporter for The South Coast Beacon, a community weekly in Santa Barbara, where he has covered everything from affordable housing to pop culture. He also has done freelance work for the Los Angeles Times.

Denise Grollmus of Akron, Ohio, is a 2003 graduate of Oberlin College, where she majored in English with a concentration in contemporary culture and media. She is serving a stint as a temporary replacement for the theater critic at the Akron Beacon Journal, where she did an internship last summer. She also contributes music and theater reviews to the Cleveland Free Times, where she interned in 2002.

David Kawamoto of Denver, Colo., is a 2002 graduate of Metropolitan State College of Denver, where he majored in history. His day job is as an auditor for a hotel chain, but he also is a regular contributor to Westword, the New Times paper in Denver.

April Martin of Cincinnati, Ohio, attended the University of Cincinnati, where she majored in English. She was an intern and continues to be a regular contributor to CityBeat, Cincinnati’s alt-weekly.

Ryan Nave of University City, Mo., is a Y2K graduate of the University of Missouri- Columbia, where he majored in political science. Nave, whose day job is in marketing and communications for a St. Louis health-care agency, is a freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in several local publications.

Vrinda Normand of San Francisco, Calif., will earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of San Francisco in May. She is majoring in media studies and sociology. Normand was a staff writer for The Foghorn, the USF school newspaper, and was a 2002 intern at Metro Silicon Valley, an AAN paper in San Jose.

Mosi Secret of Brooklyn, N.Y., is a 2002 graduate of Harvard. He is a freelance fact-checker for the Columbia Journalism Review who interned at the The Nation and was a writing fellow for the Village Voice in 2003.

Fawad Siddiqui lives in Plainfield, Ind., where he is an assistant editor at Islamic Horizons Magazine, which covers the city’s Muslim community. He is a 2003 graduate of the University of Miami. While in college, he interned for the Miami Herald, contributed news and feature stories for the Miami News Service, and served as news editor for The Miami Hurricane, his school’s newspaper.

Ayana Taylor of Tougaloo, Miss., will earn a bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis in journalism from Tougaloo College in May. Ayana is a regular contributor to the Jackson Free Press, an AAN paper in Mississippi, for which she covers the legislature and coordinates the paper’s politics blog. She also is the editor of The Harambee, the Tougaloo campus newspaper.

A short list of 35 finalists chosen from among the 420 applicants is available to AAN editors looking for interested minority prospects. Contact Mike Lenehan, executive editor of the Chicago Reader,, for the list. He will forward the applicants’ accompanying materials to interested AAN editors.