Artvoice, OC Weekly Receive Diversity Grants

Grants help pay salaries of two minority interns.

AAN announced today that Artvoice and OC Weekly are the recipients of the first two AAN Diversity Internship grants, instituted by the association this year to help alternative weeklies hire and train top-quality minority journalists.

Christopher Winfield, a Buffalo native, is the Artvoice candidate and Vu Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American journalism student at Cal State Fullerton, is OC Weekly’s.

“We take it as an encouraging sign that our first call for applicants was met with such promising candidates.” says Blake de Pastino, managing editor of the Missoula Independent and AAN’s editorial committee chair.

AAN’s ad hoc Diversity Committee, comprised of de Pastino, AAN President Patricia Calhoun and Metro Times Editor Larry Gabriel, reviewed applications from three AAN papers for the summer program. In making its selections, the Diversity Committee considers the financial and diversity needs of the applying papers as well as qualifications of the interns.

“AAN’s Diversity Internships Program offers immediate, grassroots support for minority journalists within their own communities,” de Pastino says.

Winfield, a graduate of Howard University in Washington, returns to Buffalo, where his editors hope he can provide Artvoice with insight into the African-American community, both politically and culturally.

“Buffalo is one of the most segregated cities in this country,” says Artvoice Editor Geoff Kelly. “The black community and its politics have been, for the most part, a closed book to our paper, to Buffalo’s daily newspaper and to other mostly white media institutions.”

Kelly says he hopes Winfield’s family political and community connections will help open that book to Artvoice. His duties will include a weekly column covering City Hall, research and occasional feature assignments.

Nguyen has already contributed award-winning freelance articles to OC Weekly from Little Saigon, the largest Vietnamese community outside Vietnam.

“We’d like to give Vu what we’ve not been able to give him before: consistent training in the Weekly newsroom,” says Will Swaim, editor of OC Weekly. “But recruiting minority interns can be difficult … We’re hoping AAN will help us (financially) persuade VU to spend time learning the ancient – and fearsome – craft of investigative reporting.”

The third candidate, submitted by Gambit Weekly, was Jamila D. Smith, a native of Saginaw, Mich. Smith, a sophomore at Xavier University, was originally selected as one of the recipients, but she had taken another internship before the award was announced.

“Given the short turnaround between the announcement of the new grant program and the deadline for summer intern applications, we are pleased that three papers responded with such strong candidates,” AAN Executive Director Richard Karpel says.

During its first year, the program will award four matching-fund grants of up to $2,500. The first two grants are helping to pay for summer interns this year, and the next round of grants will be anounced shortly.

“It’s our hope that the new program will continue to grow in the coming years, allowing even more member papers to benefit from matching funds that, I think everyone would agree, are welcome all around,” de Pastino says.

For the papers that are selected to receive matching funds, half the grant will be paid immediately and the remainder will be paid after the internship is completed and the paper submits a follow-up report to the committee. Papers with a staff member serving on the committee cannot apply for a matching grant.