Diversity Foundation in Place, Academy Recruiting Begins

The Alternative Newsweekly Foundation has opened for business — just in time for holiday giving!

The foundation, approved by the AAN membership at the Madison convention, was created to facilitate funding for AAN’s diversity initiatives, chiefly the Academy for Alternative Journalism. It allows AAN members and others to make tax-deductible charitable contributions to support the Academy, AAN Diversity Internship Grants, and other diversity programs the association may want to establish in the future. NT Media’s Scott Spear headed the ad hoc committee that drafted the legal documents and ushered them through to IRS approval.

Spear and diversity chair Mike Lenehan also twisted the arms of several AAN publishers who donated $5,000 apiece to support the Academy: Don Farley of the Times Shamrock group, David Schneiderman of Village Voice Media, and Fran Zankowski of New Mass Media. Jim Holman of the San Diego Reader and Louis Black and Nick Barbaro of the Austin Chronicle have pledged the same. All AAN members are invited to join this august company: make checks payable to the Alternative Newsweekly Foundation, specify “Academy for Alternative Journalism,” and send them to the AAN office in Washington.

“Don’t be misled by all the big shooters who gave $5,000,” Lenehan says. “No check is too small.”

The 2003 session of the Academy for Alternative Journalism is scheduled for June 23-August 15. Recruiting will begin this month through classifieds and display ads in AAN papers. Last year, the first time AAN papers were used, the Academy received about 750 applications, more than a tenfold increase over previous years, which yielded “by far the best class we’ve ever had,” Lenehan says.

Classifieds will be placed through AAN CAN. A four-by-five-inch display ad is available here as a pdf file.

The headline, “We Want Minority Writers,” is “a good message to put in front of your readers,” says Lenehan. He encourages publishers to customize the ad for their individual papers.

“It works best if you tell people to contact your own editor, or someone on your staff, for information. That gives you a way of meeting interested minority prospects who are reading your paper. Those contacts will be valuable to you whether or not the people end up applying or getting in to the Academy.”

The ad is available as a Quark file, with fonts, to publishers who wish to customize. E-mail Mike Lenehan for a copy of the file.

The Academy, which was developed with funding from the Chicago Reader and launched with the help of a major grant from the New Times group, costs about $100,000 a year to operate. For the past two years, half of that amount has been covered by an item in the AAN budget. Lenehan, who says the Academy is in good fiscal shape for 2003, intends to propose that future AAN budgets underwrite the entire $100,000.

“I think that’s the fairest way for the members and the most stable, consistent way for the Academy,” he says. But he adds, “We’re still looking for donations. Now that we have the foundation in place, we can save up and assure the funding of the Academy for years into the future.”