Diversity Grants Fund Innovative Projects at Two Alt-Weeklies

Boise Weekly and Omaha’s The Reader each recently received $1,250 from AAN to pursue ambitious diversity-related projects as part of AAN’s Diversity Grant program. Last fall, the Diversity Committee expanded the scope of the program to include diversity-related projects; the grants to Boise Weekly and The Reader mark the first to be awarded to projects rather than interns.

Boise Weekly‘s project is the just-launched blog called The Grip, a “global culture blog” which aims to be “an online home for the growing international population of Boise and a place to learn about Idaho’s newest residents.” The Weekly has recruited two bloggers for the site so far — Iraqi refugee Luma Jasim and Congo native Fidel Nshombo. Editor Rachael Daigle says they may soon add a third.

“The mainstream media hasn’t quite figured out how to incorporate these newcomers into coverage — aside from human interest stories on a refugee artisan booth at our weekly farmers market, for example,” Daigle says. “I believe it’s up to alternative media to change that.”

She says that the project would not have gotten off the ground had it not been for the $1,250 from AAN.

“In short, without the grant, The Grip likely would not have happened,” Daigle says. “We would have been forced to back burner the project in light of recent budget constraints. Given shortfalls in sales revenue, it’s been difficult to pay writers who’ve been on the masthead for years, much less consider bringing on new writers.”

The Reader‘s project is a collaborative effort that uses high school journalism students “to examine and report on the high school dropout rates in Omaha public schools by ethnicity.”

For the project, the alt-weekly will team up with not only high school students but professional media partners. The Reader is taking on the project with its bilingual sister paper El Perico, and the local weekly serving the black community, the Omaha Star. The project is expected to really get rolling this summer.

Like his colleague in Idaho, Reader editor John Heaston says it would have been tough for his paper to undertake this kind of enterprise journalism without the grant.

“The need for high-impact reporting and collaboration have never been more important and under tighter budgets, the AAN diversity grant made a unique collaboration possible,” he says.

Jackson Free Press editor Donna Ladd, who chairs the AAN Diversity Committee, says the projects will likely have a sort of ripple effect.

“What is exciting about these grants is that they help AAN papers increase diversity in content, which will in turn contribute to diversity in hiring, retention and readership,” she says. “These are outstanding projects, and AAN applauds the winners for being deliberate about diversity.”