Jackson Free Press, San Antonio Current Receive Diversity Grants

The Jackson Free Press and San Antonio Current have won winter/spring 2004 AAN Diversity Internship grants. The Free Press will use its $2,500 grant to hire Tougaloo College senior Ayana Taylor for a five-month reporting internship. The Current will hire 2001 Dartmouth College graduate Abraham C. Mahshie as a writer and copy editor for six months.

Taylor, who is editor of the student paper at her historically black college in Jackson, worked as an unpaid intern at the Free Press last summer and put together from scratch the paper’s 2003 Politics Blog. In her grant application, Free Press Editor Donna Ladd praised Taylor’s deep grounding in black Southern politics and her ambition to be a hard-hitting journalist. During her internship, Taylor will help cover the state Legislature and write other stories.

“I was impressed by the clarity of her writing and her strong point of view,” says Mike Lenehan, AAN Diversity chair and a member of the subcommittee that selected the grant winners. He also praised the politics blog she developed.

Mahshie, the son of a Palestinian-Arab father and Cuban mother, has traveled to Cuba as part of the Witness for Peace Delegation. He did anthropological research on Maori youth in New Zealand, studied Portuguese in Brazil, wrote freelance articles for a Venezuelan newspaper and worked as a production assistant for Free Speech TV in Brazil.

Editors of the Current expect Mahshie’s Spanish language skills to open doors to sources for stories on immigration, social justice and culture. Mahshie has already written an article for the Current on the career homeless, and Lenehan says he liked the street-level instincts on display in that piece. During his internship, Mahshie will write a broad range of long and short pieces and will learn to do both line editing and substantive editing. Editor Lisa Sorg will be his primary mentor.

The diversity subcommittee chose among five strong candidates and programs, says Editorial chair and Westword Editor Patty Calhoun, making the selection more difficult than usual.

AAN instituted the Diversity Internship program in 2001 to help alternative weeklies hire and train top-quality minority journalists, with the hope that they will choose careers in the alternative press. Of the ten grants that have been made since the program was established, Mahshie’s was the second awarded to the Current.