Reader, Medill Form Altie J-School For Minorities

AAN Papers Asked to Spread the Word In Their Cities, At Colleges and Among Staff.

The Chicago Reader has provided $55,000 in seed money to launch the Academy for Alternative Journalism, a program designed to recruit and train talented minority writers for work in the alternative press. The annual eight-week program will be operated by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, and will be based at Medill’s downtown Chicago campus.The academy is now seeking applicants for its inaugural session, which will be held June 19-August 11, 2000.

The academy seeks to introduce younger journalists to the alternative press by training them in the skills that alternative weeklies value: literary and narrative journalism, investigations, arts and culture writing, and personal expression. Students will receive a stipend of $2,500 for the eight-week session.

Says Academy co-founder and Chicago Reader Executive Editor Mike Lenehan: “We believe our papers have lots to offer young journalists, but we’re not telling our story in the places where bright young prospects are looking for jobs. We’re hoping that a national program with Medill’s prestige and contacts behind it will give us a presence on the recruiting scene. All papers will benefit from our promotion of alternative weeklies as a career option.”

At the Academy, ten students will pursue an intensive eight-week course designed to qualify them for entry-level jobs or internships at AAN papers. An ancillary goal of the academy is to introduce talented minorities to the master’s program at Medill.

The principal instructor and director of the academy is Stephan Garnett, an adjunct lecturer at Medill and a veteran community journalist. He will be assisted by other Medill faculty and guest writers and editors from the alternative and mainstream press, which could include Riverfront Times Editor Safir Ahmed, author Alex Kotlowitz, Medill Professors Robert McClory and Abe Peck, Chicago Sun-Times’ Mary Mitchell, the Chicago Tribune’s Salim Muwakkil, Achy Obejas and Clarence Page, and Ebony’s Charles Whitaker.

The program is intended primarily for students who will graduate or complete junior year by spring 2000. Most successful applicants will have taken at least basic journalism courses or have experience on a campus or other publication. But according to Lenehan, “Talent and commitment to journalism are more important than credentials: all are welcome to apply.”

“Right now our greatest need is for high-caliber applicants,” Lenehan says. “We’re asking AAN editors and publishers to help us recruit at local colleges and universities, in their communities and among their staffs. Recruiting fliers and application forms are on their way to all AAN papers. Please copy them and spread them around.”

For more information, please contact Mike Lenehan at 312-828-0350 or, or Stephan Garnett at the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University, 1845 Sheridan Rd., Evanston, IL 60208; 773-468-5711;