Winter Diversity Grants Awarded

Recipients are Eugene Weekly, San Antonio Current

Eugene Weekly and the San Antonio Current are the recipients of the second round of AAN Diversity Internship grants.

The program, which awards two $2,500 grants twice annually, was instituted by the association this year to help alternative weeklies hire and train top-quality minority journalists.

The two recipients for winter internships are Xelena Gonzalez in San Antonio and Bobbie Willis in Eugene.

Gonzalez, a San Antonio native, is a 2001 graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. After graduation, she was a fellow this past summer at the Academy for Alternative Journalism sponsored by Medill, the Chicago Reader and New Times. (AAN will provide major funding for the program in 2002.) She has also had internships with The Village Voice.

Gonzalez will be responsible for writing and reporting at least one story a week in news, arts or culture, says Lisa Sorg, news editor of the Current. She will be mentored through the reporting process, particularly in the areas of public records and creative interviewing, and will be guided in crafting a narrative and developing her own style and voice.

“At the San Antonio Current, we believe it is not enough to be willing to hire minorities, but that we must be intentional in attracting them and nurturing their talent,” Sorg says.

Bobbie Willis is an American Samoan, who approached Eugene Weekly about a job after graduating from the University of Oregon with a master’s degree in literary non-fiction. She also has a bachelor’s degree in literature and writing from the University of California at San Diego.

Ted Taylor, editor of Eugene Weekly, says Willis is the first person of color who has applied for an editorial position in many years.

“We’ve had little success hiring people of color on our staff,” Taylor says. “EW is a break-even paper so our modest pay rates make it difficult to recruit qualified minorities from urban areas.”

Five applications for winter internship grants were considered by an ad hoc committee consisting of Patty Calhoun, editor of Westword; Marc Eisen, editor of Isthmus; and Janet Reynolds, publisher and editor of the Hartford Advocate.

The committee weighed the applications primarily on the basis of the interns’ credentials, taking into account the financial need of the applying paper and finally the ethnicity of the applicant. Pasadena Weekly, Pittsburgh City Paper and Creative Loafing-Atlanta also submitted applications.

In the first round, for summer-fall internships, grants were awarded to Artvoice and OC Weekly. Christopher Winfield, an African-American native of Buffalo, was the Artvoice intern, and Vu Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American journalism student at Cal State Fullerton, was OC Weekly’s.

The next grants will be awarded for 2002 summer-fall internships. The deadline will be announced at a later date.