AAN's Diversity Committee is continuing its work to make alt-weeklies more diverse as it tries to move the panel's mission beyond editorial and reconfigures the process for applying for Diversity Grants.
Previously, AAN made Diversity Grants available to papers with diversity-related projects or interns with diverse backgrounds only a set number of times each year. But AAN's board voted at its last meeting to change this procedure and make the applications open on a rolling basis. So now any paper can apply at any time for the grants.
According to AAN executive director Tiffany Shackelford, the association has about $6,000 allocated to the grants in its current budget. Grants will be given to projects deemed worthy on a first-come, first-served basis, says committee chair Jimmy Boegle. (Applications can be downloaded here
"The problem with the old system was that great intern candidates or potential project ideas didn't necessarily come along when AAN was asking for grant applicants," he says. "It just makes more sense to look at grant applications on an ongoing basis. That way, anytime that great intern candidate or that great project opportunity comes along, an AAN paper can apply. And if AAN has the money, and the Diversity Committee likes the idea, we'll award the grant."
In addition, the committee is actively pushing to branch out beyond editorial projects and interns, which had previously been the focus. The panel has added "a lot of business types," Boegle says, and now includes a "wider variety" of representatives.
"Diversity issues and needs affect all parts of AAN papers, not just the editorial side," Boegle explains.
Traditionally, the Diversity Committee's other main focus, aside from the grant program, was the Academy for Alternative Journalism (AAJ), but the academy will not be happening this summer.
"We're aiming to revive it in some form or another in 2012," Boegle explains, adding that it may come back as a summer "institute" next year.
AAN headquarters is getting more involved with diversity issues as well, bringing on an intern this summer to focus on issues related to diversity at its member papers. Ilissa Gilmore, a 2011 graduate of Wayne State University in Michigan, will be focusing on "stories that highlight diversity for story-sharing across our papers," according to Shackelford.
Last, but certainly not least, the Diversity Committee is taking the lead on a new mentorship program that AAN is launching. Currently, AAN offers paper-to-paper mentorships for new and prospective members, but the association is expanding those efforts to include one-on-one mentoring for individuals at AAN member papers. The program is currently being set up, and AAN hopes to have it functioning a month or two before this July's annual convention.