2009 Academy for Alternative Journalism Fellows Named

june 15, 2009  02:54 pm
Eight fellows have been chosen to attend the Academy for Alternative Journalism summer residency program at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. The Academy, which begins next Monday, trains young journalists in long-form feature writing with the aim of recruiting them into the alternative press. This year's fellows were selected from about 350 applicants for the program, according to program director and Northwestern journalism professor Charles Whitaker.

He says this year's class is once again "incredibly diverse" and possess a wide range of skills and experience. They're also "very excited about the alternative press -- and the opportunity to practice the dying art of longform narrative writing," Whitaker says.

The Academy, now in its tenth year, emphasizes the fundamentals of successful long-form journalism, including reporting, story structure and literary technique. Classes are taught by Medill faculty, with guest lectures and workshops led by AAN member editors.

Each student is expected to produce at least one piece suitable for publication by the course's end, and together the class produces an online magazine which will be published on the Academy's website later in the summer.

Fellows receive a $3000 stipend as well as allowances for travel to and housing at the program, which runs until August 12.

Here are the 2009 fellows:

Mary Andom
Mary Andom is a 2007 graduate of Western Washington University in the Pacific Northwest. She received her bachelor's degree in print journalism with a minor in political science. Her parents are originally from the Northeast African nation of Eritrea, and she credits their harrowing journey escaping the war-torn country and growing up in a culturally diverse neighborhood in Seattle for inspiring her to become a journalist. She hopes AAJ will help her continue along that career path.

"I applied to the program because I believe it will be a great opportunity to gain the skills necessary to become a well-rounded reporter," Andom tells AAN News. "I wanted to explore another avenue of journalism -- and who wouldn't love to report in Chicago, a city filled with a wealth of stories?"

In college Andom was a reporter and columnist for the campus newspaper, Western Front, and interned at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and The Chronicle of Higher Education. She also participated in a six-week multimedia fellowship at the Poynter Institute.

"I see this fellowship as a spring board to give me the skills to become a better reporter and a better writer," she says. "I hope [it] challenges me, pushes me and ultimately reinvigorates my passion in journalism."

Megan Brescini
Megan Brescini is a Southern California expat, born and raised in Huntington Beach. She earned a degree in literary journalism from the University of California Irvine, and co-edited the school's literary-journalism publication, Kiosk. Following graduation in 2008, she moved to Portland, Ore., where she now spends her days as an editorial intern for Willamette Week, and nights slinging drinks as a bartender. In addition to WW, her work has appeared in Anthem Magazine and The District Weekly.

Aisha Eady
Aisha Eady grew up in Brooklyn Park, Minn., but never forgot her birthplace of Chicago. She graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication. Eady had her first taste of the alternative press non-mainstream press as a reporter with Insight News, the largest African-American weekly newspaper in Minnesota. While in college she was an intern at Minnesota's largest daily newspaper, the Star Tribune. Immediately after college she was an intern at Newsweek magazine, where she worked on the religion section and as part of a team that produced the "Islam in America" cover project.

"The newspaper industry is in a state of tremendous unrest," Eady says. "This unrest, however, provides the opportunity for change. There has never been a more exciting, albeit uncertain, time to enter the industry. ... My hope is the Academy will allow me the space and opportunity to focus on the writing and the reporting necessary to craft stories that matter."

John W. Fountain III
John W. Fountain III was born and raised in the Austin community of Chicago's West Side. He began to pursue journalism by writing for the Malcolm Xpress, the student newspaper of Malcolm X College. During his tenure as editor, Fountain oversaw an award-winning staff and earned a second-place award at the 2002 Illinois Community College Journalism Association convention for one of his own articles. He now covers the blues scene in Chicago. His work has been published in the Buddy Guy's Legends Bluesletter, The Chicago Music Guide and Big City Rhythm & Blues. He is currently finishing his undergraduate degree in journalism at Columbia College in Chicago.

Enrique Limon
Enrique Limón is a 1997 graduate of the San Diego School of Broadcasting and earned a bachelor's degree in international business from Universidad Iberoamericana in Tijuana, Mexico. He has been a writer and on-air talent for several television projects on Latin American entertainment magnet Televisa. He later branched out and began writing for and starring in shows for the Latin USA Network and Discovery Channel. He says he jumped on the opportunity to apply to the academy -- even though he almost missed the application deadline.

"I felt that it was a tremendous opportunity to broaden my professional outlook, fine tune my eye for the story and hone my writing skills," he says. "It was in the back of my head as soon as I heard of it,'till the last minute when I decided to apply on the final eligible postmark day."

Limón has also written for Mexico's alt-weekly, Zeta, and he currently works as a nightlife columnist and contributing writer for San Diego CityBeat. He says he hopes the AAJ experience will give him "a more polished style" to apply to feature writing.

"My life's mission of proving that fluff is not a four letter word," he says. "I'm out to give the off-the-beaten-path/human interest story a good name, and a program like this is sure to help."

Shine-Ning Ni
Shine-Ning Ni graduated in June from the University of California, Davis, where he majored in biological sciences and minored in English. Although his academic training is largely in science and technology, his recently confirmed passion for journalism has led him to write for his college town's local media outlets, The Davis Enterprise and Davis Life Magazine. A first- generation immigrant, Ni grew up on both coasts (California and New Jersey), which he says provides him with a perspective that informs his journalism and will help him bridge communication gaps in the American melting pot.

Vy Pham
Vy Pham is a native of Southern California. She attended the University of California, Irvine, where she studied literary journalism and studio art. She has contributed to several publications, writing pieces of creative nonfiction as well as art/culture reviews. Currently, she is a contributing writer for The District Weekly in Long Beach. She spends much of her time reading, writing, editing, and making art, and says she wants to hone her storytelling skills this summer.

"I applied to the program because there are many writers working in alternative press who tell great stories. I love to tell stories," Pham says. "If a program will help me become a better storyteller, I'm all for it."

Jon Vidar
Jon Vidar is a Los Angeles-based freelance photographer. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in ancient religion and classical languages in 2004 and an master's degree in communication management in 2006.

He is a regular freelancer for the Associated Press and also serves as the interim executive director and the director of Near East operations for the Tiziano Project, a nonprofit that provides the technology and training necessary for youth in underrepresented regions to tell their own stories. In 2007, Jon helped this project establish their its first base of operations in Kigali, Rwanda and in the Summer of 2008, he piloted a two-week long multimedia workshop in Northern Iraq. He also serves as the multimedia specialist for the USC Libraries at the University of Southern California.