September 19, 2014
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Associated Press May Cut Minority Intern Program

 By Richard Prince, Richard Prince's Journal-ismsThe Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education

NEW YORK - The Associated Press is considering eliminating its decades-old internship program, which has produced some of the news cooperative's most successful journalists of color, an AP spokesman acknowledged on Friday.

Word raced around the world's largest news organization Friday that a decision had been made to kill the program. Asked whether that was the case, spokesman Paul Colford told Journal-isms, "The AP has made clear internally that it will examine all programs, including internships, as part of its ongoing budgeting process."

The threat to the program comes as an AP selection committee was due to meet in Phoenix on Dec. 2 to choose the next class of interns.

The initiative, formerly known as the Minority Internship Program, started in the early 1980s.

"Associated Press selected 16 college students for its 13th annual Minority Internship program," Editor & Publisher reported in 1997. "The winners, chosen from a field of more than 100, will learn all aspects of the newspaper business while they work in the wire service's bureaus for 13 weeks. The program is open to African-American, Latino, Asian and Native-American students."

BLACK, AFRICAN AMERICAN, MINORITY, CIVIL RIGHTS, DISCRIMINATION, RACISM, , RACIAL EQUALITY, BIAS, EQUALITYChristina Good VoiceCreation of the program followed a settlement negotiated between the AP, the Newspaper Guild and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which in turn followed a 1973 complaint filed with the EEOC by female AP employees. The settlement "included not only back pay but a training program to prepare women for promotional opportunities and an affirmative action plan for women, blacks and Latinos," Kay Mills wrote in her 1988 book, "A Place in the News: From the Women's Pages to the Front Page."

Internship graduates can be found inside and outside of the Associated Press.

At the AP, they include race, ethnicity and demographics editor Sonya Ross; Jesse Washington, writer on race and ethnicity; Los Angeles Bureau Chief Anthony Marquez; Miami Assistant Bureau Chief Michelle Morgante; Arizona/New Mexico Bureau Chief Michael Giarrusso; Deputy National Editor James Martinez; Music Editor Nekesa Moody; White House reporter Darlene Superville and New York reporter Deepti Hajela, a former president of the South Asian Journalists Association. Those outside the AP include Michael Feeney, a reporter for the New York Daily News; Patricia Mays, formerly sports editor at the Press-Enterprise in Riverside, Calif., now with ESPN; authors Denene Millner and Karen Quinones Miller; Christina Good Voice, senior reporter for the Cherokee Phoenix; and Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, a personal finance coach, among others.

Two of the AP's recent moves to improve its coverage of the nation's diversity involve two of those former interns.

In August, Ross, former White House correspondent and currently regional news editor in the Washington bureau, was named to the new position of race/ethnicity/demographics editor.

In 2008, Washington, then the AP's entertainment editor, was selected from among 449 applicants to become the wire service's national writer on race and ethnicity.

The training had an impact beyond the AP bureaus.

"I was a three-time AP intern — Summers of 2005 and '06, then a six-month intern in 2007," Eric Bolin, a Cherokee who attended Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla., told Journal-isms via e-mail. "I learned just about everything I know about journalism in the AP intern program.

"I understand the industry is struggling as a whole, but AP, for my money, is still the most-respected news organization in the world. Young journalists everywhere strive to be AP employees.

"AP was all I ever knew, really. I never interned [at] a daily — or weekly for that matter. I wasn't a newspaper guy. I was an AP guy. To this day, I've never worked at a newspaper. I do correspondent and freelance work for papers, sure, but I still write the way AP taught me.

"I truly hope the internship program is not eliminated. In times like these, we need to be encouraging more journalists to test the boundaries of the profession and the biggest news company in the world, I think, needs to be at the forefront of that."

Good Voice, at the Cherokee Phoenix, agreed.

"I'll be here four years in March," she said by e-mail. "My focus at the Phoenix recently shifted to investigative and in-depth stories and I believe my skills learned at the AP help me to be a strong reporter.

"I was an AP intern twice. I had a 12-week internship in 2005 at the Columbia, S.C., bureau and a six-month internship in 2006 in Oklahoma City.

"I credit the AP for the journalist I am today. News is my life and the AP nurtured my love of journalism during both of my internships. The connections I made at the AP and the hands-on training are second- to-none.

"I sincerely hope the program isn't eliminated because it's helped minorities like myself get their foot in the door when that opportunity might not have otherwise been given to them."

AP's internal diversity efforts have been threatened before by budget issues.

In 2007, the AP canceled that year's "Diverse Visions/Diverse Voices" program after students had submitted their applications by the Feb. 15 deadline.

Diverse Voices was described as "an annual five-day multicultural journalism workshop pairing aspiring student journalists with mentors who are AP writers and editors."

Diverse Visions did the same for aspiring student photojournalists. The programs' promotional material said, "Past participants have joined the staff of The Associated Press and member papers including the Los Angeles Times, San Jose Mercury News, Dallas Morning News, Newsday, Tucson Star and many others."

"It's a tremendous loss to the journalistic community," Fred Sweets, former AP photographer, photo editor and diversity advocate, told Journal-isms at the time. "It's a great loss for students, and it's a great loss for the participants, who probably learned more about diversity through their experiences than the students did."

 


STORY TAGS: BLACK, AFRICAN AMERICAN, MINORITY, CIVIL RIGHTS, DISCRIMINATION, RACISM, , RACIAL EQUALITY, BIAS, EQUALITY



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