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American Indian Journalism Institute accepting applications for journalism course

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – The Freedom Forum Diversity Institute, based in Washington D.C. is offering a concentrated two-week journalism course and possible paid summer internships for American Indian college students. Students interested in the program should move quickly, applications are due March 1.

The multimedia journalism course will take place at the American Indian Journalism Institute’s Al Neuharth Media Center at the University of South Dakota’s Vermillion Campus.

In order to qualify for the program, American Indian students must express interest in journalism, and have attended at least one year of college. Applications will be accepted from new participants or returning AIJI students who seek additional training.

AIJI student’s, if accepted will get all tuition, fees, books, room and board funded by the Freedom Forum. AIJI students will only be responsible for travel expenses to the school.

Students will also be eligible for college credit and will compete to gain six-week paid internships as reporters, copy editors, photographers and multimedia journalists in daily newsrooms and with the Associated Press beginning July 1. The program itself runs from June 5 – 19.

“The intent of AIJI is to recruit, train, mentor and retain Native Americans for journalism careers,” said AIJI founder and Freedom Forum Vice President Jack Marsh. “AIJI is an intense and demanding academic and internship program that opens doors for those who have the passion and the potential to succeed as professional journalists.”

Marsh, who has been in journalism for more than 28 years, wants to see more Native journalists entering the workforce. He admits the numbers are low, but the AIJI is beginning to make its mark.

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“We are now up to around 180 students who have gone through AIJI and we can count now 30 of them who have finished school and are involved and working in journalism, whether it be mainstream media, tribal media or electronic or online media.

“You may say to yourself, ‘that is not a very high number’ considering how long we’ve been at this, but I have to tell you that AIJI is the primary feeder of new Native talent going into journalism.”

Marsh cited a survey done by the American Society of Newspaper Editors that American Indians are the most underrepresented racial group in newsrooms. The last count put approximately 300 Native people working in daily newsrooms around the country out of about 53,000.

“That number may be inflated because it is based on self identification and does not require that someone be enrolled in the tribe. Whatever the number is, it’s small. We are in partnership with some other organizations that are trying to do something about that.

“We have a long, long way to go, but we are very proud of those students who have gone through our program, who have now decided to pursue journalism and who are now full-time professional journalists.”

Though numbers of Native people in journalism are a small percentage, Marsh is optimistic. “There is a great need for Native journalists. The American news media is not doing a very good job with covering Native issues and Native people. The presence of even one Native journalist in a newsroom can open the eyes of a newsroom to all sorts of stories, and we hope that that can lead to coverage that better reflects the full community.”

Students interested in the program can e-mail a request to jharris@freedomforum.org.