Minority Writers Seminar
The Association of Opinion Journalists Foundation (formerly the National Conference of Editorial Writers Foundation) established the Minority Writers Seminar in 1996 to increase diversity among opinion writers at newspapers and radio and television stations.
Held annually in Nashville, Tennessee, the seminar provides an opportunity for experienced minority journalists to explore the nuts-and-bolts of opinion writing as a possible career move. In 2000, the Seminar also became a "boot camp" for those who have been writing opinions less than a year.
Within weeks after the first seminar in 1996, one of the graduates landed a position as an editorial writer. And the success of the seminar continues.
Limited, unscientific research indicates 20 to 25% of those attending the seminar are now writing editorials or columns professionally.
At the hands-on workshop, participants attend mock editorial board meetings and write two editorials, one of which is usually on a First Amendment issue. The faculty then critiques the editorials, veteran AOJ members who contribute their time to prepare for and attend the seminar at their expense.
The four-day seminar also features nationally known speakers and panel discussions with minority journalists who have made successful moves to opinion writing.
Lodging and food at the seminar are covered; participants provide only a portion of their own transportation costs to and from Nashville.
Participants are selected through a nationwide application process. Click here for information on the current seminar and a copy of the application.
Since its inception, First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University and now the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute at Vanderbilt University have been AOJ Foundation's partners, providing their facilities in the John Seigenthaler Center at no cost. In addition to the AOJ Foundation, the seminar is funded by contributions from individuals, newspapers, and foundations.
Foundation contributions help publish this quarterly magazine containing professional development articles, essays, surveys and a host of educational and professional material that goes out to opinion writers and journalism faculty and students nationwide. This is one of our bread-and-butter programs that helps editors who may never be able to get to conferences. The publication is a credit to our industry.
State Department Seminar
This two-day event in Washington, D.C., gives editorial writers the opportunity to meet firsthand with high-level diplomats and has proven very popular with our organization and the State Department. It is usually held at the beginning of the year.
Large grants from the MacArthur Foundation and the German Marshall Fund have enabled editorial writers to visit foreign countries at sharply reduced costs in the past several years. But these grants have run out and we will be seeking new funding sources. The program is especially helpful to editors from mid-size newspapers, who might otherwise be unable to go. Recent trips have been to China, Mexico, Middle East (especially in the Arab countries.) These are comprehensive trips usually involving access to high-level officials and practical access to ordinary citizens.
Seminars for College Students
These are held in conjunction with the national convention wherever we can make connections with college journalism faculty locally. We also participate in an editorial writing session for college editors nationwide at Columbia University.
Barry Bingham Senior Fellowship
This program brings to our national convention an outstanding faculty member who has shown great initiative in mentoring minority college students. The faculty member receives an award for career-long contributions to minority students. We pay the costs for the educator's travel to the convention and attempt to help the educator with projects he or she may want to do. To view the press release announcing the 2012 winner, Michelle Johnson, click here.