The Alternative Newsweekly Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting independent journalism through free speech initiatives, story-sharing projects, diversity programs to help alternative publications attract and retain diverse staff and readers, and fiscal agency sponsorships to support independent journalism projects.
Through its Diversity and Next Generation Scholarships, the foundation supports the development of the next generation of journalists and publishers in alternative news by underwriting the fees associated with attending the annual Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) Convention. The goal of the scholarships is to directly support the growth, education, and professional development of future alt journalists while connecting younger journalists with mentors.
The foundation was created in 2003 by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies to fund two main diversity initiatives:
- Academy for Alternative Journalism: A residential summer program designed to train and recruit minority journalists to work at AAN papers. The summer program — which took place at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism — was launched in 2000 by the Chicago Reader and ran through 2009.
- AAN Diversity Grant Program: A program which supported AAN member papers’ efforts to add diversity to their newsrooms by offering grants to hire interns and develop editorial projects that demonstrably served people of color living in the papers’ communities.
Since its creation, the foundation has evolved to adapt to changes in the broader news industry. While remaining focused on its primary goal of encouraging diversity in both staff and coverage in alternative publications, the foundation has stepped up its efforts to fund journalism initiatives that are under threat in the current media environment.
In July 2013, members of the since-renamed Association of Alternative Newsmedia voted to grant the foundation additional independence through a reconstituted Board of Directors which will bring in outside expertise to strengthen its fundraising and digital journalism initiatives.
While its day-to-day functions have evolved, the Alternative Newsweekly Foundation remains committed to promoting the core principles of the alt press: speaking truth to power, telling stories that other publications won’t, and giving voice to those who would otherwise go unheard — whether because of the color of their skin, sexual orientation, political beliefs, lifestyle, or economic background.