October 14, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Oct. 14, 2019) – The Poynter Institute, a global leader in journalism and fact-checking, is pleased to announce the 21 journalists selected from nearly 200 applicants for its prestigious Power of Diverse Voices: Minority Writers Workshop.

The workshop grew out of the Minority Writers Seminar, a collaboration between what was then the Association of Opinion Journalists and Poynter. The original seminar ran for nearly two decades at Vanderbilt University before coming to Poynter in 2015. 

“Most of the people who write opinion pieces and sit on editorial boards are still white men. This inherently limits society’s understanding of everything from food and travel to politics and criminal justice,” said Kelly McBride, senior vice president and ethics chair at Poynter. “Poynter is proud to continue building on the tradition of the Minority Writers Workshop and help journalists of color develop the confidence and skills to articulate their unique perspectives in persuasive writing, which is essential for ethical journalism that serves diverse communities.”

With lead faculty Tom Huang, Poynter revamped the Power of Diverse Voices program in 2016 to be more digitally focused and include sessions about personal essays and opinion writing. Over the course of four days, participants receive dedicated writing time, one-on-one coaching and small-group instruction. Like all flagship Poynter programs, the Power of Diverse Voices emphasizes fact-based writing, solid reporting and creating safe spaces for true introspection. 

This curriculum shift has led to the rapid growth and popularity of the program. More journalists have applied each year since 2016, making Power of Diverse Voices one of the most competitive and transformative programs that Poynter offers. Thanks to the generosity of a new donor, Poynter added five seats to the 2019 class. 

Participants in this year’s workshop will join an active and successful alumni group. Their work has appeared in podcasts such as This Land series by Rebecca Nagle and an episode of Racist Sandwich by Joseph Hernandez; in local news such as this column about being the daughter of Pakistani immigrants by Shaheen Pasha in the New Hampshire Gazette; and in national outlets such as Iris Kuo’s column in The Atlantic on the ‘whitening’ of Asian Americans and Russell Contreras’s story for the Associated Press about his family surviving five generations of Houston storms.

“Spending a few days in a room where minorities are the majority truly changed my life,” said Ashley Lee, an entertainment news reporter at the Los Angeles Times and graduate of the 2018 Power of Diverse Voices. “I felt so empowered by the traits and experiences that the world or the industry often considers faulty. Throughout the weekend, I was able to, for the first time, spend more time working on crafting fresh takes and nuanced opinions, and less time explaining why I’m pitching the ideas in the first place.” 

The new class — which includes writers working as reporters, freelancers, professors, producers and editors — will come to Poynter Nov. 7-10. Participants were selected by a committee with an emphasis on ensuring diversity across race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, geography, religion, technology platforms, organization size and skill sets. 

“At a time of division, at a time when people in the margins aren’t always heard, this seminar elevates and amplifies diverse voices,” said Huang, the lead faculty and assistant managing editor for journalism initiatives at the Dallas Morning News. “I’m delighted we had the opportunity to expand the small class size to include even more talented writers. They each will enrich the conversations we’ll have in November and go on to produce important work.”

Poynter is pleased to welcome members of the upcoming Power of Diverse Voices workshop:

  • Hannah Bae, freelance journalist
  • James Bennett II, staff writer, New York Public Radio; WQXR
  • Esme Bermudez, staff writer, Los Angeles Times
  • Michael Butler, freelance journalist and content creator 
  • Sushil Cheema, lead editor, The Penny Hoarder/Taylor Media
  • Sandhya Dirks, race and equity reporter, KQED
  • Luis Gomez, social media manager, Report for America
  • Dina Kesbeh, producer, Al Jazeera
  • Gulnaz Khan, editor, National Geographic
  • Jamyla Krempel, digital producer, WYPR
  • Naveen Kumar, freelance journalist and critic
  • Antionette Lee, general assignment reporter, KYW Newsradio
  • Rhonda LeValdo, professor, Haskell Indian Nations University
  • Andrea McDaniels, editorial writer, The Baltimore Sun
  • Jan Mireles Larson, professor, chair of the Department of Communication and Journalism, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
  • Angelina Mosher Salazar, reporter, WUWM 89.7
  • Frances Nguyen, editor, Women Under Siege Project, Women’s Media Center
  • Jessica Onsurez, news director for the Carlsbad Current-Argus, Alamogordo Daily News and Ruidoso News, Gannett
  • Fernanda Santos, professor of practice, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
  • Sasha-Ann Simons, reporter, race and identity, WAMU
  • Delece Smith-Barrow, senior editor, The Hechinger Report

These participants will learn from Huang as the lead faculty, as well as the following guest faculty and speakers: 

  • Jerry Blassingame, executive director, Soteria Community Development Corp.
  • Roy Peter Clark, senior scholar emeritus reporting, writing and editing, Poynter Institute
  • Eric Deggans, TV critic, NPR
  • Joy Mayer, director, Trusting News; adjunct faculty, Poynter Institute 
  • Aisha Sultan, home and family editor and columnist, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • Keith Woods, vice president of newsroom training and diversity, NPR

“In the never-ending shuffle, it becomes all too easy to conform to a norm that often excludes the voices of women, of people of color, of LGBTQ+ communities, of minorities — voices like my own,” said Alejandra Salazar, assistant producer at WNYC News and a graduate of the 2018 workshop. “But my weekend at Poynter was a vital, affirming experience that reminded me of the power of storytelling, and of the importance of diversity within that storytelling. The skills, connections, support and confidence I gained in this program truly made it one of the most important and formative experiences in my career.”


About The Poynter Institute

The Poynter Institute for Media Studies is a global leader in journalism education and a strategy center that stands for uncompromising excellence in journalism, media and 21st-century public discourse. Poynter faculty teach seminars and workshops at the Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, and at conferences and organizations around the world. Its e-learning division, News University, offers the world’s largest online journalism curriculum, with hundreds of interactive courses and tens of thousands of registered international users. The Institute’s website,, produces 24-hour coverage about media, ethics, technology and the business of news. Poynter is the home of the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership, the Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact, the International Fact-Checking Network and MediaWise, a teen digital information literacy project. Collectively, this work builds public awareness about journalism, media, the First Amendment and discourse that serves democracy and the public good.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Mel Grau is the senior product specialist at The Poynter Institute, focusing on Poynter's training experiences and newsletters. She previously edited The Cohort, Poynter’s biweekly…
Mel Grau

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