“The stories found in Sahan Journal are needed,” Mukhtar Ibrahim said. “We want to make sure that these stories are kept on the front page, and that they are told well and authentically.”
Ibrahim, the Founder and Executive Director/Editor of Sahan Journal, has worked with a team of staff and freelancers to build an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit digital newsroom fully dedicated to providing authentic news reporting for and about immigrants and communities of color in Minnesota.
When Sahan Journal applied to be a fiscally sponsored project at Propel Nonprofits, a strategic decision that allowed them the ability to accept grant funding and build the infrastructure they need to grow into the organization they hope to be, they cited the following statistic:
In 2017, foreign-born immigrants comprised nearly 9 percent of the state population, according to the Minnesota State Demographic Center. If you factor in the U.S.-born children of immigrants, that number could be double digits.
Ibrahim noticed, while working for Minnesota Public Radio, stories about communities of color, especially immigrant communities, were underreported, and lacked nuanced and authenticity in almost all mainstream media outlets.
“I found that when people heard about, for example, the Somali community in Minnesota, it was only when there was breaking news or big events, and those are typically stories you are encountering when you read about these communities,” Ibrahim said. “Sahan Journal offers something different; immigrant communities and communities of color are always on the front page; they are always visible.”
That visibility is an integral part of Sahan Journal’s mission. In Minnesota, reporters usually produce stories about communities of color that frequently lack nuance, context, complexity, depth and dimension. This is because the local media landscape is predominately white and newsroom leaders are not investing resources in fully covering these communities and are slow in making news coverage more inclusive, despite the increasing diversity and the rapid growth of Minnesota’s immigrant population.
“Our communities of color and immigrant communities deserve high quality journalism so they can see themselves reflected well,” Ibrahim said. “It is important for the public narrative around these communities to chronicle how they are transforming the state in terms of day-to-day life, elections, and more.”
Sahan Journal is a timely project, offering journalism that is not available in other places. As a fiscally sponsored project at Propel, Sahan Journal was able to accept grants and receive accounting and finance support as they laid the groundwork for growth before they received their own 501(c)(3) status. They also got a grant through the Nonprofit Infrastructure Grant Program, which helped them establish internal systems and pay freelance staff for their reporting.
For the past 18 months, Sahan Journal has played an important role in telling the story of the Coronavirus Pandemic and its lasting impacts in Minneapolis. They sent reporters out into the community following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, and have subsequently covered protests, elections, and politics across the city. Now a staff of 11, they met in person for the first time in October 2021 and covered the Minneapolis municipal elections on November 2, 2021.
“As a nonprofit newsroom, we want to create and reflect vibrant, inclusive, and welcoming communities,” Ibrahim said. “We want immigrant communities and communities of color to be informed, the more you consume news information, the likelihood you vote goes up and that is how we can strengthen democracy.”
Photo: The Sahan Journal staff poses for the first time together in the fall of 2021, having been a remote newsroom during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Photo by Ben Hovland.