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SPJ names six Dori Maynard Diversity Fellows


Matthew Kent, Program Coordinator, 317-920-4788, mkent@spj.org
Zoë Berg, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317-920-4785, zberg@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS — The Dori Maynard Diversity Leadership Program’s 2019 Diversity Fellows are Aisha Al-Muslim, Daisy Contreras, Rebecca David, Stephanie Lin, Taheshah Moise and Hatzel Vela. This program aims to open minds and open doors in newsrooms around the country by giving fellows the opportunity to see first-hand how the Society of Professional Journalists works and what it has to offer.

Funded by the SPJ Foundation, the fellows are provided with a complimentary conference registration and paid travel to the Excellence in Journalism conference, as well as several networking events where they get to know each other, and meet SPJ board members, administrators and other leaders in the world of journalism.

“This year the Diversity Fellows will visit with news managers and veteran journalists to learn about the importance of bringing diverse voices and stories to every news product they produce or publish,” SPJ Diversity Committee Chair Rebecca Aguilar said. “They will hear from news managers who have made a commitment in having a diverse staff, because they know it's key in having the best coverage in any community.”

The Diversity Leadership Program fellowship is named after the late Dori J. Maynard, who was a longtime champion of diversity in journalism. She was a board member of SPJ’s foundation starting in 1999. In 2001, she was named a Fellow of the Society. Maynard was well-known for tirelessly working to ensure diversity in the newsroom. She challenged the news media to look at themselves and what she called “distorted coverage of communities of color” when covering America’s ongoing racial struggles and what it does to the country.

“After Rebecca [Aguilar] and Ivette [Davila Richards] started as the new diversity chair and vice chair this year, we've received many more entries and the fellowship is more competitive than ever,” SPJ National President J. Alex Tarquinio said.

This year there were 21 applicants, the most in the history of the fellowship, from some of the best journalists in the country. The six chosen fellows are the best of the best.

“The fellows bring their own unique backgrounds to this program,” Aguilar said. “We hope to tap into their talents and help with any mentoring they may need to become our future leaders in journalism.”

Aisha Al-Muslim is an award-winning journalist and Pulitzer Prize finalist at The Wall Street Journal. She is currently a reporter writing about breaking business news, company earnings, mergers and acquisitions, executive changes and economic indicators for the Dow Jones newswires, WSJ.com and the print paper. She also writes about the business of travel, covering online travel booking companies, cruise line operators, lodging providers and casino operators.

Al-Muslim is a former business reporter at Newsday, covering retail and small businesses on Long Island, New York. Before that, she was a town reporter for Newsday. She is also a former editor of the Spanish-language community newspaper, El Correo de Queens, and a former reporter for its sister newspaper, The Queens Courier.

Born in the Republic of Panama, the Brooklyn resident is a graduate of the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School of Journalism, since renamed the Craig Newmark J-School. She is also a graduate of Lehman College.

Daisy Contreras is a reporter for NPR member station WUIS in Springfield, Illinois, where she covers state politics and local communities. She helped cover the state’s two-year budget impasse — the longest of any state — and continues to cover the aftermath of cuts on social services.

Before going into journalism, Contreras was working with nonprofit organizations in Chicago doing communications. She has a master’s degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield; a bachelor’s degree in science communication from the Illinois Institute of Technology and an associate degree in French language from Harry S. Truman College in Chicago.

Contreras grew up in Chicago and was born in Mexico City. She is fluent in Spanish, and although she has used her bilingual skills to connect with sources, she hopes to one day produce radio stories in Spanish so her parents (and extended family in Mexico) can fully appreciate the art and creativity of radio journalism.

Rebecca David is a video journalist at KWQC-TV6 News in Davenport, Iowa. She was born in Uganda and moved to Minnesota when she was nine years old. She went to St. Cloud State University, where she majored in Mass Communication and double minored in Communication Studies and International Relations. Prior to joining KWQC, she worked as a multimedia reporter in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Stephanie Lin is an award-winning TV anchor and reporter based in Northern California. Her reporting has taken viewers to the front-lines of California's devastating wildfires, given voice to the afflicted and shut-down consumer scams. Lin also covered President Trump's 2018 tour of fire-ravaged Butte County with the White House Press Pool. She believes in the power of storytelling to bridge differences between people and bring the world closer together.

Prior to KHSL-TV, Lin spent nearly a decade producing marketing campaigns for top tech companies and is proud to bring her knowledge of Silicon Valley business to the newsroom. She began her career at ABC 20/20, where she cut her teeth researching for Diane Sawyer, John Quinones and ABC News correspondents. She is an alumna of the NBC Page Program.

Lin is a Bay Area native and a graduate of University of California Berkeley with degrees in Mass Communication and Chinese.

Taheshah Moise is an evening anchor/reporter at WFMY News 2 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Several of her stories since joining the team in September 2017 have gone viral being featured on TV stations across the country, USA Today and national talk show “The Talk.” Her story on a woman’s nightmare pedicure led to changes at the state level.

In 2018, Moise was a part of the team that produced award-winning coverage celebrating the life of the Rev. Billy Graham. The coverage won the team a NC Association of Broadcasters award for breaking news coverage. TEGNA Pinnacle Awards also named the coverage a finalist for Breaking News/Big Story Coverage. It garnered an EMMY nomination as well.

Moise previously spent 2˝-years as a morning anchor at KXXV in Waco, Texas.

Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside, in January 2017. During his time living and working in Cuba, he has covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.

Months after arriving on the island, he exclusively spoke to Mariela Castro -- daughter of President Raul Castro -- about her father, a coming transition on the island and human rights. He was on the central northern coast of the island as Hurricane Irma -- then a Category 5 storm -- battered the entire island. Subsequently, Vela covered the damage left behind. Since the story broke on the mysterious attacks on American embassy workers, Vela has stayed on top on new developing information.

Prior to his assignment in Cuba, Vela covered some of the biggest Cuba-related stories at Local 10 in Miami. In the early morning hours of Nov. 26, Vela was the first on air at Local 10 to tell viewers about the death of Castro. In March 2016, he was part of a team to cover President Barack Obama's historic visit to Cuba. Vela covered the first American diplomatic visit in January 2015 and was on the island twice when Pope Francis visited; the first for a pastoral visit and subsequently to meet Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Excellence in Journalism 2019 is Sept. 5-7 in San Antonio.

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund or give to the SPJ Foundation.


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