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SPJ names 2021 Dori Maynard Diversity Fellows


Lou Harry, SPJ Manager of Publications and Awards, 317-920-4786, lharry@spj.org
Ashlynn Neumeyer, Communications Coordinator, 317-361-4133, aneumeyer@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS — The Dori Maynard Diversity Leadership Program 2021 Diversity Fellows are Kim Haas, Whitney Miller, Laura Janelle Downey, Clayton Gutzmore, Vanessa A. Alvarez and Brittany Reese. 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.

The fellows will attend the SPJ21 virtual conference this year where they will have access to networking events, meet SPJ leaders at the national and local level, interact with other leaders in journalism who are making an impact in areas of diversity, equity and inclusion.

"Today, it is essential to give journalists the tools they need to help bring diverse voices to newsrooms and news coverage around the country," said SPJ President-elect and Diversity and Inclusion Committee Chair Rebecca Aguilar. "Our SPJ program will empower the fellows to be future leaders and agents of change in today's news industry."

The Diversity Leadership Program fellowship is named after the late Dori J. Maynard, who was a longtime champion of diversity in journalism. She was an SPJ Foundation board member beginning in 1999. In 2001, she was named an SPJ 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 the impact it has on the country.

“I'm excited to welcome the Dori Maynard Diversity Fellows to SPJ21,” SPJ National President Matthew T. Hall said. “I'm proud that this program keeps Dori's memory alive. She was a passionate advocate for equity and inclusion in newsrooms, and these journalists will carry her legacy into the future in a way that should make all of us proud.”

Whitney Miller has been a working journalist since 2012. Her news journey has taken her from Alaska, where she started, to Texas, where she is from, and now back to Ohio, where she got her journalism education. Her goal as a reporter and former anchor has always been about inclusion and representation. She continues to share the stories of families and groups that are underrepresented. Miller’s goal is to tell stories well and with care.

Clayton Gutzmore is a freelance journalist in South Florida. He has published stories in news outlets including The Miami Times, WLRN-TV, The Atlanta Voice, Breaking Entertainment News and Variety Magazine. He graduated from Florida International University. During his undergraduate years, he served on the board of the local chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists. Gutzmore currently writes stories for Newsbreak. He is also a member of SPJ and The Sigma Alpha chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.

After receiving a master’s in journalism at Florida A&M University, Laura Janelle Downey landed in New York City as a reporter for People magazine. Since then, she’s been a fashion/entertainment editor, journalism professor and managing editor of 944 Las Vegas, Vegas/Rated magazines, Atlanta Best Media’s eight publications and ForbesTravelGuide.com. She served as senior executive editor for Modern Luxury Corp. before spending 18 months as a freelance travel journalist. Downey is currently the executive editor of WebMD’s magazine and its point-of-care products. In addition, she serves as the company's lifestyle features consumer team lead on the digital side.

Vanessa A. Alvarez is a multilingual video producer and journalist at The Associated Press based in New York. As a regional news producer for the AP East Desk, e Alvarez covers news across 10 states in the northeast. Before joining the East Desk in 2018, she was a news producer at The Associated Press in Washington, D.C., where she covered the 2016 election and Latin America. She has worked for NBC News, Telemundo Dallas, NBC Miami and The Miami Herald. She has a master’s degree from Columbia Journalism School.

For as long as she can remember, Kim Haas has been fascinated by the contributions of Africans and people of African descent in the Americas, particularly the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking worlds. Haas started Los Afro-Latinos blog to honor and celebrate the contributions of Africans and their descendants. She created Afro-Latino Travels with Kim Haas, a new travel series on public television. Haas majored in Spanish in undergraduate and graduate school. She has extensive travels in Peru, Colombia and Cuba, constantly exploring the Afro-Latino locales.

Brittany Reese received her undergraduate and graduate education at Arkansas State University. After receiving her master's degree in 2013, Reese worked at a lifestyle magazine in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 2018, she transitioned into television news. She became a digital content producer for KATV-TV. In April 2021, Reese went to work for KARK/FOX16, where she continued as a digital video content producer. Volunteering is also part of Reese's background. She is active in the SPJ Arkansas chapter.

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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