On September 29, 2022, Abdirizak Diis hosts a community discussion on how to help Somali families affected by the drought back home. Credit: Somali TV of Minnesota

Sahan Journal, a nonprofit news organization serving immigrants and communities of color in Minnesota, has been honored with the INNovator Award at the 2023 Nonprofit News Awards (INNYs) for its project “Tani waa su’aashayda.” The award recognizes innovative initiatives that reshape the landscape of nonprofit journalism and engage communities effectively.

“Tani waa su’aashayda,” which translates to “Here’s my question,” is a weekly audio newsletter and text-message service designed for the Somali community living in Minnesota. The project challenges the traditional newsletter format by delivering news stories through voice-notes sent via SMS, catering to the community’s preference for audio and video content.

The project is co-produced by Aala Abdullahi, the innovation editor at Sahan Journal, and Abdirizak Diis, a journalist and producer with Somali TV of Minnesota. Somali TV was founded in 1997 by Somali journalist Abdikadir Osman, and under the leadership of Siyad Salah, the digital TV site has gained a strong following among many local Somali immigrants.* Over the years, the channel has played a vital role in keeping the growing community—now over 85,000 people—informed and connected.  

“We wanted to create a news experience that truly resonated with our community’s preferences and needs,” said Abdirizak Diis, reflecting on the project. “By embracing audio content and SMS delivery, we’ve been able to engage our audience in a more meaningful and accessible way.”

Every week, subscribers of “Tani waa su’aashayda” receive a collection of local, national, and international stories, along with a roundup of local events that might interest the Somali community in Minnesota. The innovative aspect of the project lies in recording each story as a two-minute audio clip in Somali. Sahan’s newsroom sends out each clip as a text message attachment that subscribers can listen to without leaving their messaging app.

In addition to the weekly content, the project features a community Q&A broadcast on Somali TV (over Facebook), where experts discuss topics suggested by Somali community members. This approach ensures that community feedback and engagement continue to inform and shape the journalism process.

“We’re thrilled to receive the INNovator Award, which validates our efforts to engage immigrant communities through innovative approaches,” said Aala Abdullahi. “The success of ‘Tani waa su’aashayda’ reaffirms our commitment to serving diverse communities with news that matters to them.”

Established in 2009, the Institute for Nonprofit News is a network that strengthens and supports more than 425 independent news organizations. “Nonprofit newsrooms support our civic life by holding the powerful accountable to the communities they serve, a vital function in our democracy,” said Sue Cross, INN executive director and CEO. “These awards also are a testament to the ways nonprofit journalists are building communities, civic engagement, and finding new ways to make sure everyone has access to the news they need.”

Launched in November 2022, Sahan’s Somali-language news project has demonstrated its impact by garnering over 790 subscribers, with a retention rate over 90 percent. 

“Tani waa su’aashayda” isn’t Sahan Journal’s only text-based, non-English language newsletter. The newsroom also works with Afghan journalist Hussain Ali Haidari to produce New Home, a weekly newsletter for the state’s growing Afghan community. Produced in Pashto and Dari, New Home offers stories for recent refugees about navigating health care, the work force, and life in Minnesota. 

The success of “Tani waa su’aashayda” and New Home has prompted Sahan Journal to explore similar newsletters for English-language news readers in Minnesota.

With its commitment to community engagement and innovative distribution methods, Sahan Journal hopes to be a model for newsrooms looking to tailor their approach to diverse audiences. You can read more about “Tani waa su’aashayda” and Sahan Journal’s overall community engagement work here

*Correction (August 29, 2023): This story has been changed to note that Abdikadir Osman founded Somali TV of Minnesota.

Sahan Journal is a nonprofit digital newsroom dedicated to reporting for immigrants and communities of color in Minnesota. Our diverse staff creates exceptional journalism: coverage that truly represents...