Sahan Journal's news staff poses for a photo in downtown St. Paul in fall 2021. Credit: Ben Hovland.

Sahan Journal has received a $1.2 million grant from the American Journalism Project to help the nonprofit news organization in its efforts to change the news ecosystem in Minnesota and beyond. The award, announced Tuesday, marks the first time the American Journalism Project has provided funding to a news organization in Minnesota.

The investment—Sahan Journal’s largest grant to date—will enable the organization to expand news coverage, increase earned revenue streams, cultivate relationships with local and national grantmakers, and launch a major gifts program to tap into new levels of local philanthropic support.

Founded in 2019 by Somali American journalist Mukhtar M. Ibrahim, Sahan Journal is an 11-person digital nonprofit news that provides unequaled coverage of immigrants and communities of color in Minnesota. 

Launched in 2019, the American Journalism Project is the first venture philanthropy organization in the country dedicated to providing transformational investments in “mission-driven nonprofit local news organizations.”

American Journalism Project aims to increase the resources for local news by investing in the business capacity of digital newsrooms and providing venture support so they can grow sustainably. American Journalism Project partners with communities to launch new organizations, and coaches leaders as they grow and sustain their newsrooms.

“Sahan Journal is a groundbreaking source of news coverage for Minnesota’s changing and emerging communities, immigrants, and communities of color, and represents the future we envision—and need—for local news,” said Sarabeth Berman, CEO of American Journalism Project. “We are looking forward to being a part of their growth and sustainability.”

Sahan Journal will use the American Journalism Project grant to accelerate its growth by creating several new positions, including a major gifts officer, audience growth manager, membership manager, operations administrator, and sales and marketing associate.

“This investment from American Journalism Project will transform Sahan Journal to become a leading civic news organization in Minnesota,” said Mukhtar, founder and executive director of Sahan Journal. “For the past two years, we have provided vital news and information to Minnesota’s communities of color that wasn’t available anywhere else. We’re honored and grateful to have received the confidence and support of the American Journalism Project.”

Mukhtar launched Sahan Journal as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit digital news organization to address a persistent issue in local news: the lack of sustained, authentic, and quality news coverage for Minnesota’s growing communities of color. 

Sahan Journal discovered the urgency of its mission after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Mukhtar had just started hiring a newsroom in the months before the cataclysmic event.

Reporters at Sahan Journal prioritize the experiences and views of underserved Minnesota communities. Its journalists produce authentic, original stories about teacher diversity in Minnesota, vaccine equity, environmental justice, immigration policy, elections, and diverse representation, policing, and more. 

In just two years, Sahan Journal has become a national leader in the nonprofit news landscape. Sahan and its staff have received numerous national and local awards, including honors from the Institute for Nonprofit News, the Education Writers of America, Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, Report for America, and the Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers. 

Mukhtar has been named the inaugural 2021 Emerging Leader of the Year from the Institute for Nonprofit News, and a 2022 Media Transformation Challenge executive fellow at the Poynter Institute. Under Mukhtar’s leadership, Sahan Journal has been recognized as a news operation that exemplifies what it means to practice community-centered journalism. 

Through a dedicated focus on people of color, Sahan Journal has published the first stories about matters of significant public interest: the U.S. attorney selection, the growing role of diverse teachers, controversial police raids, election wins for immigrant candidates, and more. This coverage has been widely shared and cited by public officials, including Minnesota’s congressional delegation, the governor and lieutenant governor, state legislators, and mayors and city councilors throughout the state. 

Kate Moos, a senior strategic consultant who helped Mukhtar build Sahan Journal, described the American Journalism Project grant as a game-changing moment and opportunity. “Sahan Journal is becoming a primary source of journalism for Minnesota in the 21st century,” Moos said. “This marks a moment of transformation for Sahan and its readers.”

The American Journalism Project grant will last three years. In that time, Sahan plans to add unique editorial coverage of business and entrepreneurship, arts and culture, local government, and more. 

Sahan also plans to expand its commitment to innovative partnerships and news offerings. In November, Sahan Journal received funding from the Google News Initiative’s Innovation Challenge to help launch a new initiative called Citizen Lab. This series of public editorial meetings will encourage Latino, Hmong, and Somali news consumers to speak directly to editors at Sahan Journal and its community media partners: La Raza 95.7z FM, 3HmongTV, and Somali TV Minnesota.

“Sahan Journal’s journalism is changing the news ecosystem in Minnesota and beyond,” Mukhtar said. “We are raising the bar for coverage of communities of color, not as fringe players in a majority white state, but as the soon-to-be majority citizens—people who are revitalizing rural towns and playing a major role in local politics, economy, and culture.”

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...