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Sahan Journal’s executive director and founding editor, Mukhtar Ibrahim, won the inaugural Emerging Leader of the Year award from the Institute for Nonprofit News, in an online announcement ceremony Wednesday afternoon.
INN supports 300 independent news organizations across the United State that share its dedication to public service. The Emerging Leader award honors an individual new to executive leadership who is building a sustainable organization, models positive and innovative leadership, demonstrates a strong commitment to equity and inclusion, and displays a deep commitment to community service.
“I feel truly honored to get this award from INN,” Mukhtar said. “I’m so thankful for everyone who has played a role in my personal and leadership development. It has been a privilege to build and lead the great team at Sahan Journal. I’m really fortunate and proud to work with them every day.”
Sahan Journal was also a finalist in three of the contest’s nine categories:
- Breaking Barriers, for its coverage of teacher diversity in Minnesota
- Insight Award for Explanatory Journalism, for its reporting on the closing of a pioneering charter school in Minneapolis’ Somali community;
- Startup of the Year
Sahan Journal discovered the urgency of its mission—to produce a different kind of news for immigrants and people of color—after the police killing of George Floyd. Mukhtar had just started hiring a newsroom in the months before the cataclysmic event.
Mukhtar, 33, was born in Somalia and came to Minnesota as an immigrant in 2005. After starting a pre-med track at Inver Hills Community College, he graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. He later received a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, in New York.
Mukhtar started his reporting career at Minnesota Public Radio and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the state’s two largest newsrooms. But those experiences convinced Mukhtar that Minnesota needed a news source that reflected the growing diversity of the state’s population. He found that mainstream media was not yet prepared for that change of perspective.
Mukhtar decided to create a diverse online newsroom to report the events and experiences that were missing. In the summer of 2019, and with initial backing from Minnesota Public Radio, Sahan Journal took off. Mukhtar wore many hats as he built up Sahan Journal. For the first year, he took on the role of reporter, editor, publisher, fundraiser, social media expert, and occasional web developer.
His work over the last two years has already made a huge impact on local journalism. Sahan Journal has produced breaking and original coverage of education, climate, COVID, immigration, policing, and local politics.
In 2021, Mukhtar leads Sahan Journal’s full-time staff of 11 in an exciting new phase, as it becomes a major news provider in the Minnesota media market.