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Sahan Journal Editor On Covering Minnesota's Immigrant Population


Closures and consolidations are costing lots of people their jobs in the news business, and Mukhtar Ibrahim has chosen this time to strike out on his own. He's executive editor of a startup publication called Sahan Journal. And they will report on, about and for Somalis living in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and beyond. Mr. Ibrahim joins us now from the studios of Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul.

Thanks so much for being with us.

MUKHTAR IBRAHIM: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: The largest Somali community in the country is in Minnesota, isn't it?

IBRAHIM: Yeah, that's correct. And this new publication, it's a nonprofit news organization. It will be dedicated to telling the stories of all immigrant communities in Minnesota, so it's not just the Somali community.

SIMON: So also Liberian, Vietnamese.

IBRAHIM: Absolutely, Vietnamese and people from India, people from Pakistan, the Latino community. So it's all the immigrant communities in Minnesota who are really growing and very diverse group of people.

SIMON: What do you think a lot of media organizations miss when it comes to covering immigrant communities?

IBRAHIM: You know, like when the travel ban happened, you know, you see a lot of reporters coming into these communities for the first time. And then they will, you know, leave. And the next time they come back is when something happens. And I think, you know, that approach of doing reporting is something that the community doesn't appreciate. They want someone who can stay with them, can build trust and learn their issues on what's going on so that the reporters can write and report very authentic and comprehensive stories out of these communities.

SIMON: How are you going to approach the Liberian community, the Vietnamese community?

IBRAHIM: That's a good question. And now, I am in the stage of establishing connections to those communities. We just don't want to really come to those communities without having a prior knowledge or, you know, prior experience working with them. So the approach is to kind of really establish connections and trust with organizations that are already doing this work. And so the good thing about my work is I have a partnership with Minnesota Public Radio that's supporting me in giving me space and the opportunity to do this full time for a year and a half. So that will allow me to kind of launch this and build this and see if it's working.

SIMON: Nuts-and-bolts question - will Shahan be online, in print?

IBRAHIM: So we want to be a multimedia organization. The one idea is we want to reach out to digitally connected first-generation, second-generation immigrants. So - and those people are mostly using their phones and are - they are on social media and probably English is their first language. So we are going to be, like, a multimedia organization. It's going to be primarily online, but we're going to be covering a lot of ground.

SIMON: May we hear your - the story of how you got to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Mr. Ibrahim?

IBRAHIM: Yes, I came here in 2005 from Somalia, so I've been here more than any other place. I've lived in other places in East Africa, but I've been here more than 13 years.

SIMON: And forgive me, but what was your first snow like?

IBRAHIM: It was, you know, obviously pretty cool, but we had - but it was kind of a different experience in kind of seeing, you know, the snowflakes falling down from the sky and wearing layers of clothes was a different experience.

SIMON: Sahan has a meaning in Somali, I gather.

IBRAHIM: Yeah, Sahan is a Somali word that means a pioneer. So the idea is to really pioneer a new way, a new model of storytelling when it comes to immigrant communities. And that's - the mission of the organization is telling these stories' successes and transmissions and how they are changing the state.

SIMON: Mukhtar Ibrahim is executive editor of Sahan Journal.

Good luck to you, sir.

IBRAHIM: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.