History of the Minority Writers Seminar

The Minority Writers Seminar is sponsored by the Association of Opinion Journalists Foundation, in partnership with the Newseum Institute.

Supporters of the Seminar 1996–2009

  • Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation
  • First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University
  • John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
  • McCormick/Tribune Foundation
  • Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation
  • Sigma Delta Chi Foundation
  • Star Tribune Foundation
  • The New York Times Company Foundation

  • Hearst Newspapers
  • Lexington Herald Leader in Kentucky
  • McClatchy Newspapers
  • The Hartford Courant
  • The Post-Standard in Syracuse
  • The Roanoke Times
  • The Tennessean

  • Frank Blethen, Seattle, Washington
  • Lynnell and David Burkett, San Antonio, Texas
  • Reed McCluggage, New London, Connecticut
  • John L. Seigenthaler, Nashville, Tennessee

The first class of the Minority Writers Seminar

Then-NCEW Foundation trustee Tommy Denton planted the seeds of the Minority Writers Seminar in 1994, suggesting that the Foundation should look at increasing diversity among opinion writers.

At the April 1995 board meeting, president Ed Jones suggested that the Foundation sponsor a program to provide a concentrated period of study for minority journalists in the discipline of editorial writing. The board voted to explore the possibilities of partnering with other organizations to create an annual seminar for experienced minority journalists to encourage them to consider opinion writing as a career.

The seminar found a patron and a home when John Seigenthaler, chair of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, agreed to:

  • Give seed money for the 1996 and 1997 seminars
  • Provide the facilities of the First Amendment Center
  • Pay some participant and faculty expenses
  • Handle all logistics

Seigenthaler emphasized that the curriculum would be controlled completely by NCEW Foundation.

The Foundation approved the partnership at its December 1995 board meeting, and the first seminar was held in May 1996.

This arrangement continued until 2003, when the newly created Freedom Forum Diversity Institute at Vanderbilt University became the Foundation’s partner. The seminar is held at the John Seigenthaler Center, which houses the Diversity Institute and the First Amendment Center.

Since 1996, more than 200 participants have attended the Minority Writers Seminar.