Since graduating from the Newmark J-School as an urban concentration student in 2009, Aisha Al-Muslim has been on a roll. After starting at the Queens Courier and El Correo de Queens, she landed at Newsday, where she was a 2014 Pulitzer Prize finalist for an investigative series on police misconduct. She went on to The Wall Street Journal in 2017, distinguishing herself as a spot news and bankruptcy reporter.
Now her path has taken an interesting turn. In May, she was named the Journal’s senior editor of newsroom internships, a job that takes her away from the daily thrill (or grind) of reporting and writing so she can help recruit the next generation of journalists. It’s a role, Aisha says, that comes naturally to her.
“I’ve always had a passion for mentoring,” she said. “I was already doing it on my own time, talking to high school and college journalism students, taking part in sessions at NABJ and NAHJ. My own mentors played a big role for me in school and professionally. Now I can pay it forward.”
Her new position is guaranteed to keep Aisha plenty busy. This year, the Journal launched a part-time internship that will debut in Spring 2022 on top of the well-established full-time spring health reporting and 10-week summer internships. The new part-time program is designed to enhance diversity by giving special consideration to applicants from underrepresented communities, including students from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), other minority-serving institutions, and professional affinity groups.
Paying $900 a week for full-time slots and about $26 an hour for part-time situations, the Journal’s internship program is super competitive. Last year, the news organization received some 4,000 applications for 13 openings. (An additional seven slots went to deferrals from 2020.) There’s no admissions committee to review all those candidates; that monumental task falls primarily to Aisha — with input from Journal editors to find the right fit for each student.
Interns work across media specialities in reporting, data, podcasting, video, social media, audience engagement, and product design and cover a wide array of beats in the U.S. and Europe. In 2020 and 2021, all interns worked remotely. Yet several stood out last summer and were rewarded with job offers. Here is some of their most impressive work.
As she guides and mentors the interns, Aisha said she passes along tips that have helped her in her career. “One of things I tell them is make sure you’re coming up with your own story ideas and not just waiting for assignments. This will make you different from everyone else,” she said.
Although the internship program will take up most of her time, her supervisors at the Journal have encouraged her to keep writing. In August, the self-professed Backstreet Boys superfan — who followed the group to Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile, and Argentina last year just before the COVID lockdown — co-authored a front-page story on how the pandemic has changed pop-band VIP backstage meetups.
“The good thing is I can be really picky and write what I want,” she said. “But mostly, I’ll just be concentrating on getting my job right.”