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Emily Burleigh, staff writer for the American Press, has won this year’s grant from the Hector San Miguel Memorial Fund of the Community Foundation SWLA to attend a professional conference. The fund will reimburse Burleigh to attend the International Symposium on Online Journalism in Austin, Texas in April.
“With the current digital evolution that the American Press is currently experiencing, my hope is that attending this conference will teach me more about the impact and importance of digital journalism, and techniques to apply any innovations to our paper,” said Burleigh, who joined the Press in 2022. She covers Lake Charles, DeRidder, and the parish school systems and boards based in both cities.
Burleigh is the most recent local reporter to win a grant from the fund, which honors the memory of the late Hector San Miguel, an award-winning American Press investigative journalist who died in 2009 at the age of 51 after battling leukemia.
Lance Traweek won the award last year. He came to Lake Charles 10 years ago as a 22-year-old business reporter for the American Press, covering $80 billion in announced economic development. While at the Press, this Monroe native received a grant from the Hector Fund to attend the Society of American Business Editors and Writers conference in New York.
“I learned a lot about journalistic integrity, finding stories and cultivating sources,” said Traweek, who is now executive editor of New Orleans CityBusiness. “Community journalism is the most important type. The stories covered by local journalists affect our everyday lives. We attend the school board and city council meetings so you don’t have to. I think we all get too caught up with who is in the White House and don’t know who our councilperson is.”
Traweek became interested in news in junior high after 911 attacks. “It was an awakening of sorts that the world was much bigger than the one I had mapped out in my mind.” He became editor of his college newspaper at Louisiana Tech, then spent a couple summers on Capitol Hill as a press intern. At the American Press, he covered the business beat and general stories on Sundays, including weekend homicides. “My whole life I had been programmed to run from danger and now I was rushing to crime scenes. I would try to detach myself from the reality inside the taped-off homes, but it would get to me sometimes, especially when I encountered loved ones or interviewed neighbors of the victim.”
Traweek is grateful to the Community Foundation for the support and grant opportunity. “I commend its commitment in honoring lifelong work while investing in young journalists’ continuing education.”
The Community Foundation SWLA supports local journalism among the multitude of ways that it connects community members to causes that matter to them. For more information about the Foundation, go to its website is foundationswla.org. The Hector San Miguel Memorial Fund is expected to continue to offer grants to local reporters to attend professional conferences. Look for news of applying for the next grant later this year.