Sahan Journal founder Mukhtar Ibrahim to step down

Mukhtar Ibrahim, a Somali immigrant who moved to Minnesota at age 17 and later reported for Minnesota Public Radio and the Star Tribune, will step down from his leadership roles at the Sahan Journal, the online news journal he launched to widespread acclaim less than five years ago.

Ibrahim, in a written announcement from Sahan, attributed the decision to exit the nonprofit news organization in part to the recent birth of his fourth child. He said that Sahan, which operates without a paywall or subscription requirement, had achieved strong financial stability and a healthy organizational culture.

Mukhtar Ibrahim (Courtesy photo)

“My family situation has changed since founding Sahan in 2019,” wrote Ibrahim, 35, a former Bush Foundation fellow who has served as the digital news journal’s founder, publisher, chief executive officer and chief fundraiser.

“I have four young kids, and I’ve been presenting on nonprofit journalism in other places across the country,” said Ibrahim in a phone interview on Sunday evening. “We’re one of the largest newsrooms in Minnesota. I never imagined it would get to this level. We’re winning news awards in contests open to larger organizations. And the organization will do even better with someone who doesn’t have so many outside obligations.”

Based in coworking space in downtown St. Paul, Sahan was established to chronicle the experiences of Minnesota’s immigrants and communities of color. Ibrahim quickly grew Sahan — which takes its name from the Somali word for “pioneer” — from a solo operation to a team of 20, including a business administrative staff of seven, with an annual budget of $2.5 million. Following the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis in 2020, Sahan captured added attention from philanthropic foundations and the general public, and developed shared-content partnerships with Minnesota Public Radio and the Star Tribune.

The COVID pandemic also offered opportunities to partner with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota on sponsored health content and delve into releasing content in multiple languages, including a newsletter aimed at a growing Midwest community of refugees from Afghanistan.

The announcement of Ibrahim’s departure, released by editorial director Chao Xiong and chief growth officer Michael Tortorello, indicated that Sahan “is poised to have an even greater impact on Minnesota’s news ecosystem” by expanding its community engagement events, “a central part of its mission to forge deep connections with its communities.” It also plans to extend its coverage and reach beyond the Twin Cities metropolitan area by “investing in new and existing platforms to meet the diverse needs of younger news audiences.”

Since launching, Sahan has secured $7.4 million from funders, and brought in nearly $2 million from advertising and individual donations. Ibrahim said he plans to stay on until Sahan’s nonprofit board, with the help of a search firm, determine his successor, and then complete his master’s degree in business administration at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, after which he said he hopes to use his skills in a consulting capacity and with mission-driven organizations.

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