Grants, Fellowships Transform Careers

AAJA panel(Las Vegas) Directors of journalism grant and fellowship programs described the “transformative” impact the programs have on reporters’ careers, during a panel discussion at the 2016 national convention of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), being held August 10-13 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Among the panelists, Sandy Bergo of the Fund for Investigative Journalism described how its four decades-long grants program has helped reporters break big stories, such as the My Lai massacre.

And she introduced a new diversity initiative that will award grants and fellowships with the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism to women and journalists of color, to help address the lack of diversity in the field of investigative reporting.

The FIJ/Schuster initiative is funded by the Ford Foundation.

“Over the past three years our programs have grown exponentially,” said panelist Dominique De Leon, program coordinator for the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF), largely due to a major gift from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

IWMF now finances reporting trips for women journalists to regions of Africa and Latin America, professional experiences that “elevate their careers and take them to the next level,” said De Leon.

Lynette Clemetson, director of the Knight-Wallace Fellowships at the University of Michigan, and an alum of the program, remembered her fellowship year as a time to “deconstruct and decompress” after launching the start-up website, The Root, for the Washington Post.

Now Clemetson runs the fellowship program, which operates out of a house donated by the late Mike Wallace and his wife Mary, known as Wallace House. It’s a place Clemetson thinks of as “Nirvana.”

Colleen Leigh, director of admissions, City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School of Journalism, moderated the panel, entitled “Using a Fellowship or Grant to Get to the Next Level in Your Career.” She also described special grant opportunities sponsored by CUNY, including the new McGraw Fellowship for Business Journalism.

An alum of the Knight fellowship program at Stanford, Burt Herman, said his fellowship year “was a pretty amazing, transformative experience.”

Following the fellowship, Herman transformed from a foreign correspondent to an entrepreneur who invents new ways of integrating technology with media. He is the co-founder of Storify and more recently, Hacks/Hackers.

In answer to a question about how a journalist can make a grant application stand out above the others, Bergo said the board of FIJ favors stories “we’ve never heard of before” along with a “reporting road map.”

Photo Credit: Bobby Calvan