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Knight-Mozilla Open News

Beyond the Fellowship Year

by Erin Kissane

With just ONE DAY left to apply to become a Knight-Mozilla Fellow, we are spending this week answering some large questions about the fellowship experience. On Monday, we talked about how you structure your time. on Tuesday, we talked about the application itself. Yesterday, we talked about how to think about the things you’ll build during your fellowship. And today, Erin Kissane looks in to what happens after your fellowship year.

Officially, the Knight-Mozilla fellowships last ten months. In reality, those ten months are the beginning of something much more expansive.

Every annual group of Knight-Mozilla fellows is more than a collection of people who happen to be starting an individual experience at the same time. Each 2016 fellow will be joining a community-in-miniature—people with like minds and diverse skills, who will share many of your experiences and challenges from their own newsrooms around the world. And the experience of the cohort, or group, extends from the very beginning of the fellowship through the months and years that follow it.

Early in the new year, we set aside a week for all the new fellows to get to know each other, work together on an interesting project, and meet people in the wider news-nerd community. Then, based on the start dates arranged with each newsroom partner, each fellow joins a team and begins an extraordinary ten months of collaboration, learning, and international travel. The OpenNews team runs support throughout the year, helping resolve logistical glitches, advising on projects and complications, and organizing events for the group.

Toward the end of the ten months, we work with each fellow to make sure their projects are wrapping up and they feel good as their end-dates approach and we officially see them off to their next amazing thing.

And then? The long-term fellowship experience starts to kick in.

The Novice Becomes the Master (Conferencer)

The events that were a brand-new experience during the fellowship itself—SRCCON, the OpenNews conference, the Mozilla Festival in London, and a dozen other events around the news-code world—become familiar places to return to, where fellow alums reconnect with each other, with former cohorts of fellows, and with the brilliant newsroom teams they’ve met in the course of the fellowship. Former fellows have led bootcamps for Hacks/Hackers in Lima, mentored participants in the HacksLabs program throughout Latin America, and led workshops at the National Institute for Computer Assisted Reporting annual conference.

We support fellow alums with travel scholarships, leadership opportunities at conferences, and invitations to our code convenings and other community-focused events to make sure that those opportunities remain open, even as our fellows join new teams and begin new projects.

Project Expansion & Support

Even the projects fellows work on during their ten months with our news partners tend to stretch beyond the parameters of the fellowship—and often take on a vibrant life of their own. High-profile projects from the last couple of years include:

  • NewsLynx—a sophisticated tool for measuring the qualitative and quantitative impact of news stories that had an official launch at SRCCON 2015, from former fellow Brian Abelson and Al Jazeera America’s Michael Keller
  • Unveillance—a library that combines friend-to-friend file sharing, machine learning, and If-This-Then-That-style programmability, a and recent recipient of a Knight Prototype grant, from former fellow Harlo Holmes
  • Tabula—a tool for liberating data tables locked inside PDF files currently in use at ProPublica, the Times of London, Foreign Policy, La Nación, and the St. Paul Pioneer Press, among many others, from former fellows Manuel Aristarán and Mike Tigas and the New York Times' Jeremy B. Merrill

Community That Lasts

Most valuable of all, though, are the lasting relationships between our fellows, and with newsroom and hacker colleagues around the world. As a former Knight-Mozilla fellow, you will always have access to a peer group that can offer grounded advice, reality checks, and an enthusiastic sounding board for your ideas and plans.

Fellows build relationships that enrich the many dimensions of their lives. We’ve seen former fellows work together to lead sessions at SRCCON, run workshops at the Mozilla Festival and many other events, and collaborate on projects like CivOmega and Al Jazeera’s Palestine Remix project. Fellows have also crashed on each others' couches and watched their pets, cooked gigantic meals of their favorite foods and stayed up late into the night talking.

The cross-year alumni network is also an increasingly strong force: alums have organized fellow meetups before SRCCON, mentored current fellows at major journalism events like NICAR, and offered formal and informal support and counsel throughout each year.

Apply Now (Like, Now-Now)

The deadline for the 2016 Knight-Mozilla fellowships is tomorrow, August 21, at midnight EDT. It only takes a few minutes to apply, and you risk nothing by giving it a shot.

posted August 20, 2015 | posted in fellowship 

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