Knight-Mozilla Open News

Follow Your Passions and Build Your Fellowship Year

by Dan Sinker

This is it. After a summer of searching for our 2016 Knight-Mozilla Fellows, we’re now down to the final days. If you’ve been waiting to apply (every year it turns out most of you have), there’s no more time to wait: Come 11:59pm Eastern Time on Friday, August 21, we’ll be closing our search.

But maybe you still have questions. Maybe you are wondering how to approach the application, or what type of projects you’ll work on during your fellowship year, or what happens after the fellowship. This week, we’ll be writing about all those questions on the OpenNews blog, as well as answer any others you may have on our OpenNews Community Call this Wednesday (and, of course, we’re always happy to answer questions over email or Twitter as well).

Today I want to talk a little about the fellowship year. Some fellowship programs are highly structured, with rigid scaffolding designed to create uniform experiences. We’ve taken a different approach and have designed the Knight-Mozilla Fellowships around flexibility and individualization. We want your fellowship year to reflect you.

We know that each person comes to the fellowship for their own reasons. We do have a loose framework for a fellowship year (every fellow partners with a newsroom host, writes open-source code, and works in the open), and our host organizations define spaces they’d love a fellow to explore. But beyond that structure, we leave what you accomplish and how you achieve it largely up to you.

We tell our fellows that their fellowship year is an opportunity to follow their passions, to choose their own adventures, and to dive deeply into the journalism topics they get most excited about. And we mean it.

As Tara Adiseshan, a current fellow with the Coral Project writes:

I also have the space to structure my learning and collaborations in the ways that are most exciting to me. My days are filled with about as much variety as I can handle and I’ve been able to dive into topics I didn’t even know I’d be interested in.

For Livia Labate, who is spending her fellowship year with NPR, she approaches her fellowship as an experiment:

Experiments are great; there is no pressure to get the outcome “right”, just to get to an outcome. In that sense, an experiment cannot fail. You set it up, you run it and you see what data you get at the end and hopefully you can draw conclusions and learn from it.

[We ask our fellowship hosts, who offer workspace, peers, and tons of challenges, to think in terms of experimentation and flexibility as well.

As the Vox Product team writes: “We’re working on better tools for development and tools for journalists, but we’ve done this mainly to satisfy our own obvious needs. We need a scientific approach to help us refine these tools and test new ideas.”

Fellows move to the city of their newsroom host (we help with your relocation costs), and do a deep dive into a multitude of problemsets. Solutions, and how to get there, are up to you. Frontline puts it another way when they say the “possibilities for innovation are endless.”

The possibilities for your fellowship year are endless too. We want you to make the most out of your 10 months as a fellow, so we have structured our supplements (which are on top of our $60,000 stipend) to afford you flexibility. Have a partner that you want to move with you? Our housing and healthcare supplements scale for them. Have children? More scaling of those supplements, plus one for childcare. Want to attend conferences, hack days, and workshops around the world? Our travel budget is there for you. Need new equipment or have some specialized research you want to dive into? We have a supplement for that as well. We try to cover a lot of bases with the finances of the fellowship so that you can spend your year concentrating on the path you’re plotting.

Your 10 months as a Knight-Mozilla Fellow will be filled with code, with adventure, with new people and new challenges, but most importantly it will be your own. Maybe you still have questions–we’ll be answering them this week (including on our call this Wednesday). Maybe you’re worried that we don’t mean you when we say you, but we do. But no matter what, the first step to your fellowship year begins with applying. So go ahead and do it now.

posted August 17, 2015 | posted in fellowship