Introducing our 2016 Knight-Mozilla Fellows
by Erika Owens
This year we get to announce our fifth cohort of fellows. They come to the fellowship from inside and outside of journalism and soon they’ll join six stellar news organizations in the US and Germany. We launched an intentional search process that reached 560 applicants and brought us to this fantastic group of fellows. Please join us in welcoming them!
We get to work with seven incredible individuals next year. Here they are:
Nicky Case | Frontline
Nicky Case plays with play. They make interactive explanations, to help people understand the world, and interactive stories, to help people understand themselves. Last year, Nicky made Coming Out Simulator, an autobiographical interactive story about their experience coming out as queer. It was nominated for Best Narrative at the 2015 Independent Games Festival. After that, they made a few interactives to explain math, psychology, and sociology. Most notably, they collaborated with Vi Hart to make Parable of the Polygons, a playable blog post about bias and diversity. Nicky still thinks writing about oneself in the third person is really weird. They’ll join the team at Frontline.
Follow Nicky on Twitter at @ncasenmare
Sandhya Kambhampati | Correct!v
Sandhya Kambhampati is a data journalist who is passionate about open records, data literacy and statistics. At The Chronicle of Higher Education, she analyzes data and reports on college athletics, college presidential pay, and student loans. She’s interested in records retention policies and finding new ways for newsrooms to share their institutional knowledge with others. In her spare time, Sandhya enjoys traveling, reading and trivia. She’s especially excited to learn German and about the Freedom of Information laws throughout Europe while working with the journalists at Correct!v.
Follow Sandhya on Twitter at @sandhya__k
Pietro Passarelli | Vox
Pietro Passarelli is a software developer and documentary filmmaker. He is passionate about projects that sit at the intersection between software development and video production, both in terms of the growing trend of interactive documentaries but also as tools for making video production and post-production easier, such as autoEdit. While working in broadcast documentaries for BBC and C4 Pietro noticed the convergence of video production and software development and did an MSc in Computer Science at UCL. Recently, he worked as newsroom developer at the Times & Sunday Times where he developed quickQuote an open-source project to make it easier and faster for journalists to identify and create an interactive video quote. Pietro will join the team at Vox Media.
Follow Pietro on Twitter at @pietropassarell
Lisa Charlotte Rost | NPR
Lisa Charlotte Rost is a designer who loves numbers, systems, and overviews. She wants to help the world to make sense of itself—to destroy false belief systems and to help people ask the most important questions—by using data visualization and data journalism. Lisa has worked for newsrooms like Bloomberg Businessweek, SPIEGEL, and ZEIT Online. She has taught data visualization at several German universities and organizes the Data Vis Meetup in Berlin. Lisa will be a fellow with the NPR Visuals team in Washington, DC, where she will learn how to make people care.
Follow Lisa on Twitter at @lisacrost
Martin Shelton | The Coral Project
Martin Shelton is a user researcher and data analyst interested in online privacy and security for at-risk users. His research focuses on the privacy habits of users in online communities, as well as journalists and activists. He is completing his PhD at UC Irvine’s Department of Informatics, where he studies how investigative journalists manage their information security. During his PhD, he worked as an intern conducting UX research and data analytics with Twitter, the Pew Research Center, and Google. Martin will be a fellow at the Coral Project, a collaboration between the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Knight-Mozilla OpenNews.
Follow Martin on Twitter at @mshelton
Dan Iair Zajdband | The Coral Project
Dan Zajdband is a software developer passionate about real-time technologies, open-source projects, and open journalism. He contributes to a wide diversity of open source projects including both tooling and end-user software. He helps build community around web development and journalism by participating in and organizing groups like BAFrontend and Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires. Dan will be a fellow at the Coral Project, creating open-source tools and resources for publishers around the world.
Follow Dan on Twitter at @impronunciable
Christine Zhang | Los Angeles Times
Christine Zhang is a data geek with a passion to find meaning in numbers. She believes that good data journalism can take us from “more-informed” to “better-informed.” Her aim? To tell meaningful news stories with data, and to use open data and open-source tools to empower her readers to ask their own questions. Christine currently tells data-driven stories about the global economy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC and has previously done so in roles at Deutsche Bank and Infosys. Christine will be joining the team of news nerds on the LA Times Data Desk in 2016.
Follow Christine on Twitter at @christinezhang
How we found them
Each year, I’ve written about our recruitment and selection process. This year, we continued with much the same approach, but with a renewed emphasis on building connection between programs, communities, and individuals.
The 2016 Fellows come to us from four countries, where they connected with the program in similar ways: through people and events. Several of them said that friends encouraged them to apply. We got to know Sandhya better through SRCCON and met Dan way back when we started using his project HackDash, which originated at the Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires Media Party. Lisa, Nicky, and Pietro learned more about the fellowship through alumni, while Martin and Christine found out about it through colleagues.
At its core, OpenNews is all about strengthening connections between people and projects in the journalism-code community. It’s gratifying to see those connections reflected back to us in our fellows' pathways to the fellowship. We’ve seen how valuable it can be to create spaces like code convenings for people to work on code documentation while also building relationships with colleagues. We intentionally seek out ways to create those spaces and connections–and this year we based our outreach on those existing points of connection.
We prioritized contacting potential applicants at the many tech events that happen during our application window (from June to August). We sponsored &:conf and held a birds-of-a-feather session at OSCON. Every current fellow and OpenNews staff member spoke at events during this period. These events reached a wide range of possible fellows, and new journalism contributors. Midwestern devs heard Julia Smith’s talk at NebraskaJS and women in tech in NYC heard Erin Kissane give a shout at Write/Speak/Code, where ProPublica’s Lena Groeger also spoke about what it’s like to work in journalism tech.
In addition to this targeted work during the application window, we saw a number of applications from folks who had connected with our programs. Like last year, several applicants mentioned SRCCON in their applications. But this year, a few applicants even noted SRCCON on their resumes. Applicants also referred to reading our website Source as part of how they learned about the fellowship and other activities in journalism code.
As our alumni network grows (with this cohort we have 33 fellows) and the offerings of OpenNews evolve to support the needs of the entire journalism-code community, we’re finding more chances to build connections and welcome new participants. You can check out the stats from our applications this year. Those stats also reveal a challenge: how to support the hundreds(!) of great people who applied, but who we’re not able to welcome as fellows. We’re still experimenting with ways to better engage with this group, and we’d love to hear ideas about what supports would be beneficial.
The 2016 Knight-Mozilla Fellows are part of a growing network of people who work with technology in and near newsrooms. They’ll join their newsrooms in early 2016 to explore, collaborate, and share with the many groups that make up that journalism-code community. In the new year, we’ll have more to share about their work and the accomplishments of the 2015 fellows.
By the numbers - 2016 cohort
- 560 - Valid applications
- 176 (31%) - Identify as a woman
- 142 (25%) - Identify as a person of color
- 106 (19%) - Identify as another member of another under-represented group
Where are people from? (some example countries)
- 7 (1%) - Argentinas
- 17 (3%) - Germany
- 26 (5%) - India
- 11 (2%) - Kenya
- 177 (31%) - USA
How’d people hear about the fellowship?
- 90 (16%) - Twitter
- 83 (15%) - Friend
- 50 (9%) - Facebook
- 36 (6%) - Mozilla