John S. Knight Fellowships Director Jim Bettinger, along with current and past Knight Fellows, recently answered questions about the application process for the 2013-14 class during a conference call that was open to anyone. We’ve posted a recording of the hour-long session and below is a (lightly) edited transcript. The call was organized by Benét Wilson, chair of the National Association of Black Journalists’ Digital Journalism Task Force and co-sponsored by NABJ, the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Hispanic Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association abd irgabuz. Joining Bettinger on the call were current and former fellows Latoya Peterson, Claudia Núñez and Phuong Ly.
The deadline for international applicants is Dec. 1, 2012; U.S. applications are due by Jan. 15, 2013. More information on the application process is available here.
Benét Wilson: Good evening, everyone. This is Benét Wilson. I am chair of the National Association of Black Journalists Digital Journalism Task Force and I want to thank you all for joining us this evening.
Just a couple of housekeeping notes. I wanted to thank Doris Truong from Asian American Journalists Association; Hugo Balta and Rebecca Aguilar from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists; Rhonda LeValdo from the Native American Journalists Association; and Greg Lee, the president of the National Association of Black Journalists for helping me put this together.
I’d also like to thank Jim Bettinger for reaching out and working with me on this. Jim is the director of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University and he’s going to talk a little bit and then he’s going to introduce our speakers. They’re going to kind of talk with their stories and then after that, we will open it up to your questions. So Jim, please, go ahead.
Jim Bettinger: Well, thank you, Benét. A very special thank you to Benét Wilson for organizing this, to NABJ and its Digital Journalism Task Force, the Asian American Journalists Association, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and Native American Journalists Association.
I want to welcome everyone to this opportunity to find out more about the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships. We are seeking a pool of applicants that is diverse in all ways: in race, ethnicity, in media background, in region, in perspective, and life experiences. This is a step we’re taking in pursuit of that goal.
I’m going to say a few words about the program and what we’re trying to achieve and then I’m going to introduce two former fellows and one current fellow, each of whom will talk about her experiences; and then we’ll open it up to questions. We may not be able to answer specific questions about individual situations. For further information, you can always check our website, knight.stanford.edu or write to firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s email@example.com.
The Knight Fellowships awards fellowships to 20 people each year to spend the year at Stanford, twelve from the US and eight from outside the US. During their year, fellows focus on journalism innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership. They attend classes. They make use of the university’s resources, and they work on proposals that are intended to create something of use to journalists and journalism.
The two former fellows who are with us will talk about what they created and the current fellow will talk about what she plans to create. Fellows are paid a stipend of $65,000 plus supplements for housing, child care, health insurance, relocation, books, research and equipment.
How do we select fellows? Well, first of all, we consider journalism innovators and entrepreneurs and journalism business and management executives to be eligible. As you can see, that covers a wide range of people and that’s our intent. US applicants ideally have seven years’ experience and international applicants ideally have five years but we consider people with less, much less than that, in fact. There is no maximum age. Selection is competitive. Last year, 135 people applied for our 12 US positions and 235 applied for our eight international positions.
Who are we looking for? We’re looking for people who take the initiative to make things happen; people who are curious and optimistic about the opportunities created by the changes in journalism. We’re looking for people who want the best for journalism. Our fellows have created such projects as a suite of resources for cross-border investigative reporting; tools for crowd source documentaries; and a conference that generated $115,000 in freelance assignments and opportunities.
We firmly believe the best is yet to come because we think the Knight Fellowships Program can help re-engineer journalism into the force it should be. We’re doing this now because the application season for the 2013 – 2014 fellowships is rapidly approaching. The deadline for international applicants is December 1st; the deadline for US applicants is January 15th.
So I’ll stop talking about the program now and introduce the three fellows. I’ll introduce them all at once and then ask them to talk. Phuong Ly is executive director of the Institute for Justice and Journalism which provides training and tools to help journalists cover social issues better. She is the founder of Gateway California, a portal of better reporting on California immigrant communities. She was a fellow in 2011. Claudia Núñez is an investigative reporter and the founder of RDataVox.com, an online data visualization network for ethnic media journalists and non-profit organizations. She was a 2012 Knight fellow from La Opinión in Los Angeles. Latoya Peterson is editor and owner of Racialicious, a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. She was a 2013 Knight fellow and she’ll describe what she is working on in a few minutes.
I’m going to ask Phuong to go first then Claudia and Latoya and I believe, Phuong, that you’re actually going to have to pull out a little early so we’ll let you go first. Phuong?
Ly: Okay, great. Thank you, Jim, and thank you so much to the four journalism organizations for this opportunity. Benét asked us to talk about how we started applying for the fellowship and I have to say that Jim is not just voicing empty words when he says he’s looking for a diverse pool of applicants. When I started to apply for the fellowship in December about a couple of years ago, I didn’t think I would get it because at the time, I was a freelancer. I had worked at the Washington Post before but then I was working then afterwards, I moved. I bounced around a couple of cities, worked as a freelancer and did a little bit of teaching.
What prompted me to apply and to think that I had a chance was that I saw these videos on the Knight Fellowship website saying that they were looking for journalists who don’t usually fit the usual categories, that they were revamping the fellowship and looking for people with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. I found that in my fellowship class, I mean we had a range of people who were from their late 20s all the way up into their late 50s. People who were single, those who had families, those who had grown in small towns, who had spent half of their lives overseas, those with military backgrounds or came from an activist background as well as from traditional newsrooms.
I think that all of those forces together really bring about this hub of energy and activity. You get the experience at Stanford but then there’s this very special type of bubble experience within the Knight Fellowships that Jim and Dawn and Pam Maples have created by bringing in all these diverse experiences.
I spent my 10 months at Stanford doing a variety of things that helped build my confidence, taking up public speaking class, learning how to think creatively, taking some classes at the d. school, meeting with people about my project which was basically about how do we get reporters to get in better touch with more primary sources on the ground when they’re covering immigration issues. There’s this … something I came out as sort of a 2.0 version of myself being more confident and thinking that problems weren’t problems but problems were opportunities.
At the end of my fellowship, I started Gateway California which is a non-profit to help journalists in California connect better with immigrant service providers. The Knight Foundation in Silicon Valley office gave me a grant in which I did some media workshops with immigrant service providers to teach them how to better interact with the media. I started sort of a group of about 80 journalists and reporters interacting online digitally about people who are in California and who are interested in covering journalism. I’m sorry, covering immigration issues and so we’re exchanging ideas. We’re giving each other tips and resources.
In September, I became the executive director of IJJ, the Institute for Justice in Journalism. They were my fiscal sponsor for the Gateway California project and then this opportunity opened up and it’s given me… it’s in a very symbiotic relationship. I’m in the process of revamping IJJ which traditionally offered fellowships and training for journalists but now, we’re getting to expand that into developing our own digital resources to help journalists cover particular issues such as immigration much better. We’ve also partnered with Claudia Nuñez, the Knight fellow from the class after mine to sponsor a hackathon on immigration data. That’s going to be happening this December.
So all in all, it was a great experience that just opened up a lot of doors in terms of my own personal development as well as it helped me reach out to people who I never thought I would meet.
Bettinger: Thanks, Phuong. Claudia?
Núñez: Hi, yes. Hi, Jim. Thanks for the opportunity. For me, it was kind of other side of the story. At the beginning, I felt kind of intimidated by the fellowship. I thought this fellowship was more towards targeting mainstream media or major media or just English media. I had this conversation with my editor at La Opinión and they actually kind of helped me to just fill the application and said … “don’t be afraid and don’t think about this fellowship as an opportunity just for a couple of media journalists but just try and see if we can have an opportunity.”
During that time, I received actually an email from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists endorsing my work. It was a simple message. They said they’re calling you and the email was a mentorship program with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. So I sent in an email and I said, “I want to apply. I think I have a good chance. I have a lot of ideas. I want to improve ethnic media. I want to help journalists. My dream is to have the same level of content and the same level of training and education on Hispanic media.” They helped me. They provided me … because English is my second language. They provided me assistance with that. They mentored me. They actually helped me about how can I kind of get a better understanding about this fellowship. It was a great collaboration. That was the first year the Association put in place this mentorship program.
I understand, this is about ideas. This is about improved media. This is not about, you know, selecting a group of just media outlets. This is about journalism and it’s a great opportunity to advance much. During my 10 months, I came up just with the idea to have data visualization to improve the use of data. Now we have, okay, there is a lot of information available. We have a lot of data available but how can we use it and especially how can immigrants and ethnic media get a better understanding in the use of this reporting data.
So I presented my idea to the committee at Stanford and they supported my project. Now, this project is a reality. I get a lot of information about line data, data visualization. I took several classes on statistics, how to tell your story in a different way. It was a great experience.
The next step is giving back and that was always the reason why I pursued this fellowship. I want to give it back to my community. What we’re doing now is gathering a group of around 50 to 60 journalists and we’re training them. Now, we are providing these resources and we connect professors at Stanford, developers from Washington, elder journalists, colleagues from Los Angeles and we’re all going to get together and learn together and kind of improve information and have a better content for all communities.
My fellowship was about … my experience was about giving back, to get that knowledge and translate this to my community. This will form a knowledge of supporters with this project through IJJ. It’s just a great experience. I think that this fellowship opened the door to one journalist that actually you can change a lot of things around your community. This is one of those opportunities in my life.
Bettinger: Thank you, Claudia; and Latoya who is currently a fellow, about two months into her fellowship.
Peterson: Yeah, thank you, Jim. Again, thank you everyone for showing up and being on this call and participating and to the journalism organizations for uniting again and presenting this as a kind of united front. It’s no surprise to people who know my work that I am super into the idea of diversity and making our society better and more just for everyone.
So I really did not necessarily think of myself as a journalist. I always thought of myself more as an advocate that occasionally did journalism and other things on the side. If it wasn’t for Dori Maynard who cornered me at the Online News Association conference and told me I had to apply to this fellowship, that I would not be here. Initially, when she asked me, I told her no. There was no way that they’re going to want me. There’s no way that I’m going to go. I’ve never worked in a newsroom. It’s a very odd environment. I was like, “It’s just too weird. They’re never going to go for this.” But the idea that Dori had mentioned stuck with me for a long time. She basically asked me, “Is there a project that you love? Is there something that you want to think about more that you would need some time to do?” I was like, you know, maybe not and then I went back and I thought about it and I realized there was a lot of really fascinating things happening with mobile and mobile technology. In particular, I started noticing some patterns in how communities in developing nations were using mobile particularly as broadband. Is it necessarily going to be adopted all over the world in the way that there’s a broadband push in the United States and what mobile phones have been able to do with more simplistic technology but actually to utilize the phones a lot better. Then I started noticing some interesting parallels between communities of color here in the United States and how we use mobile and how communities of color abroad also use mobile.
So I thought those things were fascinating. I didn’t quite know what to do with this information and so the Knight Fellowship started looking like a way in which I could explore these ideas for the greater good of journalism which is really a way of saying for the greater good of the public, right, and the people.
I ended up calling everybody I knew that could possibly help me with this. I asked Irving Washington who at the time was ONA’s scholarship manager. He is also very, very active with NABJ. I think he’s still doing a lot of the conference things. I asked Jenny Lee who was on the board of the Nieman Fellowship and who had been through quite a few of these fellowships. I asked Doug Mitchell who had won a Fulbright scholarship, sorry, fellowship. Was it scholarship or fellowship? Whatever, he won a Fulbright and I asked all of them kind of like the ideas and the process and what I should say and how I should write it. The advice boiled down to kind of well, just be yourself. It’s a very frustrating piece of advice I think that people get a lot particularly when you’re applying for these programs but in the case of the Knight Fellowship, they really are looking for you and your ideas because you’re an investment to them. They think that you have … they want to see people that have enough of an idea about journalism, enough of an idea that’s going to change and just erupt and be interesting and engaging to bring into this cohort.
So I applied with my mobile, my semi-fleshed out mobile idea, which changed, of course, and it changed more after I thought myself what it was, and it’s still evolving. So I’m two months in. I’m still looking at … I’m still in the researching phase, in the prototyping phase. We meet together once a week and we discuss each other’s projects and I’m really loving this interplay between both mobile technology and what’s like physical ambient technology. How does technology kind of run in the background? How do we normalize certain types of things or actions through technology?
So it’s a work in progress and for the most part, I’m still very much enjoying this year of kind of being out of the fray of day-to-day work life and having the luxury to really like think about things for a long time, taking wonderful intriguing challenging classes and meeting the cohort of these amazing 20 people that I’ve been chosen to share this journey with. So that’s been my experience so far.
Bettinger: Thank you and so Benét, let me turn it sort of back to you for some questions.
Wilson: Okay, I want to thank all of you, the fellows for giving us that summary and sharing some of your experiences. For those of you on the line, if you want to ask a question, please press 5 and then the star sign. That’s 5 star and we’ll get to as many as we can.
I’m going to throw out the first one while people are lining up. What I wanted to ask, Latoya kind of touched on this and she was talking about the fellows meet once a week to talk about their projects. I wanted to ask the fellows, “What were some of the more interesting projects others in your class were working on?” Maybe you can just do one or two because we’ve got some questions starting to pop up. Thank you.
Ly: Okay, I guess you want me to start, Benét?
Wilson: Yeah, if you want. Whoever wants to take that question?
Peterson: Sure, I think. Okay, so the ones that stand out I think the most clearly in my mind, the first one is my co-fellow, my fellow Sam. He’s doing this interesting project on creating a forensic tool to figure out whether or not photographs have been faked. He’s really into the technology. He’s really dug in and he found that there’s a lot of different applications for technology that’s already out there but news organizations just are not using it. It seems like we just don’t care about verifying the accuracy of submitted photos which he foresees is a bit of a problem. So he’s been working on that and then there’s another one in my class, Mariam. She’s from Lebanon and it’s interesting because her project keeps changing so she hasn’t quite like settled on what she wants to do yet but she’s extremely interested in fashion and technology and how fashtech what journalists can learn from fashion and tech that I think is extremely fascinating.
Wilson: Thank you. Claudia or Phuong?
Núñez: Hi, well this is Claudia. I think one of the most interesting projects was my colleague and fellow Katy Newton. It was so cool because it was about news in public spaces like she creates this software actually where you can interact with news in any public space actually. So it basically translates the news into a wall and then you can click and interact and start a conversation around that information with people that you, I mean, never talk or never seen before. So it was very … it involves technology. It involves interaction. It involves a community gathering around news.
Another project was my fellow from Ecuador. He actually wanted to boost open data in communities. So he created this organization who trained not just journalists but communities … members from the community to how they can have access to data and how can they push for changes in their communities. But I mean, the whole experience, every single project was so connecting in some way to help not just journalism but to improve the content and the information and I think every single one has something to offer for the general public.
Wilson: Thank you. And Phuong?
Ly: Yes, one of the projects I’m thinking about now didn’t actually come from my class but since I meet the two fellows, they were actually from Claudia’s class and because we’ve just had the recent storm, it seems very applicable, a project called IlluminUs which is a mobile app to teach people, to guide people through the steps of collecting journalism. It’s like crowdsourcing but with a guide to it so that they will give you instructions, sort of like frame the picture this way or be sure to do X before you starting recording audio. That project, I saw a demo of it this past weekend and stopped to launch and it’s a really exciting application especially when we have events like the recent hurricane.
Wilson: Gosh, that would have been handy to have these past few days. Well, we’ve got a few questions. I’m going to open it up. The first question, your phone number ends in 1423. I’ve unmuted you.
Speaker: Okay, that’s me. Thank you for having this available to us because I’m really interested in applying but I’m a photographer that my images are published globally but I don’t necessarily work for any particular organization. So when it comes to the letters of recommendation, I’m feeling like I need some help in figuring out what kinds of people I should ask to write letters of recommendation or any input on that would be very helpful.
Bettinger: Sure, so let me address that and this actually applies to letters of recommendation for people in all situations. The most important thing is to have the person who writes the letter be really familiar with your work and secondarily, to be really familiar with what you’re proposing to do when you’re at Stanford. The most effective letters, the ones that work the best are those where the letter writer is really intimately familiar with again, your work and what you propose to do. By contrast, the ones that are ineffective are ones that where the person doesn’t really understand that. So it’s a good idea, even now when you’re selecting your letter writers, when you’re approaching them to tell them what you’re going to do and to make sure that they have well in advance even a draft of your proposal.
Speaker: Okay, that’s very helpful.
Wilson: Thank you so much.
Ly: I might want to add. I just want to jump in about something. I also struggled with my letters of recommendation and I called a friend who was a fellow in the current class, not this class but the class a few years ago when I was applying. She gave me very unusual advice. She said well, because my project was about how to better connect journalists with immigrant groups, she said, “Well, why don’t you get somebody from one of those immigrant groups who was a very good source of yours and who knew some of the barriers that you faced to write a letter of recommendation?” It turned out to be a great idea because there was someone who we knew on a professional basis as well as, you know, after I left the Washington Post, we got to know each other more on a friendship level who had seen me as I had developed as a reporter and was very knowledgeable about some of the obstacles that I faced in trying to get to know the immigrant community in Washington, DC.
Speaker: Well, that’s a great tip. Thank you so much.
Wilson: Thank you. Our next question is going to come from the extension, the last four digits is 7265.
Speaker: Yes, hi. Thank you so much for this opportunity. My question is about the idea. I come from a more traditional broadcast journalism background and it seemed to me that some of the ideas that you get are very formulated and very specific whereas other ones are more broad. So I’m wondering if I can get some advice just on how to formulate that idea if you’re not necessarily plugged in digitally but want to be and are trying to come up with something that you can be open to changing but still be focused enough that you can see where we’re coming from.
Bettinger: Sure, so that lets me take the opportunity to say that even though we like digital technology, we’re interested in it, we are not a technology fellowship. Most of the … in fact, just about all of the proposals envisioned using existing technology in new and innovative ways. So I want to sort of make sure that people understand that that you don’t have to be a coder to apply for a Knight Fellowship.
We are looking for again for proposals that are creative, that looks for, that looks to see a need and to figure out how to meet that need. We don’t expect people to have everything worked out about how the proposal is going to go forward because if they do that, they wouldn’t need a fellowship. We expect people to come here with this idea but actually being prepared to change the idea as circumstances dictate. We like people to have at least a sense of how they think it will go forward and in the same way that when you’re … I was a city editor for a long time and I like reporters who would say, “Well, here’s the story that I think is out there. Here’s how I would go about approaching it, how I would report. Here is kind of my hypothesis but of course, I’m open to change if I find out something different.” But to have something in mind as to how you would like to proceed and how you think it would end up.
Speaker: Okay, thank you and I guess from the people who pitched the ideas, how did you go about formulating your idea and articulating it in a way that I guess whoever’s deciding found convincing?
Peterson: Well, for me, this is Latoya. I had a very hazy idea of what I wanted to do. I know it had to do with mobile and I knew some of the facts on mobile. So I knew that from a previous fellowship that I had done, the focus of the journalism on apps was, in my opinion, misplaced because of the type of people who use apps and later, I think after I applied, there was a Pew Foundation report that ended up bearing out this idea that news apps were generally for a very, very small segment of consumers who were interested enough to actually use a dedicated standalone application and then fewer people would actually pay for it. I think the number ended up being something like 14 percent. But anyway, so I knew that was a problem, right? And I knew that if we kept developing products and projects so if you see with journalism organizations, a lot of them are very interested in tablet technology and things like that but not speaking to groups that have been historically different franchised. So the same folks who had to wait years and years to get online are still waiting years and years before they’re going to have tablet technology, before they’re going to have more advanced Smartphone technology. I mean, we aren’t developing anything for them.
So I focused on clearly articulating the problem and some of the existing research and then I think my last few paragraphs of the initial project idea were these few broad sketches of where I think they could go and what things are influencing my thoughts. By the time I got to the interview stage, I had gone … I had watched Amber Case’s talk and thought to myself, “Well, she’s a cyborg anthropologist and she’s really interesting and had developed kind of an idea and approach.”
I think the initial thing I had pitched that got me to the interview phase was essentially like white papers but well, my project is now completely different.
Speaker: Well, that’s interesting.
Núñez: I just want to jump on this. I came with the idea of I want the same level of content and information from ethnic media to mainstream media. I noticed that there is a big gap between the technologies especially when we talk about data visualization. Mainstream media, they start playing with maps, graphics, interactive charts and we, as Hispanic journalists, we lack on that kind of training. I was just kind of work on my idea to have the same kind of training, the same kind of tools available. I did my research on existing technology, software programs that are already available but unfortunately, we don’t have the resources or the training. So I presented on this. I remember about all the data blogs, all the technology available and I just wanted to translate that and make it kind of close to ethnic media journalists and not just for Hispanic journalists but in general. So my idea was I wanted to bridge the connection between technology and ethnic media groups. I know this is available and I just want to kind of be a bridge or a connection between these tools.
So I did a lot of research on my project and what really at some point are really taking place in different media outlets.
Speaker: Thank you very much.
Wilson: Okay, we’ll go to our next question. If you still want to ask a question, please just press 5 and the star symbol, that’s 5 star. The next question will come from the person who has the phone number 3016.
Speaker: Hey there, hi. Thank you all for being on the line. My question is actually for people who have … who are currently employed and are not freelancing. Do people typically resign from their posts or do they take leaves of absence? Maybe the Fellowship Director might have more insight on this or even the people who have been through the fellowship before Latoya. Well, I know Latoya had a situation but what do people typically do for those two academic semesters?
Bettinger: This is Jim Bettinger. Ideally, well I won’t say ideally. It’s probably most beneficial to the applicant to get the endorsement of his or her news organization which would include giving the person a leave of absence so that they would have a job when the fellowship was over. If that’s possible and the person is comfortable with that, that’s really an ideal situation.
That isn’t always possible and so sometimes, people who are with news organizations have to make a decision. They say that they don’t have a leave of absence, that if they are selected for a fellowship, they’ll request one but if they don’t … if one is not granted, then they would resign from their newspaper or news organization.
There’s really just a great variety of ways that news organizations approach that. Some news organizations are very comfortable with that and are fine with doing that. Some are not. We encourage people to begin that conversation as early as possible to get some idea of what the news organization will do and to have … to be honest, to have something in mind so that your editors or your producers or whoever it might be will get a sense of what the benefit to your organization would be. I’m thinking of two fellows in particular last year who, one from the Boston Globe and one from the Seattle Times whose news organizations were, when they applied, very enthusiastic about the possibilities.
Speaker: And in the case when they’re not, I mean, is there a job sort of counseling or do you help people place their idea within a group or how do you link people to the outside world after they … while they’re exiting through Knight?
Bettinger: We’re spending increasing time during the fellowship year and even after to helping people, to basically help people be effective after the fellowship. That’s the real test. We have a day-long workshop in the spring on being effective after Stanford. We have for years been sort of ad hoc informal career counselors for fellows during and after the fellowship and will continue with that. We are committed to our fellows. We are committed to their success and we do whatever we can to make sure that they are successful.
Wilson: All right. We’ll go to our next question. The phone number is 3194.
Speaker: Hi, thank you for taking the time to be on this call tonight. My question is about really directed towards the couple of women who were prior fellows. It seems like you both had a project where you built a website or built a tool and I’m just curious if you’re not a coder yourself but you have a website in mind that you want to build, are there additional resources throughout the fellowship year at Stanford that you can utilize to help you get your website up, be it development help or design help or anything along those lines?
Peterson: Claudia could probably address some of the more technical, getting a technical partner because she’s worked with more technical partners. But one thing that I’ve learned at Stanford is that … one thing that I learned from Stanford is that there is this great emphasis on teamwork and collaboration. So there are other people looking for people who have your skills and so you’re just as much as you’re looking for people who have technical skills. Many of the classes such as the classes in the d. school, they like to divide you up. They’re not going to put a four-person team that have two or three journalists on the same team. There’ll be a journalist. There’ll be a student from the business school then there’ll be a student from the computer science or engineering schools. So that’s built into the ecosystem but you do have to take some initiative to take those classes and as well to openly drop in on meetings and request meetings with computer science groups.
Núñez: Actually one of the most kind of important lessons that I got during my fellowship is about collaboration and networking and how journalism now has to be a multidisciplinary team. You have to start working with designers, with tech programmers coding, and just having this conversation with them, it’s so enriching and you learn so much.
My project was data visualization and to create some kind of software available for ethnic media when you can translate your data without using any specific language. It’s all visual so seeing that information could be available for Asian media or Hispanic media, so my idea was just have this available. I’m not a coder. I’m not a programmer but I have this project in mind. I know this is possible because I saw other media, how they’re using technology. That was my main focus and once at Stanford, the communication with tech people is so easy. I always thought that a hackathon is something like programmers kind of hacking companies or something like that. But no, actually, it’s about tech people helping to solve problems and social issue problems. So don’t be afraid of technology. This is an opportunity about opening your mind to technology and sometimes, you can be a programmer with a simple couple of conversations in classes, you can start playing with this and it’s great, I mean in Stanford, you just are in the core of this technology. Plus they help you, yes. I mean, they help you with equipment. They help you with guidance of what kind of processor will we … you know, that’s for you and they help you with contacts outside of Stanford. I have received great advice from Dawn Garcia; other organizations continue to help to build your project. I built my site. I cleared some data visualization and just … everything was from a simple idea.
Ly: All right and I’m having to leave this conversation but I wanted just to make a couple of points. As you’re applying for this project, please feel free to reach out to me. Send me a note or an email because frankly, I did the same when I was applying and I think most Knight fellows are willing to help applicants that if you want to bounce some ideas off or just have some nitty-gritty questions about recommendations or your essay.
Also, the other thing is to encourage you. If you think you have an idea, just go for it. Dawn Garcia, the deputy director is always saying, “If you don’t at least apply, you know you definitely won’t get it.” So thank you.
Wilson: Thank you so much, Phuong, for being on. We appreciate it.
Bettinger: Thanks, Phuong.
Wilson: I’m going to go to the next question but if you do have a question again, it’s the number 5 and then the star sign. The next step will be the person 5235? Oh, phone number last four digits is 5235?
Speaker: Hi, this is Stephanie.
Wilson: Go ahead.
Speaker: I have a question about the requirement to be full-time journalist, from Latoya, were you a full-time journalist before you applied or it sounded like you said you didn’t consider yourself a journalist before so I was just wanting some clarification on that.
Peterson: Yeah, not even close. Like I said before, that’s why I didn’t think that I was right for the program. I think Jim might want to speak to this a little bit more. But I’ve never worked in a newsroom. I generally started criticizing journalism and critiquing it from a racial standpoint and from a colonialist standpoint. And then I started doing work with journalism organizations so the Poynter Institute made me a Sensemaking Fellow but that again, with people across disciplines so you know, you had bloggers, you had technologists, you had … one girl in our class was an opera singer. Just people talking about and thinking about news in different ways. And then from there, I started writing for Poynter. I started writing for The Raw Story and The American Prospect and did different gigs for them that required reporting but I never thought of myself as initially a journalist or a reporter.
Actually, on my website on Racialicious when I made the announcement that this call was happening, so I think it’s still up today, I put my actual essay. That’s my journalistic autobiography because I realized when I was applying that the only shot I really had was this was me. It’s not going to be my work history. That’s right. It’s all over the place. I’ve done all kinds of things and so I tried to package myself as a person who cared about journalism but necessarily was not working in the field. I think Jim can kind of speak to that from the other side of what it was like or why they have certain requirements that they do.
Bettinger: Yes, we are interested in journalism and we’re interested in that they are re-engineering journalism and improving journalism. So of course, so full-time journalists, people who you would recognize and say are journalists are eligible. We are expanding. We have expanded our definition to include journalism entrepreneurs and innovators and we defined that as those whose work or proposals have the potential for great journalistic impact.
You could tell by that, it’s a pretty fluid definition and that’s our design. We are looking to be as open as possible to people who aren’t, who don’t fit a definition of traditional journalist. With that said, we also have traditional journalists. This year, there is the Berlin correspondent for National Public Radio among our fellows and the transportation writer for The Dallas Morning News. Those are both out of traditional journalism organizations.
But we are looking for people who are committed as Latoya is and so I can’t give you sort of a more specific definition than that but we are looking to be inclusive more than exclusive.
Wilson: Thanks for that.
Speaker: My follow-up … I just had to follow up this. If you are a freelance journalist but you have another full-time job in order to help support yourself, are you basically ineligible?
Bettinger: I wouldn’t say basically ineligible. It’s something that you would want to address in your essays and you might want to write to us for further … you know, to firstname.lastname@example.org to see and to get some further clarification. Like in that essay as in all of the issues, you’re making the case why having a fellowship would be good for you, not just for you but for journalism and for what you’d be able to achieve. So you’d want to address your situation but it would not, I would say it would not automatically exclude you.
Wilson: Thank you, Jim. Our next question comes from 2298 and again, if you want to ask a question, it’s 5 star. We’ve got about five more minutes so we want to get in as much as possible. Go ahead.
Speaker: I was listening to Phuong when she was on the phone and also Latoya. Your projects sound really great but also you sound similar to the projects that I want to do. So I wanted to know how unique those projects have to be and what if your project or my project is similar to one that’s already been done now or in the past? What would, like this is kind of a tool, what would help to make the project stand out from subjects similar to it in the past?
Bettinger: Sure, let me address that. When I was a city editor, if somebody came, when a reporter came to me and said, “I’d like to do this story. It’s pretty much already been done but I’d like to do it anyway.” I would not be very enthusiastic about that and I would say, “How can we break new ground on this? How could we move this story forward? How can we do this so that it adds to what’s already been done?
So what I would encourage you to do in that situation, I would encourage anyone to do, when we ask people to do this is to address what’s already been done in this realm, in this field and how you would like to advance it. That strikes us as the best way to build on what’s already been done but to actually to break new ground.
Peterson: Yeah and just to add on that, I think that the likelihood that you would replicate a project and then stick with that same project all the way through is really, really slim. Like if you want to do mobile, I mean, mobile means anything. Mobile can mean any kind of technology that is portable. And so even there, like I don’t think there’s tons and tons of overlap. It would be like I want to do mobile in marginalized communities. Well, there’s tons and tons of space there as well so I don’t think necessarily that … I think it’s going to be really hard to directly replicate somebody else’s project even by accident particularly considering the process that you go through once you get here.
Wilson: Thank you so much. Oops, sorry. Sorry, there we go. Our next question comes from 6748.
Speaker: I think this is kind of a success question but I’m wondering how many of the graduates would be some of the people who are on the line may be making a living … some of the projects may have started or as a result of being a fellow?
Bettinger: That’s a little hard to say. I mean, Phuong, who is no longer on the line, her full-time occupation is basically what she created during her fellowship year and there’s a wide range of … we haven’t actually run the numbers to figure out who’s doing what. The changes that we have made have been in effect for a relatively short period of time, about two years. This is the fourth group that has been … that has done this. So there has been, I’d say there’s sort of mixed results on that partly, not partly but largely exacerbated by economic downturn and part of the disruption in journalism itself.
We are committed to our fellows being successful and part of being successful means making a living. So we are constantly looking for ways to keep people, to help people succeed in that realm.
Núñez: I just want to add that I’m working right now on my project full-time but at the same time during my fellowship, I had the opportunity to take classes on non-profit business classes. So at the end of those ten months, you have a better idea if you want to launch your project and how can you have maybe a hybrid between a business model and a non-profit model so you can have the opportunity to analyze and to get potential to have your own business and start doing your … you develop your ideas or if you decide to go back to the newsroom. So that’s another advantage of this fellowship.
Wilson: Thank you so much. It doesn’t look like we have any more questions so I’m going to ask the final question so that we can still kind of get out of here on time. For Claudia and Latoya, I want to ask you what advice would you give to those journalists of color who are interested in applying for this fellowship and Jim, of course, you can jump in too.
Peterson: I guess my advice is just to go for it, all right? Whatever hesitations and doubts, if you have this idea that speaks to you then you owe it to yourself, I think, to apply and maybe this fellowship is not necessarily right for you. I mean, there’s a bunch of other ones. There’s the Nieman. There’s the Knight-Wallace Fellows, Mozilla partnered with Knight to do a coder fellowship. Like there are so many, like that’s one of the things that I’ve noticed like being in this world now, there are so many fellowships that want to give you money to think about an enormous problem and see if you could take a hack at solving it. It’s one of those things where it’s like it’s almost like a dream when you get it. So there’s no reason to count yourself out or start letting yourself to eat that with self-doubt. If they don’t select you, that’s fine. That’s going to happen. It’s okay.
One of my fellows that’s in our class, he said he applied three times. This was his last time he was going to apply. If not, he’s going to give up and he got in. So I say if you’re thinking about anything, if there’s any sticky idea that’s in the back of your brain, you will owe it to yourself to give it a chance to shine.
Wilson: Thank you.
Núñez: Well, my advice is it’s kind of similar. It’s just be confident. Trust yourself and this is an opportunity for everyone. This is basically about you and your idea. Be yourself. I wasn’t … I felt intimated because kind of the careers and the background of the other fellows, I mean, journalists from National Geographic, Boston Globe, and at the same time, I noticed that this is not about your media outlet. This is about you and your idea. So be confident, be yourself and just show yourself.
Wilson: Thank you so much. Jim, did you want to add anything?
Bettinger: I would. I agree with what Latoya and Claudia said and I would add to it to look on applying for a fellowship like a major project. You know, talk to people and think about it in advance. The best applications that we see are those that show the results of weeks and months of thought and care. They show that people have consulted with friends, with other people who have been fellows, who have just done a really great job of preparing for the application.
Wilson: Thank you so much and I want to thank you, Jim, for helping put this together. I want to thank Phuong, Latoya and Claudia for taking time out of their busy schedules to do this. Just thank you all for participating especially for those of us on the east coast still kind of digging out from Hurricane Sandy. So thanks again, all of you.
Bettinger: Thank you, Benét, for arranging this.