JSK Fellowships Class of 2018 launch year of experiments to strengthen journalism

Cohort of innovators is first to work under ‘Teams and Themes’ framework

2008 JSK Fellows Zeba Khan (left), Barbara Maseda (center) and Michael Grant (right). Photo: Titus Plattner

It’s fall, Stanford University is back in session, and this week we’re launching the JSK Journalism Fellowships Class of 2018. They are 18 remarkable journalism innovators and entrepreneurs representing a wide range of media, from large legacy media companies like The McClatchy Company, the Des Moines Register and O Globo in Brazil to newer media ventures including Vox, the Center for Collaborative Journalism and TV Rain in Moscow. They come from one of the most diverse range of communities and countries we’ve ever had in the program — from the Bay Area to Boise, from Cuba to China and more. The fellows and their families are settling into life at Stanford, and I couldn’t be happier with the progress they have already made in the few weeks they have been here for their JSK orientation.

This new group of JSK Fellows comes ready to explore journalism questions on such important issues as how to how to sustain investigative media in emerging democracies, how to build audience-first newsrooms that inspire watchdog journalism and how to create independent news operations to provide in-depth local coverage in communities around the U.S.

It’s a thrilling time to be part of our program. I’m especially invigorated because this year’s fellows are the first to pursue their journalism innovation projects under a new “Teams and Themes” framework intended to focus JSK Fellows in collaborating on the biggest challenges facing journalism. This structure will guide how fellows conduct their explorations in journalism innovation and entrepreneurship.

With the help of the JSK staff and Tran Ha, JSK ’14, the fellows have been exploring how they will work on their individual journalism projects and how to collaborate on common goals. We’re looking forward to helping their ideas flourish into action over the next nine months.

Being a JSK Fellow is more than just returning to college to take classes. Fellows are free to explore the many avenues for connecting with innovative thinkers and doers who define Stanford and Silicon Valley. Our fellows will attend events on campus, engage with other professionals, our JSK alumni, academics and entrepreneurs from a range of disciplines to investigate new theories, practices and tools that could improve journalism. We also continue to encourage fellows to be open to serendipity and new experiences that have nothing directly to do with journalism innovation. We have found that when fellows push themselves to try things outside their comfort zone — to learn a new skill or take a class in beginning acting, for example — that opens them up to new ways of thinking and being.

The current fellows are joining a remarkable community of journalists that was first formed in 1966, the year journalism fellowships arrived at Stanford. Our fellows and alumni, hundreds of journalists and innovators from all over the world, are one of JSK’s greatest strengths and, we believe, one of journalism’s greatest hopes. Our fellows develop ideas that challenge the status quo, push news organizations to connect more deeply with readers, and improve the way we tell stories and deliver information. The need is acute.

We are awash in information delivered minute by minute across a multitude of platforms. It can be difficult to know what and who to trust, especially when bots and hackers — and the unwittingly well-intentioned — spread news of dubious origin and other “news” that is complete fiction. It drives home the importance of the work being done in our newsrooms.

A free press is essential to American democracy and to ensuring that people around the world receive the news and information they need to participate fully in their communities. How do people make sense of the deluge of news and information that they do get? How do journalists use the best tools, not just to reach them, but to engage them? How do journalists do this as platforms and technology rise and fall?

The answers are far from easy, but that’s where programs like ours can make a lasting contribution. Our fellows and alumni are exceptional. Our team is dedicated. Our ideas are abundant. I’m looking forward to seeing what the fellows and their teams develop this year.

Dawn Garcia is the director of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford University, a professional program that supports innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership in journalism worldwide. Email her at degarcia@stanford.edu and follow her on Twitter @degarciaknight.

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