JSK Fellowships launches new “teams and themes” concept

Dawn Garcia
5 min readOct 20, 2016


Applications now open; Dec. 1 deadline

Photo: Samaruddin Stewart

As we open applications for our next class of JSK Fellows at Stanford, we aim to create deeper collaborations among fellows to explore and test innovative ideas for addressing the biggest challenges facing journalism.

We are calling this approach “Teams and Themes” for short.

We are looking for people who want to be deeply engaged in exploring solutions to these challenges with other fellows and collaborators. And we plan to give fellows the framework to help make that happen.

Our goal? To champion innovators, and help our fellows become leaders and change agents to reinvent and improve journalism.

With that in mind, for the 2017–18 class, we will consider applicants who want to pursue questions that fall within one of five topic areas that will be the focus of our program. The topics cover a broad range of the biggest challenges — and opportunities — for journalism. They include themes ranging from data journalism, algorithms and emerging technologies to free speech and democracy; audience engagement and diverse viewpoints, as well as news ecosystems and business models.

Fellows who have articulated questions in the same topic area will be teamed up to collaborate throughout the year. Collaborations could take many forms, and will allow fellows to find ready partners — within their own class and with JSK alumni already working in their topic area — to explore key questions and journalistic passions together, marshal resources, seek potential solutions and learn from each other.

One thing’s for certain: we’re going to have company.

A hopeful feature of the current journalism landscape is that there are more opportunities for collaborations and partnerships to expand our reach beyond what is possible for the JSK Fellowships and for individual JSK Fellows to achieve on their own. We’re starting close to home, tapping into a growing interdisciplinary community of journalism innovation at Stanford.

Here are a few of our colleagues:

  • Faculty and students in the Stanford Journalism program, which focuses on storytelling and data, and its Computational Journalism Lab. The lab explores “using computational methods to uncover accountability stories that would otherwise go untold.” The lab is part of Stanford’s cutting-edge Communication Department, which has experts in areas that include virtual reality, investigative journalism, media economics, information control in authoritarian regimes and understanding the impacts of social media.
  • Computer scientists and students at the Brown Institute for Media Innovation. The institute, a collaboration between Stanford and Columbia universities, has as its mission to “sponsor thinking, building and speculating on how stories are discovered and told in a networked, digitized world.”
  • Design-thinking faculty and experts at Stanford’s d.school. The d.school is a hub for innovators at Stanford, bringing together students, faculty and fellows to “take on the world’s messy problems together.”
  • Researchers and students at the new Stanford Data Lab, which launched one year ago. The lab sees that “the explosion of data in recent years together with powerful new tools is opening new opportunities to tackle important and long-unsolved problems.”
  • Faculty, researchers and experts in Stanford’s centers and schools, where we have built valuable ties to help fellows become stronger leaders, analytical thinkers and problem solvers. These include the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford’s premier research institute for the study of international affairs, which includes such global issues as international security, energy and the environment and democracy and the rule of law. At the Graduate School of Business, fellows learn management and leadership skills, and how to present their ideas for innovation with confidence.

What will it be like to be a JSK Fellow?

In addition to working collaboratively on solutions to challenges faced by journalism today, JSK Fellows will take advantage of the many rich opportunities for learning at Stanford. They can take classes of their choosing, attend events on campus, and meet with experts in the university’s research institutes. Fellows are free to explore many avenues for connecting with innovative thinkers and doers in Silicon Valley.

We also will 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 of their comfort zone — to learn a new skill, for instance, or take a class in art history or beginning acting — that opens fellows up to new ways of thinking and being.

And yes, fellows can hike or bike in the scenic hills above campus, take trips to nearby San Francisco for theater, museums and sightseeing, sample the culinary diversity of the Bay Area’s restaurants and farmer’s markets and swim in Stanford’s fabulous outdoor pools, open year-round. Enjoying the beauty and many cultural offerings of Stanford, the San Francisco Bay Area and California are all integral to being a JSK Fellow.

The JSK Fellowships will continue to support fellows’ efforts through individual and group coaching with JSK directors. We also offer special workshops and weekly events to bring fellows together to learn from each other and from thought leaders in creativity, innovation, technology and journalism. Much of the learning happens within the fellowship itself, where fellows make lasting professional connections and lifelong friends.

We select a JSK Fellowship class with an eye for talented people from many diverse backgrounds. We believe the mix makes for richer conversations, deeper learning and the potential for more creative solutions to journalism’s toughest challenges.

We remain focused on the core values of journalism as we have for 50 years: accuracy, independence, verification, fairness and holding the powerful accountable. Everything we do, as always, is in the service of journalism.

We have learned so much in the eight years since we transformed our program from a very good sabbatical-year format to an even stronger program focused on innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership. Meanwhile, the disruptive changes in journalism have only accelerated. So it’s all the more important for new innovation experiments to move forward inside newsrooms and in independent organizations.

With that in mind, we are taking our first steps onto a new path of collaboration to explore solutions to the biggest challenges facing journalism and helping our fellows make a difference.

We hope you apply for the JSK Fellowships and join us on that journey.

Visit our website to learn more about applying for a JSK Fellowship. Still have questions? Email info@kf.stanford.edu.



Dawn Garcia

JSK Journalism Fellowships Director @Stanford, Silicon Valley native, past prez of Journalism & Women Symposium, champion & coach innovative journalists