JSK Fellowships reshapes Teams and Themes framework to meet urgent needs of journalism

Program for professionals at Stanford University issues call to action for industry

2018 JSK Fellows exploring how they will work on their journalism projects.

The challenges facing journalism today have become more urgent, and we are creating a new vision for the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford.

This is a powerful shift that will be the guiding principles for our work. Going forward, the JSK Fellowships will focus on:

  • Challenging Misinformation and Disinformation
  • Holding the Powerful Accountable
  • Eradicating News Deserts and Strengthening Local News
  • Fighting Bias, Intolerance and Injustice

We will ask journalists and journalism innovators to propose journalism projects within these four new themes in the JSK Fellows 2019 application that will open Oct. 16. We will integrate these themes into our fellowship program’s work, and the work of the current 2018 JSK Fellows. We will also use these themes to structure JSK convenings, partnerships with newsrooms and others, as well as other initiatives we will develop in the months and years ahead.

An explosion of fake news, and even fake people sharing fake news, has hit in a wave of misinformation that endangers the public’s ability to know what is really going on. There’s a frightening lack of transparency by powerful actors — governments and multinational corporations, including giant technology companies and platforms based right here in Silicon Valley—about how they’re doing their work and making decisions that affect our lives. Meanwhile, local news organizations, which play a key role in democracy and public life, are struggling to survive and in many cases disappearing altogether. That’s leaving whole swaths of the U.S. and other nations as vast news deserts. And age-old strains of bias and intolerance, which many of us had hoped were on the wane, are in fact on the rise, tearing at the fabric of the communities we cover and creating dangerous environments for the disenfranchised and the powerless.

Given our focus at Stanford on computational journalism and our location in the heart of Silicon Valley, we expect that JSK Fellows will integrate some of the following tools, methodologies and innovative approaches in pursuing their journalism question, such as the exploration of audience engagement, big data and new business models, and leveraging technology of all kinds, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Internet of Things.

We see the work of our fellows as a cycle that imbues journalism with fresh ideas and energy. They bring innovative ideas from a variety of backgrounds. We provide them with the opportunity and the time and space to explore them. At the end of their year, they are emboldened to help guide organizations in new directions and into new collaborations. Our new themes will give them an even stronger framework for tackling some of society’s biggest problems.

Here at the JSK Fellowships at Stanford we remain focused on the core values of journalism as we have for more than 50 years: accuracy, independence, verification, fairness and holding the powerful accountable. Everything we do, as always, is in the service of journalism. Our goal is to champion innovators, and help journalists become leaders and change agents to reinvent and improve journalism. We believe that collaboration and focusing on what really matters are essential to making that happen. We’re eager to partner with other organizations and people to uphold these ideals and move journalism forward. If you believe in the importance of these four themes, we would like to hear from you. Together, we can help ensure that journalism can sustain its mission to provide quality news to the public and ensure that people have the information they need to fully participate in their communities.

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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