Step Out of the Bubble. Apply for a Knight-Wallace Fellowship

Lynette Clemetson
Nov 20, 2017 · 5 min read
Wallace House, home of the Knight-Wallace Fellowships for Journalists at the University of Michigan

Are you a journalist who could use some time away from your everyday media bubble? Are you interested in sharpening your skills, launching a new project or addressing a challenge facing your newsroom? Come join us at Wallace House. The Knight-Wallace Fellowships for Journalists at the University of Michigan is accepting applications for the 2018–19 academic year. We’re looking for accomplished, mid-career journalists eager for growth and deeply committed to journalism and its future. The deadline for U.S. applicants is February 1.

Qualified applicants must have at least five years of experience and be currently working in some aspect of journalism for a news organization or as an independent journalist. That includes experienced reporters, editors, data experts, visual journalists, audio producers, engagement specialists, designers, developers, entrepreneurs and organizational change agents.

Journalism cannot thrive without collaborative thinking and work across a diverse range of skills, talents and backgrounds. If you are interested in breaking down traditional silos, a Knight-Wallace Fellowship can help move your work in new directions.

Journalism also cannot thrive in heavily concentrated hubs. With the decline of local newspapers, the bulk of digital journalism jobs are now clustered along the Northeast corridor from Boston to Richmond and along the West Coast from Seattle to San Diego. That means American journalists and the places that employ them have to work harder to understand and interpret the realities that drive social, economic and political issues around the country. Media shifts in other countries are producing similar disconnects for international journalists.

A Knight-Wallace Fellowship provides a concrete opportunity to encounter the Midwest as more than a fly-over. Our program is known for its intensive and eye-opening international travel. (It’s true, our overseas news trips are amazing!) But in addition to Seoul and São Paulo, we also make sure our Fellows experience the far reaches of Northern Michigan and the neighborhoods, institutions and people of Detroit. Our program pushes journalists to spend time in nearby communities and dig into issues around the region, from Flint and Lansing in Michigan to industrial and rural Ohio, and wherever their interests take them.

“There’s no question that coming to Michigan propelled me to think more about ‘in between’ America,” said Alec MacGillis, a 2011 Knight-Wallace Fellow whose reporting on social and economic disparities for ProPublica was shaped by his fellowship. “I had done some reporting in Michigan and Ohio in prior years for The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun, but I had never lived or spent any real time in the Midwest…I was able, ultimately, to make my job more like my fellowship.”

That regional experience is integrated with study and access to renowned faculty at the University of Michigan. We accept up to 20 Fellows to spend an academic year pursuing a personalized study plan and attending seminars at Wallace House, the home base for our programs. Fellows receive a stipend of $70, 000 to allow them to step away from work, temporarily relocate, and focus on new ways of thinking and working. We cover health insurance and the costs associated with our international and domestic travel. Families are welcome and included in the experience. The tuition we pay for our Fellows also allows spouses and partners to audit courses at the university.

The possibilities for what a journalist can do as a Knight-Wallace Fellow are as varied as the people we accept.

Some applicants seek to build topical expertise. Accepting a new beat covering changing American communities? Take a provocative course on the history of American suburbia. Want to deepen your environmental reporting? Study the origins of the Flint water crisis. Working to understand the global refugee crisis? Study with legal scholars in the Program for Refugee and Asylum Law.

Some take on challenges facing the industry. How might artificial intelligence change news consumption habits? How can journalists engage ethically on social media in a time of increasing polarization? How can the latest encryption technology improve the sharing of sensitive and leaked information? Ground your work in the School of Information to build technical expertise and explore trends and research.

Other Fellows want to move into news leadership or launch a new project. Need to develop a business plan, understand a profit and loss report or learn how to develop and pitch a new venture? Connect with entrepreneurs in the Ross School of Business. Interested in overhauling your desk structure or reimagining your newsroom workflow? Courses in organizational studies can teach you how to foster change in even the most stubborn of media cultures.

We also encourage our journalists to pursue activities completely unrelated to their formal study plans. Learn Arabic or Russian, try standup comedy or welding, study the history of Hip-Hop or take a class in apocalyptic novels. Explore the Great Lakes or Detroit’s techno house music scene. We believe the most inspiring ideas often develop when and where you least expect them.

Our network of over 750 alumni — journalists who have left Ann Arbor and gone on to write books, win awards, run newsrooms and sustain long careers — can attest to the transformative power of a Knight-Wallace Fellowship.

“The Journalism business had been saying no to me for years and years, and suddenly at Wallace House I was in this place where the answer to everything was yes,” said 2010 Fellow Molly Ball, a political correspondent for Time magazine and an analyst for CNN. “It absolutely restored my soul and showed me there was a path forward in journalism.”

What path do you want your career to take? Imagine what a Knight-Wallace Fellowship could do for you.

  • Start by reading our FAQ.
  • Talk to your editor or manager and ask them to support your application so you can bring back what you learn.
  • Do your reporting. Familiarize yourself with the University of Michigan so you have a sense of what you’d like to pursue.
  • Give yourself time to produce a thoughtful application. We know you’re journalists, and you’re predisposed to wait until the last minute. But a well-conceived and crafted application stands out.
  • Then Apply. The Deadline for U.S. citizens (even if you are working overseas) is February 1. The deadline for international journalists (those without a U.S. passport) is December 1.

There’s never been a more important time to step out of your bubble and make your journalism stronger. We look forward to receiving your application.

Lynette Clemetson is Director of Wallace House. She was a 2010 Knight-Wallace Fellow. You can reach her at or Follow her on Twitter @lclemetson

Lynette Clemetson

Written by

Lynette Clemetson is Director of Wallace House, home of the Knight-Wallace Fellowships for Journalists and the Livingston Awards at the University of Michigan.

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