Starting your career during a pandemic: 40 young journalists enter a new journalism landscape

Meet the 2020 Google News Initiative Fellows who will join data, product, audience development and fact-checking teams across Europe

The response to this year’s GNI Fellowship call for applications was exciting and a great sign that many young people are looking to land their dream job in journalism. More than 1,400 students and graduates looking to kickstart their journalism careers applied for a summer placement. Leading European news organisations across 14 countries will now host 40 Fellows for eight weeks.

The GNI Fellowship seeks to bring young talent into newsrooms and help them become more diverse and interdisciplinary while staying at the forefront of the use of technology in journalism. For many aspiring journalists, the Fellowship is their first paid job and a step that can kick-start their career in journalism.

The Fellows were carefully selected by each host organisation for the skills they offer in digital and data journalism, audience and product development, verification and fact-checking, all of which are in high demand to help move the industry forward. Amid a pandemic, which has pushed many newsrooms to find new ways of producing journalism, these skills are needed more than ever.

Meet the Fellows

The cohort is a young group of aspiring media professionals with backgrounds that range from journalism to UX/UI design, and from computer science to philosophy. Here are the GNI Fellows for 2020 and the main areas they will focus on:

Area: Data Journalism and Visualisation

‘The GNI Fellowship gives me an opportunity to learn a new inspiring way of reaching and engaging audiences by using data and new storytelling formats. I am really looking forward to working at the intersection between journalism and design and connecting with the community of fellows from across Europe.’- Pilar Tomás Franco

‘I look forward to using new technologies and narrative formats to complement my previous journalistic experience. Because we need strong critical journalism and we need to make it ready for the future.’- Gabriel Rinaldi

Area: Audience engagement and digital storytelling

‘I’m most looking forward to have the opportunity to make meaningful change in the environmental sphere, learn from industry professionals and experiment with social content.’- Katie Anderson

Area: Fact-checking, verification and investigative journalism

‘The GNI fellowship is an exceptional opportunity to work with the best fact-checking journalists of a leading news organisation. I will get to learn about the state-of-the-art technological tools and latest innovative formats used in this domain. It is really exciting!’- Juliette Mansour

Area: Design and product development

‘Looking forward to getting new, valuable experiences that will help me in my future career. It’s also a great opportunity to be a part of a development project for one of Sweden’s largest newspapers at such a young age.’- Mathilda Kennett

GNI Fellowship bootcamp 2019

What is it like to start your first job in the news amid a pandemic?

The 2020 GNI Fellowship will be memorable. Fellows will not only have to help cover one of the most important stories of the 21st century to date, but most of them will do so remotely, and won’t have a chance to meet their editor and colleagues in person during the 8 weeks.

The 2020 GNI Fellowship was announced back in February with an expansion to three new countries — the Czech Republic, Italy and Spain. The application process for this exciting opportunity was in full flow when COVID-19 hit Europe and news organisations were forced to shut down.

The EJC and Google News Initiative brainstormed around possible solutions and scenarios for moving ahead safely. The response of newsrooms was overwhelmingly positive and as a result, most of the fellows will begin their journalism careers virtually or with a mixed schedule of days ‘at the office’ and working from home.

A note on diversity

Diversity is something we think about a lot at the EJC, especially with regards to programmes like the Fellowship. Done correctly, fellowship programmes can greatly contribute to diversifying the perspectives and skills of newsrooms. This is good for productivity, and it’s good for the bottom line. Done incorrectly, power imbalances and diversity issues can be reinforced.

Our Fellowship programme has learnt a lot over the past two years. But we have a long way to go. We are using what we have learned to improve, and sharing it here so others can help us address these challenges.

  • Diversity definition. Many programmes use a narrow definition of diversity. For programmes like this to be effective, we must consider age, ethnicity, disability, gender socio-economic background, and more.
  • Lack of data. It is not enough to just consider diversity. We need to measure our progress. We lack baseline European data, and a robust (GDPR-friendly) way to collect standardised data.
  • Pipeline problem. We’ve seen good results from being more targeted in our outreach to universities and vocational schools with more diverse student bodies. But the fact remains that graduate programmes will not fully reflect the diversity of society.
  • Selection process. There is much work to be done on blind selection techniques and interview processes. We’ll be looking at improving these in the future.
  • Structural issues. Even when diverse candidates are placed, leadership, support and unconscious bias problems can hamper a fellow’s progress inside the newsrooms.

For more on how we can address these issues as an industry, check out the notes from our News Impact Summit last year.

We at the EJC are very thankful to all the applicants, to the 40 host organisations and to our partner, the Google News Initiative. We wish all the Fellows the very best for their Fellowship and look forward to meeting them all soon, online or offline!

If you have any questions or would like to get in touch, you can write to us at hello@journalismfellowships.eu

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