Ida B. Wells Fellowship

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The Ida B. Wells Fellowship was launched in March 2016 to promote diversity in journalism by helping to create a pipeline of investigative reporters of color who bring diverse backgrounds, experiences, and interests to their work.

The fellowship honors Ida B. Wells, the pioneering African-American activist and investigative reporter who, during the Jim Crow era, led the nation’s first campaign against lynching. Born into slavery and orphaned at age 16, Wells not only dispelled stereotypes regarding rape and lasciviousness that led to black men and women being lynched, but revealed that often these victims’ only “crimes” were threatening white supremacy through acts of resistance or achievement. She continued her reporting in the face of death threats.

The one-year fellowship helps reporters complete their first substantial work of investigative reporting, by providing a $10,000 award and editorial advice from a dedicated Investigative Fund editor. Fellows will also receive funds to cover travel and other reporting costs, and the costs associated with attending the annual Investigative Reporters and Editors conference. They will enjoy access to research resources, legal assistance, professional mentors and assistance with story placement and publicity.

Each spring The Investigative Fund holds a competition to select four fellows, who will be expected to publish or air their findings in a U.S. media outlet within one year of the start of the fellowship. This fellowship is a one-time educational opportunity and is non-renewable.

Journalists of color are strongly encouraged to apply, as are other reporters who believe their presence would contribute substantially to diversifying investigative reporting in other ways.

Studies have shown that diverse editorial staffs are essential for reporting that is relatable, relevant, and actionable for all audiences. But nearly 85 years after Wells’s death, women and people of color still struggle for acceptance, credibility and opportunity as investigative reporters.

People of color constitute less than 13 percent of all newsroom jobs, according to an annual survey by the American Society of Newsroom Editors, and 10 percent of supervisors; their presence is even smaller on investigative teams. Women represent 37 percent of newsroom jobs and 35 percent of supervisors. Survey data indicates that fewer than 10 percent of journalists come from a working class background.

The Ida B. Wells Fellowship addresses these imbalances by identifying promising reporters of color, and other reporters from diverse backgrounds, who could benefit from editorial support and mentorship and who have the potential to help diversify the field.

fellowsOur inaugural class of Ida B. Wells Fellows Adeshina Emmanuel, Nadine Sebai, Eseosa Olumhense, and Nikhil Swaminathan, with former Ida B. Wells Fellowship director Kelly Virella, center, in white. Front row: Janean Ferrell and Alfreda Duster Ferrell, the great granddaughter and granddaughter of Ida B. Wells.

How to Apply:

The deadline for the 2018 application is February 15.


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Here (pdf) is a list of frequently asked questions. If you have more questions about the fellowships, please e-mail Lisa Armstrong at idabwells@nationinstitute.org.

General guidance about the kinds of investigations The Investigative Fund produces may be found here.