The Investigative Fund is pleased to announce the launch of the Ida B. Wells Fellowship, whose goal is to promote diversity in journalism by helping to create a pipeline of investigative reporters of color. The one-year fellowship will provide four reporters with the opportunity to complete their first substantial pieces of investigative reporting. A call for applications, due April 18, 2016, is available here. Winners will be announced in May.
The Ida B. Wells Fellowship will award each of four winners $10,000 plus funds to cover out-of-pocket reporting costs. The fellows will also receive extensive editorial feedback, legal counsel, research resources, assistance with story placement and publicity, Investigative Reporters and Editors training, and journalism mentoring. The new program was made possible by support from Open Society Foundations.
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. Meanwhile, studies have shown that diverse editorial staffs are essential for reporting that is relatable, relevant, and actionable for all audiences.
Journalists of color are strongly encouraged to apply to the fellowship, as are other reporters who believe their presence would contribute substantially to diversifying investigative reporting in other ways.
“Investigative reporting remains an essential tool for uncovering abuses of power,” said Kelly Virella, who was just appointed senior editor for the Ida B. Wells Fellowship. “But nearly 85 years after Wells's death, the field of investigative reporting has become strikingly homogeneous.”
Virella has worked for 15 years as a print and online journalist for the Chicago Reporter, the St. Petersburg Times, City Limits in New York City, and Alternet, garnering a Sigma Delta Chi Award for investigative reporting and other journalism honors. “With her deep investigative reporting experience, talent as an editor, extensive journalism network, and sensitivity as a mentor, we couldn't imagine a better person to lead the Ida B. Wells program,” said Investigative Fund editor Esther Kaplan.
Born into slavery and orphaned at 16, Ida B. Wells went on to become a pioneering African-American activist and investigative reporter who, during the Jim Crow era, led the nation's first campaign against lynching. Her reporting not only dispelled stereotypes regarding rape and lasciviousness that led to black men and women being lynched, but also 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 Ida B. Wells Fellowship program will help to ensure the legacy of investigative journalism and intrepid truth-telling about race,” said Paula Giddings, E.A. Woodson professor of Africana Studies at Smith College and the author of the Wells biography Ida: A Sword Among Lions.
The fellowship is open to entry-level reporters, mid-career journalists, recent journalism school graduates, and journalism interns who are eager for journalistic mentoring and who seek to gain investigative reporting experience. Applicants may be freelancers or reporters currently employed by a media outlet, and must have at least some experience with feature reporting. Stories produced by the fellows are expected to appear in US media outlets.