ONA selects 2011 MJ Bear Fellows, journalism stand-outs under 30

By on August 1, 2011

The Online News Association, the world’s largest membership organization of digital journalists, today announced its first 2011 MJ Bear Fellows, three journalists under age 30 whose innovative work in independent, community and corporate news represents the best of new media.

The selection committee combed through applications from 13 countries to choose three up-and-coming digital journalists — two in the United States or Canada and one international, in partnership with MSN International — who are making their voices heard in the industry.

The inaugural MJ Bear Fellows are:

Lucas Timmons, 27, a data journalist and web producer for The Edmonton Journal in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. A graduate of Acadia University in Nova Scotia and Algonquin College in Ottawa, he also is a journalism instructor at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton. In his current position, Timmons does investigative reporting, website management, blogging, photo editing, interactive mapping and graphics and was instrumental in the creation and rollout of the newspaper’s online coverage of the 2011 Canadian federal elections. Previously he was an investigative reporter at CBC Ottawa and an online apprentice for The Ottawa Citizen. Timmons said he got into journalism because “telling the truth is power.” The selection committee said: “(Lucas is) a true renaissance journalist, with what seems like expert hands-on content, back-end multimedia and an obvious passion for inclusiveness when it comes to community.”
See his project here.

Laura Amico, 29, the founder and editor of Homicide Watch D.C. in Washington, D.C., a website that covers every homicide in the nation’s capital, and includes news, obituaries, profiles, court documents and memorials. Previously, Amico was a reporter for Creative Ink and the Register-Pajaronian in Watsonville, Calif., an international development worker with the Peace Corps and a police reporter for the Santa Rosa (Calif.) Press Democrat. She received the New York Times Chairman’s Award in 2009 and in 2011 was selected for the Knight Digital Media News Entrepreneurs Bootcamp and named a Guggenheim Fellow. She is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Said Amico: “The satisfaction I get from working online, facing the daily challenges of running my own business, and the sense I get that this site is really helping people, is tremendous.” The selection committee said: “Here is a community that really, really, really needs news, and Laura delivers. The depth and passion of her work is awesome. Once you dive in, you can’t turn away.”
See her project at homicidewatch.org.

Lam Thuy Vo, 26, a multimedia reporter for The Wall Street Journal in Hong Kong where she developed Dissecting China’s Housing Market, a project that won the Society of American Business Editors and Writers award. Previously, Vo was an associate multimedia producer, videographer and multimedia journalist for the Wall Street Journal in New York. She is a graduate of University College, London, and received her Master’s from Columbia University. Vo has conducted multimedia workshops in Hong Kong, New York and Magdeburg, Germany. She has won a number of other awards, including the Human Rights Press Award, an International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences Webby and the Society of Publishers in Asia Award for Editorial Excellence. Said the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants who grew up in Germany: “Communication has defined me since I was young.” The selection committee said: “(Lam) comes across as someone who truly has an international perspective of the world and with a more ‘breakthrough’ approach to journalism, and prepared to take risks.”
See her project here.

“These journalists do it all,” said Jane McDonnell, ONA Executive Director, “from reporting to business planning to developing to community engagement to multimedia. They’re not just growing within the industry, they’re leading the way.”

Each fellow will be paired with a digital news leader as a leadership mentor for one year. Timmons will be working with Bryan Monroe, Editor of CNNPolitics.com; Amico with Tom Davidson, Senior Director and Publisher for News and Public affairs at PBS.com; and Vo with Jane O’Connell, Regional Programming Director, Greater Asia Pacific, MSN International.

Each also will receive an expense-paid trip to the Online News Association Conference & Awards Banquet (ONA11), Sept. 22-24, in Boston, where they’ll be part of a panel presenting their projects, as well as a free ONA membership.

The selection committee felt so strongly about the work and potential of three other applicants that they were awarded honorable mention: Denise Cheng, 26, a citizen journalism coordinator for The Rapidian, Grand Rapids, Mich.; Michael Morisy, 27, an editorial director at TechTarget and web producer for the New England Center for Investigative Reporting at Boston University, and Alex Wood, 25, a freelance journalist based in London, UK, and a frequent contributor to the BBC.

The selection committee included: Anne Saul, Newspaper/Video Consultant and former News Executive with Gannett; Amy Eisman, Director, weekend Master’s program in Interactive Journalism, School of Communication, American University; Will Sullivan, Director of Mobile News for Lee Enterprises and ONA Board Member; Jody Brannon, National Director, News21, ONA Board Member and Education Chair; Dominique Lempereur-Babeanu, Director, MSN Media Academy; Blake Carpenter, Assistant Director of Finance and Administration, Pinchot Institute for Conservation, and MJ Bear’s nephew; Jonathan Hart, Member, Dow Lohnes PLLC, and ONA Counsel, and McDonnell.

Bear, whose wide-ranging career took her to pivotal roles at Microsoft’s MSN Portals and MSN International, NPR and American University, was renowned for her kindness and digital know-how. She played a vital role in ONA’s history as a member of the original Board of Directors, helping to incorporate the organization in 1999 and serving on the Education, Fundraising, Conference and Legal Affairs committees until 2003.

So far, Friends of MJ Bear and ONA, MSN International and the MJ Bear estate have contributed $100,000 to the Fellowship fund, which will continue to spotlight and encourage promising journalists. Donations can be made at journalists.org.

The Online News Association is the world’s largest association of digital journalists. ONA’s mission is to inspire innovation and excellence among journalists to better serve the public. The membership includes news writers, producers, designers, editors, bloggers, developers, photographers, educators, students and others who produce news for and support digital delivery systems. ONA also hosts the annual Online News Association conference and administers the Online Journalism Awards.

For more information, contact:
Jane McDonnell, Executive Director
Online News Association

Jane McDonnell

Jane McDonnell

As executive director, Jane oversees and manages the day-to-day operations of the world’s largest membership organization of digital journalists, working closely with the Board of Directors. Her purview includes membership, partnerships, global community outreach, budgeting and revenue generation, fundraising and development, the Online Journalism Awards, and providing vision for ONA’s state-of-the-art annual conference.