Support up-and-coming journalism stars, our MJ Bear Fellows

By on September 22, 2012

Today starts a month-long campaign to make it possible for these fellowships to continue for promising young journalists — and we hope you’ll donate today.

Over the past year, the Online News Association has had the privilege of supporting the work of three groundbreaking young journalists, members of the first class of MJ Bear Fellows.

As a founding board member of ONA, the late MJ Bear was a pioneer of digital technology and encouraged young talent to embrace its potential to build a new ecosystem for telling stories and gathering and distributing information vital to the public. This fellowship honors her by identifying and nurturing under-30 journalists producing cutting-edge work in digital media, offering them sophisticated resources, one-on-one mentoring, networking and a global forum to talk about their work.

We have selected our 2012 Fellows, who are making their debut at the Online News Association Conference today, but we wanted to share with you the promising work done by our first class, which exceeded all expectations. In just the first year, our fellowships have vividly illustrated the value of providing practical resources, networking and guidance to journalists leading the way. They express it best:

From Lucas Timmons, a data journalist and web producer for The Edmonton Journal in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where he embodies the new journalist by helping to manage the website, report, blog, edit photos, develop and produce interactive mapping and graphics:
“Opportunities that seemed infeasible or out of reach to my bosses were all of a sudden possible. It’s also been great for bringing people here on board with digital journalism. I’ve received recognition in my company — that’s the whole Postmedia chain, not just The Edmonton Journal — and I’ve had the opportunity to speak to many different small groups about journalism. It’s also been great for meeting some people who are doing incredible work. I feel like I’m no longer just ‘this guy,’ but somebody who has a little bit of credence, somebody who’s worth listening to.”

From Laura Amico, co-founder and editor of Homicide Watch DC, which tracks information and personal stories on the city’s murders by collecting government data, media reports and input from the communities and families affected:
“A year ago when I was applying for the MJ Bear fellowship, Homicide Watch DC was just getting started. What was really exciting about having the fellowship was being able to connect with the ONA community, being able to plug into that network, share the lessons I was learning and get advice and feedback from people already in the field.”

From Lam Thuy Vo, who began the fellowship as a multimedia reporter for The Wall Street Journal in Hong Kong, where she created an award-winning project exploring China’s housing market:
“When you’re someone with technical skills in a newsroom, you can sometimes feel like a pixel-pushing monkey. In other words, it can be a little isolating. What ONA has done for me is to put me in touch with other people who are both geeks and into technology, but also hold themselves to the highest of journalistic standards.”

Donate today to make more fellowship opportunities like these possible for young journalists.

You can check out more of the fellows’ thoughts and work chronicled throughout the year on their blogs and their final videos.

All three acknowledged the fellowship as a boost that helped advance their careers: Lucas was promoted at The Edmonton Journal, Lam recently was hired at NPR’s Planet Money, and Laura was recently chosen for Harvard University’s prestigious Nieman Foundation Fellowship program for visionary journalists.

It’s vital for the public interest that the journalism community nurture talent like this, particularly as the paths to success in the field are changing rapidly.

MJ had humbling confidence that ONA would see through her vision for journalism. We hope you’ll donate to give the next generation of young journalists your support.

Jane McDonnell, Executive Director
and the MJ Bear Fellowship Committee


Jennifer Mizgata

Jennifer Mizgata is Director of Programs at the Online News Association, where she leads the Women's Leadership Accelerator. At ONA, Jennifer focuses on identifying talented digital journalists and innovative journalism projects and providing them with support. Jennifer is a business and design strategist with over a decade of experience creating industry-changing training programs, investing in award-winning projects, and managing key relationships with journalism partners and tech stakeholders. She regularly coaches managers, senior leaders and entrepreneurs on challenges related to their careers and launching new ventures. Jennifer shares advice for navigating tough work challenges in Work Space, a monthly column for Fortune.