The Online News Association, the world’s largest membership organization of digital journalists, today announced its fourth class of 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 six countries to choose these 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 2014 MJ Bear Fellows Are:
Anika Anand, 26
The Director of Engagement at Chalkbeat, an education news network, Anika is a graduate of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.
The MJ Bear Fellows selection committee said: “Anika was a standout because of her interest in discussing and growing solutions to help journalists measure their impact — as well as her current role helping develop MORI, a tool to measure the impact a story is having on readers. In the always-running, more-with-less newsgathering organizations of our current world, measuring and analyzing data, especially engagement metrics, can help journalists work smarter and be more valuable to their readers and communities.”
Anika’s project MORI (Measures of Our Reporting’s Influence) is a WordPress tool that takes metadata tags attached to stories and tracks reporters’ progress toward reaching readership and engagement goals. The tool helps the Chalkbeat staff measure the impact of their stories so that they can focus on those that have the greatest value for readers.
Rajneesh Bhandari, 27
An independent multimedia journalist in Kathmandu, Nepal, Rajneesh is a graduate of the Konrad Adenauer Asian College of Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University in Manila and Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu.
The selection committee said: “He is working to overcome the many challenges in a developing country to raise the profile of digital journalism and capitalize on the growth of mobile. He’s led some interesting projects and community journalism efforts that we think would really resonate with MJ. We think she would love his entrepreneurial approach to raising the profile of journalism and trying to solve the challenges for journalists in his country.”
Rajneesh’s project, Media Gufa, is an annual news reporting workshop in which one group of reporters is isolated for 72 hours reporting only via the internet while another group reports from a rural village without the internet. The goal is to help traditional Nepali journalists become more proficient online journalists and to reconnect journalists with local communities.
Aaron Williams, 25
A news applications developer for the Center for Investigative Reporting, Aaron is a graduate of San Francisco State University.
The selection committee said: “Computer-assisted reporting is a lost art, and knowing how to present data is complicated and oftentimes forgotten. Aaron’s application of different tools resulted in a sophisticated presentation of an important issue. It’s encouraging to see someone this young who is enthusiastic about this realm of journalism.”
Aaron’s project utilizes an application he wrote, as well as a variety of tools, to pull data from Virginia hospitals and the Census Bureau to visualize the rise in highly addictive painkiller prescriptions among veterans since 9/11. The results are easily accessible for journalists to localize for their communities.
Each fellow will be paired with a digital news leader who will serve as a career development guide for one year, and also will receive a free, three-year ONA membership and an expense-paid trip to the Online News Association Conference & Awards Banquet, Sept. 25-27, in Chicago, where their work will be highlighted.
“The judging was particularly hard this year because the entries were so innovative — capturing extraordinary energy inside newsrooms and awesome creativity outside. We saw data projects, entrepreneurial efforts and amazing work by young journalists who are not only rethinking our industry but leading the way.
“I saw a sea change; young journalists not just doing familiar work extraordinarily well, but pushing themselves and their colleagues to consider new things. Our friend MJ Bear would no doubt be pleased with the light she is shining on our honorees.”
— Amy Eisman, Chair, MJ Bear Fellowship Committee
The selection committee felt so strongly about the work and potential of two other applicants that they were awarded honorable mention. They are: Heather Martino, founder of Hashtag That, a B2B service that helps journalists and social media professionals understand how to use hashtags effectively, and Andrew McGill, Data Reporting Coordinator for the Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette. They will receive a free, one-year ONA membership.
MJ 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.
You can donate to the MJ Bear Fellowship fund with our online form.
The selection committee:
- Amy Eisman, Chair, Director, Media Entrepreneurship & Interactive Journalism American University
- Anne Saul, News/Video Consultant, former Gannett Systems Editor, MJ Bear Fellowship Coordinator
- Jody Brannon, Editor, Digital Media Consultant/Strategist, ONA Board Vice President
- Dominique Lempereur-Babeanu, Regional General Manager, Americas, Microsoft Information & Content Experiences
- Klemens Dreesbach, Global Strategy Manager, Microsoft Online Media Publishing Media Academy
- Blake Carpenter, Audit Associate, Grant Thornton, LLP, and MJ Bear’s nephew
- Jake Carpenter, Network Photojournalist, CNN, and MJ Bear’s nephew
- Sarah Hoye, Correspondent, Al Jazeera Media Network
- Laura Amico , CEO, Homicide Watch and Founder, Editor, Homicide Watch D.C. and 2011 MJ Bear Fellow
- Jonathan Hart, Chief Legal Officer, National Public Radio
- Jane McDonnell, ONA Executive Director
- Irving Washington, Director of Operations, Online News Association