The Online News Association, the world’s largest membership organization of digital journalists, today announced its sixth class of MJ Bear Fellows, three journalists under age 30 whose innovative work in independent, community and corporate news represents the best of digital media.
The selection committee combed through 50 applications from 15 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.
“Judging the MJ Bear Fellowships is like looking in a crystal ball,” said Committee Chair Amy Eisman of American University. “Each year we feel like we are glimpsing the future. This year the focus shifted even more to social media journalism, podcasts and visual presentation. But the stand-out qualities of the fellows remained the same: their passion, creativity and a desire to give voice to those without.”
The 2016 MJ Bear Fellows are:
Rose Eveleth, 28
A freelance writer and producer, Rose created Flash Forward, a podcast that explores possible tomorrows. The show is a quirky mashup of science fiction and journalism. Each episode starts with a fictionalized radio drama and then dives into a serious discussion of the subject with historians, engineers, scientists, futurists, etc. As she explains, “Think ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ meets Radiolab.”
The Selection Committee said: “Straddling the bright horizon between science and science fiction, Fast Forward is an engaging and informative podcast about how we live in and imagine the future. As creator and host of this solo project, Rose is not just shaping an imagined future, but her own. With Flash Forward she has shown creativity and flair, packaged with deep reporting, thoughtful engagement and smart questioning. Most notably, among the gifts Rose offers journalism is imagination and a long view into the future.”
Alex Laughlin, 24
Alex is a social media editor at The Washington Post where she co-founded and moderates Pay Up, a Slack-based community dedicated to fostering conversations about the gender wage gap. It has 300 members, all women in technology, who chat about topics such as salary negotiation, “mansplaining” and “imposter syndrome.” Pay Up also includes Q&A sessions with experts and roundtable sessions allowing members to share their opinions. The discussions also generate story ideas and sources for The Washington Post website and print product.
The Selection Committee said: “This digital native put her skills to the test with the creation of the Pay-Up, a private, Slack-based community dedicated to fostering conversations about the gender wage gap. By starting a conversation about a critical topic and returning with an an invitation-only group, the goal of ‘building true, authentic communities where members find human connections’ was off the ground. Her creative project and unique approach to story development combined with her high potential for growth catapulted this project to the top.”
Sohara Mehroze Shachi
Sohara is an entrepreneur/journalist in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Her project is Newstant, an app that allows users to download news and read it offline. The app categorizes news and allows users to customize it based on their preferences and prior browsing habits. It also can convert text to speech so users can listen to it hands-free while driving or working, and it has an incident map to keep track of area-specific information.
The Selection Committee said: “Sohara has developed an app that allows users to download news and then sort and access it offline. This is doubly important because she lives in a country, Bangladesh, with limited wireless access. Her work is creative and unique, and provides a vital service helping people throughout her country stay informed.”
Each fellow will participate in three online workshop sessions with ONA’s hand-picked Personal Advisory Board, and will receive a free, three-year ONA membership and an expense-paid trip to the Online News Association Conference & Awards Banquet, Sept. 15-17, in Denver, where their work and ideas will be highlighted.
The selection committee felt so strongly about the projects and potential of six other applicants that they were awarded honorable mention. They are:
- Shauna Stewart, Summer Fellow, The Southern Girls Project
- Jonah Newman, database reporter for The Chicago Reporter
- Jareen Imam, social discovery producer for CNN
- Alex Lewis, lead producer, WHYY Every ZIP Philadelphia
- Beth Ashton, head of audience, Manchester (UK) Evening News
- Felicia Ochelle, online editor, Ventures Africa
Each will each 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.
2016 MJ Bear Selection Committee
- Amy Eisman, Director, Media Entrepreneurship & Special Programs, American University, MJ Bear Fellowship Chair
- Jane McDonnell, Executive Director, Online News Association
- Jake Carpenter, Network Photojournalist, CNN (MJ Bear’s nephew and family representative)
- Jody Brannon, Chief Intelligence Officer/Senior Product Manager, Microsoft/iSoftstone, ONA Board Member
- Sarah Hoye, Correspondent, America Tonight, Al Jazeera Media Network
- Laura Amico, News Editor, Data and Multimedia Projects, Boston Globe Media, 2011 MJ Bear Fellow
- Anne Saul, News/Video Consultant, retired Gannett News Executive, MJ Bear Fellowship Coordinator
- Irving Washington, Deputy Director/MJ Bear Fellowship Coordinator, Online News Association