Meet ONA’s 2018 MJ Bear Fellows, under-30 journalists expanding the boundaries of digital news

By on August 22, 2018

The Online News Association, the world’s largest membership organization of digital journalists, today announced its eighth class of MJ Bear Fellows, three journalists under age 30 whose innovative work represents the best of digital media.

The selection committee combed through applications from 18 countries choose these up-and-coming digital journalists — two from the United States or Canada and one based elsewhere internationally, in partnership with MSN International — who are making their voices heard in the industry.

Tania Karas, 29

A freelance foreign correspondent and editor, Tania created Give Me Your Tired, a newsletter about global migration, and particularly changing immigration laws, asylum seekers and migrants worldwide. In the first six months of its launch the newsletter had nearly 500 subscribers, all through word of mouth. “The goal is to help people — whether fellow journalists, lawyers, students or ordinary folks — make sense of a tsunami of immigration news and really understand what’s happening beyond,” she said.

See Tania’s project | Learn more and connect

Anand Katakam, 27

Anand is manager for data products at, an independent news website in Mumbai, India, where he has combined data and visualization to create new ways of telling stories. His work initially focused on sports, but has expanded into other areas such as the economy and government. Anand also is supporting the newsroom’s small reporting and editing staff to tell stories in more visual ways to attract new audiences.

See examples from Anand’s project here and here. | Learn more and connect

Vignesh Ramachandran, 29

Vignesh is web producer and a founding member of ProPublica Illinois, the national news organization’s first venture into regional news. His work focuses on taking the ProPublica’s investigative model and scaling it to the state level with visually impactful stories that focus on the unique needs and issues of local audiences across the state.

See an example of Vignesh’s project | Learn more and connect

Each fellow will participate in three online coaching sessions with leaders in journalism and technology to support their projects. They also will receive a free, three-year ONA membership and an expenses-paid trip to the Online News Association Conference & Awards Banquet, Sept. 13-15 in Austin, Texas, to speak about their work and ideas.

Honorable Mentions

The selection committee felt so strongly about the projects and potential of four other applicants that they were awarded honorable mentions:

  • Julio Poletti, Digital Reporter, The Palm Beach Post
  • Melissa Leu, Senior Digital Editor, Southern California Public Radio
  • Rodrigo Menegat Schuinski, Visuals and Data Journalist, O Estado de S. Paulo
  • Sohini Guharoy, Head of Audience Engagement & Social Media, The Quint

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 online.

The 2018 Selection Committee included:

  • Amy Eisman, Director, Journalism Division, American University, MJ Bear Fellowship Chair
  • Irving Washington, Executive Director, Online News Association
  • Jake Carpenter, Network Photojournalist, CNN (MJ Bear’s nephew and family representative)
  • Jody Brannon, Chief News Evangelist/Digital Content Executive, Bing News
  • Sarah Hoye, Former Reporter, WFAA Media in Dallas, Texas
  • Laura Amico, Senior Editor, Harvard Business Review, 2011 MJ Bear Fellow
  • Denise Hassanzade Ajiri, Data/Investigative Fellow and adjunct, Columbia University, 2012 MJ Bear Fellow
  • Geraldine Moriba, Writer, Producer, Filmmaker, WNET in New York City
  • Anne Saul, News/Video Consultant, former Gannett News Executive, MJ Bear Fellowship Coordinator
  • Jennifer Mizgata, Director of Programs, Online News Association