Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Why I Love OpenNews Fellowship and Why it's a Great Opportunity for Graduate Students

Knight Blog: Knight-Mozilla fellows strive for global impact in journalism. Photo credit:Knight-Mozilla Fellows
I have always been an intellectual drifter and the OpenNews fellowship has been the best reward for my adventures. When I first saw the post calling for 2013 applicants, I was so surprised and also excited to know such an opportunity was being created for the people just like me.

My background is highly mixed. I am currently a doctoral candidate in an interdisciplinary program at Michigan State University. At MSU, I have been studying media economics with my advisor Steve Wildman, a world-renowned scholar and Chief Economist at the FCC, along with courses in psychology, communication, and large-scale data analysis. Prior to MSU, I studied computer science and journalism and worked in both industries.

If you are also a graduate student, you will probably enjoy the Knight-Mozilla fellowship just like I do because it provides opportunities that you may not easily find in academia.

You'll get to work on real-world problems. Through my work experience and academic training, I gained a better understanding of how people consume media content, how they behave on the Internet, and how content providers could better cater to consumers’ demands and therefore develop sustainable business models. I have been able to contribute my expertise on these topics to the Boston Globe, my newsroom host. With the support of the staff here, I conducted an empirical study of the Boston Globe's Facebook Page. When I presented my findings to colleagues, some people responded, “Thank you for sharing your findings. We didn’t know those things!” It is thrilling and satisfying to find truths and share knowledge in a practical setting.

Often as a graduate student, you may only have the privilege and support to work on problems like this during summer internships. The Knight-Mozilla Fellowship offers even more because it lasts beyond a summer and allows you to fully immerse yourself in a world-class newsroom. If you hold a similar belief that research should work toward real-world impact, definitely apply for this fellowship program and aim to make an impact on the world.

You'll have the support you need to work quickly. As you may have experienced, funding is an issue for a number of universities. You will be surprised how much support you can get from this Fellowship: a generous research budget and travel funding are among them. Moreover, a frustrating side of academia is that research results may take months or years to get published. In contrast, as an OpenNews Fellow, we can organize our own seminar or attend a workshop to reach out to a larger audience. With this support, we are able to give a louder shout to the world about what amazing things we have created or found.

You'll have the freedom and flexibility to follow where your curiosity leads.  Although Fellows often offer a helping hand to our hosts, we are not obliged to commit to any task in the newsrooms, because all our funding is from OpenNews. This independence lets us pursue our own interests without being bound by routine work that regular employees have to undertake. Meanwhile, we are encouraged to work with other Fellows and organizations. Right now, I am working with two other Fellows, Stijn Debrouwere and Brian Abelson, on measuring news impact and contributing my knowledge to ProPublica on a project related to Internet policy. We don't only collaborate remotely and virtually, but we also reunite in person on different continents, to put our heads together and hack on something.

Certainly, there are more opportunities and privileges for you to discover in this fellowship program. If you are an adventurer like me, I encourage you to step out of your ivory tower and join us to explore this fast spinning world where technology meets news.

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