OpenNews: Knight-Mozilla Fellowships: “What do you mean, I get to do whatever I want?”

The 2013 Knight-Mozilla Fellows at the MIT Media Lab. Photo by Laurian Gridinoc

The question in the title of this post is posed at the top of Knight-Mozilla Fellow’s Stijn Debrouwere’s blog post about his time as a Knight-Mozilla Fellow. Every Knight-Mozilla Fellow experiences their 10 months as a fellow differently, in part because the mandate we give our fellows is as broad as Stijn says: We want our fellows to choose their own adventure, to create their own pathways, and to do the groundbreaking work that they want to do. Sound good? This can be you next year if you apply to become a 2014 Knight-Mozilla Fellow. For two weeks, our current fellows have been blogging about their experiences as Knight-Mozilla Fellows. Last week, I rounded up the posts of four of our fellows (and one alum), and this week three more wrote about their experiences, plus two alum.

How does a Knight-Mozilla Fellowship work? Stijn, who is spending his Fellowship year at the Guardian in London, explains in his blog post:

Here’s how an OpenNews fellowship like mine works: work on whatever with whoever, learn anything, and talk about it wherever. It’s the sweetest gig ever invented, but it’s also a bit of a brain melt.

For Mike Tigas, who has been working at ProPublica in New York, the diverse makeup of his fellow Fellows has made for unique collaborations:

We have backgrounds in programming, statistics, censorship research, cybersecurity, satellite communications, and we’re from nearly every corner of the earth. That range of backgrounds and skills has honestly made collaboration fun and at times surprising (in a good way).

For Mike, those diverse backgrounds have meant that “we fellows inspire one another, we inspire other people, and we in turn, are inspired by a lot of the people we get a chance to interact with through the course of our fellowship work.”

Friedrich Lindenberg, working in Hamburg with Spiegel Online, joined the Fellowship from a background of civic hacking. It’s the opportunities to hone the skills he came to the Fellowship with that’s been important to him:

Five months into my fellowship, I’m certain that the best place to learn how to engineer great civic applications is in a newsroom. Working to create narratives that feed into a news cycle, address a wide audience and tell a clear story is an amazing challenge for any technologist.

What a fellow does during their Fellowship year continues to resonate after their 10 months conclude, as 2012 Knight-Mozilla Fellowship alumni Nicola Hughes, Laurian Gridinoc, and Dan Schultz write:

  • Nicola Hughes took a position as a data journalist at the Times of London after her fellowship ended. My time as a fellow has carried on in spirit,” she writes, because she learned how to be a “disruptive force” during her fellowship year. “I was recently asked to describe the best team I ever worked with,” Nicola writes, “I said the OpenNews fellows.”

  • Laurian Gridinoc writes a lengthy post looking back at his 10 months as a fellow—a time that, he says, ended “abruptly,” last October. “I say abruptly because that’s how it felt, for the past months I was flying everywhere, coding for BBC from airports and then I found myself practically grounded.” He’s flying again, as a member of the team at the groundbreaking interactive firm Information Architects.

  • Dan Schultz lists the nearly dozen projects he’s now involved in post-fellowship, all of them jump-started by his time as a fellow. “You will be oxymoronically established as both an outsider and an insider (so your perspective is priceless), and you will have had 10 months to show off what you can do. Following your passion at that point is as easy as breathing, unless you’re a fish.”

Everyone’s fellowship experience is unique, and the impact from it hits each person differently as well. But for everyone, becoming a Knight-Mozilla Fellow is a life-altering experience.

And now, it’s your turn: We’re looking for five people who love to code and want to make a difference to join us as 2014 Knight-Mozilla Fellows. The application is simple (just a few questions and a bunch of links to your best stuff), but there are only two short weeks left to apply: The application window closes August 17th. What are you waiting for?