OpenNews: So what is the Fellowship experience like anyway?

We are under two weeks until the end of our search for our 2015 Knight-Mozilla Fellows. If you love to code and want to spend ten months having an impact in journalism, you should apply.

Of course, you may have questions about what being a fellow is actually *like*, and so the last two weeks, our current Fellows have written about their experiences. Each experience—like each one of our fellows—is different, and the takeaways are unique. The Knight-Mozilla Fellowships are about writing great open-source code, but they are also about so much more. And what that is, is up to you.

Harlo Holmes, who has spent her fellowship year at the New York Times likens becoming a fellow to “Scrooge McDuck taking a swim in his vault.” Except in this case, the vault isn’t filled with money but instead “a veritable treasure trove of code libraries, frankenstein-y demos and PoCs, and wacky ideas.”

Ben Chartoff’s fellowship at the Washington Post has been all about learning:

I know so much more than I did half a year ago, and have so many more people and communities I can learn from. I may not be in school anymore, but I’m certainly a student. Today, tomorrow, and for the rest of my career, I will be learning every day, and I’m figuring out out how to life-long-learn because of this stupendous, magical, yes-it’s-really-that-great fellowship


For Gabriella Rodriguez, her fellowship at La Nacion—which involved moving her entire family of four from Portland, Oregon to Buenos Aires, Argentina—has been “una aventura!" Gaba has been focused on bringing more voices into journalism, she explains in Spanish, through her work on the VozData project, and by organizing “cafés de DATA” with the civic hacker community across the Rio de la Plata in Montevideo, Uruquay.

Brian Jacobs applied to become a Knight-Mozilla Fellow two years in a row, and his second time was the lucky one, landing him a fellowship at ProPublica in New York. His time as a fellow has been about doing the unexpected:

I’m working on a project that involves visualizing NASA data, integrating with repositories of satellite imagery, processing it in Photoshop, in the command-line, making it interactive in a news application, helping to create what I hope will be something really beautiful and worthwhile to explore. Working with data from space is basically the coolest thing I could be doing right now. Did I expect to be doing this? Not really. All I did was follow my interests, because I have less of a job description and more of a general mandate to work with incredibly smart people and make interesting things.


Marcos Vanetta moved from Buenos Aires to Austin, Texas for his fellowship year at the Texas Tribune. His first time in America, and his first time in a newsroom, he has adapted quickly. He writes in Spanish that after only four months, he’s writing software and participating in projects that are visited by thousands of people every day.

Aurelia Moser, who has had a joint East African fellowship with both Ushahidi and Internews Kenya, has juggled her collaboration with news partners, fellows, and many others in the journalism code community (the workflow has been tricky enough that she’s managing it with Github issues). And it’s embracing working in the open that has impacted her fellowship year the most:

Some of the more tacit benefits are nearly impossible to articulate without being gushy. It’s the stranger famery you’ll experience in the news community that clashes with your impulse to imposter syndrome; the kind where you’ll get requests to collaborate on projects from strangers instead of just your friends. Pre-fellowship, I never really had comments on my Github projects and my public code persona was pretty weak; 5 months in, I get regular email about blog posts I’ve written and repos I’ve open-sourced.


Each of our current fellows has had a singular experience. They have learned more about journalism, more about their coding skills, and more about working with others, and about themselves. As Ben Chartoff says in his post, “This fellowship has already changed my life.”

And, a year ago, each of them was were where you are right now: Wondering if they should apply, wondering what it would mean to their lives. They know the answer now because they applied. You have until midnight Eastern August 16 to find out for yourself.