Good afternoon everyone -- we're just a minute or so from starting this panel discussion. Delegates are refreshing their caffeine.
This session brought to us by Aga Khan Foundation Canada and moderated by our president, Nick Taylor-Vaisey,
Taylor-Vaisey is describing Ellison and Robertson as fellowship wizzes, those who've been able to land them.
Over to Jane Armstrong -- she's flushing out her bio a bit.
Armstrong: I think fellowships provide a wonderful opportunity to use skills in a different way ... to tell stories that you otherwise wouldn't tell.
Armstrong: Can be helpful now because newsrooms are cutting back on the longer projects.
Armstrong: I connected with Aga Khan Foundation Canada a few years ago when we completed a research project on fellowships and what the aptitude and appetite for them is across Canada.
Armstrong: It was eye-opening. I thought it was a no-brainer that when you are handed money for a project
, it's a good thing.
Armstrong: I myself am a former Michener fellow, used it to travel to Afghanistan to see where the millions of aid dollars went
Armstrong: That led to a five-part series for a national paper. After I filed it, I didn't hear a thing... it was a bit of a letdown after a terrific time while on the fellowship.
Armstrong: Coming back to topic-- when we asked about giving a reporter $25,000 for a project. I was surprised at responses.
Armstrong: Editors are weary because it takes a reporter out of the rotation for a period of time and then the result may be something they don't have control over.
Armstrong: One Toronto editor said fellowships provided a product for which there was no demand; another said topics were not newsworthy.
Armstrong: The main concern was control -- when you go overseas as a staffer, you're always in touch with editors, newsrooms, etc.
Armstrong: One editor -- fellowships are for high-performance staffers that "could use a break."
Armstrong: How to fix that disconnect? I looked at stories suggested by reporters applying for these. I could see the editors' point to a degree -- fair traide, employment, impact of trade -- these are topics, not stories.
Armstrong: But then I looked at stories that have been done on fellowships.
Armstrong: In Canada, some of the best reporting on northern communities has been done through fellowships.
Armstrong: There are great stories off the beaten track that reporters on fellowships have done.
Armstrong: The European Journalism Foundation has a fellowship program that has also done some great work. It defies the concept of journalists not coming back with great story ideas.
Armstrong: Look at Marc Ellison's work -- one of the most creative digital uses of storytelling I've seen in years.
Armstrong: Tip No. 1 -- pitch to your editor / manager. You'll get better play and followup afterwards. To the folks offering fellowships, pitch and schmooze with the same folks.
Armstrong: To freelance journalists -- if you're not getting interest from traditional outlets, go to Vice. Go to Buzzfeed. They seem more willing to have a reporter do a more ambitious project.
Armstrong: The organizations also need to do better with highlighting the work the fellowship has produced.
Taylor-Vaisey: Since we've heard about reluctance, could we speak about your experience Dylan?
Robertson: I was the fifth Michelle Lang fellow.
Robertson: Another fellow did a trip to Latin America to look at in-vitro fertilization, etc.
Robertson: Program is a year. First part at the Post in Toronto, second half in Calgary at the Herald. Some of your time is helping with local content. The other half is working on the overall larger project. There's a real culture of having the fellows grow and learn.
Robertson: I pitched homegrown terrorism because I was interning at the Herald when we found out there were locals involved.
Robertson: Six weeks after I started in Ottawa, it was Oct. 22 attacks on the Hill.
Robertson: It was a really fascinating fellowship. One reasons it works well is it's in-house. Postmedia funds, its editors work with you, control the output, bring it to the level where it runs chainwide.
Roberston: It's somewhat similar to the Atkinson Fellowship at the Star in terms of how editors work with you. The interesting Postmedia side was how it would run in each of the urban broadsheets. Three pages in Saskatoon, four pages in Ottawa? Etc.
Robertson is also speaking about the Christian Science Monitor and its fellowship programs.
Taylor-Vaisey now throwing it to Ellison.
Ellison confesses "I'm a grants slut... that promiscuity is driven by a desire to tell under-reported stories in depth and in innovative ways."