Last week I learned I was one of twelve U.S. fellows to be invited to participate in the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford. The news was overwhelming. As I listened to Jim Bettinger over the phone, my face could do nothing but smile. My mind flooded with joy, my heart brimmed with gratitude. Ever since I submitted my application in early-January and interviewed with Knight program officers in late-March, we have all been cautiously waiting for the final decision. I write “we” because, like everything else in my life, there’s no way I could have done this on my own.
From the very beginning, Mandy Jenkins, Robyn Tomlin and Jim Brady were pillars of support. When my ideas and self-confidence began to falter during the application process, Raghu Vadarevu and Harry Lin put their names on the line and helped me keep it together. Former and current Knight Fellows Andy Donohue, Martin Kotynek, Latoya Petersen and Shazna Nessa were incredibly generous with their advice, and it still amazes me how Frank Shyong, Lam Thuy Vo, Desiree Li, Brian Hernandez, Eric Olander and so many others I’m grateful to call friends, put up with my anxious G-chats and incoherent ramblings about the misty future of newspapers. I would not be embarking on this adventure if it were not for them. They deserve all of my thanks.
Now here comes the fun part. What will I be working on at Stanford this fall? My proposal is to develop a tool that analyzes and visualizes archive stories to help journalists better report and cover their communities. Former Thunderdome colleague Adrienne LaFrance eloquently explains why yesterday’s news may be far more important than we think. She poses, “how can news organizations expect anyone to find their stories valuable today if those same organizations are sending the message that their archives aren’t worth showcasing tomorrow?” I completely agree.
The concept is vague, broad and ridiculously open-ended right now, but it’s a start with more to come. There are others who are thinking about this too. If you are one of them, let’s collaborate. If your newsroom is interested in experimenting with Knight, let’s talk. Because at the end of the day, ideas are just ideas, what makes them exciting and worthwhile is making them come to life.