The MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative’s Journalism Fellowship supports freelance or staff journalists associated with U.S. local/regional newsrooms in developing a high-impact news project that connects local perspectives, values and priorities with climate change science and solutions. The Fellowship is part of ESI’s Here & Real project, which directly engages with U.S. states and communities as they face climate impacts, solutions and an emerging low-carbon economy.
In 2021, the Here & Real project is taking the stance that “we’re all in this together” and therefore is looking to support storytelling projects that will engage Americans who are unsure, disengaged or doubtful about the need to act on climate change. We recognize that while scientists are experts on many aspects of climate change, we don’t presume to know people’s lived experiences, values and priorities. This Fellowship aims to marry the two in the service of connecting more Americans to the scientific realities of climate change and options that we collectively face.
Starting in May 2021, Fellows will participate in a four-month nonresident program that includes:
The fellowship supports projects that:
We welcome applications from U.S. newsrooms who have identified a staff writer to participate in the Fellowship, or freelance journalists who are affiliated with a newsroom, and who want to tackle an ambitious project by themselves, as a newsroom-wide undertaking or as a collaboration with other media outlets in their communities.
Newsrooms can include newspapers, news magazines, broadcast stations, digital news outlets, and investigative journalism organizations. Writers employed by or writing for think tanks, lobbying groups, or advocacy groups are not eligible.
We look for applicants with proven journalism experience and proven ability to report and execute a complex project in their proposed medium.
We are committed to working with rural, hydrocarbon-producing and marginalized communities across the United States and we will ask judges to keep this in mind when selecting Fellowship placements.
April 4: Application deadline
April: Announce Fellows
Week of May 24: Virtual workshops
October 31: End date for project publication
The Fellowship is designed to enable Fellows to work on the project over a four-month period while still maintaining their regular employment and/or other contracts. Fellows will receive 50% of the stipend in advance and 50% upon successful completion of their project, though applicants should specify if this will present a hardship.
Fellows will also be awarded up to $5,000 for project-related expenses and will have significant discretion with how to use these funds. Acceptable expenditures include relief from daily newsroom duties, project-related travel expenses, transcription or relevant translation services, attending conferences or workshops to build subject-specific knowledge, or contracting with an outside journalism resource such as a data journalist or sensitivity reader. Funds may not be used to pay family members for any of these services. All receipts must be submitted to and approved by the MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative.
Qualified applicants are invited to submit the following to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 4, 2021:
Because we believe that local stories should be told by local newsrooms, and because ESI does not have the capacity to help journalists place stories, we require Fellowship applicants to include a letter of commitment from a news editor who can pledge that the news outlet will publish the feature or series that you propose*.
Each employer (or freelancer’s intended outlet) will be asked to provide a letter of recommendation (on letterhead with contact information) pledging to support the Fellow:
* We recognize that this letter is not an unqualified pledge.
Are students eligible for the fellowship? Enrolled students are not eligible in 2021.
I am not a U.S. citizen/I’m a U.S. citizen living outside of the country. Can I apply? In 2021, we are only accepting applicants who are U.S. citizens currently living in the U.S.
I have a project idea about… Would it be a good fit for the fellowship? Can I discuss it with you? In 2021, we’re looking to support storytelling projects that engage Americans who are unsure, disengaged or doubtful about the need to act on climate change, and that do so by connecting local perspectives, values and priorities with climate change science and solutions. We are prioritizing proposals for local stories told by local/regional newsrooms. If your project fits those criteria, then it may be a good fit. Due to our limited staff capacity, ESI is unable to have calls with applicants to discuss their projects, but you may email us with questions at email@example.com.
What is the commitment for the workshop in May?
We’re planning for the virtual workshop to be several consecutive part-time days (ex, 4 days, 2-4 hours each day) and the dates and times will be confirmed in the award letter to Fellows.
Does the stipend go directly to the individual Fellow, or can it go to the newsroom to be used toward their salary?
The ESI Journalism Fellowship isn’t a grant. Applicants should plan for it to be awarded directly to the individual selected to participate in the Fellowship. This could be used, for example, to sustain the Fellow financially as they pursue the project during unpaid time off from the responsibilities of their daily employment.
The Environmental Solutions Initiative (ESI) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is MIT’s institute-wide effort to mobilize the substantial scientific, engineering, policy, and design capacity of our Institute to contribute to addressing climate change and other environmental challenges of global import. We pursue multidisciplinary research, education, events, and partnerships to help move society toward an environmentally and socially sustainable future.
This Fellowship is part of ESI’s Here & Real project, which directly engages with U.S. states and communities as they tackle real conversations around climate impacts, solutions and an emerging low-carbon economy. The project localizes conversations about climate change by combining world-class research with local values and economic realities, supporting decision-makers and residents as they work to create a resilient future. Here & Real’s approach is to listen thoughtfully; respect communities’ deep-seated values and experience; and pursue shared, science-based solutions across political lines.