New Mexico

Communication & Journalism’s Local News Fellowship searching for future journalists : UNM Newsroom

For some, it’s the latest, groundbreaking news that UNM’s Communications & Journalism (C&J) department is properly setting the stage for future journalists. However, for the minds behind the UNM-based Local News Scholarshipit’s a story they’ve been following since 2019.

“This program has been shockingly successful in solving an historic problem in our industry,” said reporter and fellowship manager Gwyneth Doland. “A lot of the learning to do this job is done on the job.”

Doland and C&J Professor Michael Marcotte are administering the scholarship, with the generous support of the New Mexico Local News Fund, to offer a select handful of students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the world of media immediately after graduation.

“We are designing a path from school to work,” said Marcotte. “This bridge is not as easy as you think.”

This financial support, which started at $100,000 as of 2020, allows each of these students to pursue their passion while earning just under a starting salary in journalism.

Each student earns $26,000, with additional bursaries going to local newsrooms who sponsor them for nine months.

“Employers today don’t have the resources and flexibility they used to have, and aren’t investing in on-the-job training for employees,” Doland said. “There’s this mismatch between students coming straight out of college and where they need to be, so we’re solving that problem.”

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Raul Flores in the Albuquerque Journal

In this current cohort, UNM grantees and students participating in the New Mexico State University scholarship have roles on KOB-TV, The Albuquerque Journal and Santa Fe New Mexican, Source NM and KUNM.

Through careful delegation and selection, Marcotte and Doland select grantees with freedom for their skills and career paths.

The goal is not just to provide a meaningful, paid learning experience, but to manifest for journalists in New Mexico for years to come.

“Our ultimate measure of success after the scholarship is complete is whether they stay there, mostly in New Mexico,” Marcotte said.

Including each cohort, the Local News Fellowship has a 75% retention rate to make students journalists in the state.

“They all get job offers because of the investment of time, energy and mentoring that our news organizations have given these young people and because they work so hard,” Doland said.

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Alika Medina on KOB TV

According to Marcotte, a particularly important component to quality local reporting is the development of people who care about the community in which they grew up.

“It’s absolutely essential to get a foothold in the local community, covering local government, local businesses and local schools, matter-of-factly through a professional journalistic lens,” he said.

These efforts at UNM have not gone unnoticed. According to a new publication with the local fix, The University of California, Berkeley has established a new journalism scholarship based on the UNM structure. To date, this new program has received $25 million in funding.

Marcotte is aiming for this program to receive recurring government funding in the years to come. The New Mexico Local News Fund agrees and intends to submit a proposal for support from the state Legislature at the upcoming meeting.

“I want the program to keep growing,” he said. “We’re really proud of the program and how it’s made a difference.”

It’s particularly prevalent at a time when local newsrooms are crippled under budget cuts and local newspapers are shutting down left and right. The preservation of journalism through this fellowship and beyond has wider implications than just filling job postings.

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Megan Gleason at SourceNM

“It’s absolutely vital for democracy, for the health and well-being of the community,” he said. “It can be challenging but very rewarding to make a difference in a community.”

According to Marcotte, local newsrooms are shrinking, in short supply, and need fresh talent to nurture the next generation. Doland agrees, adding that there needs to be a focus outside of the newsroom as well.

“We now have trust issues in the media and every media organization on the planet is trying to solve this issue,” she said.

This mutual growth between the worker and the employer, flowing into the craft itself, leads to greater storytelling and a commitment to restoring that public trust. This scholarship is the stepping stone to bring new journalists into the herd.

“Students who choose journalism are believers,” Doland said. “They are in it because they believe that a robust journalistic ecosystem is absolutely essential to a functioning democracy, and they have a sense of urgency to do the work that we Americans expect of them.”

Screenshot from 11/02/2022 at 14:54:03

Recruitment for the 5th scholarship cycle has officially started. You can apply by scanning the QR code right here or by visiting the Local News Fund Website.

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