INTRODUCING LAUNCHPAD

Renaissance Journalism is excited to introduce our groundbreaking new pilot project called LaunchPad, designed to empower emerging “Next-Gen” journalists who are passionate about reimagining journalism through the lens of equity and social justice.

LaunchPad strives to help talented entry-level journalists from diverse backgrounds enhance their professional capacity, connect with colleagues and new mentors, broaden their career development skills, and produce social justice-focused journalism with impact.

We believe this “next generation” of journalists, particularly those from communities whose voices and stories have been historically misrepresented, underreported or ignored by the mainstream media, have a critical role to play in transforming journalism and the media ecosystem. Their diverse perspectives—and their willingness to challenge the status quo and to experiment with bold new approaches to news and storytelling—are essential to reinventing media as a vital and trusted source of education, civic engagement and social justice.

In its inaugural year,  LaunchPad will offer two distinct programs, each with its own competitive application and selection process:

LaunchPad Fellowship for NextGen Journalists

This six-month fellowship program is designed for emerging journalists from all media platforms who have the skills and desire to tackle an ambitious in-depth reporting/storytelling project on a critical social justice issue but lack the financial resources and/or employer or outside support to do so.

Fellows will work independently to conduct research, interviews and other reporting/producing activities needed to complete their proposed project. They will be challenged to delve deeply into their selected issue, exploring its real and human impact on our nation’s disenfranchised communities, as well as exposing the systemic drivers and social forces that contribute to the problem.

Each fellow will receive a $5,000 grant to offset living expenses while conducting their research and reporting. During the fellowship, they will have the opportunity to network with other journalists, hone their career development skills through interactive webinars, and meet mentors through monthly online cohort meetings facilitated and led by a mentor/adviser.

LaunchPad Career Development Grants for NextGen Journalists

This is a fund specifically dedicated to providing modest financial support to qualified emerging journalists with demonstrated financial need for professional training and development opportunities. Recipients will be able to use the grant funds to underwrite such activities as attending a journalism conference, taking an online or in-person skills-building course, or joining a professional journalists association. The project aims to give entry-level journalists access to professional development opportunities that have been inaccessible or unattainable to them due financial barriers.

Who Should Apply?

Applicants must have one to five years of experience as a professional journalist in any media platform (print, radio, TV, podcast, online, etc.) in order to qualify as an “emerging journalist.” Additionally, we’re looking for a diverse and talented group of journalists who have a deep interest in and commitment to social justice journalism—and to telling the stories of their communities with depth, compassion and authenticity. Financial need will be considered for the Career Development grants.

Why Now? Our Vision

LaunchPad arrives as journalism and our nation’s media confront a pivotal crossroads.

The social upheaval of the last two years exposed the racism, social fissures and systemic inequities that have long plagued our nation and our media institutions. Spurred by these crises, many journalists and the public have demanded a reckoning—a “radical reimagining”—of mainstream media. This has led to renewed demands to diversify the staff of newsrooms and regain public trust; improve and expand coverage of communities of color and other disenfranchised groups; restore local news; and to even radically rethink our business models.

While one generation can’t single-handedly “save” the media, we believe that emerging journalists with a deep commitment and passion for their work, can and should play a critical role in transforming the news industry. Yet, our research has uncovered a disturbing reality: Many young, aspiring journalists—particularly those who are from communities of color and working-class backgrounds—confront significant barriers to getting and keeping their foot in the door. The obstacles include low pay or no pay for entry-level jobs and internships; inability to afford the high costs of professional development programs; feelings of isolation within white, male-dominated newsrooms; and a dearth of trusted mentors and colleagues.

The tragic bottom-line is that we risk losing many talented young journalists, even before they can get a toehold in the profession. With LaunchPad, Renaissance Journalism aims to give these journalists the support they need to ensure that their essential voices, diverse perspectives and stories become an integral part of the positive changes we want to see in the media.

 

Our warmest thanks to The Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Ford Foundation for their support of LaunchPad.