Position: Engagement Fellowship
Term: 12 months
Launched: July 27, 2018
Application Deadline: September 7, 2018 at 5PM

Illinois Humanities is looking for an emerging journalist with interest and experience in community engagement for the 2018-19 Engagement Fellowship with the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting in Champaign, IL. The fellow will spend 12 months working with the center to cultivate relationships with communities in the Champaign-Urbana area. This fellowship aims to create opportunities for the public to inform what topics the center should investigate; to expand the center’s audience and source base and deepen trust; and to increase the positive impact of the center’s work in local communities. The fellow will also come to Chicago for additional training and to meet other engagement journalists from across the country.

The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting (MCIR) is an independent, nonprofit newsroom covering agribusiness, Big Ag and related issues through investigative, enterprise, and data-driven reporting. Illinois Humanities is a private 501(c)(3) state-level affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities and works to build dialogue across all sectors of society to examine issues important to democracy in strategically selected topical focus areas.

This fellowship is a collaboration between MCIR and Illinois Humanities’ Media and Journalism programming, which aims to strengthen connections and build collaboration between journalists and the publics they cover.

The Fellowship

The overarching objective of this project is to foster high-quality investigative journalism that’s driven and informed by public engagement with stakeholder communities in rural Illinois. In collaboration with MCIR and Illinois Humanities staff, the Engagement Fellow will design, develop, and implement an engagement program in collaboration with MCIR reporters and editors.

A successful engagement program will accomplish several things:

  • Cultivate, expand, and diversify MCIR’s audience – and meaningfully involve that audience in all stages of MCIR’s process, from story selection through reporting and circulation
  • Deepen relationships between MCIR and key stakeholder communities to increase public understanding of, and conversation around, complex topics such as agribusiness, government programs, environment, and energy
  • Continue to build the existing engagement apparatus in a way that is sustainable after the Fellowship term is complete
  • Help IL Humanities and MCIR – and the discipline of journalism as a whole – develop a deeper understanding of how audience engagement can most effectively advance high-quality public-interest journalism and support the unique needs of local media ecosystems, particularly those outside major metropolitan areas

Although social media plays an important role in MCIR’s work, this fellowship is about more than social media. A successful project will find, reach, and build credibility with the constituencies that have a direct stake in the issues being covered, and develop ways for those communities to meaningfully inform and shape MCIR’s reporting.

Requirements

Most project details and deliverables will be determined by the strategic plan developed by the Fellow in collaboration with MCIR. The Fellow will be required to incorporate a minimum of one public event per quarter (4 for the 12-month fellowship term) into that plan. This requirement should not be seen as comprehensive, but as a baseline; additional components may include real-world gatherings, online community-building, or other modes of engagement. Illinois Humanities will provide logistical support for the execution of all public events.

MCIR and Illinois Humanities view this initiative as a learning opportunity for the field of journalism as well as for the Fellow. To this end, the Fellow will be required to:

  • Participate in monthly mentorship sessions with experienced leaders in engagement journalism
  • Host two seminars or webinars sharing project progress and lessons learned with other practitioners, one at fellowship term midpoint and one after term is complete
  • Attend and present at Illinois Humanities’ People-Powered Publishing Conference in Chicago, IL on November 15-16, 2018

Illinois Humanities will organize the above sessions in consultation with the Fellow and MCIR.

The Fellow will maintain full-time residency at the MCIR newsroom in Champaign, IL for the duration of the 12-month fellowship. Regional travel will be required. A budget for travel and other project-related expenses will be provided.

Qualifications

Required:

  • A proven track record in organizing and engaging communities, especially in a journalistic context
  • Experience as a news reporter and/or editor, especially investigative reporting and/or reporting on issues of importance to rural areas
  • Familiarity with social media tools, strategy, and metrics
  • A bachelor’s degree in journalism, communications, English, or a related field

Preferred:

  • Knowledge of the state of Illinois, its communities, and its media ecosystem, especially outside the Chicago area
  • Familiarity with current practices in the emerging field of engagement-driven journalism

Compensation

The Fellow will receive a one-year, $38,000 stipend. IL Humanities and MCIR will provide separate funding for project-related expenses.

How to Apply

To apply, submit a resume, cover letter, 3 samples of work, and 3 references to sam.cholke@ilhumanities.org with the subject line “Illinois Humanities MCIR Engagement Fellowship Application” by 5PM CST on Friday, September 7, 2018.