ONA announces 2019 M.J. Bear fellows

The 2019 M.J. Bear Fellows. Clockwise from upper left: Taylor Blatchford, Nigel Ndlovu, Lance Dixon, Kevin Nguyen, Abbey Crain and Shadab Nazmi.

Microsoft News would like to congratulate the six up-and-coming digital journalists recently named by the Online News Association as M.J. Bear fellows for 2019. The honorees and their work, according to ONA:

  • Taylor Blatchford, 23, a news producer with The Seattle Times, created The Lead, a newsletter that provides journalism resources and connections for high school and college students. The topics include diversifying student newsrooms, advocating for student press freedom, preparing for internships and professional careers, and using self-care strategies when reporting on taxing stories.
  • Abbey Crain, 27, a reporter with the Advance Media Group/AL.com, is a leader in Reckon Women, an effort to give a greater voice to women from the Deep South and particularly from Alabama. The project includes essays by 200 women, a Facebook group that has more than 2,500 members, and a newsletter which cultivates news relevant to women in the Deep South.
  • Lance Dixon, 28, director of The New Tropic in Miami, is working on a project that focuses on the human side of climate change — primarily the mental health impact of climate change on the underserved South Florida communities and on the researchers and scientists who uncover and deliver the gloomy news.
  • Shadab Nazmi, 28, a visual data journalist with BBC News, South Asia, headed a team of five that created a website covering the 2019 Indian elections and personalizing the experience for its readers. The project included an interactive inflation calculator in six languages, a six-language dashboard that fact-checked promises made by the country’s ruling party members when they were elected in 2014, and live election results in 11 languages.
  • Nigel Ndlovu, 27, an independent journalist, created Cultural Expressions, a series of 30-minute weekly audio-visual podcasts that focus on Zimbabwe’s cultural heritage practices and beliefs, some of which are controversial, such as bride pricing, child marriage and female genital mutilation. In addition to YouTube screenings, the podcasts have been screened in a rural area of Zimbabwe in an effort to create safe discussion spaces on controversial practices.
  • Kevin Nguyen, 29, a digital producer with the Australian Broadcasting Corp., is creating a virtual learning environment based on an Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) and digital forensics curriculum he created to teach reporters how to use technology to unearth and vet online information. The content is based on 20 hours of workshop material he created covering topics including tracking conspiracy theories and disinformation, unmasking “anonymous” trolls and accounts targeting women online, and identifying manipulated images and videos.

The yearlong Bear fellowships are designed to offer coaching and support for these young journalists’ innovative projects, as well as professional development. You can read more about them and their work here.

The fellowship program is named after founding ONA board member Mary Jane “MJ” Bear, who passed away in 2010. Her storied career included leadership roles at Microsoft and MSN. (Read more about her here.)

This is the ninth group of fellows. A grant from Microsoft News this year expanded the program from three fellows per year to six for at least five years. Microsoft News also provided funding to help support the ONA Local effort to support local journalism and digital technology efforts, and the Women’s Leadership Accelerator to advance the role of women as digital news leaders.