SFJ announces Diversity Fellowship winner and 5 Craig Newmark Philanthropies fellows

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The fellows are, clockwise from top left: Vanessa Taylor, Mesfin Fekadu, Nicole Clark,
Wei-Huan Chen, Prince Shakur and Chris Ip

INDIANAPOLIS, July 10, 2019 – The Society for Features Journalism (SFJ), an organization promoting the craft of writing and innovation in journalism is proud to announce that Wei-Huan Chen, the Arts + Culture Writer and Theater Critic for the Houston Chronicle will receive SFJ’s 2019 Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellowship.

Additionally, a generous first-time grant from Craig Newmark Philanthropies will fund fellowships for five journalists of color to attend SFJ’s September conference in Detroit.

The Society for Features Journalism is a member-based organization whose members write for large and small publications nationally, covering stories about race, identity, culture and community. Every year, SFJ hosts a conference for writers, editors, students and journalists interested in learning about honing their craft. Through the Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellowship Program, journalists of color can attend the conference for free. The conference allows fellows to gain insight on the workings of features departments nationwide, to network with outstanding journalists, and to share their insights with the journalistic community.

“My aim is foremost to raise awareness, leaving artists and administrators to take action,” said Wei-Huan Chen. “And perhaps most important: during a time of national trauma and distrust, I love writing about beauty, joy, inspiration and brilliance.”

Chen has written for the Chronicle since 2016. He combines arts criticism and investigative reporting to produce groundbreaking coverage that highlights diversity. The SFJ Foundation will cover Chen’s all-expenses paid fellowship to the conference.

Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies, assisted the SFJ in funding these fellowships through a generous first-time grant. These funds will give five additional journalists of color the opportunity to attend the conference: helping cultivate conversations about tech trends, the #MeToo movement, social media, and the media’s coverage of communities of color nationwide.

The five Craig Newmark fellow recipients are:

–       Nicole Clark, Vice Media, Staff Writer, Los Angeles. Nicole writes on film, television, book reviews and was previously a legal writer.

–        Mesfin Fekadu, Associated Press, Music Editor and Senior Journalist, New York. Mesfin has worked at the AP since 2008, overseeing the text music coverage as well as video and photo production.

–        Chris Ip, Engadget, Associate Features Editor, New York. Chris writes features on the intersection of culture, society, and technology.

–       Prince Shakur, Freelancer, Columbus, Ohio. Prince has written for a variety of publications including Teen Vogue, AfroPunk and Vice. His Two Woke Minds video project won the 2017 Rising Stars Digital Innovator Award from G.L.A.A.D.

–       Vanessa Taylor, Afrotech, Writer and Editor, Philadelphia. Vanessa covers politics, culture and religion. As a teenager, she co-founded the Black Liberation Project, a grassroots collective of Black youth based in Minnesota’s Twin Cities.

SFJ is excited to bring such a diverse class of fellows to this year’s The Society for Features Journalism National Conference, taking place September 18-21, 2019, in Detroit.

Margaret Myers
2019 SFJ President

Apply now for the 2019 SFJ diversity fellowship!

Featured

Are you a journalist of color interested in features writing? Do you know someone who is?

The Society for Features Journalism is again sponsoring the Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellowship Program for U.S. journalists of color in conjunction with its annual conference, which this year is in Detroit.

Diversity Fellows will learn what’s happening in features and news departments nationwide while networking with outstanding journalists specializing in lifestyle, culture, food, arts and entertainment coverage.

Fellowships cover SFJ conference registration, airfare within the U.S. and hotel. Fellows also will be reimbursed for expenses toward baggage and transportation.

What’s required?

RESUME + ESSAY: A resume and single-page essay explaining what you love about your job and how you have distinguished yourself in arts and/or features coverage.

PHOTO: A photo of yourself for the conference program and SFJ website.

LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION: One letter from someone who can talk about your work.

WORK SAMPLES:
› For writers, three storytelling examples.
› For editors, three samples of pieces you edited with comments on how your involvement helped the story succeed.
› For copy editors, three headlines with attached stories, plus two stories with editing comments.
› For designers, three samples of layouts.
› For journalists with online-only work, list website links in your application letter.

Deadline for applying is May 24.

Selections will be announced by June 21. Email applications, with attached PDFs or links, to Kathy Lu at klu@kcstar.com.

See poster for details!

Meet the 2018 SFJ Diversity Fellows: Brittany Britto & Janelle Harris

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The Society for Features Journalism is happy to announce that Brittany Britto, @brittanybritto, and Janelle Harris, @thegirlcanwrite, are the 2018 Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellows! They will be joining us at our conference Sept. 12-15 in New Orleans (which you should also register for now!).

Here are some more things to know about them.

Brittany Britto

Britto

Brittany Britto is a general assignment features reporter and blogger for The Baltimore Sun, where she writes about culture, the arts, entertainment and viral news.

A proud Terp twice over, Brittany graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park, with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in creative writing, and a master’s in journalism from the Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

In her downtime, Brittany enjoys spending time with loved ones, hanging with the locals in foreign destinations, trying new foods, crying during episodes of “This is Us,” and hoarding various sized notebooks and journals.

Q: Tell us about your current work.

I am a general assignment features reporter at The Baltimore Sun, where I report on local arts, entertainment, and my favorite topic — culture.

Q: What’s your favorite story or project you’ve ever worked on and why?

Working on the Baltimore Club Dance story turned into a fun, collaborative project that allowed me to work with Baltimore Sun photographers, editors and a talented interactive designer to take the written story to an experiential level with gifs, video, and a special layout. I also curated a playlist with the help of some of the Baltimore Club scene’s most pivotal figures and learned some dance moves along the way (TBD on my “crazy leg”). But most of all, I got to see why Baltimore is so proud and passionate about their culture. It also led to at least one other story, which we’ll release this summer.

Q: Most memorable person you’ve ever interviewed?

I interviewed Ta-Nehisi Coates about which part of Baltimore he misses the most. It was pretty cool getting to talk to a storyteller who has had an impact on the city.

Q: Advice you would give to an aspiring features journalist?

The best advice I have for aspiring features journalists is to say “yes” and tackle as many stories as you possibly can early on. In my time as a reporter, I’ve been thrown into so many different stories on topics I know little about, which has taught me how to be more versatile and make stories more engaging. It has also allowed me to hone in on what I like to write about, which is the cultural expression and histories of marginalized communities.

I’d also say, don’t be afraid to spend time with sources, especially in-person. With deadlines, it can be hard to really take your time with certain interviews, but often, when it comes to features writing, I find putting in a little extra time allows a writer to paint a better picture for their readers (and sometimes, it earns the respect of the subject and puts them at ease).

Q: Favorite guilty pleasure reads/social media feeds?
Overall, Twitter is probably my guiltiest pleasure. My timeline allows me to follow a bunch of different outlets and personalities to make sure I’m getting a mix of coverage, opinions and insight on what’s happening. “Moments” has also been a decent tool when checking social media’s temperature for the day. A not-so-guilty pleasure is O Magazine. It’s the perfect way to put my day on pause for a bit and get some much-needed positivity. And … Oprah, amirite?

Q: What book is on your nightstand right now?

“The Comfort Food Diaries,” by former New Yorker editor Emily Nunn. I love stories about family, food, travel and transformation, and so far, Nunn’s book has been a nice blend of all four. Plus, she includes recipes, so you can try your hand at what she’s making in the book.

Q: Because we love recommendations, what are some of your favorite restaurants—from hole-in-the-wall to let’s-dress-up-and-go-out kind of dining—in your town?

When looking for some good Italian food and the best happy hour in Baltimore, my coworkers and I visit La Scala Ristorante, which boasts $7 bowls of homemade pasta and decadent espresso martinis. They also have bocce ball, which makes for a fun activity while waiting for your food or post-meal. If sharing and sampling is your thing, visit La Cuchara, a Basque restaurant, which has some pinxtos and other small plates, delicious cava, and mouthwatering churros.

Brunch at Blue Moon Cafe is bound to fill you up and excite your taste buds, with Cap’n Crunch french toast, a Frito pie french toast, and the “Sweet Baby Jesus,” a heap of hash browns, crab meat, eggs and hollandaise sauce, topped with Old Bay (Warning: might need help walking out of the restaurant after this).

If you’re not afraid to get a little dirty and dig in hands first, crack open some crabs and indulge in seafood at LP Steamers.

And don’t forget Baltimore’s carryout staples. Sunny’s Subs has one of the best chicken boxes in the city and also serves lake trout—a fried fish sandwich that has nothing to do with a lake, or trout, for that matter. Wash it all down with a half-and-half, a sugary mix of sweet tea and lemonade. I’ve learned, it’s the Baltimore way.

Q: Last song you sang out loud.

“What’s My Name” by Rihanna featuring Drake (at the gym!)

Q: Favorite quote.

“Your work is to discover your world, and then, with all your heart, give yourself to it.” — Unknown


Janelle Harris

JanelleHarris2016 (1) (1)

A writer since she won a crisp dollar bill in an elementary school essay contest, Janelle uses her platform as a storyteller to explore the experiences, challenges and diversities of women and people of color, particularly Black folks, who she loves fiercely.

As a journalist, her work covers race, class, gender and culture and has appeared in more than 40 print and digital publications.

As an editor, copywriter and communications consultant, she has shaped content that reframes played out narratives and equitably represents communities undervoiced in mainstream media. She believes in the magic of stilettos, cookies and cream milkshakes, and saying “hi” to strangers on the street.

 

Q: Tell us about your current work.

I’m in a space where I want to try new things. I want do some documentary work. I want to learn photography. I want to launch a podcast. I want to write longer, feature-length articles.

Right now, I’m working on a series of stories that lift up the voices of poor people. I think they’re talked about, but not necessarily talked to, so I’m shopping some pieces about the realness of poverty, like the psychological effects of gentrification, for example.

Q: What’s your favorite story or project you’ve ever worked on and why?

I traveled to Alaska to interview a Native community in Anchorage about a rites of passage program and ceremony for teenage boys. In addition to learning about a culture so different and far away from my own, the beauty of nature was breathtaking. The people were super friendly and I loved their community-centeredness, putting family and honor over anything external.

I interviewed an elderly couple — he was 92, she was 86, I think — who made feathered fans for the boys to use in the ceremony celebrating their transition into manhood. It was my first time using a translator for to ask questions and they were all incredibly patient with me. It was such a dope experience.

Q: Most memorable person you’ve ever interviewed?

I have a bucket list of folks I really want to meet and most of them are older, so I tracked down Gloria Richardson — civil rights legend, white privilege eviscerator, fearless bayonet pusher — and interviewed her in March this year. She’s 96 and still remembers the details of her protests and negotiations so clearly, it’s amazing.

I can’t remember what I did yesterday but she can recall with clarity a conversation she had with Malcolm X 50 years ago. I’ll never forget it.

Q: Advice you would give to an aspiring features journalist?

Create systems to help streamline the un-sexy parts of writing: transcribing interviews, fact-checking, following up with sources. When I started outsourcing my transcriptions and doing checklists for my facts, I had more time to focus on the thinking and writing, which is what I want to be doing anyway.

Q: Favorite guilty pleasure reads/social media feeds?

I love Red Table Talks with Jada Pinkett Smith on Facebook and my short attention span lets me stay on the treadmill if I’m watching a Broadly or Refinery29 mini-documentary on YouTube.

Q: What book is on your nightstand right now?

“Barracoon,” by Zora Neale Hurston

Q: Because we love recommendations, what are some of your favorite restaurants — from hole-in-the-wall to let’s-dress-up-and-go-out kind of dining — in your town?

For casual sit-down, the fried chicken at Langston Bar and Grille on H Street is so good. It’s tiny in there, but the people are friendly and you don’t feel the smallness of the space as much.

Henry’s Soul Café in Oxon Hill, just a few steps across the southeast DC border, has godly soul food. There are a few tables but I’d go on ahead and carry out.

The Hamilton on F Street in Northwest is get-dressed-and-go-out nice, but their chicken wings and mumbo sauce is the best in the city, in my opinion.

The Monocle on D Street NE by Union Station has amazing steaks and the best darn house breads I’ve ever tasted. You actually feel sad when the bread basket is empty. And a lot of politicians and chichi uppity folks eat there, so you might catch a whiff of gossip while you’re eating, which is cool if you’re interested.

Q: Last song you sang out loud,

“For the Love of You” by the Isley Brothers (loud AND off-key)

Q: Favorite quote

It’s not an absolute favorite, but it’s one of them: “The man who can murder on the printed page can do so time and time again and need not fear jail or death.”
—Addison Gayle, Jr.

Of course, I would change that to “man” to “woman.”

 

SFJ diversity fellowship seeks journalists of color to join us in New Orleans

2018SFJfellows

Are you a journalist of color interested in features writing? Do you know someone who is?

The Society for Features Journalism is again sponsoring the Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellowship Program for U.S. journalists of color in conjunction with its annual conference, which this year is in New Orleans.

Diversity Fellows will learn what’s happening in features departments nationwide while networking with outstanding journalists specializing in lifestyle, culture and entertainment coverage.

Fellowships cover SFJ conference registration, airfare within the U.S. and hotel. Fellows also will be reimbursed for expenses toward baggage and transportation.

What’s required?

RESUME + ESSAY: A resume and single-page essay explaining what you love about your job and how you have distinguished yourself in arts and/or features coverage.

PHOTO: A photo of yourself for the conference program and SFJ website.

LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION: One letter from someone who can talk about your work.

WORK SAMPLES:
› For writers, three storytelling examples.
› For editors, three samples of sections you edited with comments on how stories were generated or edited.
› For copy editors, three headlines with attached stories, plus two stories with editing comments.
› For designers, three samples of layouts.
› For journalists with online-only work, list website links in your application letter.

Deadline for applying is May 25.

Selections will be announced by June 10. Email applications, with attached PDFs, to Jeneé Osterheldt at josterheldt@kcstar.com.

See poster for details!

 

Meet SFJ diversity fellows Michelle Zenarosa of Everyday Feminism, Rashod Ollison of Virginian-Pilot

Michelle Zenarosa

MichelleZ

Michelle is a media-maker, storyteller, and new mom based in Los Angeles. With over a decade of experience in the industry, Michelle currently serves as the managing editor for the online magazines Everyday Feminism and the newly launched Woke.

She was formerly an editor at Fusion Media and New America Media, as well as a producer for the PBS featured docu-series, “Maria Hinojosa’s America By The Numbers.”

She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism at California State University, Long Beach, and her master’s in public affairs journalism at University of Maryland, College Park, where she served as the Howard Simons fellow for the Washington Post.

Twitter (and Instagram) handle: @zenagrossa
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ikilledbellatrixlestrange

Q: Tell us about your current work.

A: I am currently the managing editor for two publications. The first, Everyday Feminism, is one of the world’s most popular feminist digital media sites in the world with millions of viewers across 140 countries. Everyday Feminism has been known for its unique, inside-out approach to applied intersectional feminism.

The second, Woke, is an upcoming digital media company and creative agency that features content that creates spaces for underrepresented communities to showcase stories that speak to their authentic lives. We connect tech-savvy, multi-cultural Millennials to content on identity and culture shift and are set to launch in August.

In my over 15 years of working in the journalism industry, I’m proud to say that while my storytelling has taken on many different iterations, my commitment has always stayed the same: to tell stories that amplify voices that are not often heard in mainstream media.

Q: What’s your favorite story or project you’ve ever worked on and why?

A: My favorite project I’ve worked on is running a local youth media organization called VoiceWaves. Under my helm, I was able to grow a six-person blog to a vibrant community media organization with a multimedia website and print newspaper that was translated into 16 different languages with hundreds of youth reporters producing content about their communities.

Q: Most memorable person you’ve ever interviewed?

A: I was once lucky enough to interview the dynamic legendary journalist Helen Thomas at a conference once 10 years ago. I hadn’t known much about her until I was assigned to interview her, but of course, when I talked to her, she delivered.

In a climate when journalists weren’t asking hard-hitting questions she told me, a young journalist just forming my path, not only to not be afraid to be a bold objector to injustice, but that it was my duty as reporter. At 87 years old, her example and brash attitude inspired my then 23-year-old self to trust my gut and to never compromise my beliefs.

Q: Advice you would give to an aspiring features journalist/student?

A: Keep at it. The ever-changing media industry is getting more difficult to survive in as a journalist. Instead of aspiring to work at legacy institutions with some job security, journalism has sort of become like a gig economy where freelancing and short contract jobs have become the norm. But if you keep going, even at the hardest times, I truly believe that you’ll find that gold at the end of the rainbow. Even if it means that gold will look like cultural shifts instead of actual, literal money.

I truly believe that if we provide what the world is calling upon to offer and we do that well, we can financially sustain ourselves.

Q:  We all read serious journalism! But what are some of your favorite fun/guilty pleasure reads/social media feeds?

A: I religiously follow Wendy Williams and 105.1 The Breakfast Club. And I have no guilt whatsoever about it, but Teen Vogue is killing it and is serious journalism.

Q: What book is on your nightstand right now?

A: Roxane Gay’s “Hunger.”

Q: Because we love recommendations, what are some of your favorite restaurants — from hole-in- the-wall to let’s-dress- up-and- go-out kind of dining — in your town?

Thai food is my favorite food and here in L.A., we have the best of it. For cheap street food eats, I go to the late night spot, Sanamluang Cafe. I’ve been going there for years and it’s open till 4 a.m. The garlic pepper tofu over rice with a fried egg is life.

For mid-priced Thai, it’s all about Wat Dong Moon Lek. The place has grown, and the clientele has become more transplant-y thanks to the cute pop culture art and attractive Thai waiters, but the food is damn good. Get anything on the menu and don’t second-guess getting a slushy. They always do you right.

For (modern) fine dining, make a reservation at Night+Market. One order of the “ice cream sandwich,” which is condensed milk ice cream sandwiched between grilled sweet bread and fried mung beans on top, won’t be enough. I guarantee you’ll at least need to order two. Other standouts are the crab fried rice and the oxtail. The food is unforgettable.

Rashod Ollison

Rashod1

Rashod is an award-winning culture critic and author from Little Rock, Ark. He’s currently the staff culture critic and entertainment writer for the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. He’s also been a staff critic at the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Dallas Morning News, and the Journal News in Westchester, N.Y. His literary debut, “Soul Serenade: Rhythm, Blues; Coming of Age Through Vinyl,” was published in 2016.

Facebook: Rashod Ollison
Twitter: @rashodollison
Instagram: @rashodollison
Website: www.rashodollison.com

Q: Tell us about your current work.

A: I’m the culture critic and entertainment writer at the Virginian-Pilot. I average about three to four pieces a week, from critical essays to longer narrative stories for the Pilot’s Sunday Magazine.

My literary debut, “Soul Serenade: Rhythm, Blues; Coming of Age Through Vinyl,” was published in January 2016 by Beacon Press/Penguin Random House. Critically well-received, it was released in paperback last January.

A memoir written like a novel that centers on my childhood in central Arkansas in the 1980s and early ’90s, the book blossomed from a piece I wrote for the Sunday Magazine. I’ve tentatively started another project, a novel about a mother and son imprisoned by their relationship.

Q: What’s your favorite story or project you’ve ever worked on and why?

A: Writing my book, something I did in an almost clandestine way, was rewarding creatively and, given the subject matter, emotionally. Three years ago at the Pilot, I wrote a serial project, “The 25 Greatest Musicians of Hampton Roads,” in which I contextualized the careers of famous and unsung musicians from various genres with roots in Virginia.

Q: Most memorable person you’ve ever interviewed?

A: Donna Summer. She was the first celebrity interview I was assigned when I started
out as a music critic intern about 20 years ago. I did what no reporter is supposed to do: I started the interview gushing over her and going on and on about how much I loved her music, being the totally obnoxious fan. But she was so nice and graciously steered me back to the matter at hand: the interview. Ten years later when I interviewed Summer again, I was very seasoned and knew what the hell I was doing.

She remembered our encounter a decade earlier, and, again, she was so kind and encouraging. She didn’t have to be, but she was.

Q: Advice you would give to an aspiring features journalist/student?

A: Read everything — features, poetry, novels, nonfiction, whatever. Study well-written pieces and take them apart, analyzing what makes them work, and fold some of those techniques into your own writing.

Q: We all read serious journalism! But what are some of your favorite fun/guilty pleasure reads/social media feeds?

A: I read those inane Buzzfeed lists.

Q: What book is on your nightstand right now?

A: I have several because I’m forever behind on my reading. Currently on the nightstand: “Selected Poems” by Gwendolyn Brooks, “Home,” by Toni Morrison, and “Life on Mars,” by Tracy K. Smith.

Q: Because we love recommendations, what are some of your favorite restaurants — from hole-in- the-wall to let’s-dress-up-and-go-out kind of dining — in your town?

A: I don’t dine out too often in Hampton Roads, Va., because the area, basically seven sprawling suburbs connected by bridges and tunnels, is overcrowded with way too many chain restaurants. I do a lot of cooking at home, but there’s a great Chinese joint, MeiZhen, up the street from my place. I’m in there so much they know my face and know my order before I even place it.