Columbia Journalism Review Launches Fellowship Program For Downsized Journalists

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Here's a nice thing: against the backdrop of layoffs, buyouts, and cutbacks in the media sector, the Columbia Journalism Review is launching a fellowship program to aid downsized journalists -- predominantly baby boomers with years of experience and institutional memory -- by creating an "opportunity to continue doing what they do best: reporting."

The program, which has selected its inaugural group of four fellows, is called the Encore Fellowship. In an email to the Huffington Post, Claire Oh, Columbia University's assistant director for strategic communications, writes:

Over the next nine months, four CJR Encore Fellows will be given a generous stipend to write for CJR, and professional skills training as well as the resources and support for to explore new directions and steps in a public interest career. The inaugural group of fellows, ages 47 to 59, comes to CJR with as much as 30 years of experience at top outlets including The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune...

By some accounts, approximately 16,000 journalists lost their jobs last year; and the number is expected to be higher in 2009. Media professionals affected by the downturn are facing tough choices: competing for the few open staff jobs and freelance opportunities in a recession, or facing the reality of changing careers altogether. Many of them are veteran journalists with decades of experience covering complex issues and managing newsrooms. Society's loss of these professional represents a brain drain that will have negative ramifications in local communities as well as on the national stage.

CJR hopes that the fellowship will serves as a model for others to spawn similar efforts across the country.

CJR is partnering up in this endeavor with the Poynter Institute -- whose Poynter Online is a vital hive of media news, commentary, and training material -- and Civic Ventures, a nonprofit organization dedicated to harnessing the experience of baby boomers and older Americans as "a vital workforce for change." [Full disclosure: I am a former employee of Experience Corps, then a subsidiary program of Civic Ventures.]

The Encore Fellowship's inaugural fellows are: Lisa Anderson, former New York bureau chief and national correspondent for the Chicago Tribune; Jill Drew, former associate editor at the Washington Post; veteran reporter Terry McDermott, late of the Los Angeles Times; and Don Terry, who was part of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team who brought New York Times readers the 2001 series, "How Race Is Lived In America."

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