Tips for US minority journalists applying to ICFJ’s overseas reporting fellowship

by Sam Berkhead
Oct 30, 2018 in Journalism Basics
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For the last nine years, the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) has allowed U.S. minority journalists to gain international reporting experience and advance their careers through its Bringing Home the World fellowship.

During the program, fellows spend two weeks on assignment in a country of their choice following an orientation in Washington, D.C. Once they return, they publish their stories in U.S. media outlets, bringing compelling, global stories to American audiences and more diversity to international news. Since the program’s inception, fellows have produced more than 225 stories that have reached millions of readers.

In a live chat, former fellows Christine Armario of the Associated Press and Eyder Peralta of NPR shared insights and advice from their application experience. Our top takeaways:

Am I eligible to apply?

The Bringing Home the World fellowship is open to English-speaking minority journalists working at an American news organization or as freelance journalists in the U.S. While the term “minority” typically refers to racial minorities — African-American, Latinx, Asian-American, etc. — ICFJ has also offered the fellowship to LGBT journalists, explained Alexsandra Canedo, program assistant. Applicants should have a valid passport, but don’t need to be U.S. citizens.

Christine Armario and Eyder Peralta
Christine Armario and Eyder Peralta.

How do I choose a topic?

Because fellows’ completed stories will appear in U.S. media outlets, they should select a topic that interests American readers.

During her fellowship, Armario traveled to Cuba in 2015 to report on life on the island. For Armario, making her international topic appeal to audiences at home was an easy task — many Americans are interested in this subject as the country moves forward in normalizing its relations with Cuba.

Things were more challenging for Peralta, who in 2014 traveled to Nicaragua to investigate the country’s drug trafficking issues. While his topic didn’t directly connect to the U.S., Peralta said he believes that storytelling that puts people at the center is relevant everywhere.

“Two things are really important: people and storytelling,” he said. “If you put people at the center of stories, they are almost immediately universal. And if you take your time and build stories with good narratives an American audience — or any audience, really — will listen.”

What goes into a winning project proposal?

Once you’ve honed in on a topic, it’s time to write a brief project proposal for your application. Typically, ICFJ is open to more ambitious and innovative projects as long as they can feasibly be completed by the end of the two-week fellowship and don’t present safety threats to the fellow.

“I tried to be really ambitious with my proposal,” Peralta said. “I figure you dream big, and then as reality — budget, logistics, an editor or just plain luck — start getting in the way, it's easier to trim it back. Also, I'm guessing that ICFJ likes to fund ambitious projects.”

Armario noted that logistics — how you’ll stay safe, where you’ll be staying and what you’ll do if you run into a problem — can make a big difference in your application. Journalists hoping to travel to higher-risk countries should especially make an effort to explain how they’ll safely complete their stories.

Applicants can also look over ICFJ’s project proposal guidelines for more detailed instructions.

For more information on applying to ICFJ’s Bringing Home the World fellowship, click here.

Main image CC-licensed by Flickr via Moyan Brenn. Images of Armario and Peralta courtesy of their Twitter pages.