Fusion's Rise Up: Be Heard is a new journalism fellowship program launched in partnership with The California Endowment, aimed to empower the next generation of journalists and community advocates through training and mentorship – and to amplify their voices about health and justice issues impacting California communities by providing them with a platform to do so. This fellowship gives young people living in California's most underserved areas an opportunity to elevate their voices on issues that matter the most to their multicultural communities.
The inaugural group of 14 fellows were trained in journalism and production fundamentals, giving fellows a foundation to produce compelling, impactful stories with high journalistic standards. In addition to working closely on assignments with an editor, each fellow was given a mentor—a seasoned reporter or editor culled from Fusion's award winning editorial staff—who acted as a sounding board and offered professional advice and guidance throughout the fellowship. Their reporting – which covered a range of topics and issues from environmental pollution to neighborhood violence, food insecurity to homelessness, health care access for the undocumented to mass incarceration – reached nearly 27 million people a month across Fusion's digital, social, and television platforms.At the end of the Fellowship, a one-hour special investigative documentary was produced with the fellows highlighting three different topics in Kern County: healthcare access for undocumented farmworkers, clean water access and community police relations.
In November 2015 we initiated a targeted outreach campaign to public colleges, youth media centers, community-based youth organizations, advocacy and activist groups engaged on community health issues and key individuals in California. Meanwhile, Fusion's social team launched a social media campaign targeting 18-25 year-old Facebook users living in geographic target areas. The California Endowment also supported outreach efforts by sharing materials with key grantees and stakeholders engaging youth throughout the state.
Fusion developed a sharable, digital application and announced a call for submissions in mid-November. The application gathered a wealth of applicant data, including demographic information, patterns of media usage, a survey on media production skills, advocacy and activism experience, educational attainment, job experience and a detailed community-health story pitch.
In under three weeks, Fusion received over 130 applications from youth and young adults in California, with strong representation from Latino communities in the Central Valley.
In December, a team from Fusion and the Endowment conducted interviews with 30 finalists via video-conferencing, and we made our final selection of 14 young adults by year's end. The final group of Rise Up: Be Heard journalism fellows was gender-balanced (7 women/7 men), ethnically diverse (7 Latinos, 4 African Americas, 2 Caucasians, 1 API), geographically diverse (rural and urban), and diverse in community health reporting interests. All of the fellows brought experience serving their local community through media, advocacy, activism or education, and conveyed a strong desire to use journalism as a tool for social change.
In January, Fusion's creative team developed a Rise Up: Be Heard landing page. The page features a description of Rise Up, a short video that describes the fellowship, clickable picture bios of our fellows and our fellowship mentors, and recent stories published by our fellows. All stories also appear on Fusion's other news verticals and are promoted across Fusion's social media platforms.
In addition to working with editors, each fellow was paired in February with a journalism mentor recruited from Fusion's editorial staff. Our impressive team of mentors included writers, investigative reporters, news editors, television hosts, producers, and executives. Throughout the program, our mentors have acted as sounding boards and given direction and advice to their fellows on reporting assignments. Long term, our mentors will continue to provide valuable career support as professional references and connectors for those fellows interested in pursuing a career in news media.
In July, Fusion brought a team of 32 investigative journalists, crew members and producers (including 12 of our fellows) to Bakersfield for four days of intensive on-the-ground reporting. Fellows were split into three groups and worked with mentors from the Investigative Team as they pursued stories touching on three broad topics: Healthcare access for undocumented farmworkers, clean water access and community-police relations. Our film crews documented the process and Fusion aired a 1-hour special television investigation in August that brought their reporting to life and amplified the voices of local activists and residents in Kern County.
A core aspect of our
program is journalism-skill-building. Fellows received valuable training in
the following areas: Journalism Ethics & Standards, First Person
Storytelling, Public Health Story Framing (conducted by Berkeley Media Studies
Group), News Writing Fundamentals, Story Pitching, Social Media Packaging,
Shooting Video "On the Fly" and Digital Video Editing. After this
training, the fellows steadily produced journalism content with a focus on
health, immigration, public safety, youth and LGBTQ issues. Their stories have garnered about 6
million unique views, bringing voices from
their local community into the national discourse and reaching Fusion's core
audience of diverse, politically-engaged young people. What also ties this
group of fellows together is their love for community, passion for social
justice and enthusiasm about using journalism as a tool to inform and drive
positive change in the world. Two of the video stories
produced by the fellows went viral. One result of their reporting was in
Bakersfield on community-police relations, featuring local
residents and activists, garnering over 3.2 million views. The other was a story covering an immigrant-rights action at the San Diego-Tijuana
border that has been viewed over 2.2 million times.
Just as important as how
many people we are reaching, is who we are reaching. We've been paying attention
to our social analytics and we know that the fellow stories are consistently
being shared by activist and advocacy organizations that are working regionally
and nationally on the topics we care about.