News21 2011 Brave Old World: Aging America
Faculty: Professors Paula Span and Duy Linh Tu
Few demographic shifts will strike our country with as much force as the aging of our population. To choose one illustrative statistic: The number of American over 95 has jumped 60 percent – to 435,000 – just since the 2000 Census.
Medical advances have given our elders more years of life, but not necessarily healthy ones. Most will need long-term care for an average of three years. Yet the national programs that support them in old age date to 1936 (Social Security) and 1965 (Medicare); they were never designed to cope with so many people reaching such advanced ages and requiring so much help. Their creators never envisioned a society in which the fifth leading cause of death among those over 65 is dementia.
Our News21 fellows will continue last summer’s reporting on both the public aspects of this change, the way government policies and the American economy are adapting or failing to, and the private dramas, since families bear the greatest share of responsibility for senior care. We’ll use a panoply of storytelling techniques and tools: long-form writing, interactive graphics, audio and video, photography, social media, all fed by energetic, in-depth reporting. We will require professional-level work and emphasize journalistic innovation. We’ll also work hard to draw our work to the attention of national media outlets, advocacy and research organizations, policymakers and the public. Last year, nearly all our work appeared in the Washington Post, on nytimes.com and in AARP Bulletin; it was also used by government agencies, nonprofit organizations and universities.
Who should apply? Fellows will have strong skills in one or more of the above formats, and will want to develop them further by applying them to meaningful stories. They’ll work individually with experienced editors and digital producers; they’ll have travel budgets that allow them to follow projects where they lead; they’ll have a chance to collaborate with one another and with fellows on seven other campuses around the country. Think of News21 as a post-doc grant, one fewer than 100 journalism graduates in the U.S. will receive.
This year’s News21 program begins May 23 and runs through July 29. Fellows will receive a $750 weekly salary for 10 weeks of full-time work; they won’t be able to hold other jobs or internships while reporting for News21. Some internships, however, will defer start dates to allow fellows to complete News21 first.
To prepare, fellows and alternates must also attend a weekly no-credit course for 10 weeks, beginning March 2 and meeting Wednesdays from 12:30 to 3. It will incorporate speakers, reading and discussions about aging, to help fellows develop and focus their reporting projects; it will also include advanced digital media training. We’ll require no assignments except those that allow fellows a running start, so that they can begin traveling, reporting and working as soon as the summer program starts.
We’ll select 10 fellows and several alternates (who frequently wind up becoming fellows or paid freelance contributors).
INFORMATION SESSION: Tuesday, January 18, 4 p.m., 607B
Applications for News21 2010 open at 7 a.m. on Monday, January 24 at http://www.formsite.com/columbiaspj/news21
The application closes at 5 p.m. on Monday, Februrary 7. We can’t accept late applications.
We’ll notify fellows and alternates of their selection by February 21.