Fellowship Aims to Train Journalists in Reporting on Immigration Matters

Over the next five years, it is projected that one-in-three children living in the United States will be from immigrant families. As the fastest growing group of American youths, immigrant children and their respective families face unique economic, social, and educational challenges as they transition to life in the U.S. Their experiences, however, are not always widely reflected in the mainstream media.

The Institute for Justice & Journalism (IJJ), an independent nonprofit group based in Oakland, California, dedicated to strengthening journalism surrounding social and economic justice issues, seeks to change that with a unique annual fellowship training program. This year, the IJJ has selected 15 journalists to take part in the program, which will be held at Georgia State University in Atlanta over three days in April, and will focus on concerns surrounding immigrant children and how these issues affect our society as a whole. [See Apply By February 16th for Journalism Fellowships on Immigrant Families, Institute for Justice and Journalism website, 01.Jan.2015.]

The application process for the fellowship is a rigorous one, and each of the chosen participants was required to present an outline for a project focusing on immigrant children and their families that eventually will be published or broadcast. Virtually all of the fellows are actively working as journalists, and represent media outlets throughout the nation, such as the Houston Chronicle and the Los Angeles Daily News. Highlights of this year’s program include a documentary filmmaker who spent three years following Asian immigrant gangs in downtown Atlanta, as well as guest speaker Martha Mendoza, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her work with the Associated Press. Workshops, panel discussions, and seminars also will be included in the fellowship conference, which will place a heavy emphasis on the Southern part of the United States, where the number of immigrant families is growing fastest. [See 15 Journalists Selected for Immigration Fellowship – IJJ, by Daniel Kowalski, Lexus Nexus, 03.Mar.2015.]

One only needs to examine the multitude of thought provoking projects produced by past fellowship participants to understand the program’s inherent value to the field of journalism. Stella Chavez, a participant in last year’s program, produced an eight-art multimedia series for the news station KERA in Dallas that explored the lives of first-generation children living in Texas, where the child immigrant population far exceeds the national average. Chavez notes that her experience at the IJJ fellowship “inspired me to do better work and push myself to find stories that haven’t been done before.” And former fellow Hansi Lo Wang, who produced a set of stories for NPR that explored the challenge of language barriers, says that during his time at the fellowship, he “found a solid network of colleagues and experts who are committed to a broader narrative about immigration in America.”

Our nation, as a whole, is impacted by the unique experiences of immigrants, and especially immigrant children, as they adjust to living, learning, and working in the United States. How we view and welcome immigrants as part of the American dream will have a ripple effect on our nation for generations to come. We need engaged and insightful journalists now more than ever to document and share the immigrant experience, and the Institute for Justice and Journalism is committed to nurturing their drive and talent.


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