Early in the pandemic, some headlines argued that covid-19 was the great equalizer—because anyone, no matter their circumstance, could catch it. In reality, it was clear that the virus was affecting some groups of Americans in disproportionate, devastating ways.
Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Indigenous communities, and other people of color have been affected the most, and are dying at much higher rates. Incarcerated people have been left unprotected, and those in poverty have been among the hardest hit. Schoolchildren from poorer backgrounds are suffering the biggest educational setbacks, with lifelong repercussions.
We know many of the reasons, including frontline jobs that expose workers to the virus, economic stresses, unstable housing and unequal health care that leads to worse outcomes. But there’s much more to learn, and much more to do about it.
To help explore these issues and help people’s stories get told, we’ve joined with the Heising Simons Foundation to create five MIT Technology Review Covid Inequality Fellowships.
Each fellowship provides up to $7,500 of financial support to help journalists report and produce stories about covid inequality—and how it’s being tackled—in under-covered communities in the US. Applicants will be judged by a panel of experts that includes some of the most incisive journalists and informed experts working today. Fellows will receive editorial oversight and assistance from our award-winning team; and the end results will be published in MIT Technology Review.
Applying for a Fellowship is straightforward: just take a look through our description of what we’re looking for, and then start submitting your application.
Who should apply
We’re offering two kinds of fellowship.
Freelancer fellowships: Apply for this if you’re an independent journalist who is not already attached to a specific publication. You may come from one of the affected communities you plan to report on, or you may know of an important story about a group you have gotten to know well.
Newsroom fellows: Apply for this if you’re a staff journalist working with a specific outlet, who is looking for extra support to follow up on a story that is important to you and the readers you serve.
If you have journalistic experience, and you want to tell stories about the way covid is affecting people—and what’s being done about it—we encourage you to apply.
What we’re looking for
Your story—or series of stories—will focus on a specific group of people and show how they have been affected by covid-19. It will show the human impacts and explore what kind of disparities exist in exposure, safety, treatment, or outcomes. It may look at how communities are using technologies, developing systems, or building alliances to overcome the problems they face.
MIT Technology Review is a publication about emerging technologies and the ways in which they are used, so we are particularly interested in:
- The impact of vaccines and how they are distributed
- Contact tracing, exposure notification, and/or the use of health data
- How the pandemic is affecting the digital divide
- Workplace virus protocols and surveillance
- The impact of long covid on communities
Above all, these are human stories, with people at their center and a search for solutions at their core.
To get there, we’re looking for people who are committed to telling stories with care and dedication while applying rigorous standards and maintaining journalistic integrity. You don’t have to have a long track record in healthcare or science reporting, but you do have to be determined, prepared to challenge preconceptions, and be comfortable asking for help and taking guidance.
What we’re not looking for
These fellowships will not produce simplistic disaster narratives that underscore pre-existing tropes, and we don’t want parachute journalism from reporters who have no history with or insight into the communities they’re writing about. That doesn’t mean you have to identify as part of the community you’re proposing to cover, but it does mean you do have to show that you can report sensitively and thoroughly—and without further endangering them during the pandemic.
How we’ll support your work
Successful applicants will receive up to $7,500 to report and publish their stories. Work will be produced in conjunction with MIT Technology Review and published on our website—or co-published, in the case of Newsroom Fellowships. This money can be used to cover any or all costs related to the story, including your own time, reporting expenses, and travel (where it is safe.)
We’ll provide editorial support to all fellows, with regular check-ins with our editors and advice from our team. For newsroom fellows, we’ll coordinate with your publication’s team to help you get the most out of the project.
Our panel of judges
Entries will be examined by a panel of some of the leading journalists and voices on the subjects we’re looking at.
Alexis Madrigal is a staff writer at The Atlantic and co-founder of the Covid Tracking Project, which compiles, annotates, and publishes high-quality data about the outbreak.
Mark J. Rochester is the editor in chief of Type Media Center, and was previously senior news director for investigations at the Detroit Free Press. He has served on the national board of directors of Investigative Reporters & Editors.
Krystal Tsosie is a Navajo bioethicist and geneticist at Vanderbilt University. She is an advocate for ethical genomic research that respects the rights of Indigenous people.
Seema Yasmin is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, poet, medical doctor and author. She is currently director of the Stanford Health Communication Initiative at Stanford University, and a regular contributor on the covid pandemic for CNN.
Gideon Lichfield is the editor in chief of MIT Technology Review. He joined the publication in 2017 after being a founding editor at Quartz and reporting from Moscow, Jerusalem, and Mexico City for The Economist.
Applications for the Fellowships are now open. The final deadline for applications is Sunday March 21, 2021. Selected fellows will be announced in early April 2021.
The fine print
These fellowships are US-only; Fellows must be legally able to work in the United States. Stories must be designed for text: although video and audio can be part of the output, your story will need to center around written journalism, which can include news reporting, narratives, or data. Projects do not have a minimum timescale, but drafts must be completed by the end of 2021. All stories will be subject to editing, fact-checking, and legal review.
Here are some of the key things we’ll require in the first stage of the application process.
- A well-written outline of your story or project of no more than 750 words. We are looking for a compelling pitch that gives an overview of the people, places, information, and issues that you will be bringing into the spotlight.
- A reporting plan that includes (a) a proposed timeline and (b) an explanation of how you plan to report in a covid-safe manner on the communities you are focused on. Speed is not a factor in our decision, but it’s good to know how you plan to carry out the task of researching, reporting, and producing your story.
- A written personal statement (maximum 500 words) telling us about your prior work, relevant experiences and your connection to the community you’re proposing to cover.
- Three samples of original work. If this is not freely available online (for example, it is behind a paywall, or only available in print) please provide PDF files.
- Newsroom fellowship applicants will be required to submit a letterhead statement confirming that you have the support of your publication.
Shortlisted applicants will be asked to provide more information, including a breakdown of how they’d spend the fellowship award, answer a questionnaire about the risks their project faces, and supply two letters of recommendation.
If you have any questions about this application process, you can contact senior editor Bobbie Johnson by email.