O’Brien Fellows are professional journalists selected to spend nine months reporting and writing stories that can drive change and improve lives.
What do O’Brien Fellows do?
Produce an in-depth public service journalism project on a regional, national or international investigation.
Work from the O’Brien suite at Marquette University’s Diederich College of Communication near the heart of downtown Milwaukee and Lake Michigan.
Earn a $65,000 salary stipend over nine months and tap into generous allotments for reporting-related travel and housing.
Publish or broadcast the project through their home news organization or, in the case of independent journalists, another outlet.
Integrate Marquette’s best journalism students into their projects.
When can I apply?
Applications for the 2019-20 class open on Dec. 1, 2018. The deadline for applications is Jan. 25, 2019.
The stipend of $65,000 for nine months of salary is paid to fellows’ sponsoring organization, or directly to the fellow in the case of independent journalists. Other benefits include:
A travel and research allowance up to $8,000. This covers project-related travel in the US and abroad as well as technology, data and document costs and equipment needs.
A residency allowance of up to $4,000 for a single, married or partnered fellow, up to $6,000 for a fellow with one child, up to $7,000 for a fellow with two children, up to $8,000 for a fellow with three or more children. Fellows submit rent receipts from the rental property owner.
A moving allowance based on family size and distance. The allowance, covering the move to and from Milwaukee, ranges from $2,000 to $4,000 in total.
How many fellows are selected annually?
Three to five.
Where can I find the application?
Click the “Apply” tab on the O’Brien website.
What’s the key to getting serious consideration?
One tip: Make a strong effort to answer the 10 questions embedded in part 3 of the application.
When are fellows selected, and when do new fellows start?
Selection is in late February or early March. Fellows arrive on campus in late August each year.
Who do I call with questions or to kick around a potential project idea?
Dave Umhoefer, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former O’Brien Fellow who directs the program. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: (414) 288-5956.
Who are some past and incoming fellows?
Check this list.
What are some examples of published O’Brien-backed journalism?
“Florida’s Disposable Workers,” the story by 2016-17 Fellow Maria Perez, exposed companies that profit from undocumented laborers then dump them when injuries strike. Her work earned a George A. Polk Award for immigration reporting and prompted a push for change.
A wide-ranging and revealing series on state and local government secrecy, by 2015-16 Fellow Miranda Spivack, was awarded a Sunshine Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.
“Shoot to Kill,” by 2015-16 Fellow Justin George, won several awards for its probing look at the increasing lethality of gun violence in the nation’s largest cities.
The acclaimed 2017 book, “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes,” by 2013-14 Fellow Dan Egan, exposed readers to the serious biological damage threatening the water system. His earlier O’Brien reporting on the topic earned an Alfred I. duPont award in 2015.
Persistent reporting on the dysfunctional Milwaukee County mental health system, by 2012-13 O’Brien Fellow Meg Kissinger, spurred legislators to put medical professionals in charge of overseeing the programs. Her “Chronic Crisis” series won a Polk Award.
2013-14 Fellow Hal Bernton reported from the front lines of China’s energy industry in “Losing Ground: The Struggle to Reduce Carbon Dioxide.” The series also focused on the challenges of reducing carbon emissions in the United States.
The “Poor Health” series by 2013-14 Fellow Lillian Thomas spotlighted barriers to health and health care for low-income urban Americans. It offered potential solutions sprouting in such cities as Philadelphia and Portland.
“Gasping for Action,” a groundbreaking series by 2014-15 Fellow Raquel Rutledge, prompted new federal warnings about the dangers of the lung-burning chemical diacetyl in coffee roasting and vaping devices. The work won two business-writing awards from SABEW.
Who is eligible?
Applicants should have at least five years of professional experience and produce journalism regularly as an employee or freelancer.
Applicants may be connected to print operations, radio, television, websites, podcasts, online publications, wire services, or magazines of general public interest. There are no academic prerequisites.
Applications from international journalists are welcome.
Do fellows live in Milwaukee?
Yes. It’s a residential fellowship based in the city.
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