The 19th, an independent, nonprofit newsroom that focuses on the intersection of gender, politics, and policy, has just announced its journalism fellowship program for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

The Frances Ellen Watkins Harper Fellowship Program, named after poet, writer, educator, activist, and the "mother of African American journalism," will be open to recent HBCU grads and alumni.

The $3.8 million inaugural programs funded by Michelle Mercer and Bruce Golden will provide recent graduates and mid-career alums of HBCUs with full-year, salaried, and benefit-laden fellowships in the areas of reporting, editing, engagement, or newsroom technology.

Five HBCU graduates annually, including three reporting or editing fellows, one audience engagement fellow, and one technology or product fellow, will receive advice from a full-time fellowships director/editor and human resources professional to assist with recruiting, operations, and post-fellowship job placement.

Other fellowship perks include a minimum salary of $70,000 and all other benefits of full-time employees, including health insurance, paid time off, and a 401(K) plan. 

Mercer and Golden shared they were "inspired" to fund the fellowship program after listening to Errin Haines, Editor-at-large, and Nikole Hannah-Jones share their own experiences with journalism education at the 19th Represents Summit.

"Equity in journalism is so important but is not always prioritized or reflected in today's newsrooms," said Mercer.

"As we listened to Errin Haines and Hannah-Jones converse at this year's 19th Represents Summit, we felt inspired and reminded of the power we have to help build a better future for the talented and bright journalistic minds studying at HBCUs. We're so excited to support The 19th in helping these graduates develop and excel in their careers and cannot wait to see what lies ahead for them." Golden added.

The program will serve five fellows annually and will feature on-the-job training, mentorship, and development opportunities to help fellows navigate job placement post-fellowship.

"I am a product of a fellowship program that gave me the training, the resources, and the confidence to tell stories about my community," Haines said. "Without that foundational opportunity, I would not be the journalist I am today. What we aim to do with this exciting and essential new program is to help create the newsrooms we want to see in this industry: diverse, talented, and reflective of the world around them."  

"We are incredibly thankful to Michelle Mercer, Bruce Golden, Nikole Hannah-Jones, and all of our partners for their support as we work to create a transformative path and an industry standard for women of color and LGTBQ+ journalists to not only land competitive newsroom jobs but to thrive and become leaders in our industry." she continued. 

Recipients will receive advisory support from Hannah-Jones, Howard University's Knight Chair in Race and Journalism, and the university's Center for Journalism and Democracy. 

"I have not typically supported newsroom fellowships because I have not felt that news organizations have demonstrated a real commitment to using these fellowships to make lasting change in the industry by ensuring fellows get the support, experience, guidance, and assistance necessary to turn fellowships into full-time reporting jobs," Nikole Hannah-Jones said.

"But this fellowship is unlike any I have seen in the industry," she continued. "That is why I am so excited to support this work, which aligns with the goals of the Center for Journalism and Democracy that I am building at Howard University. The fellowship program The 19th is creating should be the gold standard for how newsroom fellowships should work, as it will provide the type of opportunity that our aspiring journalists of color deserve." 

By the end of the program, fellows will have the skills and experience necessary to land a successful newsroom job. — Applications will open in mid-2022, with the first class of fellows expected to come aboard in September 2022.