Three J-School students–Paayal Zaveri, Christian Stork, and Peter Bittner–are recipients of Google Digital Media Travel Fellowships. The grant from Google, established in April 2016, sends students from the School’s New Media program to professional development events around the country, including the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR), SXSW Interactive, Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) and Online News Association (ONA) conferences. Each student receives $1,000 to cover travel costs.

“We are incredibly grateful for Google extending this opportunity to our students. The inspirations and opportunities they gain from these conferences are invaluable,” said Jeremy Rue, assistant dean for academics and a lecturer in the New Media program. “Every conference that our students have attended in the past produces tangible results, in the form of ideas for projects, learning new tools, or networking with future employers.”

Last year’s recipients were Gabriel Tolliver, Leslie Cory, Mariela Patron, and Mahlia Posey, all class of 2017. They praise the experience of attending professional conferences, where they used the opportunity to network, to learn about technology and even to pitch stories to national outlets.

“I ran into some old colleagues I worked with at Nightly News over the summer, and I was able to pitch them stories that ended up getting published,” said Posey, who attended ONA. One story she pitched, about a Reconstruction-era school for freed slaves that was declared a national monument by President Obama, was aired by NBC News.

The conferences aren’t just valuable networking opportunities. They are a chance for students to see how news organizations are experimenting with emerging technology, such as storytelling and Virtual Reality.

“It was great to attend a conference that focused on digital media, especially when past conferences I have attended seemed more focused on broadcast,” said Mariela Patron, who also attended ONA last year. “I loved being able to learn about innovative ways to use technology for storytelling.”

“I think it will be an incredible opportunity to connect with journalists and producers pushing the limits of immersive nonfiction storytelling,” said Peter Bittner, who this year will attend SXSW, a conference and festival in Austin, Texas, that focuses on the convergence of the interactive, film and music industries. “The digital journalism world is in a massive state of disruption, which has clear downsides but also comes with some amazing opportunities to connect with audiences in ways never before imaginable.”

“I’m hoping to learn more about investigating hacking and data breaches, a topic whose importance will only grow in the coming years,” said Christian Stork, who is attending NICAR this month with the aim of incorporating this knowledge into his own investigative work.

By Katherine Rose (’17)

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