A year ago, as we faced the lengthening shutdown and the disappearance of what we had thought would be our first big period of growth as a young newspaper, we decided to take a gamble.
We had planned, as part of our nonprofit Local Journalism Project, to award fellowships to several aspiring student reporters and have them spend 10 weeks with us, learning the weekly newspaper trade and helping us cover the news of our towns. We had five outstanding applicants, heartening financial support for the project from the community — and absolutely no idea how it would work to run such a program remotely.
We asked the fellowship winners if they still wanted to do it. They all said yes. Three of them found housing here and settled into quarantines; two stayed in Boston on their college campus. All of us did our work entirely by phone, email, and Zoom.
The results were beyond our pre-pandemic imaginations. Not only did Alison, Cana, Josephine, Olivia, and Sabina produce well-written, accurate, and entertaining articles every week, they gave us an injection of fresh energy, curiosity, and journalistic courage that we hadn’t expected.
And then came the Covid bonus. Two of our fellows, Jo and Vi, decided to take the school year off rather than do college via Zoom. Vi has spent the year traveling, reporting for the Daily Yonder — and producing the “Indie News Hour” on WOMR (every Friday except the first one of the month). And Josephine has spent the year as a staff reporter, taking on assignments ranging from the Wellfleet harbor dredge to domestic violence to Dougie Freeman’s long story short.
Now Jo is leaving us for her own travels and resumed history studies at Princeton, taking with her our profound gratitude and good wishes. She and our other 2020 summer fellows proved to us that the rewards of bringing aspiring journalists to the Outer Cape to learn and work with us could be real, and could be part of what sustains and encourages us to keep going.
So, we’re about to do it again.
This summer, four new fellows will be working at the Independent: Cameron Blair from Hamilton College, Ben Glickman from Brown University, Sophie Hills from Principia College, and Alex Sharp from Tufts University. All of them have worked at newspapers before and want to deepen their reporting and investigative skills. We are excited about being able to gather them all in the same space at our office in Whaler’s Wharf.
Another gift from our fellows last summer was that, with their help, we were able to hold a five-week summer journalism program for middle and high school students. We published their work in a special supplement in August. We’re going to do the same thing this year. (See our ad for the program on page A7.) Do you know a young person who would make a good reporter, cartoonist, or photojournalist? We’ve got some great assignments to offer.