wild idea: journalism fellowships for people who don’t already have jobs

What’s wrong with this sentence?

The New York Times has awarded David Carr fellowships to three journalists: John Herrman of The Awl, Amanda Hess of Slate, and Greg Howard of Deadspin.”

Answer: the fact that you can write “of [established professional media entity]” after every recipient’s name! What is the point of awarding fellowships to people who already have jobs in an industry that’s notoriously hard to break into? Am I missing something here? If you’re just going to take part in the typical inside-dealing of media careers, why not just do it the usual way, and give people regular jobs? It’s like the absurd MacArthur Genius Grant system: they give money to people so they can spend their time just creating things, but they only select people who already make money just for creating things. I thought this fellowship might result in, you know, readers getting exposure to voices they haven’t already heard before. Wild idea.

Of course, about 5 seconds after this post hits, people on Twitter will insist that this is about a) personal animosity from me to the recipients, or b) me being jealous. This will be another example of people in media assuming that everyone else has the same high school mentality they do. (No, I didn’t apply, and wouldn’t, if you’re wondering.)

What a wasted opportunity.


  1. It might be a back-door way for them to try them out for two years as journalists, before deciding whether or not to bring them on full-time to their newsroom. I have no idea what the New York Times’ writers’ contracts specify about normal probationary periods for new hires.

    It is very stupid, though.

  2. You keep saying this thing about people being “high school” on Twitter, but I’m going through the response and see literally 0 examples of people being petty or mean to you. It’s primarily people disagree with you and respectfully explaining why. Am I missing something?

    Seems to me you’re committing the same sin here that you accuse others of, which is anticipating the response you want or expect and responding to THAT, rather than responding to what people are actually saying.

    Big fan! Just a little confused by this stance you’re taking.

      1. Okay seeing Bernstein, dude has that idiotic “LOL everything” attitude.

        But I do think it’s still worth noting that the majority of the response was thoughtful/civil/etc.

        1. Maybe it’s because if he didn’t preempt having his opinions dismissed for those easily predictable reasons, then people would’ve dismissed his opinions in those easily predictable ways?

  3. It does seem a kind of ridiculous system, but I also think you’re overestimating the security of those three writers. I’ve been acquainted with one of them for years and while I don’t know their full financial details I’ve seen them bounce from job to job and though they’ve written for some big name places I wouldn’t characterize them as having broken into the industry any more than you have. This isn’t meant to discount your work (which I love), just to say that as traditional news dies I don’t know if there’s much of anything left to break into. Sure there are some well paid newspaper people hanging in there, but when they retire I don’t see new blood taking their place. These fellowships seem like the old guard throwing a life preserver from their sinking ship. I’m an optimist that someone will crack the nut of how to make thoughtful journalism a secure career again, but I don’t expect this innovation to come from the old guard and I don’t begrudge them their meagre attempts at preserving journalism the way it used to be for them.

  4. Not sure why this post has a comments section but none of the others do, so I’ll leave this here. In the “Winged Migration” post from last week, Freddie, you mentioned your dog, Miles. Sorry for the personal question, but I was wondering how he’s doing and whether you’re still looking for donations on the GoFundMe site to cover ongoing treatments/care. Just went through some health stuff with my own dog, and it reminded me of Miles’ situation.

  5. Besides the point you talked about in this article, the thing I see wrong with that sentence is that Greg Howard got some kind of prestigious honor instead of someone telling him to shut up forever. Never have I agreed with someone more while also wanting to sock them in the jaw. He is Gawker Media incarnate.

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