Career & Education

Aldane's a Maynard Fellow

Jamaican accepted into pilot US journalism fellowship

BY KIMONE THOMPSON
Associate editor — features
thompsonk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 05, 2018

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Former Wolmer's head boy and Jamaica Observer freelancer Aldane Walters is among the first cohort of media workers in the United States who have been accepted into the Maynard 200 Fellowship.

The award, offered by the Robert C Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, seeks to train 200 journalists, producers, media managers, and journalism entrepreneurs of colour over the next five years with a view to making newsrooms more representative of the range of ethniticities and heritage backgrounds in America.

The pilot programme brings together 26 journalists for two weeks of training in one of three tracks: media entrepreneurship, newsroom/media management, and storytelling.

Walters, an Associate of Arts Degree for Transfer in Communication student at Berkeley City College, and host of Feel Alright, a radio show he started on KGPC 96.9 FM, is on the storytelling track.

“I think I will be a manager at some point and an entrepreneur at some point, but my immediate priority is to build my basic journalism skills as much as possible. I am at the story-telling stage of my career, and I think building on the skill sets that I have and learning how to tell stories using the various media will serve me well and be a great foundation for an exceptional media career,” he told the Jamaica Observer Thursday.

He has been writing professionally since he was in high school, starting with the TeenAGE Observer when he was in third form at Wolmer's Boys' School. He later freelanced for the Observer's Career & Education and Entertainment publications. Before taking up his scholarship at Berkeley, Walters worked as an assistant producer for Television Jamaica.

After Berkeley, he intends to transfer to University of California, Los Angeles or San Francisco to pursue a Bachelor's in TV production and film/broadcasting.

“It is a great blessing to be selected as a Maynard 200 Fellow,” he told Career & Education. “When I consider the calibre of the other fellows, the prestige of the institute and the level of the faculty who taught us, it's still just absolutely amazing to be among that company.”

The first week of training was July 23-27 in Colorado at Google at Boulder, and the Hotel Boulderado Conference Center. The second week is set for December 10-14 at USC Annenberg in Los Angeles, California.

“I have definitely learned a whole lot of skills that will be useful going forward,” Walters said. “These include Google tools for developing story ideas as well as tools for research, such as Google Advanced Search. I also will be utilising a number of innovative ways to tell stories in the digital age, such as Adobe Spark Pages and Google Street View.

“I also benefited from new lenses through which to view my journalistic work, ie the Faultlines, as taught by Maynard co-executive director Martin Reynolds,” he added.

The Faultines are the institute's framework for analysing journalistic work through the lenses of race, class, gender, generation and geography.

“The idea is that we all have blindspots and biases along one or more of those lines, and as media professionals, we should be aware of these in putting information together for the public. This awareness also extends to how different segments of the public perceive the information we put out there. We were also taught different strategies to overcome some of the biases we may have, because as much as we are trained to be impartial as journalists, we are also human,” Walters explained.

In a statement about the award, the Maynard Institute said that fellows hail from a wide range of publications all over the country, including national ones such as The New York Times, SB Nation, ThinkProgress, CNN Digital, and Newsday; local outlets including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Victoria (Texas) Advocate, Kentucky New Era Media Group, and East Side Freelancer; and ethnicity-specific outlets including The Black Urbanist, the Asian Journal Media Group, and ABS-CBN International, T he Filipino Channel and Sing Tao Daily—as well as freelance reporters.

“We are thrilled with the calibre of the applications we received,” said Maynard Institute co-executive director Martin G Reynolds. “In fact, we were so impressed, and are so aware that our programme serves a real, immediate need that we decided to increase the pilot programme to accommodate a group of 26 outstanding fellows, rather than 15, as initially planned.”

On the subject of programme, faculty co-executive director Evelyn Hsu said: “We're pleased to be joined by an accomplished faculty to lead the programme this week. The faculty includes leading technologists from Google who will serve as trainers, top editors from newsrooms around the country, and distinguished teachers from major universities. We are especially pleased that we will be joined by so many graduates of other Maynard programmes through the years who have built successful careers with the help of Maynard Institute training and who are inspired to teach the next generation.”

The Maynard Institute said it received close to 200 applications for the inaugural staging, and added that applications that were not selected for the pilot will be considered for the second intake, kicking off in January 2019 at City University of New York.

“The fellows we selected for the training are dedicated professionals serving diverse audiences, and their work is all the more crucial in the midst of the nation's fraught media climate,” said Odette Alcazaren-Keeley, Maynard 200 director.

The Maynard 200 programme is supported by Google News Lab, the News Integrity Initiative and the Craig Newmark Philanthropies, and is in partnership with USC Annenberg and the City University of New York.

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