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ESPN, American University Establish New, Funded Investigative Journalism fellowship

The new fellowship program will embed a full-time graduate student alongside ESPN’s journalists.

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ESPN and American University's School of Communication are unveiling a new, funded fellowship program for investigative and enterprise journalism. 

The fellowship will allow early-career journalists the ability to earn a master’s degree at American University’s renowned School of Communication in Washington, D.C. while working in the Investigative and Enterprise Journalism Unit at ESPN.

The one-year fellowship will embed a full-time graduate student alongside ESPN’s investigative and enterprise journalists – reporters, producers and managers who have earned journalism’s highest honors, including Pulitzer Prizes, Peabody Awards, duPont Awards, Murrow Awards, NABJ Salute to Excellence Awards and Emmys, among others. The fellow will be mentored by journalists in various areas, including sourcing, reporting, data journalism, freedom of information requests and challenges, and how to protect their own mental health when confronting difficult circumstances during reporting and post-publication.

“The journalism industry, now more than ever, needs to continue to build a pipeline of future investigative journalists, especially those interested in covering the sports industry outside of game competition,” said Christopher Buckle, vice president of Investigative and Enterprise Journalism at ESPN.  “This fellowship provides the opportunity for a journalist to gain first-hand experience in a work environment that focuses on covering the whole of the sports industry and its societal impact. We are pleased to collaborate with American University on our shared commitment of increasing representation in investigative reporting and continue to build the pipeline of diverse investigative journalists.”

ESPN and American University have agreed to a three-year commitment for the program. The application process for consideration for 2022-2023 admissions is currently open and graduate students can apply online.

For the duration of the program, the fellow will work on developing their own research and reporting, while learning how reporters and managers prepare their work for audio, digital, television and streaming properties. Throughout the program, the fellow will also have access to ESPN’s offices in Washington, D.C. and Bristol, Conn.

“This program with ESPN offers our students a career-changing opportunity to move from cheering in the stands and actually get into the game,” said Sam Fulwood III, dean of the School of Communication. “We are delighted to partner with ESPN to make this happen for the students in the fellowship program. By working side-by-side with the staff of a global news-sports-entertainment media leader, fellowship recipients will gain an insight and expertise that will serve them well beyond their time at AU.”

American University’s School of Communication enrolls nearly 1,500 undergraduate and graduate students in its programs to tell stories that influence change, inspire action, and transform our communities and our world. Its journalism master's program gives students opportunities to report on Capitol Hill, the D.C. government, social issues, and local communities paired with cutting-edge technology equipment and training. It also has funded fellowships at The Washington Post, USA Today, Center for Public Integrity, and the Investigative Reporting Workshop, in addition to ESPN.

“We are so excited to offer the opportunity for students to work at ESPN while getting their graduate degree at the same time,” said Amy Eisman, director of the journalism division. “Experiential education in journalism is key and part of our DNA.”  

ESPN spearheads multiple programs established to provide journalism college students and early-career journalists the opportunity to gain first-hand experience in sports journalism. Programs include The Rhoden Fellows, a training program for the next generation of sports journalists from historically black colleges and universities; ESPN NEXT, an 18-month program that exposes production assistants to different areas of content through two rotations in the program’s seven pods; as well as scholarships established with The Asian American Journalists Association, The National Association of Black Journalists, and The National Association of Hispanic Journalists, respectively.