Journalism in the Public Interest

The ProPublica Nerd Blog

Announcing the ProPublica News Apps Fellowship

Update 2/13: The position has been filled.

The ProPublica News Apps desk is looking for a smart, technically-savvy journalist to join our team for a pilot project we’re calling a News Applications Fellowship.

In this special internship, which is paid and will run until the end of the year, you’ll help us test a hypothesis: Can a smart, technical journalist with excellent and proven skills in other nerdy newsroom disciplines like graphics and CAR become a news app developer?

You’ll learn how to make news apps like our Dollars for Docs and Opportunity Gap projects, working side-by-side with our news app developers. You’ll leave here with a set of skills and experience that will make you an invaluable member of any news apps or interactive news team. If you’re already got some programming skills, we’ll round out your knowledge and teach you how we turn raw data into journalism, and if you’re an accomplished journalist, we’ll teach you how to code.

Here are the three requirements.

  1. You want to be an editorial developer. A lot. We recognize that there are a lot of jobs for news app developers, but if you’re in it just for job security, or you think coding is something that will get your foot in the door to do other stuff, this isn’t gonna work. Staying up all night trying to prop up an overloaded server, or tracking down a bad database migration, or reading somebody else’s code to figure out how it works, are things you do when you love the work, not when it’s just a job.

  2. You are an experienced graphics editor, CAR expert, web producer, or web designer. Central to our hypothesis is the idea that if you know how to take output files from SPSS and turn them into gorgeous charts in Illustrator, or you know how to take a map from ESRI and style it to look terrific, or if you know how to run a regression using R, you’re already technical enough to learn how to program a news app. Writing code for news apps can be easier than those things, once you know how. We love reporters, but the leap from story to news app is way bigger than the leap from graphic to news app, so for the time being we’re looking for candidates from disciplines other than narrative reporting.

  3. You are a trained and/or experienced journalist. If you’re a developer and are thinking about making the jump into journalism there are some great options. But the most important part of making a news app is editorial judgment, and it’s the hardest part to learn on the job.

The fellowship is open to all, but the requirements shouldn't be taken to mean that this is only for working journalists. Current students or recent grads who have academic work that shows a talent in these disciplines are encouraged to apply.

Naturally, if you already have some coding skills, especially in front-end markup like CSS and HTML, you’ve got a leg up. But we’re expecting to train the right person. We know that out there in the news universe there are whip-smart people who are starting to teach themselves how to program by reading books and building stuff they never show anybody; people who want to take their graphics talents to the next level and to start working on the back-end code as well. If that's you, hurry up and apply already.

The fellowship is based in our New York City office.

To apply, send an e-mail with your résumé and URLs to Make sure to submit a brief explanation of the exact role you played in the projects your URLs point to. Application deadline is January 20. Start date is flexible, but can be immediate.

Any chance the internship can be run with a degree of transparency?  As someone who teaches programmers (and often, in my programming day job, needs to explain programming to the non-software folks), I’d love to hear how this goes.

Especially (what they don’t tell you in class) since so much of programming is understanding the intent behind the various tools and existing code, it’d be very interesting to see how an essentially liberal arts intern can grow into that sort of role in a year.


Hard to commit to that before we’ve picked somebody, but it’s in ProPublica’s DNA to share what we learn, so we’d be very open to the Fellow blogging regularly during their time here.

Right.  I asked because it sounded like it fit the culture and the data point would be useful beyond the opening itself.  If the student isn’t interested, forcing it obviously won’t be productive.

(And after all the months of reading here, I only just noticed the colophon to the right.  “...but Pretend We Don’t” should be the motto of the industry.  I love it!)

Saranya Kapur

Sep. 9, 2012, 9:14 p.m.

Is the fellowship going to be offered in 2013 as well?

Yes it is.

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