The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) and the Journalists Network on Generations are welcoming applications — from journalists who represent mainstream or ethnic/community news outlets in the U.S. and who are covering/wish to cover issues in aging — for the 11th year of the Journalists in Aging Fellows Program.
The program will be conducted entirely online. Support is provided by grants from The Silver Century Foundation, RRF Foundation for Aging, The John A. Hartford Foundation, and the Gannett Foundation. Stories resulting from the last ten years are available on GSA’s website.
By 2030, one-fifth of the country’s population will be age 65+, with the fastest growing segment being ethnic minorities. Older people will soon equal the number of children under 18 as the U.S. becomes an “every generation nation.” The effects of this demographic shift permeate every aspect of American life — with important social, economic, and health implications. As we age, we develop unique needs but also make unique contributions to society.
The media have largely ignored these emerging stories, and most communities are poorly informed about the challenges and opportunities of the longevity revolution. Ageism is pervasive. For 10 years, GSA’s Journalists in Aging Fellows Program has fueled coverage of crucial and sometimes complex issues at a time when most news organizations have no resources to assign a reporter to cover aging.
Further, COVID-19 has not only dominated the news through the summer of 2020, but its effects will likely be with us for years — not only because of the tragic and mounting toll on older adults, but also as it widens existing cracks of age bias in America’s health and social infrastructure. Short- and long-term effects, ageism, nursing home workforce issues, the downsizing of older workers, ethnic and gender bias in healthcare and employment, the shifting nature of retirement, affordable housing, and the rise in older adult homelessness are all topics ripe for storytelling. Journalists will also need to track whether or not positive changes and opportunities emerge.
This program’s goals are to educate journalists about issues in aging, better allowing them to spread a new awareness to general audiences and ethnic or targeted communities (such as LGBTQ, disability, or gender-focused groups); and to disseminate accurate information about new scientific findings, policy debates, innovations, and evidence-based solutions.
Additionally, the program is structured to build three bridges: to connect working reporters with experts in the field; to link journalists new to the complex issues of aging with experienced age-beat reporters; and ultimately to channel reporters’ enhanced knowledge — fortified by current research — to their communities, in their own languages.
Dates and Venue
The program will conduct a short series of online educational sessions exclusive to the fellows on Wednesday and Thursday, October 28 and 29, and Wednesday and Thursday, November 11 and 12. Fellows will also participate in GSA’s 2020 Annual Scientific Meeting Online, which will take place from Wednesday, November 4, to Saturday, November 7, with content being available on demand afterward. (Note that Election Day is Tuesday, November 3.)
The GSA Annual Scientific Meeting represents a unique opportunity for reporters to expand and enrich their coverage of issues in aging. It will be the premier conference for an expected 4,000+ professionals in gerontology from more than 30 countries, and the schedule includes hundreds of symposia, papers, and posters — all featuring new research on nearly every topic in aging. Reporters will find ideas for new stories and fresh angles on existing topics from Alzheimer’s disease to Social Security and Medicare to the latest biological discoveries, as well as COVID-19. Some weeks prior to the conference, GSA will publish an interactive online meeting planner, which contains the full program schedule.
Fellows will be required to participate in a short series of exclusive background and issue-focused educational sessions scheduled the weeks immediately before and after the November 3 presidential election (October 28 and 29 and November 11 and 12). They will then have full access to GSA Annual Scientific Meeting sessions of their choosing (November 4 to 7, and available for later on-demand viewing). Fellows will also commit to completing one short-term story about any research-based aspect of aging and a long-term in-depth project of their own design. The latter must be summarized in a one-to-two page story pitch.
All articles must be published, broadcast, or posted through distributed or circulated news media entities rather than personal blogs, and will be required to include a note at the beginning or end crediting that it was written/produced with support from the fellowship. (Reporters will be provided text samples that may be adapted for different media.) The stories must reach an audience within the U.S.
Short-term story: Fellows must produce an initial story of no less than 500 words (or comparable broadcast length) about any research-based aspect of aging. Although reporters may draw from the vast number of peer-reviewed studies and expert presenters available to them at the GSA Annual Scientific Meeting, they are not required to cite any aspect of the conference, and may develop their story from other verifiable research sources. This piece must be completed no later than Thursday, December 31, 2020, and scheduled to be disseminated by Monday, February 1, 2021. The story can be a news report, feature, or commentary/blog. Unlike the long-term project (see below), applicants need not propose a topic for the short-term story ahead of time, nor do they have to obtain advance approval from an editor/producer that the piece will be considered as an editorial assignment for publication or broadcast. The subject matter also need not be related to that of the long-term project. Selected fellows will be permitted to publish their short-term and long-term pieces through different media organizations, but it is still the Fellow’s responsibility to see that the pieces are published in such a case. Therefore, applicants should indicate where they expect to place the short-term story if it will appear in a different news outlet than the long-term project.
Long-term project: Each fellow will submit a proposal (of one to two pages) outlining a major story or series that she or he intends to research and write. The story or series should be of the fellow’s own design, documenting and explaining a pressing issue that elders and their families or communities are facing.
The project deadline will be Thursday, April 1, 2021, and it must be scheduled to be disseminated no later than Monday, May 3, 2021. As with the short-term project, the story or series need not be based on any aspect of the GSA Annual Scientific Meeting, although reporters may choose to interview expert presenters or utilize articles published in GSA’s peer-reviewed journals.
Some preference will be given to application proposals on the impact of important news developments such as the COVID-19 pandemic, racial/ethnic equality, or post-election challenges, although the program remains open to story pitches related to the myriad ongoing under-reported stories of aging in America.
Fellowship applicants are invited to make proposals on a wide range of subjects, such as caregiving challenges; ageism; dementia and its impact; intergenerational activities; immigration; healthy aging (including wellness and physical activity); safety education (e.g., falls and fall prevention); health disparities; elder abuse prevention; depression and social isolation; hunger; medication challenges; lifelong learning; art and creativity for older adults; aging in place; age-friendly communities; older-worker issues (e.g., career retraining and encore careers); and civic engagement (mentoring, volunteering, or otherwise “giving back” to society). Projects may, but are not required to, reflect at least one element of ethnic or racial population diversity. This may include the involvement of diverse experts or facts about an issue’s effect on such distinct groups based on their race, ethnicity, gender, geography, or sexual orientation.
Both staff journalists and freelancers who apply must submit an agreement by his or her editor/producer to accept the long-term project proposal as an editorial assignment for likely publication or broadcast. Those who also serve as the principal editor/producer of a news outlet are also welcome to apply. These journalists need not provide a separate editor/producer’s assurance, but they should make their dual role as writer and editor/producer clear in the proposal. For cases in which the original media outlet does not release a project story, the Fellow is obligated to place it in a comparable news or information medium.
The stories resulting from this fellowship will first be published by each journalist’s media organization(s). GSA and the Journalists Network on Generations will then have the option to cross-post the stories — with full credit and links back to the primary publisher — and make them available to nonprofit websites in aging or the network of ethnic media outlets.
Reporters proposing stories to be published or broadcast in a language other than English must agree to provide an English translation to GSA within two weeks of initial publication. For audio or video productions, fellows must provide images with either a separate audio narration or written article based on the story in English. Multimedia slide shows should be provided with image captions in English. (All such stories would be cross-posted by GSA or the program’s nonprofit sponsors with links back to the story in the original language.)
Each fellow will receive a stipend of $1,500, with $500 to be paid at the conclusion of the program’s initial educational sesions and the remaining $1,000 upon publication/airing of the long-term project.
Selection Process and Eligibility
The fellowship selection panel will include experts in gerontology and editorial professionals.
All staff and freelance journalists are eligible to apply except for past recipients of this fellowship.
For further details about how to submit an application, contact Program Co-Director and GSA Director of Communications Todd Kluss at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 587-2839. For further details about fellowship requirements and potential stories, contact Program Co-Director and Journalists Network on Generations Program Coordinator Liz Seegert at email@example.com or (718) 229-5730.
Applications must be submitted in a single Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF file consisting of five components:
1. A cover letter containing:
- Applicant name
- Mailing address
- Office phone
- Mobile phone
- Employer (Freelancers must specify their length of affiliation with the outlet that will publish or broadcast the story.)
- Employer address
- Employer phone
- Employer’s circulation and audience demographic (Please indicate whether this media outlet serves a general audience or a specific racial/ethnic community.)
2. A resume.
3. A one- to two-page story pitch describing the long-term project topic, how the subject will be researched and covered, the number of expected articles and their approximate length, relevance to the audience, and tentative publication date.
4. A letter or e-mail from an editor/producer agreeing to accept the long-term project proposal as an editorial assignment for likely publication or broadcast.
5. No more than three samples of published or broadcast journalistic work. For applicants submitting print samples, the full story text must be included in the application document. For applicants submitting broadcast samples, please include hyperlinks to these stories — either on a news organization’s website or a file sharing site such as filesanywhere.com — in the application document.
Applications that are not submitted in a single Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF file will not be reviewed. Business centers such as FedEx Office are able to provide conversion and/or scanning services. Please submit the file using a file name format of “LastnameFirstname.docx” or “LastnameFirstname.pdf.”