For Immediate Release: October 26, 2010
Contact: Katie Rudolph, krudolph[at]presspartners[dot]org


Alfred Friendly Press Fellowships Broaden Reach


WASHINGTON – An international journalism training program that has served individual reporters and editors for 26 years is broadening its reach to help entire newsrooms in countries where press freedom and responsibility can flourish.

The shift follows a change in the board of the Alfred and Jean Friendly Foundation that has been the primary source of support for the program since its inception. All but one of the family members on the board has been replaced with outside directors with a broad range of communication, legal and administrative backgrounds.

“We’ve changed to reflect the growing competence of the international press, the new communication technologies and the reality of America’s changing newsrooms,” said Jonathan Friendly, the remaining family member and the chairman of the board. “And I wish my parents were still living to share in the excitement. They would have approved.”

Since its inception in 1983, at the height of a UNESCO-inspired debate over alleged Western-media dominance of news from developing nations, the Alfred Friendly Press Fellowships have brought 272 individual journalists from 78 countries for a six-month experience working in U.S. newsrooms. More recently the program has also partnered with the Daniel Pearl Foundation to administer special fellowships in the spirit of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was slain in Pakistan in 2002.

When the program started, the greatest need was to give reporters from what was then called the Third World hands-on training in the American newsrooms. Alfred Friendly, the Pulitzer Prize-winning former managing editor of The Washington Post, endowed the foundation and created the program in recognition of the Western press’ responsibility to aid accurate reporting in countries that were loosening the press from total government control.

The ability of U.S. newspapers to serve as hosts for the Fellows was a key element of the program. In recent years, however, increasingly tight newsroom budgets and staff cutbacks hampered that capacity. At the same time, the news process itself has been changed by the ability of the Internet as well as smart cell phones and other devices to deliver news and information.

And in many of the Fellows’ countries, media companies have grown in skills and ambition and have begun to be able to afford broader training for their staffs. Three years ago the Nation Media Group headquartered in Nairobi partnered with the Fellowship program to send reporters to the U.S. and to host U.S. journalists as trainers at their newspapers in Kenya and Uganda.

The program subsequently created similar partnerships with Beijing-based China Daily and with Seoul-based Money Today newspaper. The partners pay all direct training costs and a portion of the administrative expenses. Our plan is to add at least five more partnerships in the next three-to-five years.

The partnerships are tailored individually to suit the training goals of the news organization, which may include – in addition to the Fellowship – visiting consultants and trainers, online seminars, development of information resources such as newsroom libraries and databases, study tours or other activities. The shrinkage of U.S. print newsrooms has created a pool of available talent for training in investigative reporting, design and graphics, media convergence and newsroom management, to name a few of the possibilities.

In addition to the changes with the board, a new journalism advisory committee is being formed. This group will help guide the foundation on the selection of Fellows and identify American journalists who can provide training overseas to partner organizations.

The broadening of the foundation’s work was greatly aided by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation of Oklahoma City, which provided development funding and encouraged a grant from the Ford, Knight and McCormick Foundations as well as EEJF monies. That guided self-study led to the shift in the composition of the foundation board and the creation of the new model of activities.

The Press Fellowships program has enjoyed long-term support from the Open Society Institute as well as a number of private donors. In earlier years it also received donations from the host U.S. newsrooms. The board has authorized the program to seek grants from a limited number of U.S. government sources where the grants would not involve government control of any facet of the program.

The pioneering partnership with Nation Media Group, which was founded by the Aga Khan in 1959, was created through the work of Board Vice-Chairman Randall Smith, who is a professor and is the Donald W. Reynolds Endowed Chair in Business Journalism at the University of Missouri. Smith was formerly director of strategic development and deputy managing editor at The Kansas City Star where he served as mentor to nearly a dozen Fellows.

“When a media organization helps underwrite a Fellow and training, there is ownership,” said Smith. “We’ve found that this sense of ownership has meant greater credibility and responsibility for our Fellows when they return to their newsrooms. It has also helped us to strengthen the foundations of our partnered institutions beyond the traditional fellowship.”

Biographies of the members of the foundation board may be found on the program’s website along with additional information about the history of the program.

This year’s class of Fellows were posted to the Atlanta bureau of The Wall Street Journal, Center for Public Integrity, Chicago Tribune, ProPublica (shared with the Los Angeles Times), and the University of Missouri School of Journalism (shared with The Kansas City Star). Interviews with current or former Fellows may be arranged by contacting the program’s executive director, Susan Albrecht at 202-429-3740.

Alfred Friendly Press Partners Mission:  In the belief that just societies must have a vigorous and principled free press, Alfred Friendly Press Partners aims to build strong newsrooms that make possible an informed citizenry. We work to strengthen skills and values by placing talented international journalists in U.S. newsrooms and by establishing long-term training partnerships with news organizations that share our goal of fostering professional excellence.