The rapid, worldwide spread of the Covid19 Delta variant compelled the Alfred Friendly Foundation Board of Directors to move the fellowship program from September 2021 to early 2022.
The annual program’s usual start date in March had been pushed to September because experts predicted the coronavirus pandemic would be controlled by that time and newsrooms hosting 2021 fellows planned to start reopening in the fall. All of the incoming fellows received vaccinations and applied for visas early in the year that allows them to work in U.S. newsrooms.
However, the unexpected virulence of the highly contagious Delta variant caused infections and hospitalizations to rise swiftly, while vaccination rates stalled. Newsrooms planning to host fellowship trainees decided to continue as remote workspaces into the new year. Several incoming fellows were unable to get visas in countries where U.S. embassies had limited operations because of the worsening pandemic.
The Alfred Friendly board concluded on Aug. 22 that the nonprofit organization could not deliver a fellowship program that met its quality standards. The program, which has trained more than 330 early-career journalists from 80+ countries since 1984, demands hands-on university and newsroom training as well as in-person mentoring. Also, the U.S. State Department rules for J1 visas require in-person programming.
The seven incoming fellows will now join the program in January or later when conditions are safe enough for trainers at the Missouri School of Journalism to hold in-person sessions and for newsrooms to move away from all-remote work environments.
Seven reporters in the 2001 Class will participate in the program next year: Anastasia Valeeva from Russia and David Mono Danga from South Sudan, sponsored by the TRACE Foundation; Jody Garcia from Guatemala, sponsored by the Patrick and Janna Stueve Foundation; and four investigative reporters from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project — Chencho Dema from Bhutan, Indunil Arachchi from Sri Lanka, Parth Nikhil from India and Saurav Rahman from Bangladesh.