Top from left to right: Olena Goncharova, Thobile Hans, Mercy Adhiambo, Mario Jose Penton Martinez. Bottom from left to right: Irfan Haider, Gakce Aytulu, Amal Khan.

By Maria Jose Valero and David Reed

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 3.42.20 PMEight journalists chosen for the 2016 fellowship program come from countries with media environments that range from challenging (Pakistan, Kenya) or regressive (Turkey, Ukraine)  to extremely repressive (Iran, Cuba).

Press Partners considered the decade-long decline in media freedom when targeting countries and initiating partnerships.

Forbes Media in partnership with Alfred Friendly Press Partners helped choose a South Africa-based reporter from Forbes Africa who will work in the company’s newsroom in the New York City area.

The Standard Group nominated reporters from its newsroom in Nairobi as part of a Alfred Friendly’s new partnership with the oldest media group in Kenya.

And 14ymedio, considered to be the first independent digital media outlet in Cuba, identified one of its reporters for a fellowship this year, and he will work at el Nuevo Herald, the Miami Herald’s Spanish-language edition,. (Mario Penton Martinez recounted his odyssey from Cuba to Miami in a three-part series for 14ymedio that provides insights on human trafficking in Latin America).

RSF_FHThe 2016 program is the first in the Alfred Friendly Foundation’s 32-year history to include a Cuban journalist, and the program will have a journalist from Iran for the second time. (She also happens to be that country’s first female business editor of a major newspaper.)

PiePress Partners also used crowdfunding for the first time to support the inclusion of another reporter from war-torn Ukraine. The Kyiv Post set up a GoFundMe page for Olena Goncharova, and it took only 19 days and 50 contributors for the newspaper to surpass its goal of raising $5,000 toward Goncharova’s expenses.

The Daniel Pearl Foundation again chose two Pakistani journalists for the six-month Daniel Pearl fellowship after a selection process that drew 55 applicants from 15 different countries.

The eight 2016 Fellows are flying into Columbia, Missouri in mid-March and will go through 18 days of orientation and training at the Missouri School of Journalism. The initial training period is longer this year to provide more practical experience and better prepare the fellows for their time in the newsroom.

The eight Fellows will have another two weeks of training at the Missouri School of Journalism in July and a final seminar in Washington D.C. in September.

Two newspapers are hosting Alfred Friendly Fellows for the first time — The Oklahoman and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is hosting for the 18th time in 20 years, and rejoining the program are three long-time partners — the Kansas City Star, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Los Angeles Business Journal. El Nuevo Herald hosted twice and Forbes once before this year.

The quality of the training and the duration of the fellowship create a transformative experience for young journalists, which sets our program apart from all other fellowship programs. The Fellows are immersed in the American lifestyle; they are living in their own apartments, shopping at the grocery store and making friends in their communities. They aren’t just observing newsrooms; they are functioning as members of the staff, with the guidance of mentors.

To broaden the impact of the fellowship, participants are required to develop training plans that they implement when they return to their home newsrooms. Our graduates typically make a profound impact on journalism in their countries.

And as recent reports from Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders illustrate, the 2016 Fellows’ countries need the kind of top-notch journalists that come out of the Alfred Friendly fellowship program.