Olena Goncharova, 2016 Alfred Friendly fellow.

By Maria Jose Valero

Kyiv Post chief editor Brian Bonner believes two graduates of the Alfred Friendly fellowship program strengthened his newsroom, and he was determined to pave the way for a third Post reporter to participate in the program.

“We’ve been fortunate to send two reporters,” Bonner said. “They both returned with more confidence and practical skills in reporting and writing.”

Anastasia Forina, the first fellow from the Kyiv Post, describes her experience at the Chicago Tribune and at the Missouri School of Journalism as one of the most rewarding in her career.

Bonner and his colleagues have come up with several innovative fundraising strategies for the English-language newspaper, which saw a huge jump in circulation after Russia’s seizure of Crimea and the war with Russian-backed separatists drew the world’s attention to Ukraine.

For the Alfred Friendly fellowship, he came up with a new idea: seeking the public’s help through crowdfunding. They set a goal of raising $5,000 through the GoFundMe campaign. And they surpassed it in just 19 days, with more than 50 people contributing.

The final amount raised, $5,500, will be used to cover some of the costs of training the third fellow from the Kyiv Post, reporter Olena Goncharova. She’ll be following in the footsteps of colleague Oksana Grytsenko by working at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette under the guidance of longtime Alfred Friendly mentor Greg Victor.

Training is particularly important now that Ukraine is in a fight for its very existence. The Alfred Friendly fellowship provides reporters with the experience and innovative tools they need to bring their skills to a higher level and spread the knowledge in their home newsrooms upon their return.

David Reed, program director of the Alfred Friendly Press Partners, said Ukraine is a priority for fellowship selection. “Ukraine’s democratic future, and its relationship with the European Union and the United States, is closely linked with the future of independent media in Ukraine,” he said.

The impact of the Alfred Friendly fellowship is already noticeable in Ukraine. Grytsenko, who is back covering the civil war, periodically from the front lines,  now shares what she learned while training at the Missouri School of Journalism and working for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She conducts seminars for Ukrainian journalists with the help of Media Development Foundation, a Kyiv Post-founded nongovernmental organization that partners with 35 newsrooms in Ukraine.

“Such a wide audience ensures effective sharing of knowledge that the Kyiv Post journalists bring back from the U.S.,” said Daryna Shevchenko, executive director of the Media Development Foundation. “And funding of a new fellowship will help get even more knowledge and experience very much needed to improve Ukrainian media and help Ukraine fight Russian propaganda effectively.”

This is the first time that Alfred Friendly Press Partners has benefited from a crowdfunding campaign to help finance a fellow’s trip to the U.S.  The non-profit organization intends to replicate the method for other fellowships in the future.