Center for Media Innovation’s $20,000 media fellowship returns to Point Park University


The Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University is excited to announce the return of its $20,000 Doris O’Donnell Innovations in Investigative Journalism Fellowship. This marks the third year of the fellowship, which was designed to spotlight and take on the growing problem of underserved media markets known as news deserts.

“As technology continues to disrupt local journalism across the United States, we need to support the people still doing original enterprise reporting,” said Andrew Conte, director of the Center. “The O’Donnell fellowship seeks to not only give resources to individual journalists but also to inspire others to continue this important work.”

The Center also will award second-and third-place prizes of $5,000 and $2,500. The fellowship is made possible through a three-year grant from the Allegheny Foundation.

U.S. has lost more than 2,100 newspapers since 2014

Since 2004, the U.S. has lost more than 2,100 newspapers, according to the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media. Thousands of counties across the country lack a daily newspaper, and many have no newspaper at all.

The fellowship winner will have eight months to report and publish or broadcast a final story or series of stories. In addition, the honoree will be required to come to Point Park University’s Downtown Pittsburgh campus to present their findings and to work with students.

Last year’s fellowship winner, Sunnie Clahchischiligi, a contributing writer for Searchlight New Mexico, won the top prize with her proposal to investigate how potentially thousands of students on the Navajo Nation when missing during the pandemic and expose myriad educational failures, which run far deeper than the public knows. Clahchischiligi grew up on a remote homestead on the Navajo Nation near Teec Nos Pos, Ariz., and has worked in journalism for more than 15 years. Her resulting work was published in Searchlight New Mexico as well as outlets such as Rolling Stone and The Guardian.

Who are the judges?

A panel of six distinguished judges with credentials in cutting-edge investigative journalism will evaluate applicants based on value, innovation, engagement, diversity and ability. That panel includes:

  • Brad Bumsted, bureau chief of The Caucus, a watchdog publication based in Pennsylvania that focuses on state issues
  • Andrew Fraser, senior publishing editor for The Wall Street Journal
  • Jasmine Goldband, photo editor for the Houston Chronicle
  • Amber Hunt, investigative reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer and host of the podcasts Accused and Crimes of the Centuries
  • Tory Parrish, business reporter for Newsday in New York
  • Guy Wathen, multimedia editor for the San Francisco Chronicle

Doris O’Donnell, the namesake of the award, was a pioneering journalist who began her 50-year career during World War II for the Cleveland News. She joined the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1959, covering the Sam Sheppard murder trial that inspired “The Fugitive,” and traveling to Dallas for the aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination and the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War. O’Donnell was hired by Richard Scaife in 1973 to write for the Greensburg Tribune-Review. She worked there for 15 years before returning to Cleveland.

Journalists and media outlets can apply through March 30 at The winners will be announced in April.

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