Innovation: Rethinking the Knight Fellowship program at Stanford University

Among the most prestigious honors you can receive as a working journalist are the Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University and the Knight Fellowship at Stanford University.

Each allows you the luxury of a year off to study, network, and re-imagine your career. But given the turmoil, changes, and opportunities in the news business, in some ways this model almost feels a bit self-indulgent. That model focuses on things an individual can do for themselves, rather than what they can do for the industry.

And so I was excited to see that the Knight Fellowship had decided to rethink its mission:

It’s not the same old story, not in journalism and not at the Knight Fellowships program. Beginning with the 2009-10 fellowship year, the program will put a new emphasis on journalistic innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership.

To further explain the new mission, Fellowship director Jim Bettinger has launched a new blog:

I want this blog to explain and elaborate on changes in the program, for starters. But I also want to use it to generate discussion and debate about how journalists can become more innovative and entrepreneurial — in short, how we can lead rather than follow.

There are two big changes that are worth noting. First, the program will now focus on “innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership.” And second, fellows are now expected to come with “a coherent proposal that will lead to a tangible result.”

Though the material doesn’t explicitly state it, essentially, the program seems to be transforming into an incubator.

Here’s the other critical piece of information: Deadline for applying for international applicants is Dec. 15. For U.S. residents, the deadline is Feb. 1, 2009. The applications can be found here.

I’m sure this dramatic change is likely to disturb some of Knight’s alumni. But it’s just the kind of thing we need more of these days. Congratulations to all the Knight Fellowship folks who worked on this!

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