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How the GNI Student Fellowship drives innovation across the European news industry


How the GNI Student Fellowship drives innovation across the European news industry

Picture of Fleur Leijte
Fleur Leijte — Project manager
December 08, 2021

Behind the scenes of the Google News Initiative Student Fellowship 2021

In 2021, the European Journalism Centre hosted the Google News Initiative Student Fellowship for the third time. The Fellowship provides young professionals with an opportunity to gain quality work experience and to start building their resumes under professional guidance. This year, 29 young graduates and students kick-started their careers in journalism in 14 newsrooms across Europe.

While Covid restrictions were carefully lifted throughout Europe, the majority of newsrooms slowly reopened their offices in the summer of 2021. Fellows were excited to experience the buzz inside a newsroom and to make real-life connections with their colleagues. Others continued to work remotely or made use of hybrid working schedules. All Fellows were determined to make the most of their Fellowships.

Read more about the 2021 cohort of Fellows and their experiences here:

A boost in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

This year, we increased our efforts to include diversity, equity and inclusion best practices into the programme. This included an overall adjustment in the mindset and language of the programme. To ensure that this opportunity would reach as many eligible young professionals at the start of their careers, promotion was targeted at universities and schools in both urban and non-urban areas.

Additionally, the EJC was able to welcome three new newsrooms to the GNI Student Fellowship programme. Each of these focuses on highlighting diverse voices and their contribution to the programme has been invaluable:

  • Gal-dem, in the UK: an online and print magazine written by people of colour from marginalised genders.
  • Guiti News, in France: a start-up newsroom with a focus on covering migration and refugee issues.
  • Vice Belgium: a fast-growing media organisation with a focus on a wide variety of topics that interest young people such as sexuality, gender, politics, and climate.

We also made an effort to add a layer of diversity, equity and inclusion in the programme by offering all participating newsrooms a hands-on workshop on unconscious bias prior to the start of the screening and selection process. Newsroom representatives learned how to recognise their own unconscious biases, how these biases affect newsrooms and the recruitment of new talent, and what can be done to overcome them.

‘’The workshop definitely raised my own personal awareness of the topic and the exchange during the training was fruitful.’’ — Thomas Seymat, Euronews‘’It was useful to speak with people from other newsrooms as we share common issues as an industry.’’ — Theresa Malone, The Guardian

The 29 selected Fellows attended a similar unconscious bias workshop during their two-day online bootcamp which is a fixed and mandatory element in each GNI Student Fellowship edition organised by the EJC. The bootcamp allowed Fellows to get to know each other, share experiences, and learn practical skills and tools that can further help them to develop their careers.

Introducing an Alumni network for long-lasting connections

Newly introduced this year was the GNI Student Fellowship Alumni Network. The Network was set up to help Fellow Alumni reconnect and network with each other while gaining new skills. The Fellows that joined the Network had the opportunity to meet during online interactive workshops on personal online branding, data journalism and diversity, equity and inclusion. The topics were in part chosen in collaboration with the Fellows, who participated in a kick-off session to share their wants and needs for the Network.

The main lesson we learned from introducing the Network is that it can be challenging to build a lively online community, especially for ambitious professionals with busy lives like the Fellow Alumni. It requires an ongoing effort to make this Network appealing to join, while also taking into consideration the online fatigue that many have started to experience from attending an abundance of online events during the pandemic. Apart from these difficulties, it has been great to reconnect with some of the Fellow Alumni in an intimate and virtual setting, to learn where they are in their current lives and what the GNI Student Fellowship has brought them.

Measuring impact

Programmes like the GNI Student Fellowship provide an entry point for young media professionals to kick-start their careers, but in what way exactly? We wanted to find that out by measuring the long-term impact of the Fellowship. From survey-based research we learned that, as a result of participating in the 2020 Fellowship, around 35% of the Fellows landed a job at their host newsrooms or through its network. Furthermore, we concluded that close to 80% of former Fellows indicated that the Fellowship enhanced their career in one way or another.

‘’The Fellowship undoubtedly changed my life; it led to many further opportunities and I believe is the leading reason I was offered a job at the BBC. Without the Fellowship I wouldn’t be able to say that I have genuine newsroom experience. It’s been so valuable and I’m very thankful for it.’’ — Sarah Nancy Habershon, 2020 Fellow at Financial Times‘’Thanks to the Fellowship and my time at the FAZ, I got awarded the Top 30 under 30 Award in German journalism (…).’’- Gabriel Rinaldi, 2020 Fellow at Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Through the GNI Student Fellowship and by staying in touch with the Fellow Alumni, the EJC will continue to learn how the Fellowship influences the career of participants and how to improve the future editions of the programme.

What’s next?

In this edition of the Fellowship, we expanded the programme’s scope and we continued to learn and understand where we can improve and innovate — but this is not where it ends. We are happy to share with you that the GNI Student Fellowship will be back next year. By continuing the programme we underline our commitment to support, strengthen and develop journalism. More information will be available at the beginning of 2022. Make sure to follow our Twitter page and subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated.

About the GNI Student Fellowship

The GNI Student Fellowship is funded by the Google News Initiative and organised and hosted by the European Journalism Centre foundation. It was created for students and recent graduates interested in working at the intersection of technology, media and journalism. The participating Fellows join European newsrooms for a paid summer placement. During this time, they focus on developing skills in areas ranging from technology, multimedia and design to data, audience development and fact-checking.

If you have any questions or would like to get in touch, you can write to us at


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