Local Data Journalism Fellowship

Journalists who have an investigative story in mind related to critical issues affecting cities, but who lack the resources to analyze and present the data required to tell the story, are invited to apply to the Local Data Journalism Fellowship. This year, the opportunity is open to journalists in the Chicagoland area, or those who work nationally but have a Chicagoland partner. Successful applicants will be appointed as Data Journalism Fellows at the University of Chicago and will work with data science teams to conduct ambitious investigative journalism, using the highest caliber data science and artificial intelligence tools and methodologies.


About the program

Journalists lead the way by proposing a data-driven investigative story or series of stories related to critical issues affecting cities. A data science team of faculty and students at the University of Chicago will work closely with selected journalists over the summer of 2024 to scope and provide data analytic and visualization support needed to complete the project. Journalist fellows will meet regularly with the team over eight weeks, first with a kick-off session, followed by in-person or online meetings, typically each week. By the end of the summer, journalist fellows ideally will complete the program with:

  • completed data analyses, visualizations, or other deliverables, validated by the University of Chicago that they can use in their story
  • an increased high-level understanding of how data science methods and tools can add capacity in their work
  • access to data science tools for future projects

What sets this effort apart from existing university data journalism programs is that we connect journalists with university faculty and graduate students who will conduct data science projects in support of their work, rather than attempt to train journalists to be data scientists themselves. This empowers journalists to do what they do best: investigate leads; build relationships with sources; and tell powerful, impactful stories — knowing that the data and results being reported have been rigorously analyzed and validated. Additionally, we expect journalist fellows will leave with increased understanding of the power of data science and its capacity to aid in their future work.

Who should apply

The program is intended for journalists or other individuals working at news or other organizations who have an investigative story in mind related to critical issues affecting cities, but who lack the resources to analyze and present the data required to tell the story. We encourage individuals from across the Chicagoland area to apply.

Our goal is to provide you with a quality product that helps tell an important story. To do this, our data team will need to meet and communicate regularly with you. The program will run for eight weeks beginning June 10. We ask that you be available for an initial half-day kickoff meeting on June 10, eight hours of additional meetings throughout the summer of 2024, or approximately one hour each week, and to stay in regular communication with the data science team as the project progresses.

If you have a story idea that involves data, but have not finalized details, identified specific datasets, or simply prefer to review your idea in person, our team is happy to discuss project ideas prior to you submitting an official proposal. Please get in touch by emailing us at miurban@uchicago.edu, with the subject line “Data Journalism Inquiry.”

How to apply

Please fill out an application form, which will ask about the story you want to tell, the potential data source(s) you would like to use, and why this program is necessary for your investigative project. We will review all applications and contact selected candidates for an initial meeting to discuss the project.

We recognize the sensitivity of journalistic story ideas. Please share as much about the project as you are comfortable. Your application will not be shared with anyone beyond the review committee of faculty and staff at the University of Chicago. If you prefer to have a conversation about your proposal rather than putting it in writing, please indicate that in your application.

A compelling project proposal should outline a story idea that is clearly newsworthy and adds value to a critical issue impacting one or more cities. It should include a data source or sources that you plan to use, how you learned of it, how it’s available, and any other key details that will help us in providing an impactful analysis. You should help us understand more about you and your background, and why you are well positioned to tell this story, as well as the media outlet where you plan to place this story.

We will begin reviewing applications December 15, 2023. Contact miurban@uchicago.edu with questions.