Matter announces finalists for international reporting fellowship

Matter announced an international reporting fellowship in September. It pays pretty well: $10,000 plus another $5,000 for travel expenses. On Tuesday morning the publication, which is owned by Medium, named six finalists, whose proposals Matter readers will vote on -- you have to log in and click the "recommend" button at the foot of the post to vote for it. Voting ends Friday, Nov. 21 at 6 p.m. ET, and the winner will be named Dec. 1. (Note: You have to sign in to Medium to read the proposals.)

The finalists:

  • Christopher Benz, who wants to investigate mass graves of child soldiers in an unnamed African country with a photographer who's been marked for death by a local warlord.
  • Tik Root, Wyatt Orme and Juan Herrero, who propose an examination of economic prospects for the post-genocide generation in Rwanda.
  • May Jeong, who wants to write about people emigrating from Afghanistan.
  • Meredith Talusan, who plans to write about the experience of trans women in the Philippines after the November 2013 typhoon.
  • Souvid Datta, who wants to document sex trafficking in Kolkata.
  • Vanessa Hua, who proposes a report on Chinese imports of American pork.

Matter Editor-in-Chief Mark Lotto said the fellowship has its roots in his tenure at The New York Observer under former Editor Peter Kaplan, who was "deeply invested in breaking new voices."

"We want the same thing for Matter," he said. "We don't want it to be the same group of people you constantly hear from."

About 200 people applied for the fellowship, and Matter staffers -- the publication currently has five editors and two art directors -- read through them and any clips the hopefuls included to get to this list of finalists.

It's important that Matter readers have a say on the winner, Lotto said, because Medium is an "an open and collaborative platform."

Matter is prepared to support writers going into dangerous situations, like the one Benz proposes: "We’ve sent people to Syria, we’ve sent people to Nigeria, we’ve had reporting from all over the world," he said. "We’re a staff that has a fair bit of experience with foreign reporting, and we know how to do that responsibly."

Matter's staff thought it was crucial that the fellowship involve people getting the opportunity to travel. "Too often there aren’t the resources for people to simply get on a plane," he said. "If we're going to be a publication that takes this kind of global view of stories, then we want to have a group of writers who are equally unexpected and come from equally diverse and interesting and fascinating backgrounds."

No applicant jumped the queue and straight-up landed an assignment based on their proposal, Lotto said, but Matter has already identified some people it finds promising: "With plenty of people, the idea they have isn't precisely the right one, but we want to spend time working with them," he said.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.

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