In the nightmarish milieu of twenty-first-century journalism, the Knight Wallace Fellowship is a sweet dream: a $70,000 stipend, a chance to study whatever you want at the U-M, lots of schmoozing, and even some expense-paid travel to visit journalists in places like New York, Buenos Aires, and Istanbul. So it’s no wonder that 193 people applied for the twenty-two slots available this fall—twice as many as last year. Longtime director Charles Eisendrath says the quality of the applicants “was better than we’ve ever seen”—but reflecting the cutbacks at newspapers and broadcast networks, he’s seeing “a lot more freelancers, people who work for the dot-coms, people who want to retool.”
Of course, the eight-month program is only a temporary shelter. When he started his fellowship last year, says Geoff Larcom, the Ann Arbor News reporter and columnist, “I had no idea the paper was going to fold.” But while he’s sweating about his future, he has no regrets about the fellowship—for someone who’s spent his career covering his hometown, the chance to travel and meet journalists around the world offered an experience “so far outside the realm of life in Ann Arbor.” Another current fellow, Kim Kozlowski of the Detroit News, “was terribly worried” about her job, Eisendrath says. But not only do her bosses want her back, they are expanding her beat to “covering all of science.” Even in journalism, says Eisendrath, “it’s not all bleak.”