Guild member Felicia Fonseca, an Associated Press journalist since June 2005 who covers a vast area in northern Arizona, was awarded a Nieman Foundation Fellowship for 2016-2017.
She is one of just 24 journalists picked to take part in the prestigious program at Harvard University.
Nieman fellows spend two full semesters at Harvard auditing classes, participating in events and collaborating with peers. They attend seminars, shop talks, master classes and journalism conferences designed to strengthen their professional skills and leadership capabilities, thereby helping to fortify the news industry.
‘I’ve developed a niche for covering American Indian tribes,” Fonseca told the Guild. “My interest in that comes from growing up in a small New Mexico town that borders the Navajo Nation, but knowing next to nothing about the history or culture of the tribe, its relationship to neighboring communities and why people viewed tribal members in certain ways. Understanding your surroundings and the population is part of being a good journalist.”
“My hope is to become a resource for journalists covering Indian Country and to ensure that stories about American Indian tribes become part of the national discussion.”
Fonseca said she was approached about applying for the program at a Native American Journalists Association conference in Arizona a few years ago. “Before that, it hadn’t crossed my mind,”she admitted. She waited a few years to apply, and in the meantime settled on a focused course of study.
Fonseca will spend her year at Harvard examining ways in which tribes can build strong economies so that they don’t need to rely on the federal government. “My hope is to become a resource for journalists covering Indian Country and to ensure that stories about American Indian tribes become part of the national discussion,” she said.
To participate in the Nieman program, Fonseca will be taking a leave of absence from the AP. Article 23 of the Guild contract provides that staffers who are awarded fellowships from the Nieman Foundation and other organizations are automatically granted leaves for the duration of the program.
“I’m thankful to have a union contract that allows time off for this fellowship and the guarantee that I can return to my position as northern Arizona correspondent,” Fonseca said. “It’s reassuring to know we can seek out professional development with job protection.”