Hurry! Applications for the 2nd round of NFI Fellowships for Independent Journalists reporting in English and Malayalam languages are now open till May 21st, 2021

Hurry! Applications for the 2nd round of NFI Fellowships for Independent Journalists reporting in English and Malayalam languages are now open till May 21st, 2021

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published Published on May 7, 2021   modified Modified on May 8, 2021

India is facing a second and worse wave of Covid-19 pandemic. At this time, the country requires journalism to tell the stories of courage, of loss and grief, of the state of preparedness and about the efforts being made by communities, individuals, civil society and government.

Journalists are needed to document with rigour the gaps and lacunae in governance when it appears.

At the same time, journalists need to be vigilant about the many spiralling effects that the pandemic and subsequent decisions to tackle it has on lives of many and on the economy at large.

To help them do so, National Foundation for India (NFI) is launching the second window of its media fellowships for independent journalists outside six large metropolitan cities (Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Kolkota, Chennai, Hyderabad, or Bengaluru).

In this second round, up to 25 fellowships are available for reporting in English and up to 10 fellowships are available for reporting in Malayalam.

* About the fellowship

Each fellow will be granted INR 30,000 to publish one story of 1,000-1,500 words on a broad range of themes and issues of public interest, reported in depth over one month.

If required, NFI will connect the grantee to a senior journalist as a mentor to guide and help the grantee in reporting better.

NFI will aid the grantee in publishing the stories with different media organisations. The reportage in Malayalam will be published by NFI's partner Azhimukham.

* Selection of fellows

An NFI-appointed jury of eminent journalists selects the grantees based on the detailed application. For the fellowships to report in Malayalam, the editorial leadership of Azhimukham and NFI will jointly select fellows.

Weightage is given to candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Early submissions get additional weightage during the selection process.

Fellowship grants are announced within 15 days of the application window closing. Successful candidates are informed by email and through announcement on the NFI website.

Applications for Round-2 are now open till May 21st, 2021.

* Who can apply?

Journalists who meet the following two criteria:

1. Independent journalists not engaged on a full-time basis with any media organisation.

2. Journalists who are Indian citizens and residing in India outside the six metropolitan cities of Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Kolkota, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru.

* Definition of an independent journalist

The following fall into our working definition of ‘independent journalists’:

You are either

A “working journalist”, whose primary vocation and source of livelihood is journalism. But you are not employed on a full-time basis with benefits of a salaried employee by any organisation.


You are a pass-out from a journalism college and not employed full-time by either a media organisation or any other kind of organisation.

* Kind of stories you can pitch for the grant

In the current round, NFI is inviting applications for stories to be published in print and digital formats in English (25 fellowships) and Malayalam (10 fellowships).

The story is reported deeply, evidence-based and well-investigated. The story could be a news-break, a news analysis or a news feature. It could be specific to the region or geography you report.

NFI wants to support stories that do not stop at merely reporting an incident or an event but draw these out in the context of larger trends in governance, society and the political economy.

NFI discourage essays and analysis that does not contain deep reporting.

The story could be on one of these themes or on the intersection of these themes. This is an indicative list and not an exhaustive one.

1. How are local, district, state or central governments responding (or, not responding) to the second wave of covid-19.

2. Specific stories of how people, communities, civil society and/or businesses responding to the second wave of covid-19. The public health challenge in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.

3. Particular conflicts over common property resources, resource-capture and corruption. Contests and conflicts over natural resources.

4. Cases, episodes or developments impacting the environment.

5. Misgovernance. Or, good governance.

6. Livelihoods and rights of people.

7. Functioning of essential services and social security schemes.

8. Workings of businesses and economy that impact society, rights and resources.

9. Social cooperation and innovation in the face of new challenges.

10. Civil and fundamental rights of citizens.

11. Evidence-based trends in how our societies are changing.

* Time to report

You are expected to complete and submit the story within one month (30 days) from the receipt of the grant.

* Expected story length

The expected story length is 1,000-1,500 words.

NFI encourage fellows to also record videos and audio and click photographs. These are used while publishing stories and while reproducing the stories in other multimedia formats

* Before you send your pitch to us

1. Make sure you pitch us more than a raw idea.

2. Do some background work, preliminary reporting and research on story idea to draw it out better.

3. Make sure that the story has not been reported before. Or that it analyses and reports on a known episode, event or process in light of new facts and understanding.

4. Make sure you are confident of accessing evidence to back up and corroborate your assertions in the story.

* What to keep ready before you fill the application form

All the details in application form for both, fellowships in English and Malayalam must be filled only in English.

(NFI apologises but it is unable to accept applications in Malayalam due to resource availability).

To apply in the current round, you should have the following ready:

1. For fellowships in English: your story idea written in English in less than 400 words. For fellowships in Malayalam: your story idea written in Malayalam in less than 400 words.

2. Your CV in English in a word or pdf format.

3. One unedited version of your best published work or an unpublished journalistic work of not less than 400 words in MS Word or PDF format. (Those applying for Malayalam Fellowships need to attach their unedited work in Malayalam)

To strengthen your pitch, please consider the following elements in your proposal:

1. The most recent development, event, incident or an emerging trend you want to report on.

2. Explain the context in which the development has happened or is happening (Editors find it easy to review the pitch when it is presented with the right context).

3. Summarise why this development matters, which is to say, why should anyone who consumes this news or analysis care about this development.

4. Give us a sense of what evidence, data or reporting you are already armed with and what else you would gather if you are granted the fellowship.

* Other FAQs

Q. Can those who have earlier received a NFI fellowship apply for the current fellowship?

A. Yes, former NFI fellows may apply for the current fellowship. But the jury will give a higher preference to first time applicants.

Q. I grew up in a metropolitan city listed in the fellowship form (Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Kolkota, Chennai, Hyderabad, or Bengaluru), but now reside elsewhere. Am I eligible to apply?

A. If in the previous six months, you have resided in places other than the six metropolitan cities mentioned in the fellowship announcement, you are eligible to apply.

Q. I am based in one of the six large metropolitan cities (Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Kolkota, Chennai, Hyderabad, or Bengaluru), but want to report from other places. Am I eligible to apply?

A. No. The fellowship is for journalists residing in cities other than these 6 metropolitans.

* If you have read the above, please click here.  

Please click here for reporting in English.

Please click here for reporting in Malayalam.

The NFI Media Fellowships Advisers are Anuradha Raman, Dhanya Rajendran, Krishna Prasad, Kumar Sambhav, P Sainath, Sanjay (Xonzoi) Barbora, and Seema Chishti

For more information, please visit:

In the first round NFI granted fellowships to 21 outstanding journalists from across the country. You can read about them and their work by clicking here.


Image Courtesy: National Foundation for India website

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