The New Mexico Local News Fellowship and Internship Program has just launched its fifth cycle with a record seven fellows and eight interns who will work in newsrooms around the state. That is double the normal number of young journalists.
The growth comes after the state Legislature and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham approved a $125,000 appropriation to the Department of Workforce Solutions to expand the job-training program, a project of the New Mexico Local News Fund and the University of New Mexico Department of Communication & Journalism (C&J.)
"This investment from the state is a bold statement of support for local news — and for our program, which has become a model for others in the country," Rashad Mahmood, executive director of the New Mexico Local News Fund said.
As part of a continuing effort to serve communities outside of the state's major metropolitan areas, fellows and interns will be working with newsrooms in Clovis, Deming, Belen and Roswell.
"Partnering with trusted news sources in smaller cities and towns helps us fill a growing need while giving our young journalists valuable experience," UNM C&J professor and program supervisor Michael Marcotte said.
This year's cohort includes veterans of UNM's Daily Lobo and NMSU's Roundup, a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, a Lobo football player and more.
"The state's investment primes the pump we’ve built — filling the pipeline with talented young people whose bylines you’ll be seeing for years into the future," UNM C&J team teacher and program manager Gwyneth Doland said.
Each fellow, who are recent UNM, NMSU and ENMU graduates spend nine months in these newsrooms, earning $26,500. Current students will perform part-time summer internships that pay $4,000.
Doland and Marcotte are proud to recognize three interns, turned full-time journalists. In 2022, the first ever cohort of interns, Michaela Helean, Annya Loya Orduño,Ernesto Cisneros earned secure writing positions at the Rio Rancho Observer, Deming Headlight and the Las Cruces Sun-News.
"This expansion of our project is a celebration of the incredible hard work our students and graduates have done since 2019. They have proven that they are ready and willing to help fill the state’s dire need for local news,” Doland said.
The program has had large-scale success in keeping New Mexico journalists in the state they grew up in, with a 75% retention rate.
Their work has also not gone unnoticed, with fellows making their names known across prestigious awards and organizations.
Fellow Megan Gleason won three awards in the SPJ Top of the Rockies contest, from her 2022–2023 fellowship at Source New Mexico. Sol Traverso earned a first-place award from the New Mexico Press Association for education reporting he did during his 2021–2022 Taos News fellowship. Former fellow Leah Romero shared an NMPA award with the staff at the Las Cruces Sun-News and Makayla Grijalva shared an award for her work at the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
Learn more about the program and its new fellows and interns at the New Mexico Local News Fellowship and Internship Program, and the Department of Communication & Journalism.