The Africa Data Hub is, as the name implies, a data hub. Therefore, it is important to keep data in mind when writing a proposal or submitting an application for an ADH fellowship. The Community Journalism Fellowship in Nigeria is an exciting extension of the work we do, and in this article, we share what made some of the successful applications from the 2022 cohort did to stand out for us.
1. Read the application guidelines carefully
As a starting point, carefully read through the application several times. Write down any important details, such as the length of the pitch, the themes, additional documents needed and the deadlines. Being absolutely clear in what the application is asking of you will help you to produce a great proposal.
Succinct writing is a winner in this game. If the word count for your story proposal is included in the submission requirements, do not exceed the word count by more than ~10% of the suggested word length. For example, pitches for our ADH Community Journalism Fellowship should have been no more than 250 words. Keep your writing simple and clear and remember, your proposal may be rejected outright if your submission is too long.
PROTIP: Write your proposal on a word document and ensure that it adheres to the word count specifications and guidelines. Drop emotive words, and stick to the essentials that support your proposal. Ask yourself if you can say what you want to say in fewer words.
2. Proofread! Proofread! Proofread!
We are all human and computers are imperfect, and so spelling and grammar errors can happen - however, applicants who go the extra mile and ensure that both human and technical errors are kept to a minimum have better chances of a successful application. It shows that you are committed to producing good work in the long run. Don’t submit your proposal without reading it at least twice, so that you can avoid submitting a proposal with extensive spelling and grammatical errors.
PROTIP: Online applications can be tricky. Find the relevant application question(s) first and answer them on a separate word document and ensure that the spell checker is on. You can also use Grammarly to check the spelling and grammar in your proposal, or visit pages like Microsoft’s support page to see how to use spell checker.
3. Do your research and strengthen your application with context and data
Supporting your proposal with some preliminary research is essential. Background information helps to contextualise your story and provides the reviewers with a clear understanding of what you want to do and why it is important. This will also help to inform the kind of resources and support you will need to write your story. Remember, you are trying to convince a reviewer to give you money to report on an issue that you believe in, so add as much information as you can to show them the value of your proposal.
We, at ADH, believe that using data enables reliable storytelling. Therefore, demonstrate the data elements of your story in the proposal too. It's important to avoid adding data to your proposal for the sake of having data; relevance is essential. What data can you source to help the reviewer understand the size of the problem? Describing the context of your story and the supporting data that can help strengthen your proposal. If you do not know the data that will be relevant to the research, or which medium you will use to publish your story, do not be hesitant to share this.
PROTIP: Use data as one of the building blocks of your proposal to highlight the context and impact of your story. Where possible, use data to show the impact of the issue you want to write about or a gap that you want to fill. You can always access Africa Data Hub’s two online training courses, the Fundamentals of Data Journalism course and and the Solutions Journalism course, to get more tips on how to pitch your journalism story, as well as how to use data in storytelling as a starting point.
4. Resources Required
Successful applicants receive funding once they have published their stories. Resources are tailored to the scope and depth of each submission. This means that as an applicant you have to describe the resources you require to publish your story. Be as detailed as possible (while sticking to the word limit) and be clear in how the funds will be used. You need to help the reviewer understand what you need to do the work so avoid providing vague values without motivating clearly what the funds will be spent on.
PROTIP: Briefly describe the research methods that will be used or people that will be involved in the research to start breaking down how much money you will need to write your story. If there are third party experts, highlight the motivation behind their selection as well as their contribution to the research: will they share their opinion or their skill set? How will they share their skill set?
5. Why you are the best candidate to report the story:
All pitches, whether for funding or in an editorial meeting, require you to “sell” why your idea is a good idea. This part of the application is an opportunity to share why you should be given this incredible opportunity. Share your personal experiences with the topic or provide links to previous related work. Help the reviewer understand why you are the best person for the job and why you can make it happen better than anyone else.
PROTIP: Indicating the reachof the broadcaster or newsroom that the story is intended to be shared can help in understanding the estimated impact of the story and can be .
Provide examples of your previous work on a similar topic to help draw the reviewer’s attention to the quality of your work and your enthusiasm for this project in particular.
The above tips are lessons future ADH Community Journalism Fellows can learn from the Nigerian 2022 Fellowship Cohort, but these lessons can also be applied to other fellowship opportunities with the Africa Data Hub as well as other organisations.
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