Knight Scholarships and Fellowships

Knight Foundation scholar working at a computer

Knight Scholarships and Fellowships for Developers

Are you a skilled programmer or Web developer? Are you interested in applying your talents to the challenge of creating a better-informed society? Do you think technology can improve journalism? Or do you believe journalism is behind the curve technologically?

Medill now offers journalism scholarships and fellowships for people with degrees or backgrounds in computer programming. The goal of this program, financed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is to inspire talented developers to move into media and journalism.

The program provides funding for developers who want any of the following:

  • a master's degree in journalism -- earn an MSJ in our one-year program.
  • one or two academic terms (3-6 months) of journalism study -- starting with the first term of our master's program, which provides foundational skills in reporting, storytelling and understanding today's media landscape.
  • specific journalism coursework of your choosing (presuming space is available and you can demonstrate you have met any course prerequisites)
  • a paid 3-month or 6-month fellowship -- under the auspices of the Knight Lab -- in which you would research, learn or build an application relevant to journalism. 

Medill believes that journalism is a key foundation for democracy and that programmer/developers are enormously important to the future of journalism. So we have partnered with the Knight Foundation to create this program for people with strong technology skills who are interested in exploring journalism at Medill.

Medill has offered these scholarships since 2007, when Prof. Rich Gordon won one of the first Knight News Challenge grants to create the scholarship program. Since then, 12 scholarship winners have graduated from Medill and taken jobs in journalism and media organizations.

Brian Boyer and Ryan Mark, awarded Medill's first two Knight Scholarships, led the Chicago Tribune news applications team, which earned a worldwide reputation for developing and deploying new technologies that help inform and engage online users. Under the motto "Share Your Work," the Tribune team also released a large amount of open-source code that is widely used by journalists and media organizations. In 2010, the team won the first Gannett Foundation Award for Digital Innovation in Watchdog Journalism, administered by the Associated Press Managing Editors.

Interested? Contact Prof. Rich Gordon, who oversees the program.

Knight Scholarship & Fellowship FAQs

Can I find a job in a news organization without a journalism degree?

News organizations employ many programmer/developers. But our experience has been that they look particularly favorably on developers who understand journalism and how news organizations work. The Medill's master's program is rooted in the practical realities of journalism, and your work her will prepare you for the real-world news environment. You will be better able to collaborate with journalists and media professionals than before your studies at Medill.

If I pursue a master's degree at Medill, what will my curriculum be?

Knight Scholars take the same courses as other students pursuing a master of science in journalism (MSJ), with a few additional options. In your first academic quarter, you will be enrolled in Journalism Methods, our orientation to news reporting, writing and storytelling. In your second quarter, you will cover a news beat in our Chicago newsroom. What else you take will depend on your choices. You can take elective graduate courses in Medill's journalism or integrated marketing communications programs, or in other Northwestern graduate programs.

More information about the Medill MSJ program can be found here. Specifics on curriculum and courses are here.

If I want to take courses at Medill, but not a full master's degree, what are my options?

We recommend that you enroll full-time in the first quarter (11 weeks) of our master's program, which we call Journalism Methods. The quarter includes ''Frameworks of Modern Journalism,'' an overview of the social, audience and technology trends shaping the media industry; classes in news reporting and editing; and training in multimedia storytelling skills. Depending on your background and course prerequisites, we can also let you take individual courses that you are interested in. Specifics on our curriculum and courses are here.

What kinds of things would I do with a Knight Lab fellowship?

The Lab's mission is to produce software geared to journalism and media. So we are looking for fellows who have ideas for useful software. Your fellowship could include time to conduct user research, build a prototype, collaborate with Lab developers and students, or otherwise contribute to the Lab's mission. If you're interested, contact Joe Germuska, director of the Lab.

I have done some coding but I do not consider myself a programmer. Do I have a chance at the Knight scholarship?

The scholarships are intended for people who have skills and experience in software development -- ideally, having an undergraduate computer science degree or having worked full-time as a software developer.

I am not a computer programmer, but I would like to learn these skills. Can I learn programming at Medill?

Our MSJ curriculum includes courses in Web design and development, and you can get exposure to HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Application Programming Interfaces. So you can develop some proficiency in programming techniques that are relevant to media and journalism and gain a foundation to develop additional programming skills. But if learning computer programming is your primary goal, you might want to consider other kinds of courses or degrees.

How much of the cost of attending Medill is covered by a Knight scholarship?

For students not pursuing a master's degree, we cover the full cost of tuition from individual courses to up to two full academic quarters (roughly 6 months). If you enroll in the master's program, we commit to meeting your financial need. The typical scholarship award will be equivalent to half the cost of tuition for Medill's one-year master's degree program. If an applicant requires additional financial aid, he or she may fill out the standard federal financial aid application materials in order to be considered for other scholarships, merit awards, need-based grants and federal student loans. In addition to educational financial aid, scholarship winners have the opportunity work part-time (or full time during a leave of absence from Medill) for the Knight Lab. Medill has also partnered with The Washington Post to provide a paid, post-graduation internship and scholarship aid covering the remaining half of tuition for some scholarship recipients.

Medill is seeking additional media industry partners interested in offering additional scholarship support and job or internship opportunities to the Knight scholarship winners. If your company is interested in such a program, please contact Rich Gordon.

Are international students eligible for Knight Scholarships?

Yes. International students are eligible. We welcome students from around the globe who have a passion for digital journalism.

How can I apply for the MSJ scholarship?

Scholarship applicants must meet all of Medill's standard admission requirements. If you are interested in applying for this scholarship program, here are the steps to follow:

  1. Fill out an online application for admission to Medill, including all required materials.
  2. Please upload your resume with the application. In the resume, please include details about (and links to) your programming work.
  3. In addition to answering the essay questions on the standard application, please upload your answer of up to 750 words to the following question: "How do journalism and technology relate to each another in the digital age?"

Want more information? If you have questions about this program, please contact Rich Gordon




Old rules are going out the window, — and new, unprecedented things are being made. It's a great opportunity to be creative and inventive as a programmer and participate in rewiring journalism.

- Ryan Mark (MSJ09), Chicago Tribune news application developer