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Bill McKibben and Christopher Shaw regret to announce that the Middlebury Fellowships in Environmental Journalism have for the foreseeable future accomplished their original goal: to exist for five years, accomplish as much as we could and vanish into the wilderness.

Well, it’s actually been seven years, in which time we have had the honor and pleasure to fund 62 rather than the original 50 of the finest young journalists in the world, and to bring in the best editors and reporters working today as their mentors. Stories we funded and advised have appeared in Mother Jones, Orion, the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Harper’s, OnEarth, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many other places, and our fellows have gone on to staff jobs at Grist, Mother Jones, HuffingtonPost, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Guardian, North Country Public Radio, 7 Days, Vermont Public Radio, and The Oxford American. Others have published or received contracts for books, including at least one best-seller and a two-book deal, or gone on to teach at Berkeley, Stanford and Ole Miss.

And our greatest hope—that this would develop into a true “fellow” ship—has been borne out as well. Fellows have stayed in touch and helped other fellows within their fellowship year, and met and stayed in touch across years. Visiting reporters have continued to advise their fellows.  A network of friends, colleagues and co-workers has arisen.       

To those of you who didn’t receive fellowships, or who didn’t have a chance to apply, there is no question that reading your pitches and hearing your stories added to our fund of awareness and concern as we documented the unfolding catastrophe of climate change and environmental collapse. We turned down as many worthy projects as we funded. As one who has been rejected for every major grant or award, I know how hollow that sounds. From the point of view of the person who had to make impossible choices at the end, I know how true it is. It hurt to turn down every one of you, and now to disappoint those still hoping to apply.

Fortunately a number of programs resembling ours have come along at Grist and Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism ( among others. We encourage you to apply for those and to keep reporting, keep pitching, keep telling the stories of our time. And read Tom Englehart’s essay “The Golden Age of Journalism,” ( The fourth estate is making a comeback. Don’t quit.

New Fellows for 2013

Middlebury—Ten new fellows for 2013 have been chosen to receive Middlebury Fellowships in Environmental Journalism. The $10,000 grants are given to ten early career journalists to support a year of reporting and writing based on a proposal they submit. They meet with the directors and a visiting faculty member twice, for a week in the fall at Bread Loaf, in Ripton VT, where they brainstorm their stories, and in the spring at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey (MIIS) in California, where they edit the completed pieces.

“Each year it’s an embarrassment of riches, but this year was harder than ever to choose,” said program director Bill McKibben. “We could easily have funded thirty stories, and it never gets any easier to pass on something we love. It’s thrilling to see how many of our applicants are breaking ground, uncovering news and giving context to the most important stories of our time, and we’re grateful for every proposal we receive.”

This year’s fellows and their stories are:

  • Erika Eichelberger: how climate change drives conflict in Nigeria.
  • Maddie Oatman: how the “framing” of western US pine beetle infestation justifies questionable forestry practices
  • Zaheena Rasheed: the link in Burma between ethnic violence and a new oil pipeline for the Chinese market
  • Stephanie Joyce: How pirated “Alaskan” king crab from the Sea of Okhostk enters the US market
  • Jesse Newman: Lead contamination of abandoned rail beds
  • Kiya Vega-Hutchens (Middlebury College undergraduate fellow): A Trump development’s encroachment on a historic runaway slave enclave in Puerto Rico.
  • Aaron Reuben: a new link between fossil fuel pollution and increased rates of Alzheimer’s
  • Jaeah Lee: Fracking in China, and its effect on the country’s water supply
  • Puck Lo: The female haenyo seafood divers of Jeju Island, Korea, and a new US Naval installation
  • Brooke Jarvis: Deep-sea mining off the coast of New Guinea.


The Middlebury Fellowships in Environmental Journalism each year take 10 journalists near the start of their careers and help them work through an ambitious reporting project in print, web-based, or radio journalism, from the beginning through publication or broadcast. Fellows meet together twice during the year, once in the fall on the Middlebury campus in Vermont, and once in the spring at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS) in California.

At these meetings professional journalists help participants plan their reporting and shape their stories. Graduate fellows each receive $10,000 to help with reporting and living expenses during the fellowship year—enough, we hope, to let the reporting project be one significant focus of their year’s work. We interpret the environment broadly—reporting projects dealing with economics, culture, global issues, and the like are fine, as long as they center in some way on the human relationship with the physical world.

Application Requirements

Interested applicants should write a two- or three-page letter pitching their idea, just as they would to an editor at a magazine or a broadcast program. The letter should demonstrate enough preliminary research to make clear there’s really a story, and that it will be possible for the applicant to successfully report it. The letter should also include a proposed plan of research for the fellowship year. Web and video applications should demonstrate the same focus on reported stories emphasizing context and history as long-fact written pieces.

Applicants should enclose three writing or broadcast samples, preferably of professionally published work, as well as recommendations from two people who have worked with the applicant as an editor or teacher, and a resume with contact information. Resumes, pitches and letters should be written or copied on plain recycled copier or printer weight paper, double-sided if possible, and held together using paper clips rather than staples. Recommendations should be enclosed with the application unless arrangements are made ahead of time, but need not be sealed.

Journalists from outside the United States are encouraged to apply if they can demonstrate proficiency in written English.


Applications will be due by May 15, 2013. This is a hard deadline as we try to turn around the applications and choose the fellows no later than early June. Therefore express mail or FedEx applications from within North America should be sent no later than May 11, and as early as necessary from everywhere else. We encourage applicants to use the most dependable carriers possible.

Please use a tracking number if you would like to ensure your materials have been delivered, as we are unable to confirm receipt of individual applications.

All questions should be sent to

Submit applications to:

Christopher Shaw, Associate Director
Middlebury Fellowships in Environmental Journalism
Axinn Center at Starr Library 309
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753