The McGraw Fellowship for Business Journalism

Frequently Asked Questions

The McGraw Fellowship for Business Journalism

What kinds of stories do you support?

We take a broad view on what constitutes a business or economic story. In short, if something or someone impacts the economy, or there’s a money trail to be followed, we consider it fair game. Along with core economic issues such as the challenges of globalization or the rise of inequality, we know that many good business and economics stories arise in the course of covering other beats such as the environment, health care, technology, sports or entertainment. We’re equally intrigued by investigative pieces that expose hidden problems or wrongdoing as we are with explanatory or narrative stories that provide context or analysis of a complex topic. We are also keenly interested in stories that help an audience understand the key issues and players that are driving change in the U.S. and global economies, and how those changes impact the everyday lives of people across the country.

Within that framework, we’ll look for strong ideas that shed light on a poorly covered area or that advance the understanding of well-trod ground. Journalists of color and those from diverse backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply. We are interested in fresh perspectives, particularly on economic issues that impact under-covered communities or have not traditionally been followed within business journalism. Most important will be a compelling idea and the Fellow’s ability to do the reporting that leads to an ambitious story that can be completed during the Fellowship.

We support stories in all forms of media — text, audio, and short-form video, as well as those that are primarily data focused. Unfortunately, we cannot support long-form documentaries at this time. We encourage proposals that take advantage of more than one storytelling format to create a multimedia package.

I’m not a business journalist. Can I apply?

Absolutely! Many of our prior Fellows have been generalists, or they cover beats such as the environment, health care or education. Others have focused on corporate accountability or inequality. Check out the main Fellowship page to see some examples of the stories they’ve written. It’s the originality and quality of your story idea that matter to us, not how you — or others — have defined your past coverage.

I cover local issues. Am I eligible?

Yes, you would be too. We believe stories that tackle a critical local or regional issue are just as important as those that take on broader national or international subjects. We support both. Here are a couple of examples from New Mexico and Mississippi.

What do I need to apply?

There is no fee to apply. Applicants must have at least five years of professional journalism experience. We ask applicants to submit a proposal of no more than three pages, along with a resume and three examples of previous work. Think of your proposal as a pitch, much like you would submit to an editor at a newspaper, magazine, audio or digital outlet: give us enough preliminary reporting and documentation to demonstrate that the story is solid. The proposal should highlight what’s new and significant about the story, why it matters and what its potential impact might be. The proposal should also note what significant stories on the subject have run elsewhere and how the proposed piece would differ. Applicants should also briefly outline a proposed reporting plan and a timeline for completing the story. And while you don’t need to have a media outlet lined up for your story before you apply, if you do have one, let us know that in your proposal.

What work samples should I submit?

The examples you submit should demonstrate your ability to report out and develop an in-depth story; they do not need to be on the subject that you’re proposing for the Fellowship. If the best clips you have demonstrating your ability to write or narrate an ambitious piece are on another subject, those are the ones you should send.

What does the stipend cover?

The stipend — up to $15,000 — is intended to cover travel and research expenses incurred in reporting the stories. The exact amount each Fellow receives will depend on the time it takes to complete the project and the expenses needed. Freelance journalists can use a share of their stipend to help cover living expenses while they work on the project. For those who are on staff at a publication, some of the funding can be used to hire a replacement to cover the Fellow’s regular beat while they work on their project.

Do I need to submit a budget?

No. We don’t ask for a budget when you submit your application. All applicants who are chosen as finalists will be asked to provide an estimated budget at that time.

I received another grant. Can I apply?

Yes. If you have already received support from another grant or foundation for the story you are proposing (or have applied for other funding), we will still consider your application. We know some stories take more funding than we can provide. But make sure to let us know what other grant funding you have in your application.

What role does the McGraw Center play?

In addition to financial support, the McGraw Center provides editorial guidance throughout the Fellowship. We work closely with Fellows to develop and refine their ideas during the reporting phase and edit their drafts into publishable stories. The extent of our editorial role will depend on the needs of the outlet in which the piece will appear.

Do you help place stories?

Yes. The McGraw Center works with Fellows who do not already have an outlet to place their stories with an established print, audio or digital outlet. We also publish the stories on the McGraw Center’s website.

 If the outlet you currently work for plans to run the piece you’ve proposed for the Fellowship, please tell us that in your application. If you’re a freelance journalist, it’s not necessary to have a publication lined up for your story in advance, but please indicate if you do have one in your application.

Do I need references?

We no longer require applicants to submit references with their applications initially. However, if you are chosen as a finalist, we will ask you to provide two references at that time, including at least one from an editor that you have worked with. The references should come from people familiar enough with your work to be able to discuss your ability to carry out the proposed project. If you are a freelancer for whom getting references will be a problem, the  McGraw Center will work with you to find  an alternative solution.

Can I do my job during the Fellowship?

This Fellowship is intended to cover full-time work on your project, so, with small exceptions, your time should be devoted to completing the story or stories you’ve proposed. You can continue to receive benefits or salary from your employer, but you cannot generally carry out your regular assignments from them while on the Fellowship. Feel free to contact us to discuss if you have questions.

If you are employed, please explain in your pitch whether you have received permission to take the necessary time to produce the story and if your publication plans to run it.

What happens to payments for stories?

Any additional fees paid for the stories by the publishing outlet go to the Fellow.

Can international journalists apply?

Yes. We’ll consider proposals of interest to U.S. readers from both foreign and American journalists based abroad, as long as the work is published in English in a U.S.-based media outlet.

How long does the selection process take?

It typically takes roughly a month for us to select finalists, then another couple of weeks to select the new McGraw Fellows. So funding typically can begin roughly two months after the application deadline.

Can students apply?

Generally speaking, no. The Fellowship is open only to journalists with at least five years of work experience in journalism. A veteran journalist who has returned to school could apply, however.

Will McGraw fund a book proposal?

Generally, no. We typically do not fund book proposals. While we’re aware that many long-form articles provide the basis for a book, our goal is to support strong, publishable stories that can run in print, audio or digital outlets. If you are working on a book and think that a piece of it can be developed into a stand-alone article or series, please focus on that angle in your pitch. And let us know in your application if you have a book contract for the subject of your proposed article.