BuzzFeed goes literary, announces $12k emerging writers fellowship


BuzzFeed has announced that it will be offering US$12 000 fellowships to emerging writers. The selected writers will spend four months working with BuzzFeed News’ senior editorial staff in New York City. The world’s favorite Clickbait site, it would seem, has literary aspirations.

In 2013, BuzzFeed launched BuzzFeed Books. Though this was an indication of moving towards being a lot more than just a clickbait publications, its articles like ‘Can We Guess Your Age Based On Your Taste In Books?’ or ‘Which Book Of The Bible Are You?’ are still a far cry from the literary content of the New Yorker, New Inquiry, Guernica.

The launch of the writing fellowship could have been a complete surprise a few years ago when BuzzFeed wrote ‘10 Of The Most Life-Affirming Dog Rescue Stories Ever’ or ‘Who Does Your Dog Love More?’ kind of content. The major shift in content or how BuzzFeed covers content began sometime in 2013, two years after hiring Ben Smith, a former Politico writer, as its editor-in-chief. Under Smith, BuzzFeed got serious and made additions to its team, fostering its content beyond the clickbait it was famous for. It hired reporters around the world to cover politics and culture.

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The new writing programme is another way of fostering the serious reporting that the site has adopted. The programme is designed for writers that would not have had the opportunity to write for any publication. The writers accepted into the programme, BuzzFeed says, will receive training and experience aimed at ensuring they are equipped to thrive as freelance writers or in staff roles at media organisations.

BuzzFeed’s Literary Editor, Saeed Jones, gave an interview to Electric Literature, explaining that “when we expect young writers to get experience via unpaid internships, we’re actually saying we want only wealthy people writing about American culture in an influential way. That’s what we get, right? Or rather, that’s what we’ve gotten used to accepting as normal when in fact, it’s a kind of fiction. Diversity is reality. So, in order to do my part to support being in step with reality, I’m really excited about creating an opportunity for emerging writers to get experience and mentorship while also receiving financial support.”

The fellowship, Jones writes in a statement, is designed to give writers of great promise the support, mentorship, and experience necessary to take a transformative step forward in their careers.

The fellowship will be four months long. The chosen writers will be focusing on personal essay writing, cultural reportage, and profiles. “During their time in fellowship, BuzzFeed says, writers will be expected to pitch, report, and write with the added benefit of writing workshops, panel discussions with editors and writers from throughout the industry, and assigned readings.”

The deadline for the fellowship is 1 October 2015. Writer will be notified by November and the fellowship begins in the first week of January 2016. Applicants must be authorised to work in the United States.

To apply for a position in the fellowship, each writer must supply a resume, five writing examples, essay/ article ideas, a statement of purpose and three letters of recommendation.

photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid



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