06 Mar 2018 / 00:09

Seven tips for a strong BFJE application


The Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence is a fantastic opportunity. So how do you maximise your chances of winning a place on the programme?

Here are some tips, based on reviewing more than 300 applications:

1. Look at fellowship stories from previous years. If a subject has been covered by the fellowship in recent years, it’s very unlikely it will be chosen again. At the very least, you’d need a radically new angle. Better to go for a different subject. (You can find previous years' stories online in the programme archive.)

2. Be as specific as possible. Don’t just say you want to look at a broad subject, say what in particular you want to explore. For example, not just “migration”, but “changes in migration between country X and country Y in the last five years”. And tell us how you plan to do it.

3. Do your pre-research. You're not expected to research your entire story but do as much as you can to give a sense of what you expect to show. A proposal that says “I want to find out what’s happening with X” is not as strong as one that says “I want to find out what’s happening with X and my research so far suggests this is the answer and this is why”.

4. Tell us what’s new. Make sure to include what’s new about your proposal, compared to other media reporting on the subject. What do you hope to reveal or highlight? Why will this be interesting/important to readers?

5. Remember the investigative/analytical element. Your story does not have to be a hard-core investigation but it should be more than just descriptive. It should show not just what's happening but why it's happening. Make clear what you will investigate or analyse — and how. For an investigative story, this might mean obtaining documents. For an analytical story, it might mean analysing data and/or talking to academic experts. But... 

6. Keep it journalistic. The fellowship features seminars and mentoring and insists on the highest standards of accuracy but it is not an academic programme. It exists to help journalists improve their skills and produce a high-quality piece of journalism, not an abstract academic article. Your story should be accessible to a broad audience.

7. Whatever happens, don’t be downhearted. Every year there are more outstanding proposals than there are places on the fellowship. Don’t take it personally or regret the work you put in if you're not selected. The fellowship is such a great opportunity that it’s worth giving it your best shot. If your proposal is strong but isn’t chosen, you may be able to publish the story elsewhere.

Andrew Gray, editor at Politico.eu and previously editor of the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence.


About Us

In order to foster quality reporting, initiate regional networking among journalists and advance balanced coverage on topics that are central to the region as well as to the EU, the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence programme  is supported by the ERSTE Foundation and the Open Society Foundations, in cooperation with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN.

What is the Fellowship?

Journalists from the Balkans are increasingly required to cover complex reform issues, taking in a regional and Europe-wide dimension. The fellowship provides editorial guidance, training and adequate funding to do so.

Our Partners

Prominent German, Austrian and Swiss newspapers, Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, Der Standard and Neue Zürcher Zeitung are media partners of the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence programme. Besides being involved in the selection committee, they participate in seminars, support fellows if needed and seek to republish the best articles produced by them.

Contact Us

Please contact us for any additional information about the programme, or if you have suggestions, remarks or complaints about the web site and its content

Selection Committee

The Selection Committee is comprised of seven prominent media figures from the Balkans and Europe. Each year, committee members read, evaluate and select story proposals for the fellowship.

Fellowship Team

Editors and journalists from across the region and beyond all work together to make the Balkan fellowship a truly international experience. Scroll down this page for more information on our editorial team.