‘A Perfect Opportunity to Take Your Story a Level Further’

Nikoleta Popkostadinova Sofia

Follow your passion, demonstrate your specialist knowledge and take time over your fellowship application, a 2007 fellow advises 2012 applicants.

I found out about the fellowship via a Bulgarian news website that I used regularly back in 2007. I clicked on the banner advertisement and it transferred me to the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network website where I read more about it.

The terms and conditions were exactly what I was hoping for. At that time, I was a journalist at Capital weekly in Sofia, reporting mainly on social issues. I had spent some time digging into Roma segregation, how it affected Bulgarian society as a whole and how it should be addressed.

Frankly, I had put more than just time and effort into these stories. The plight of Roma communities became a passion; I became increasingly frustrated by people’s stereotypes of Roma, politicians’ refusal to undertake any unpopular measures for Roma integration and the ceaseless chatter about the amounts of money this process required.

So, in the fellowship I saw the perfect opportunity to take these issues a level further - to bring to them Balkan and EU perspectives, to examine how Bulgaria’s neighbours were treating their Roma population and how EU member states would tackle those problems.

The topic for the 2007 fellowship was mobility. I had no problem adjusting my Roma proposal to fit the programme. The fellowship was perfectly geared up for what I had in mind – investigating the lack of social and economic mobility of Roma in the Balkans.

I would recommend journalists applying for the 2012 programme to spend as much time as possible on completing their applications. At least, that is what I did. Be detailed and elaborate on your ideas.

Demonstrating you have conducted some initial research on why your topic matters, knowledge of current developments on the subject in your country and explaining why and how the issue needs to be investigated – and ultimately addressed - is of great importance to being selected.

Show your true passion or genuine interest in the subject and do not forget to convince the jury that you can do it. And as the application guide suggests, do not think of the topic only in terms of your first association with the word, but rather look for broader associations that will result in great investigations and stories that will tell regional readers something they did not know before.

I was so happy when I got the phone call that I would be one of the ten 2007 fellows that I ran, beaming, to break the news to my editor. She was very supportive and, without any doubts, granted me the leave of absence.

Two years later, in 2009, she also applied and was one of that year’s prize winners. So there you have it. The fellowship is such a good opportunity, your boss might apply.

Nikoleta Popskostadinova took first prize in the 2007 fellowship for her article examining how Roma communities remain excluded from the Bulgarian employment market.  

She is now a freelance journalist and divides her time between Bulgaria and The Netherlands where she completed her Master of Science degree in Communication Studies at the University of Amsterdam, funded by winning first prize in the 2007 fellowship.


Topic 2011: Justice

The topic for this year’s programme is justice and fellows are investigating subjects as diverse as privatisation, organised crime, employment law, rape convictions and extradition treaties.


19 Dec 2011 / 16:56

Alumni Funding: Opportunities for Years to Come

Altin Raxhimi
19 Dec 2011 / 16:44

‘A Perfect Opportunity to Take Your Story a Level Further’

Nikoleta Popkostadinova
09 Nov 2011 / 10:41

The Fellowship: ‘It Was Worth It!’

Juliana Koleva
23 Sep 2011 / 12:38

Macedonia’s American Dream

Slobodanka Jovanovska
22 Sep 2011 / 09:55

EU Rules Benefit Croatian Jobseekers

Ruzica Matic
20 Sep 2011 / 10:51

The Fellowship Endgame

Jelena Kulidzan
14 Sep 2011 / 10:45

Sofia’s Schengen Compromise

Juliana Koleva
12 Sep 2011 / 12:44

The Story Ends, Almost

Elira Canga
08 Sep 2011 / 10:30

The Final Countdown

Dollores Benezic
03 Aug 2011 / 11:29

UK Rape Survivors Demand Justice

Jelena Kulidzan