Topic 2019: Freedom

We are surrounded by the promise of freedom. Politicians promise freedom from tyranny, new technologies promise to free up our routines. We are bombarded by messages telling us which cars to buy, which apps to download, which wars to support – messages that appeal to our apparent love of freedom. The EU promises the free movement of people, goods and services. The opponents of the EU promise freedom from the EU. Everyone, it seems, wants us to be free.

While we may be obsessed with freedom, we also know that total freedom is neither possible, nor desirable. Most of us accept that freedom is best enjoyed where it operates within limits. But where to set those limits? That is the burning question of our times. 

For the 2019 Fellowship, we’re looking for stories that grapple with this question, that ask us to reconsider where the limits have been set. The theme, of course, is freedom. If you already have a story that you want to pursue, you can use the theme to frame and fine-tune your proposal. If you are still searching for a story, the theme can help by making you ask the right questions. Either way, we want deeply reported stories that reveal something new about our world – or that reveal the familiar in a new light. 

Your proposal should demonstrate that you have researched the story as far as you can without actually hitting the road and reporting it. You should try to articulate what you do not know and hope eventually to uncover – the mystery at the heart of your story. You should also offer a hypothesis: a guess as to what your eventual conclusion might be, based on the facts at hand. 

Here are some of the ideas you may want to consider. There are many types of freedom. The freedom to work, live and love as you please, the freedom to choose your leaders, the freedom to think and to say what you think. Which types of freedom are most important today – and why? Which types of freedom are most endangered? And which types of freedom are people happy to trade for other values, such as security or belonging? 

When the ancient Greeks spoke of freedom, they used the term in the collective sense, referring to societies that were governed by their citizens rather than by autocrats. Today, we tend to speak of freedom in individual terms. What does this say about us? And how is our notion of freedom still evolving? 

The Fellowship is a bursary for cross-border reporting. Its scope and audience are international. While your core story may seem intensely local, the underlying phenomena are unlikely to be confined to one country alone. Please research those interesting elements of your story that extend beyond the country where you live. Make sure your proposal includes appropriate comparisons or case studies from another country in the region, as well as in the broader European Union. 

Your proposal should demonstrate that your story will test your investigative or analytical skills, or both. It should indicate the potential for a strong narrative, brimming with characters and colour. It should be comfortable with nuances and shades of grey, and it should not be shy of facts that challenge your preconceptions. As well as answering the who, what, when, where and why of your story, your proposal should answer the question: so what? Why should your readers care? The Fellowship is unique in the time and editorial support it dedicates to each story. Make sure yours is worth it.