2024 Media Fellowship Overview

Acknowledging the need for better public understanding of the connections between the health of people, places, and the planet, we added Media Fellows to our Scholars and Fellows program in 2023. Nova’s Media Fellowship program aims to increase the number and quality of print and online articles as well as broadcasts that reflect a broad vision of health, are science-based, and accurately report on pertinent ideas, questions, and debates. We embrace solutions journalism while also seeking to combat mis- and dis-information, which have become a scourge in health and science communications. We also want to disseminate innovative research and ideas, and evidence-based information, to many different audiences in understandable and engaging formats.

The Media Fellowship program provides journalists an opportunity to deepen their understanding of the complex, intertwined network of factors that affect health and well-being and the inadequacy of a health framework that focuses primarily on disease. Media Fellows can play an important role in translating research findings and analyses for a range of audiences, combining data with stories that inform the public and engage policymakers in order to change attitudes. 

2024 Program Details

The Nova Media Fellowship supports print, broadcast, and digital journalists proposing to immerse themselves in the health field and complete media projects that acknowledge and explore the many factors that promote well-being, prevent disease, contribute to healing, and increase an individual’s ability to flourish and live a fulfilling life. At this time, the Media Fellowship is not inviting book proposals.

The Media Fellowship program aims to give recipients the time, space, and resources to research, write, and speak about issues that validate and show the importance of an expansive health framework. Media Fellowships are one year in duration and full-time, allowing recipients to undertake their projects in a comprehensive and creative manner. The Nova Institute strongly prefers that Media Fellows take a leave of absence from any organization where they are currently employed during the fellowship period. Projects begin in fall 2024, ideally on September 16, although the start date can be flexible to accommodate individual Fellows.

The 2024 Media Fellowship award is $100,000 over 12 months, with up to an additional $7,500 reimbursed for travel expenses per Nova’s travel policies. The award is intended to support a Fellow’s living expenses, project-related expenses, conference fees, health insurance, etc. We will separately cover costs associated with attending Nova Institute-organized meetings, workshops, or events. The fellowship does not fund enrollment for degree or non-degree study at academic institutions.

Left to Right: 2023 Nova Media Fellows Lela Nargi, Virginia Gewin, and Kate Morgan

Media Fellows have editorial control over their projects and conduct their work independently. They agree to work with publications to include a credit in each published or broadcast piece developed during the fellowship noting that they are or were Media Fellows of the Nova Institute for Health.

Project Focus
Applicants for the Media Fellowship have considerable latitude in determining the focus of their proposed projects. All proposals, however, should show an appreciation for the multitude of factors, at many levels, that affect health and thriving, and connect the dots between these factors to take a broad view of health. Proposals should resist reductionist approaches or a narrow focus on a single issue that is unconnected to a wider context. Proposals should when possible take a solutions journalism approach that demonstrates rigorous, evidence-based reporting on responses to social (and health) problems. Ideally, the work could help key audiences — from clinicians and nonprofit and business leaders to policymakers and advocates — recognize the multiple factors that affect health and adopt practices and policies in response. 

Applicants can read about our 2023 Media Fellows and view their published work.  

Mental Health and Emotional Well-being 
We are in the midst of a growing, global mental health crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated an already significant mental health decline and a staggering increase in “deaths of despair” from suicide and drug and alcohol use. Psychological stress is rising in young people, with increasing pediatric mental health diagnoses and acute care hospitalizations. A loneliness epidemic underscores growing disconnection from ourselves, our communities, and our natural environments. The climate crisis magnifies persistent inequities and threatens lives and livelihoods worldwide. 

For these reasons, the Nova Institute has a particular interest in mental health and emotional well-being. We encourage proposals that address or examine mental health, using a science- and evidence-based approach, and how mental health and emotional well-being connect to personal, community, and planetary health.

Health Inequities
Long-standing, inadequate, and harmful social, economic, and environmental conditions and systems have had an adverse impact on individuals’ health and created significant inequities. The Nova Institute welcomes projects that recognize and/or examine the political, historical, and social dynamics that have led to health inequities experienced by the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) community and people who are medically underserved such as refugee, migrant, and immigrant populations; people with disabilities; etc.

Transdisciplinary and Inter-Sectoral Approach
To understand the many factors that affect health and well-being, and the intertwined connections among them, we champion a transdisciplinary approach and encourage projects that tap the expertise of multiple disciplines. Compelling projects may also explore the current or potential role of various sectors—e.g., public, business, medical, and education sectors—in advancing or undercutting health.

Ideal applicants are full-time journalists with established records of publication or broadcast in local, regional, or national markets or among targeted audiences or constituencies and have relevant full-time experience. Proposals may cover international issues and involve international travel, but in 2024 we are accepting applications from U.S.-based journalists only.

Society and the medical community have long ignored systemic racism, economic injustice, and other factors that affect health and hurt marginalized groups. We believe that these voices must be heard and should be involved in our work, and we strongly encourage applications from people of color, women, LGBTQ+ people, or other members of other historically marginalized communities. 

Time Commitment
Fellowships begin in Fall 2024 (ideally by September 16; the start date is flexible), and last for a period of 12 months. A Media Fellow must be able to devote at least 35 hours per week to the proposed project, and the project should be the Fellow’s only full-time work during the fellowship term. 

We will hold bi-monthly check-ins with Media Fellows and expect Media Fellows to attend annual meetings, including one scheduled for September 29-October 2, 2024, in Baltimore, Maryland. We also strongly encourage participation in monthly online Scholars and Fellows meetings as well as other Nova events such as our “Nova Campfires” and annual conference, typically held virtually.

Project Deliverables
We recognize the value of flexible support, designed to encourage unbounded curiosity and to allow Media Fellows to follow leads suggested by their research and reflection. Nevertheless, applicants must propose deliverables or products that reflect a year’s worth of full-time, ambitious work. In all cases, deliverables must aim to reach the targeted audiences via publication and dissemination during the term of the fellowship. We will not support projects that involve only research that simply lays the groundwork for future use.

Applications for 2024 are closed.

Journalists interested in being considered for a Nova Media Fellowship should ensure they meet the eligibility criteria listed above and submit an application that consists of a written proposal, resumé, and work samples, detailed here

Six to eight finalists will be chosen from the pool of applicants. A selection committee, comprising Nova Institute staff, Scholars and Fellows, Media Advisory Council members, and other media specialists, will interview each finalist. Finalists selected for interviews will be asked to provide one to two brief (one page maximum), professional letters of recommendation. The Nova Institute will then select up to two individuals as our 2024 Media Fellows.

Media Fellowship Announcement: April 15
Informational Q&A Zoom call: May 13, 2024 at 3 pm ET 
Applications Due: May 28 (11:59 p.m. EST) 
Finalist Interviews: Mid-July
Notification for Selected Fellows: Late July – Early August 
Fellowship Term Begins: September 16 (flexible) 
Scholars and Fellows Meeting (in-person): September 29-Oct 2

Note: all dates except the application due date are subject to change at the Nova Institute’s discretion.  

Nova Institute Media Advisory Council Members

Virginia Hubbell
Jackie Judd
Jayne O’Donnell
John Schidlovsky
Rich Stone

Healing is facilitated through safety, persistence, and trust.

  • Persistence: “People did not simply progress through this sequence and experience healing. The healing journey was a recursive, back and forth process. They found helpers, used the skills/resources that those helpers provided, found other helpers that provided more resources and used those skills and resources. As this process continued, people experienced a gradual amelioration of their suffering. Although many despaired at times, all demonstrated the quality of persistence—they refused to give up.”
  • Safety & Trust: “To connect to helpers, it was essential for people to feel safe in those relationships and able to trust that the person would be a helper and not a barrier to healing. Persons whose wounds included a violation of trust were especially careful about testing the safety of new relationships.”

Resources support us as we heal. They include reframing, responsibility, and positivity. “Making connections enabled participants to acquire and refine resources and skills that were essential in their healing journey. People also brought their own personal strengths to the journey.”

  • Reframing: “A particularly important skill was the ability to reframe—that is to look at suffering through a different lens.” This does NOT mean minimizing trauma or pain, but rather it often means the opposite: understanding what happened was wrong, unfair, or uncontrollable and that we are not to blame for it.
  • Responsibility: While we don’t have control over what happened to us, we are the only ones who can help ourselves heal. “A third essential resource that people acquired or refined was the ability to take an appropriate amount of responsibility for their healing journeys. They participated actively in the process of healing. Once again, some participants already had developed this skill, and some acquired or refined it from their helpers.”
  • Positivity: “Another resource that people acquired or refined during their healing journey was choose to be positive—that is to have some optimism about their situation.” People have varying predispositions to positivity. In the study, positivity was important in helping people heal. This doesn’t mean a toxic positivity, but rather simply finding some good in life and feeling hopeful about our situations.

“Connection to others was an essential part of all the healing journeys.” Humans are social creatures, and even the most introverted of us need close relationships. Friends and family add meaning and value to life and help support us, in good times and bad. 

When we experience relational trauma, relationships can feel scary, but reestablishing safety and trust in relationships is where the healing happens. (To be clear, we do not mean reestablishing safety and trust with abusers, but rather finding other healing relationships.) 

“When safety and trust had been established, people were able to connect with helpers. The nature of the behaviours of helpers that fostered healing ranged from small acts of kindness to unconditional love.”

  • “Moving from being wounded, through suffering to healing, is possible. It is facilitated by developing safe, trusting relationships and by positive reframing that moves through the weight of responsibility to the ability to respond.”
  • “Relationships with health professionals were among these but were not necessarily any more important to the healing journey than other kinds of helpers, which included family members, friends, spirituality and their God, pets, support groups, administrators, case workers and supervisors.”

Healing probably means different things to different people, but one definition that emerged from the study is: “The re-establishment of a sense of integrity and wholeness.” 

Healing was an emergent property that resulted from each individuals’ complex healing journey, a result of bridged connections between resources and relationships. “…they gradually found relief from suffering and began to exhibit emergent characteristics: a sense of hope, self-acceptance, and a desire to help others—the immediate precursors to healing.”

 In varying degrees, “they were able to transcend their suffering and in some sense to flourish.” 

  • Helping Others: We find meaning in helping others. “Understanding that suffering gives the strength and experience to help others in similar situations.”
  • Hope: We begin to have hope that we will not always feel this bad. A Crohn’s patient said, “I think gradually I realized that I was going to feel better. I did have days when I actually didn’t vomit, when I did feel better. And I think gradually I came to believe that maybe I could have a normal life again.”
  • Self-Acceptance: We see our inherent value and understand that we are not to blame for our suffering. A participant living with HIV said, “I’m really proud of myself. I think that now I still want to live. I don’t want to die, and I really love myself a lot. I have a lot of comfort in myself.”

Suffering is the ongoing pain from wounding. 

There is some debate about whether people always experience suffering on the path to healing.

Wounding happens when we experience physical or emotional harm. It can stem from chronic illness or by physical or psychological trauma for which we do not have the tools to cope, or a combination of those factors. 

“The degree and quality of suffering experienced by each individual is framed by contextual factors that include personal characteristics, timing of their initial or ongoing wounding in the developmental life cycle and prior and current relationships.”

Characteristics: How predisposed someone may be to wounding/how many tools and resources someone may have to deal with trauma/illness.

Lifestages: Developmental timing plays an important role in the impact of trauma — young children often do not have the same resources as older adults.

Relationships: Relationships can provide solace and support for those suffering, while lack of healthy relationships can prolong suffering.