Press Release

Center for Media Innovation’s $20,000 media fellowship returns

PITTSBURGH, PA – The Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University is excited to announce the return of its $20,000 Doris O’Donnell Innovations in Investigative Journalism Fellowship. This marks the third year of the fellowship, which was designed to spotlight and take on the growing problem of underserved media markets known as news deserts.

“Community-based journalism is disappearing across the country, and it is critical that we work to reverse that trend,” said Andrew Conte, director of the Center. “At a time when we have more tools than ever to access information, it is becoming increasingly difficult to support news at a local level.”

The Center also will award second- and third-place prizes of $5,000 and $2,500. The fellowship is made possible through a three-year grant from the Allegheny Foundation.

Since 2004, the U.S. has lost more than 2,100 newspapers, according to the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media. Thousands of counties across the country lack a daily newspaper, and many have no newspaper at all.

The fellowship winner will have eight months to report and publish or broadcast the final story or series of stories. In addition, the honoree will be required to come to Point Park University’s Downtown Pittsburgh campus three times, including an event to celebrate their work.

Last year’s fellowship winner, Sunnie Clahchischiligi, a contributing writer for Searchlight New Mexico, won the top prize with her proposal to investigate how potentially thousands of students on the Navajo Nation went missing during the pandemic and exposed a myriad educational failures, which run far deeper than the public knows. Clahchischiligi grew up on a remote homestead on the Navajo Nation near Teec Nos Pos, Ariz., and has worked in journalism for more than 15 years. Her resulting work was published in Searchlight New Mexico as well as outlets such as Rolling Stone and The Guardian.

A panel of six distinguished judges with credentials in innovative and investigative journalism will evaluate applicants based on value, innovation, engagement, diversity and ability. That panel includes:

  • Brad Bumsted, bureau chief of The Caucus, a watchdog publication based in Pennsylvania that focuses on state issues.
  • Andrew Fraser, senior publishing editor for The Wall Street Journal.
  • Jasmine Goldband, Photo Editor for the Houston Chronicle
  • Amber Hunt, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer and host of the podcasts Accused and Crimes of the Centuries.
  • Tory Parrish, Business Reporter for Newsday
  • Guy Wathen, Multimedia Editor for the San Francisco Chronicle

Doris O’Donnell, the namesake of the award, was a pioneering journalist who began her 50-year career during World War II for the Cleveland News. She joined the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1959, covering the Sam Sheppard murder trial that inspired “The Fugitive,” and traveling to Dallas for the aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination and the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War. O’Donnell was hired by Richard Scaife in 1973 to write for the Greensburg Tribune-Review. She worked there for 15 years before returning to Cleveland.

Journalists and media outlets can apply through March 31 at The winners will be announced in April.


The Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University is a state-of-the-art incubator and collaborative space designed to prepare students for success in a media industry intertwined with the latest technology, while also supporting professional journalists and educating the public at large. The Center features TV and radio/podcast studios, a photo studio, a multimedia newsroom, and a transformational presentation and gallery space. Visit to learn more.

Point Park University, immersed in the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh, focuses on student success through innovative experiential learning opportunities. Point Park enrolls approximately 3,600 students in over 100 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs offered through its Conservatory of Performing Arts, Rowland School of Business, and schools of Arts and Sciences, Communication, and Education. The University’s alumni and students represent all 50 states and 34 countries around the world. Visit to learn more.

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