Dawn Garcia was recently named the next director of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships. She will succeed Jim Bettinger, who is retiring at the end of August after 27 years with the program, first as deputy director and as director since 2001. Garcia, currently JSK managing director, was selected after a worldwide search led by a seven-member committee of Stanford faculty, fellowship alumni and representatives of JSK’s Board of Visitors. She recently discussed her vision for the program’s future with Jay Hamilton, director of Stanford’s Journalism Program and chair of the search committee.
What do you see ahead for the JSK Fellowships?
We’ve reached a great place, where JSK has become known for innovation in journalism. I’m really eager to hear ideas from JSK Fellows and others on ways to increase JSK’s impact, influence and visibility around the globe. Together we can create a new era of championing journalists and journalism ideals — I’m especially interested in innovation, diversity and press freedom.
What’s the biggest opportunity?
Amid the crazy chaos that is journalism right now, there are lots of opportunities. A big one is the growing JSK Fellows’ network. There have been nearly 1,000 of us at Stanford! By tapping the army of innovative JSK fellows around the world, we can make things happen. Another big opportunity is to seek collaborations and partnerships to expand our reach beyond what is possible for JSK to accomplish on its own. More players are interested in journalism innovation than ever. All that, plus new collaborative leadership in Stanford’s journalism program and the Department of Communication, makes me hopeful for JSK’s future.
The biggest obstacle?
The old model for funding media is broken, and there is no magic bullet to solve this problem. Journalists and journalism innovators need funding to remain independent, viable and provide an important watchdog role in society.
How might the fellowship look different in five years?
I feel so fortunate to build on Jim Bettinger’s legacy, which has kept the program nimble and focused on the core values of journalism. From that strong position, in five years the JSK Fellowships will have grown in ambition and stature, leveraging key relationships at Stanford, in Silicon Valley and with media and innovators. We’ll have coached a new generation of leaders and launched a number of creative media experiments to help begin to solve journalism’s thorniest problems.
Will the JSK program continue to focus on innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership? Or might it go in a different direction?
While we are in no way done with that model — and those three areas remain important — JSK should frequently take stock and reassess. We should remain open, relevant and ready to tackle new challenges faced by journalism and journalists, which means JSK will evolve in the future. What won’t change is our focus on core journalism values.
What is most exciting to you about leading the program into the future?
Having coached more than 300 JSK Fellows during my time at the fellowship — and gotten to know dozens and dozens of fellows from earlier years — I’m thrilled and optimistic about what this giant, talented and committed JSK family can accomplish together to help journalism, a craft and a business we love. Every time I meet with fellows, whatever their year, I hear the same thing: “Let us know what we can do to help the fellowship.” Ok, JSK Fellows: I’m ready to take you up on your offer.