The Independent was awarded a $28,000 Local News Fellowship by the University of New Mexico, partnering the newspaper with recent UNM graduate Felecia Pohl.
Pohl joined The Independent’s staff June 1 and hit the ground running, jumping right in with election results and attending her first small government meeting in Tijeras.
The Fellowship Program’s mission is to provide 9-month career-development experiences for recent journalism graduates from New Mexico colleges or universities. It started as a pilot project last year and is placing its second round of four fellows into New Mexico newsrooms now.
The grant-funded program is administered by UNM’s Communications and Journalism department.
“The graduates are recruited, selected and and matched to journalism employers in New Mexico to advance local news innovation, collaboration and community engagement,” according to the program overview. “The program thus addresses the need for new approaches in public service journalism in local communities, the need for effective classroom-to-career pathway for diverse students, and helps build overall journalism capacity in New Mexico.”
At The Independent, Pohl will be doing general news and feature writing, with an emphasis on local government reporting.
“Hello everyone, my name is Felecia Pohl and I’m your new reporting fellow for The Independent! I expect you’ll see a lot of me over the upcoming months. I’m a recent UNM grad and I’ve always been a proponent of small-town journalism, because community is at the heart of a lot of the stories we write,” Pohl wrote in a short statement introducing herself to the community, continuing, “I think it’s very important that journalists build relationships with the communities they report for, because that news helps readers make more informed decisions that could be impactful to their lives. If a journalist builds those kinds of relationships, they’ll really understand what their communities need from their reporting. With this fellowship I hope to gain more experience reporting in the real world, but also create relationships that could span over my entire reporting career. Good relationships with the community are so important, and I hope to gain the trust of the people from the East Mountains and the Estancia Valley communities.”
The Independent was founded in 1999 by Wally Gordon, and was sold to employees in 2010. It covers central New Mexico east of Albuquerque and south of Santa Fe.
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.