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ONA Selects 2014 MJ Bear Fellows, Under-30 Digital Journalism Stars

WASHINGTON, DC -- (Marketwired) -- 07/30/14 -- The Online News Association, the world's largest membership organization of digital journalists, today announced its third class of MJ Bear Fellows, three journalists under age 30 whose innovative work represents the best of new media.

The selection committee combed through applications from six countries to choose these promising digital journalists -- two in the United States or Canada and one international, in partnership with MSN International -- who are making their voices heard in the industry through their innovative projects.

"The judging was particularly hard this year because the entries were so innovative, capturing extraordinary energy inside newsrooms and awesome creativity outside," said Amy Eisman, MJ Bear Fellowship Committee Chair. "We saw data projects, entrepreneurial efforts and amazing work by young journalists who are not only rethinking our industry but leading the way."

The 2014 MJ Bear Fellows are:

Anika Anand, 26, Director of Engagement at Chalkbeat, an education news network, is currently helping to develop MORI, (Measures of Our Reporting's Influence), a tool that helps the Chalkbeat staff measure the impact of their stories so that they can focus on those that have the greatest value for readers. In recommending Anika for the fellowship, Aron Pilhofer, Executive Editor of Digital at The Guardian, said, "Here you have a young journalist talking about analytics and engagement at a level of sophistication that most newsrooms have yet to achieve, including my own."

Rajneesh Bhandari, 27, is an independent multimedia journalist in Kathmandu, Nepal. Through his project, Media Gufa, he hosts an annual news reporting workshop in which a group of Nepali reporters is isolated for 72 hours to report via the internet while another group reports from a rural village without the internet. He also is working as data editor on an investigative project launched by Transparency International; teaches journalism at WLC College, Nepal; runs multimedia workshops for national and international organizations, and is working to improve digital literacy in Nepal by training young people in rural areas on digital tools.

Aaron Williams, 25, is a news applications developer for the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), whose first project there was an interactive map showing the rise of highly addictive painkiller prescriptions to veterans since 9/11. The project utilized several different tools and techniques, including a live API, which allow researchers and reporters to localize the CIR data for their communities. He is currently working to build tools to easily process California's complex campaign finance, spending and lobbying data.

Each fellow will be paired with a digital news leader as a career development guide for one year, and also will receive a free three-year ONA membership and an expense-paid trip to the Online News Association Conference & Awards Banquet, Sept. 25-27, in Chicago.

The selection committee felt so strongly about the work and potential of two other applicants that they were awarded honorable mention. They are: Heather Martino, founder of Hashtag That, a B2B service that helps journalists and social media professionals understand how to use hashtags effectively, and Andrew McGill, Data Reporting Coordinator for the Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette.

MJ Bear, whose wide-ranging career took her to pivotal roles at Microsoft's MSN Portals and MSN International, NPR and American University, was renowned for her kindness and digital know-how. She played a vital role in ONA's history as a member of the original Board of Directors, helping to incorporate the organization in 1999 and serving on the Education, Fundraising, Conference and Legal Affairs committees until 2003.

The Online News Association is the world's largest association of digital journalists. ONA's mission is to inspire innovation and excellence among journalists to better serve the public. The membership includes news writers, producers, designers, editors, bloggers, developers, photographers, educators, students and others who produce news for and support digital delivery systems. ONA also hosts the annual Online News Association conference and administers the Online Journalism Awards.

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