Craig Newmark Cyber Journalism Fellowship

What’s the difference between a RAT and a logic bomb, a buffer overflow and a rootkit? How does a network administrator detect an incoming DDoS attack and how do investigators trace back the origins of a botnet? Is your password hashed or salted? What’s the difference between the NCCIC and NCIJTF—or between TAO and CISA? What exactly is allowed under “Section 702”? Who is the Lazarus Group and how are their goals and behavior different online from APT33 or APT32?

The Aspen Institute’s new non-resident cyber journalism fellowship will help make sense of the jargon of covering cybersecurity, national security, and technology in today’s fast-evolving landscape, helping reporters understand and translate key concepts and policy debates for their readers, viewers, and listeners.

Media ethicist Clifford Christians, in his book Good News, writes about how journalism needs to go beyond simply the “watchdog journalism” developed in the Progressive Age, with its typical focus of “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Instead, he says, journalism today—in an era of frantic and anxiety-ridden lives—needs to focus on the larger social fabric and explain how we can get to a better future. He says today there’s a need for journalism “calling for narratives that nurture civic transformation.” The @AspenCyber journalism project aims to help build the narrative for the civic transformations necessary to tackle the looming challenges of cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity is modern life. It’s the way we bank, shop, learn. And, increasingly, it’s the way we drive, heat our homes, and even vote. Protecting our digital lives isn’t just about ensuring we don’t lose our credit cards or family pictures—events in recent years have demonstrated it’s about protecting our values, our health, our culture, and our democracy. The world is a better place because of the rapid pace of technology innovation, but business and government have not kept pace with the ever-evolving digital threat landscape.

The Aspen Cyber & Technology Program works to convene and facilitate crucial conversations around the most pressing challenges in cybersecurity, both in terms of private sector attention and government policy-making. We believe one of the reasons that the state of cybersecurity and technology policy is so poor today is that because “cybersecurity” remains an impenetrable topic for general interest readers, even for senior government and business leaders outside of the security field.

As part of that effort, the Cyber & Technology Program is pleased to launch the new Craig Newmark Cyber Journalism Fellowship, aimed at helping working journalists learn the technical details of cybersecurity—from botnets to the dark web to encryption—and provide a strong foundation of knowledge to help translate complex technical subjects for the lay reader or viewer. This new fellowship, underwritten by the Hewlett Foundation and Craig Newmark Philanthropies, will introduce working journalists to the key debates and concepts required to cover cybersecurity today.

Fellowship sessions, hosted and taught by technical and legal experts in the field, will include such topics as botnets, the dark web, encryption, disinformation and information influence operations, electronic surveillance law, IoT vulnerabilities, offensive cyber operations, data breaches, and the APT landscape, among others.

Fellowship Details

The non-resident Craig Newmark Cyber Journalism Fellowship is intended for working journalists. It will be focused on both technical trainings, conducted by experts, as well as private meetings with key policy-makers to discuss matters of top concern. To deepen the understanding of the realities of confronting cyber attacks, the fellowship will also include participation in a table-top exercise mimicking the reactions of policy-makers to a cyber incident.

This fellowship is open to reporters, producers, and editors at all levels of experience in any medium—TV, radio, newspaper, magazine, or web—who cover cybersecurity, national security, intelligence, homeland security, technology, or other related fields. Freelance journalists are welcome and encouraged to apply. No existing technical or programming expertise is required.

The fall class of the Aspen Institute’s Newmark Cyber Journalism Fellows will meet from Tuesday, October 15th through Friday, October 18th, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Applications for this fall fellowship class are due by midnight on Wednesday, July 3. Successful applicants will be notified in mid-July. Fellows must participate in all four days.

Applications for the spring class of The Aspen Institute’s Newmark Cyber Journalism fellows will be due by midnight on November 1. The spring fellowship will run from Monday, April 6th through Thursday, April 9th, 2020.

Application Process

Fellowship applicants should include (1) a resume or biography, as well as (2) a cover letter explaining their interest in deepening their knowledge of cybersecurity and technology topics, and (3) links to no more than three stories published or run in the last six months on technology, cybersecurity, or national security. Completed application packets can be emailed to Vanessa.Sauter@aspeninstitute.org.

Additionally, if you’re employed full-time with a news outlet, applications must include a letter or email from your editor or manager explaining that your news outlet supports your application and that—pending breaking news—you’d be granted the time to attend the fellowship meetings. Your supervisor must confirm that you would be granted the time off to attend the fellowship from October 15-18. This letter, if emailed, may be included with applicant’s other materials or sent directly to Vanessa.Sauter@aspeninstitute.org.

NOTE: For journalists outside Washington, D.C., up to $2,500 may be awarded for travel grants; please explain your interest in such funding in your cover letter, including whether your primary employer, if you have one, will provide any travel stipend.